The First Way and normative nature

1.) God moves natures immediately.

So natural motions immediately manifest the divine will

2.) The unmoved mover moves natural things first by their natures.

God is the unmoved mover

3.) Motions immediately done by God are normative.

Natural motions are immediately done by God.

So natural motions are normative.

4.) Objects of physical science are motions.

Motions reduce to natural motions.

Natural motions are immediate per se effects of divine will

An immediate per se effect of the divine will is normative.

So the objects of physical science are normative.

(clarifications omitted about formal objects, proper objects, borderline objects of physics and metaphysics.)

Divine causality and freedom

1.) The problem of actions determined by God is not the problem of determinism. There is no doubt we experience deliberation and the consequent free action. If we deny freedom because of mechanical determinism this experience is as meaningless as any other event in the universe. The universe simply fell out in such a way that things have false experiences. If we deny freedom because of divine causality, however, the experience can’t be brushed off so easily – what is the point of God maintaining us in the conviction that we are free when we are not?

2a.) What if we say God maintains nature, but nature is meaningless, so God maintains something meaningless. Isn’t this arguably the point of Ecclesiastes? No, Ecclesiastes calls nature meaningless in the sense that no object in it constitutes human beatitude. The heart sketching nature makes a picture of God in the negative space. The human person is a part of nature in the same way – to take oneself as an end cuius gratia of action is mortal sin.

2b.) To the extent nothing in nature satisfies the will, the will is indifferent to it, and to the extent the will is indifferent it is free.

2c.) So in one sense the freedom of the will is indifference – you grab this object when you might just as soon grabbed the other one. This indifference is of eternal significance, however, when we consider the indifference we have to taking anything as for ourselves as an ultimate end, since to take it in this way makes us ipso facto damned.

3a.) That God is first of all creator means that his action is preserves natures in their integrity and does not destroy them. To imagine God upholds nature while simultaneously thwarting its ends makes omnipotence a perverted faculty.

3b.) A divine perverted faculty would require a composition in one and the same divine act and introduces performative contradictions into perfect operations.

4.) If a free act were uncaused, any putatively free act would be putatively a divine act. Calling oneself free would be a bizzare or blasphemous claim. But this is all nonsense, so we have to allow antecedent causality to free acts. The only question is what sort of antecedent causality there is to a created free act.

5.) Whatever God wills is immutable

God wills all created outcomes,

therefore, Created outcomes are immutable.

The argument is true but the divine immutability as participated in by creatures is not determinism but the necessity of necessary beings, the contingency of contingent ones, and the freedom of the free ones. God is immutable precisely from his perfection, and creatures participate in his perfections so far as they have their own proper perfections. Human freedom and its contingency, no less than the necessity of animal death or the conservation of matter, is the immutability of God as participated in by creatures.

So to re-write the argument with its proper qualifications:

Whatever God wills is immutable essentially and as it exists in God.

God wills all created outcomes as they exist in themselves and as they arise in their proper causes,

Therefore, created outcomes are immutable, essentially as they exist in God, and necessarily, contingently, or freely as they arise from their proper causes.

Thomistic Sexual Ethics and the Sexual Revolution

1.) Much of Thomas’s sexual ethics can be derived from the axiom non-inseminating sex acts are contra naturam. Sexual use, and a fortiori sexual enjoyment, is evil if non-inseminating.

2.) Insemination has a complete species whether or not generation occurs. In fact, the overwhelming majority of inseminating acts knowingly do not terminate in actual generation and it’s good that they don’t. Most acorns never become oaks, and it’s good that they don’t; a fortiori it’s good that the overwhelming majority of human gametes don’t become humans.

3.) The Sexual Revolution follows the logic of denying Thomas’s axiom. It starts by barrier contraception’s negating the species of inseminating act, and contraception as such negating the integral intention of insemination by rendering the will a perverted faculty with respect to it.

