Truth rights vs. martyrdom

If lies violate a right to the truth one assumes this is because giving the truth would be a principle of violence or abuse …. Nazis at the door and all that. If this is the justification for “truth rights” then (bracketing Consequentialism for the moment) giving truth to one with no right to it could never be supererogatory or an act of mercy but could only be immoral, like giving a handgun to a two-year-old or a drunken man raving about how much he hates his girlfriend.

If this is right, however, martyrdom becomes immoral since it usually is a case of giving someone a truth they will abuse.


The boundaries of free choice

Because I felt unhappy, I decided to eat some Oreos. As it turned out, I ate the ones in the middle of the tray.

The action has four parts:

1.) Because I felt unhappy. This part of the action is willed with absolute necessity. Just as one couldn’t use his eyes without seeing light or darkness and couldn’t use his ears without hearing sound or silence, so too one couldn’t use his will without seeking happiness or avoiding unhappiness. Any power that has an object can only be a definite power if it has a definite object.

2.) I decided to eat. This is also willed necessarily, but not as an ultimate end but a means. No definition of human happiness can make it something to which eating at all is a merely accidental or contingent adjunct. But if I necessarily will some end I will all that is necessary to it.

3.) Oreos. Here we hit an object of free will for the first time, at least so far as I chose to eat these things as opposed to other things, to eat them now, etc.

4.) I ate the ones in the middle of the tray. This is also not properly an act of free will, but was executed by whatever automatic processes I use when confronted with options to which I am indifferent. If one put serial numbers on all the Oreos and then asked me why I ate #84-501b/5 I could only answer that there was no reason. Any one of them would have worked.

Given that these automatic processes have definite components, even if non-conscious ones, I’m sure they have more structure than I am aware of. Advertisers and sophists, for example, seem to spend much of their time trying to hack these non-conscious processes to influence decisions. There are also, I suppose, a whole mass of historical and psychological components that come into play on this level.

Components 1-4 can interpenetrate each other in every choice, and remain distinct while not being divided by bright yellow lines. Most contemporary refutations of free will (Sam Harris, the Libet experiments, etc) either focus entirely on (4) or, at most, speculate on the ways in which (4) influences (3). There are no doubt limitless things to discover in such an investigation, but none of them add up to a denial of free choice, any more than the limitless ways in which cars execute automatic processes and influence their drivers could suffice to do away with the explanatory need of positing a driver in some of the things that a car does (being a murder weapon, for example)

All agents with will, God included, have levels 1-3. If “free will” means the execution of a willed action that is entirely without a necessary component, then free will does not exist in this world or any other. Whether God has a level (4) good is an interesting question that raises interesting issues for what one thinks about the principle of sufficient reason. I’ve mentioned in the past that I have my doubts about the principle, but I have no definite opinion on the matter.

Intentional being

Hypothesis: our mind is a subject and the things it knows are accidents. This is assumed in some idealisms and in any theory that gives a physical account of knowledge as brain activity or physical changes in organs.

But if known : knower :: accidents : subject then, since a subject can never be an accident of itself, a knower can never be known. The subject, which was ex hypothesi known at the beginning of the theory becomes that which cannot be known. The hypothesis fails.

Even if ideas were accidents of some subject-mind, they would not cause knowledge in virtue of being accidents, and since no one wants to say that the idea is literally the knowing subject we’re thus committed to a mode of being that is neither accident, substance, or part of a substance.*

This is why the being of knowledge cannot be the being of any entity even if some entity is a condition of some sorts of knowledge. What the Scholastics called intentional being is formally opposed to any sort of entity.

*Since no substance is a part of a substance either. This includes any part distinct from a whole: whether quantitative parts or matter and form


The consubstantiality clause of the creed specifies that the Son is generated from the very substance of the Father – as Thomas puts it, the Son is of the Father in the same way that feet of clay are clay or an angel is of an intellectual nature.

