Exemplar causality

1.) Familiarly, an exemplar is something we look to imitate or mimic: the life of a saint, the work ethic of a personal hero, the coolness of some artist, etc.

2.) This makes the exemplar (A) the imitable and (b) what spurs or brings about its likeness. Both are like form so far as form is communicable to many but not so far as form is an immanent cause, and like final causality as the source of a tendency to form but not the term of generation. If you take St. Francis as a model it isn’t he who becomes the saint.

3.) Exemplar causality is clearly present when we explain the actions of beings with cognition, but it seems true of causal relations more generally so far causes and effects share a likeness. Form, for example, is not a principle of likeness as communicated to matter but as communicated ad extra; and a final cause identifies the thing desired with the term of action so does not allow for a likeness between the two.

4.) It makes no difference here whether exemplar causality differs from formal and final causality in reality or only in account. Whether the stairs that go up and those that go down are in different locations or are the same structure used both ways makes no difference to the reality of both. If forms and final causes are real, exemplar causes are too.

Retributive justice

Q: what do wrongdoers deserve qua wrongdoers?

A: To suffer pain and loss.

Q: Why do they deserve pain?

A: Because they deserve what is contrary to will.

Q: Why do they deserve what is contrary to their will?

A: Because if they suffer nothing for doing evil, they ipso facto get away with it, and it is always wrong to get away with doing evil.

Q: What about correction?

A: The correction of wrongdoing is to inflict pain on the wrongdoer.

Q: No, what about the correction of the wrongdoer? Isn’t this something they deserve?

A: Someone is a wrongdoer in virtue of what they have already done, but we correct persons with respect to their future acts. Correction is therefore not formal to our response to wrongdoing as a fait accompli, and so it does not address it per se.

Infinite regress

If some activity is actually infinite we have to explain how something can be in the midst of performing an action that never commenced. Lacking a point at which to commence is a perfect catch-22, like not being able to enter the actor’s union until you get a part given only to union actors.

For all that, the infinite is intelligible so far as homogeneous individuals forming a series cannot limit that series qua homogenous. Any series large enough to have a middle, if homogenous, must be homogeneous with that middle, and so qua homogenous it seems like it could be “all middles”. So these eleven hash marks:


Though the series is only eleven marks long in virtue of having an eleventh mark, any of the marks could count as the eleventh one.

Transcending human wisdom

Science and revealed religion both seek to find a source of authority beyond human prudence and faith. By prudence or wisdom I mean good choices made in conformity with rightly ordered passions, emotions and a correct view of the highest good, and human faith is trusting in the prudence of another human being.

The development of human prudence takes time and effort and requires many factors outside a person’s control, and even when perfected its ability to see into the contingent events that are its subject matter is limited. As Socrates explains in Apology, one of the key things to know about human wisdom is how little it sees of what is relevant to the right direction of life. This leads us to seek sources of direction other than human wisdom.

One place to turn is divine revelation, usually understood to be given to the saints and handed over as tradition and supplemented by a priestly class of official interpreters. Both the tradition and the priestly class speak with a voice above human wisdom and so escape the vagaries of human wisdom, and can do so even if they are not perfectly virtuous and attuned to the voice of God.

Speaking of “science” or “the sciences” or “studies” (as in “recent studies have shown”) can also be an attempt to get beyond human wisdom. No one is expected to ask whether the study was done by someone virtuous and therefore free of distorting passions, emotions and moral depravity. “Studies” are beyond the limitations of human prudence and presumptively transcend human limitations in a way that no one assumes Joe Smith the scientist transcends them. “Science” is by definition the ideal mind expressing itself.

Now if the gods speak to us we transcended human wisdom, and if a study is made by the ideal human mind expressing itself it is giving us human wisdom at it best.

Scriptural Inerrancy

The doctrine of Scriptural inerrancy means that the authors of Scripture – whether divine or human – succeeded in saying whatever they intended to say and so committed no errors formally. So, for example, if Luke and Matthew intended to write exact, word-for-word accounts of the sentence Pilate hanged over Christ then at least one of them erred formally, as Matthew wrote “This is Jesus King of the Jews” and Luke wrote “This is the King of the Jews.” If Matthew and Luke were trying to give an approximate account, or a multi-sourced account that they had many sources for, then there is no formal error, though there is clearly an error materially since it is impossible for both accounts to be the exact, word-for-word account of how Pilate’s sentence read.

Scriptural inerrancy is an entirely revealed doctrine, which requires only that it be rationally possible and not more rationally probable given one’s evidence base. It certainly does not follow that it is the most rational belief for one reading Scripture as if it were any other text. It should in fact go without saying that if one is reading anything as if it were any old text then he’s certainly not reading it as having God for it’s author.

It was of course possible for God to have preserved Scripture not just from formal error but even material error. In fact, we can’t even raise the charge of formal error without multiple sources of historical information, so God could have shielded Scripture from the charge of error simply by assuring that it gave only one account and that this was the only account we had, with no other Gospel, monument, report from a non-Scriptural author, archaeological artefact, etc. to contradict God’s source.