4.) Having denied the necessity of insemination in any particular case, The Sexual Revolution denies its necessity in its genus by denying that sexual differentiation is integral to sexual desire.

5.) Having denied what is integral to insemination in its genus, it denies what is integral to the principles of the genus, namely any stable existence of persons as sexed.

6.) The Revolution then questions the value of identifying any genus of acts as sexual. Sure, we might enjoy doing this or that sexual act, but this throws no light on the moral domain of acts called “sexual”. Why bother to identify the class at all, much less our place in it?

7.) Of course, the answer is there is no moral genus of sexual behavior at all. That we fell urges and observe certain biological facts tells us nothing. Qua moral beings we are all asexual.

8.) And so we hit on a logic of LGB (#4) TI (#5) Q (#6) and A (#7). After this it becomes unclear what the next step is, or even what it could be unless the “A” is a via negativa, and we are casting about for some moral genus of sexual acts based on a spirituality consisting in the negation of biological existence and the hope of transcending it. As a Catholic I have no doubt that there are spirits who are eager for us to seek just this sort of transcendence.


1.) I doubt anyone comes here looking for conspiracy theory, but here’s one: The internet is both the medium for the businesses that stand to profit by the lockdown and the medium we use to get information about the value of lockdowns – or information about anything, for that matter.

2.) If we dial back from conspiracy theory we still might notice a straightforward conflict of interest. This conflict is larger than the one posed by the present pandemic. The media (née “the press”) only deserves to be free to the extent that it is independent, and independence requires making one’s interests manifest.

3.) The media seeks to be a view from nowhere only as a self-delusion or marketing ploy. To announce one’s affiliations is to limit his appeal, and limiting one’s appeal is usually contrary to anyone who wants to make money.

4.) The intrinsic problem with any media is the temptation to conflate useful information with what holds attention: the first is an auxiliary to prudence and focuses on what is typical or good for making law, the second is the bizarre, novel, cute, lurid, shocking, and focuses on the hard cases.

JOST on divine premotion

(Translation is hasty and slapdash.)

Objection: If God denies prevenient assistance to a creature he withholds something necessary to do the work, and without which one cannot bring a potency into act. Assuming the absence of prevenient assistance, therefore, the creature cannot be held responsible for failing to do the act.

(JOST) We briefly respond: God’s antecedent efficacious inclination, if entirely suspended by him, without doubt deprives creatures of something necessary for action, and, so taken, man cannot be held responsible for not doing the action. Yet, if the efficacious power is lacking from action A, nevertheless it is not lacking that he perform action B, and he is held responsible for not doing B because… he voluntarily omits to do B and diverts himself from it.

Since our will is not a power confined and determined to one object, but is able to do many things toward which it stands contingently, its nature is not so restricted so that a determinate concursus is always given to one species or part of action… but is voluntarily inclined to determine itself and [consequently] omit to do the opposite of the action. The concursus works so that one voluntarily wills that which is granted to him to will, and if what is granted is an act with the permission of some sin, from that very permission he will voluntarily defectively will. So a concursus is not granted to action A and denied to B except with the voluntary inclination to A and omission of B. What is required to act is, therefore, never lacking simpliciter.

Personal identity

Let X be some part of my life that I can’t imagine being otherwise, maybe because the thought of removing it from my life would be unbearable, maybe because I can’t form any picture of my life without it. It’s hard to see how anyone’s personal history, relation to his parents, or sexual attractions isn’t an X, and what could be an X are innumerable: cigarettes, a college, brownies, a sports team, hating the Séléka coalition, playing Boggle, revering Nasib Yusifbeyli, getting tattoos…

The Xs of life might = personal identity, but they are at least integral to it. If Joe can’t imagine life without brownies (and if you want someone fitting this description I can provide more than one) then brownies are a part of Joe’s identity. If something isn’t or has never been X to you, you might be baffled about how it could be to anyone else. This is one of the main sources of why the lives of others are opaque to us.