[T]he preposition “of” [de] always denotes consubstantiality. We do not say that a house is “of” [de] the builder, since he is not the consubstantial cause. We can say, however, that something is “of” another, if this is its consubstantial principle, no matter in what way it is so, whether it be an active principle, as the son is said to be “of” the father, or a material principle, as a knife is “of” iron; or a formal principle, but in those things only in which the forms are subsisting, and not accidental to another, for we can say that an angel is “of” an intellectual nature. In this way, then, we say that the Son is begotten ‘of’ the essence of the Father, inasmuch as the essence of the Father, communicated by generation, subsists in the Son. ST 1. 41. 3 ad 2

Where generation happens by a material principle this is clearly impossible, since material beings generate by way of separation and division. Some cells break off and take a life of their own, whether in the manner of a potato, a starfish, a worm or a mouse. The simplicity and immateriality of God is contrary to this sort of division in substance, thus consubstantial.     

Injustice in liberalism and totalitarianism

Let a liberal society be one that allows extensive social relationships outside the reach of law or politics, and therefore (at least) tolerates some degree of what now gets called discrimination. At it’s most sympathetic, tolerance for this sort of discrimination appeals to the equality of justice. If, for example, a consumer can buy or refuse a product or service for any reason he wants – or for no reason at all – why doesn’t the seller enjoy the same right of denial? For liberalism, tolerating what now gets called discrimination is a part of justice, since justice is freedom of association. 

This toleration is easier when technology is relatively undeveloped. When we aren’t aware of the effects of discrimination we also lack the ability to control them, and even if we wanted to control these things it would run up against (a) the limits of our ability to observe what is going on too far outside our own community and (b) the intrinsic limits of the political.

When technology develops to a certain point – first suggested in the Reformation and definitely achieved in the Twentieth Century – Liberal society no longer enjoys the blissful ignorance of the discrimination it tolerates but either has to either double down and bite the bullet of allowing it or widen the political sphere to combat it. To extend the political sphere this far into quondam social sphere, however, demands there be nothing outside the state, i.e. a  totalitarian regime.

The totalitarian regime sees an injustice in tolerating the discrimination arising from the liberal division between the political and the social. What liberalism sees as integral to justice totalitarianism takes as the injustice mandating vigorous intrusion into the social.

One difficulty in deciding between liberal and totalitarian regimes is that it’s hard to abstract from the question of whose ox is gored. One appeals to the same freedom of association if a corporation puts “No Colored” signs over its lunch counters as when PayPal or YouTube deplatforms undesirable pundits, but how sympathetic one is to the “right of association” implicit in both, or the extension of state power to end either one, is more a matter of ideology than principle.

My point is not that there is no tertium quid between liberalism and totalitarianism (though I think the third option is a hard balance to hit) but about a fundamental division of opinion over what justice demands, and which plays itself out, at least at its extremes, in either a foregrounding of liberalism that backgrounds the dark sides of the freedom of association or a foregrounding of the evils of discrimination that backgrounds its totalitarianism.

Analogy in Thomas

Re-reading Thomas’s texts on analogous naming of God for the idunnohowmanyith time, the whole thing seems a good deal simpler than the commentary has made it.

The basic rule is this:

Analogous names have a per prius analogue. Every analogue other than this is called per posterius.

An analogue is per prius if it enters into the definition of per posterius analogues. So coffee can mean either the grounds, the drink, the color of paint or the flavor of ice cream, but the drink enters into the definition of the other three while the opposite is not the case. So the drink is per prius and the others are per posterius.

Because of this, there are two relations called “analogy”:

a.) Any analogue relating to the per prius analogue.

b.) Any per posterius analogue relating to another.

Sense (a) is how any analogue of coffee stands to the drink, sense (b) is how any analogue other than the drink stands to another.

Thomas’s main interest in analogous names said of God is to insist that the God-analogue is per prius. So which names of God are analogous? We could start with the Fourth Way, which proves God is the maximal good, true, dignified, and being, and qua maximal measure is the per prius analogue of every indeterminate manifold of lesser goods he measures. But in fact any of the names of God in the Five Ways are analogues for which God most of all satisfies the ratio of the name. God, in other words, more fulfills what one means by cause, mover, agent cause, necessary being, intelligence, or governor than any of the sensible beings of the same name.