The faith requires that scripture relate at least some historical facts, but theologians have come to no consensus over how interested God is with making sure that these historical facts would be the ones we would assert or judge most probable given our present evidence base and awareness of the past. The prima facie evidence appears that God is less than 100% committed to this.

The Fourth Way and Trinitarianism

1.) The Fourth Way concludes to the existence of something that is per se and first good, true, noble, beautiful, powerful, noble, etc.

2.) If S is P per se and first, then P and S are identical, differing only as more and less distinctly known e.g. every definition and word defined are identical.

3.) So the Fourth Way concludes to a being that is both (a) identical to its attributes and (b) with attributes identical to each other.

4.) While all the attributes of the Fourth Way are absolute,* God also has relative attributes through generation and spiration.

5.) Though extending the kinds of attributes identical to divinity to include the relative, trinitarianism does not extend the identity that obtains between the attributes and divinity.

6.) Trinitarianism extends the natural theology of the Fourth Way by asserting the existence of a God that not only is identical to his absolute attributes but also to his relative attributes. Just as the divine essence transcends what are distinct absolute attributes in creatures like goodness, wisdom, intelligence, beauty, etc. so also it transcends the difference between the absolute and the relative.

*Absolute meaning what is in creatures in any category other than relation.

Living things are like machines (2)

Both are complex structures that use energy to achieve tasks. “Task” is a teleological term, and this seems to be the main light in virtue of which living things make sense to us. Looking at an organ before we know the task it performs gives the same disconnected feeling one gets looking at an obscure machine part whose function is unknown.

Living things are not machines

The form of the argument is

Machines _________

Living beings ________

and a series of predicates that are true about one and false about the other.

1.) Eat. Living things eat by converting an energy source into parts of themselves and machines don’t do this. Cars don’t turn gas into spark plugs and tires, computers don’t turn electricity into circuit boards or e-keys.

2.) Grow. Growth follows eating. See previous.

3.) Reproduce. To reproduce is to have a part of oneself separate and become another whole of the same kind. But there is no part of a 3D printer I can separate from it that will grow into a new 3D printer, and not just because printers don’t grow (see previous), but also because no part of a 3D printer when separated does 3D printing.

4.) Evolve. Evolution is the change in a breeding population over time, and machines don’t breed. See pre…

5.) Have species or families. A species is a reproductive island or a relation to some common ancestor. It is at least a line of descent following reproduction.

6.) Have on/off switches. Machines can be wholly assembled without functioning. Living things cannot be wholly assembled without functioning. The contingency of the first makes the on-off switch necessary, the necessity of the second makes it impossible.

7.) Have interfaces. Living things have no keyboards, mouses, gauges, because they don’t exist as extensions of the life of another.

8.) Harmed by exercise. Machines have wear and tear by use and are preserved by stasis. Living things strengthen their parts by use and atrophy with stasis.

9.) Harmed by disassembly. The machine is not harmed by disassembly, the living thing requires recovery time after surgeries.

10.) Homeostasis. Thermostats keep the same temperature in a room, not the same temperature in a thermostat (except accidentally, if we happen to install it in the room), but the living thing maintains the whole temperature in the whole animal as a whole.

The first four levels of prayer

The teaching of the saints on prayer coalesced into dividing four stages in the purgative way: (a) vocal prayer, (b) meditation, (c) affective prayer and (d) the prayer of simplicity.

Hypothesis: These divide into prayer that develops through stages from being (a) exterior, (b) interior, (c) an interior act that one looks forward to, makes time for and feels as necessary for life, and (d) in addition to being all these, one starts to experience his one’s own words or interior contributions as to some extent inappropriate and unnecessary given the presence in which one finds himself.

In level (c) I’m not talking about an enjoyment that is consolation as opposed to desolation, or fervor as opposed to dryness, but simply the normal joy we take in being able to satisfy habitually enjoyed goods, which is compatible with both fervor and dryness, etc.

The stages are developments since each higher stage transcends and fulfills something at a lower stage, but they are not so divided that we ever slough off what exists at a merely lower level.

Multicultural Colonialism (2)

There’s something trite about poking at the paradoxes of multiculturalism, since none of them touch the central anthropology of the system: the creation of the sexually enlightened, cosmopolitan, secular person who is only hygienically violent – by say, keeping only overseas slave labor, killing foreign undesirables with cruise missiles and drone strikes and domestic undesirables with easy opioids, legal cannabis, usury, incentivized family destruction, abortions, and a country-sized prison gulag (no floggings or capital punishment, only endless solitude!)

There’s a whiff of snark in the description, but only up to a point. This is a sympathetic view of a human ideal that strives to be both humane, sustainable, and open to being shared by more persons than have had access to power in the past. It has to deal with all the same intractable problems that all human communities have to deal with – the insane, evil, shiftless, fanatic – and with which no one will ever have overwhelming success. How good can you expect persons to be?

« Older entries