The etiology of our Xs might be obvious or not. I doubt I could give any causal account of how I came to like women or Latin or Catholicism or alcohol, especially in a world where millions of persons are indifferent to or even disgusted at the same things. I suspect our Xs are overdetermined, and are sufficiently caused by any one of the twenty causes that gave rise to them. The deep resonance required for things to enter into our identity probably makes them all in some way things we were “born with”, e.g. if I was attracted to Latin from the moment I ran into it then there is almost certainly some way I was born to like it.

Morality separates good from evil Xs and insists that the evil ones are all contingent intruders, no matter what it looks like to us. To give the Catholic account, we can enter heaven with the good Xs but we either have to be damned with the evil ones or have them torn out in this life or the next. Human life being what it is, many of the wicked parts of our identity are beyond the reach of therapy or the normal dispensation of grace and can only be rooted out in the higher stages of mystical prayer or the fires of Purgatory. The sight of these wicked Xs, which were so clear to St. Augustine, is one thing that belies the Pelagian idea that free choice is all we need to make ourselves holy. What good is free choice in the face of a renunciation that threatens our identity? We can’t give up something for the sake of a better life when we can’t imagine our life without it at all. The wicked parts of our identity challenge any desire for repentance by demanding what it will profit us to gain the whole world and lose our self.

True, many of these wicked desires are not culpable, and we would not expect them to damn us merely for being parts of our identity. Still, all of them have to go, in this life or the next. No one knows what culpability we have for our addictions, personality disorders, destructive loves, disordered desires etc, but you won’t enter heaven with any of them.

Church Talk

My wife Jessica and I spoke at our Church. Here’s the talk.

Order to outcomes

Whenever there is a connection or order between initial conditions and outcomes it cannot arise by chance.

To the extent that there is a connection or order between me buying this Bingo card and me winning the prize, I didn’t win by chance. Maybe I rigged the game, maybe I picked a card by my super-secret Bingo probability calculus, but in the first case I won by cheating and in the second by science. I only won by chance if I was ignorant of any connection or order between the card I bought and the numbers that came up.

So there is something opposed to chance, and it isn’t necessity as such. Negating necessity doesn’t give chance but the contingent, and the contingent is compatible with both chance and intentional outcomes. This was Aristotle’s insight, that chance is not opposed to necessity but to teleology.

Necessity, in fact, is compatible both with teleology and and its absence. Willing happiness is teleological but necessary; and natural science converges on the fulness of what is implied in what is teleological and necessary.

Statues, idols, Christ’s body

The Church divides religious art from idols by saying that the art is a symbol while the idol is taken as divine, but the same distinction can’t explain the difference that Christ’s body has from an idol. In this case we have to divide what a divinity physical by nature – Athena, the idol, etc – from the divinity that is physical by choice for the sake of salvation.

Agents and Goals

1.) You want to explain why something moved, so you posit a force or energy. Violà – a system composed of active and passive powers.

2.) The active and passive powers have determinations to goals and goals are unrealized physical states, so where goals are causal the not yet physically realized exercises causal influence.

3.) The agent is paradigmatically physically realized and is as real as banging your fist on the table. But even banging the table has as its goal to give an example, and this goal activity is by definition not physically realized.

4.) We have no difficulty staying on the level of the physically realized agents, discovering and postulating more and more universal and subtle sorts of causality in the physically realized order: Vis impressa, energy, bosons, etc.

5.) Orthogonal to this is the causality of goals and so of what is not physically realized.

6.) Objection: Physical processes are mostly determined and predictable while a cognitive process is free. Therefore physical processes are not cognitive.

7.) Response: Cognition is not opposed to determination but presupposes it, not only in humans but even in God. The freedom of human action is always with respect to a means to a happiness that we will of necessity; and God’s freedom is with respect to what is subordinated to his own goodness that is necessarily willed.

5.) Ortogonal to this is the

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