Though analogies between God and creatures presuppose some causal connection, it is not in virtue of God’s causality that he is named analogously to creatures. Coffee (the grounds) causes coffee (the drink) but the latter is the per prius analogue. Thomas only names God analogously so far as the name has a per prius referent in God, otherwise Thomas is content to name God by negation or relation to creatures.

The measures of being

0.1) Every mul­titude in some way participates in The One. Whatever exists belongs to some order, and the maximal in any order is both (a) most simple and (b) the measure of all else in that order. So the maximal in any order deserves the name The One. 

0.2) Where an order has more and less, it has a maximal described above.

0.3) Measure reduces the indeterminacy of some manifold to the certainty of something known in itself. When the room is measured in inches the inch, qua standard of length, is known entirely in itself and has no standard of length.

0.4) Only quantity is measured, but quantity is either predicamental or transcendental. Quantity limited to the category studied by mathematics is predicamental and the transcendental is anything else, like things that are more or less white, black, smooth, alive, formal, dignified, true, etc.

1.1) The maximally simple measure of predicamental quantity is the number one, measuring both by multiplication and division of itself (the way a meter stands to both kilometers and millimeters). The totality of all these multiplications and divisions is equal to the number of possible equations, i.e. the ways in which we can express unity in quantity.

1.2) Taken solely as a physical modification of an organ, the sensible world is purely quantitative, comprised of what the Medievals called common sensibles and Locke called primary sensibles. So taken, nature’s rationality is a pure participation in the simplicity of the one, and the possibilities of nature might be as extensive as possible equations, i.e. expressions of unity in quantity. The stable relationships between the numbers so generated are physical laws.

1.3) Among measures, quantitative measure is most intelligible to us and is therefore least intelligible in itself, i.e. measure makes the physical world more rational in to us but accepts a certain irrationality in doing do so. First, physical laws are pure abstractions from the qualitative world even while they can only be verified through the very qualities we abstract from. Second, the very measure itself is only rational in the lowest possible way. True, “The One” to which we reduce the manifold is simple and known in itself, but this arises largely from fiat, in the way that standards have no length qua standards. Third, and most of all, there is no definite answer to whether the quantitatively abstracted is real. It is a melange of the real and mental fiat which cannot even be understood as approaching some definite real term.

2.1) The intelligible indeterminacy of the world is more perfectly reduced to that which is known in itself though the natural generation of the human person within the cosmos. The person is known in himself not by stipulation or fiat but instrinsically and by nature. Notwithstanding Protagoras’s very different understanding of his axiom, man is literally the measure of all things.

2.2) The human person measures all things first by his rational nature, comprised of both (a) a rational part and (b) a part that is not rational but can obey reason. The first is an illumination of and receptivity to the real as such and so can have no definite physical structure; the second is nature’s own participation in rational life, and so is the totality of nature so far as it is a cause of human life. The most obvious expression of (b) is in the human central nervous system or, more generally, the human body.

2.3) While on one axis our clearest knowledge of nature is through quantitative correlations, of itself nature is interiority of action which, from the point of view of the one in the habit of seeking quantitative correlations, is entirely irrational. Nature in this sense is understood more intimately by gardening than by biology; by myth than by measurement; by poetry and landscape painting than by experiments. These oppositions can never be absolute, however, since they are all different noetic dimensions of one and the same human life, and distortions or privations of one dimension will affect the others.

2.4) Part (b) of the person is sexually dimorphous. Dimorphism was long understood to reduce to a supposedly simpler and more perfect masculine principle, but the incoherencies in this theory, always present, have become unavoidable. While we have no widely accepted theory to replace male supremacy, any possible theory must explain how the human person measures all things in an essentially sexually dimorphous manner.

2.5) Minimally, the perfection of the universe requires at least one man and one woman entirely without defect, and this pair together would be the intra-cosmic measure of all things absolutely. The Apostolic Church has a very ancient theory of this sort, and among these the theory that the feminine measure was never with defect is the more coherent with the line of thought developed here.

3.1) The measure of being must be purely simple and known in itself, but nothing intra-cosmic can be this absolutely. Pure simplicity in the intelligible order is an essence both knowing itself and identical to its essence, which the Apostolic Church has always understood as the angelic order. Much more needs to be said about the angels as measures of being.

4.1) The simplicity of the divine nature is not just on the intelligible level but even in the principle of the intelligible, i.e. not just the order of essentia but the order of esse. 



Fortitude habitually construes one’s negative emotions as opportunities for human excellence.

The usual context of negative emotions is life in community: family, job, political life.

Trait neuroticism measures susceptibility to negative emotion. Fortitude views high neuroticism as increasing opportunity and so making fortitude achievable in a shorter amount of time.

Aristotle explains fortitude by its paradigm and ideal expression in death for the highest and most common good (for him, the city; for us, God and his truth) but the highest in any genus is the least known to us. Fortitude is most known to us in patience.

Fortitude is the first virtue since its matter is the most knowable to us.

The reception of act

Esse is either received or not, but we sense only the reception of accidental esse and have to draw analogies to higher modes of reception.  Absent analogy, one only visualizes “receiving” esse after already assuming it.

A radio or TV are pure information receivers. The information is an accident of either appliance, but it’s still true that

1.) The receiver is not given. It’s not as if TV’s were just lying about and we decided to use them to receive broadcasts. The broadcast material was an ambient given without which the radio becomes plastic junk. Thus receivers, as receivers, aren’t givens – the informing reality (IR) is the given with the receiver assembled after the fact.

2.) Receivers are characterized by a desire for the IR. This desire means nothing other than the receiver lacks any raison d’être apart from the IR, and the measure of its value is entirely from how well it can be informed by it.

3.) The IR is the measure of the receiver. We judge the value of the receiver relative to how faithfully the IR is present to it, but the reverse is not true.

4.) The receiver limits and contracts the IR. As received, form is only here, though capable of actualizing in many other places.

So receivers are (a) non-givens relative to a given form (b) instrinsically a sort of desire, lacking a raison d’être in themselves, (c) measured by the being they desire and (d) limiting the desired reality.





Translation of Mediator Dei

A translation of Mediator Dei on the key paragraph 70 which sets out a theory of how the Mass is a sacrifice:

[A]ccording to the plan of divine wisdom, the sacrifice of our Redeemer is shown forth in an admirable manner by external signs which are the symbols of His death. For by the “transubstantiation” of bread into the body of Christ and of wine into His blood, His body and blood are both really present: now the eucharistic species under which He is present symbolize the actual separation of His body and blood. Thus the commemorative representation of His death, which actually took place on Calvary, is repeated in every sacrifice of the altar, seeing that Jesus Christ is symbolically shown by separate symbols to be in a state of victimhood.

The translator’s stress on symbol is impossible to miss, but causes something of a scandal. Why demand a physically present and transubstantiated Christ for the sake of a symbolic sacrifice?

The original:

[E]x divinae sapientiae consilio Redemptoris nostri sacrificatio per externa signa, quae sunt mortis indices, mirando quodam modo ostenditur. Siquidem per panis « transubstantiationem » in corpus vinique in sanguinem Christi, ut eius corpus reapse praesens habetur, ita eius cruor : eucharisticae autem species, sub quibus adest, cruentam corporis et sanguinis separationem figurant. Itaque memorialis demonstratio eius mortis, quae reapse in Calvariae loco accidit, in singulis altaris sacrificiis iteratur, quandoquidem per distinctos indices Christus Iesus in statu victiinae significatur atque ostenditur.

So “symbols of his death” is mortis indices; the verb in “‘symbolize’ the actual separation” is figurant; “commemorative representation” is memorialis demonstratio; “separate symbols” is distinctos indices; “Christ is symbolically shown” is Christus… significatur atque ostenditur.

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