The essential

Here’s a universalizaiton of an old Port-Royal sophistry:

Whoever (either believes you exist or not) thinks the truth

Whoever says (insert any absurdity about yourself here) either believes you exist or not

Therefore whoever says (any absurdity about yourself) thinks the truth.

So, lo and behold, a Barbara syllogism proving any absurdity about you is true! You are a goat! A goatstag! Even a square circle!

Aristotle diagnoses the problem as the accidental predication of the minor premise: though it is true that one who thinks and absurdity about you thinks you either exist or not, the predication is not per se. This is why Aristotle reduces his logic not to propositions but to terms said of other terms, since this is gives rise to propositions said per se and per accidens, simpliciter and secundum quid, univocally and equivocally, etc.

Though this is a logical truth it points to a metaphysical one, i.e. the need to divide the true into the essential and the merely factual, what belongs to the nature and what is outside of it, what belongs to the essence and what falls outside of it.

One sentence on God and evil

1a) Though the fall from good to evil is not a motion or change

1b.) since it is not the actualization of a potential,

2a.) nevertheless, when it is understood in the mode of a change,

2b.) it is always and necessarily motion away from one’s ultimate end,

2c.) whether culpable as is the case with moral evils or not as is the case with all other evils

3a.) and since God is

3b.) whether immediately as is the case of rational beings

3c.) or mediately as in the case of all else,

3d.) the supreme ultimate end of all things

4.) and wills himself as an end necessarily in all he wills,

5.) he cannot be understood as willing the change from good to evil.

Antecedent permission

(a) God does not will John’s having grace.

(b) God wills John’s not having grace.

In either case John is damned, but Thomas insists that (a) is true and (b) is false.

Logically there is no problem in this; (a) is a denial and (b) is an affirmation, and any atheist believes that (a) must be true and (b) must be false, but it is hard for those who believe in the existence of God and who are puzzling over predestination to see the distinction as anything but wordplay. Nevertheless, since John’s not having grace is an evil, in (a) God is not willing an evil and in (b) he is.

Causal closure to spiritual causes

How is the causal closure principle supposed to rule out immaterial mental causation as classically understood? I’ll suppose “mental causation” can be either divine or created and deal with each in turn.

The typical account of creation in scholasticism is of God as primary cause entirely non-homogenous with creation (even Scotus’s univocism denies homogeneity between creator and creature.) The best analogue for this heterogeneity is how a screenwriter stands to the characters of the movie, i.e. as causing all things in the cinematic universe without being a causal event within that universe. More formally, both the Platonic and Aristotelian traditions following the liber de causis agreed that a primary cause is responsible for the causality of the secondary cause. So if A causes B and B is a sufficient cause of C, and both B and C are physical, then the fact that there is a sufficient physical cause of C (namely B) does not rule out the existence of A. Said another way: B suffices to cause C if, given B, C is given, but B might be caused or not.

If this is our account of creation it’s difficult to see how there is an account of the causal closure of the physical that rules out creation. A typical formulation would be Kim’s Every physical effect that has a sufficient cause has a sufficient physical cause, but we can speak of all the events in a movie being sufficiently caused by events in that movie without denying that movies are authored.

The same is true if we set aside divine creation and speak of mental causation by creatures. While mental creation and physical creation share a domain as finite, they are not formally homogeneous. If one posits that the mental is immaterial it is ipso facto heterogenous to the physical and so it’s causality on the physical is also analogous to how the author stands to the story. While God causes the entirety of creation as such, created minds are partially conditioned by the universe, analogous to how an editor who alters some event in a movie has to observe the rules in the cinematic universe and can’t just make up the universe whole cloth. For all that, however, both authors and editors are primary causes of the cinematic universe and not characters within it, and the events in the universe have total and sufficient causes within the universe that do not rule out authorship of the whole universe or editing that is conditioned by some of its rules.

~willing vs. willing~

It’s clear for us that not willing P is different from willing not-P. Everything outside my attention is something I can’t will, but I’m not by that act willing it not exist. The example raises the question how these are distinguished in God, since Thomas appeals to this distinction to explain evil in the universe. 

The statements that evil exists, and that evil exists not, are opposed as contradictories; yet the statements that anyone wills evil to exist and that he wills it not to be, are not so opposed; since either is affirmative. God therefore neither wills evil to be done, nor wills it not to be done, but wills to permit evil to be done; and this is a good.

ST 1.19.9 ad.3

So it is true that (a) God does not will evil to be but it is false that (b) God wills evil not to be. So (a) cannot imply (b.) The objection is that while for us (a) is not a sufficient condition for (b), for God it is, and positing a sufficient condition, the effect must be. Haven’t we all heard the sermonette on what happens if God were not willing your existence, even for a moment? Isn’t this asserting (a) to be a sufficient cause of (b)?

But if (a) implied (b) in God, it applies with respect to impossibilities, and this does not seem to so. God doesn’t will impossibilities, but this is not the sufficient cause of their non-existence, since this is also true of some possibilities. Mere divine non-willing, therefore, does not suffice to explain either possibility or impossibility as such. For that matter, atheists clearly agree with Thomas that (a) is true though they clearly disagree that (b) is, which suffices to divide the ratio of (a) from (b.)

The existence of benevolence

Thomas divides love into concupiscence (the desire of some good for oneself) from benevolence (the desire of some good for another.) No one doubts the existence of concupiscence, but some have doubted the existence of benevolence, or at least that benevolence needs to be a sort of love. Even granting we sometimes want others to have good things, it’s not crazy to wonder if we do so for self-interested motives. Once one tries to see this happen in concrete experience, however, it’s hard to see how it works.

Take an unambiguously straightforward case of concupiscent love, e.g. the desire for Mexican food. The usual way this happens is one considers his options and picks the one on balance most likely to please him. No sports fan, however, could describe his love of his team in the same way, sc. as the one chosen from his available options to give him the most pleasure in sports watching, since to love a team like that isn’t to love it at all but to be at best a fair-weather fan. The fan enjoys loving his team, and enjoyment is certainly a good, but to make his love stand to his enjoyment as means to end, again, can only make sense if he’s a fair weather fan, i.e. not a fan at all. What’s true of sports teams is also true of nations, spouses, children, etc. All these loves involve the willingness to suffer for what one loves, which contradicts the whole point of concupiscence.

The difference of nature and art

Aristotle sees both nature and art as principles of motion and rest, but he divides them by nature acting within matter and art acting outside matter. So once matter is put in the right circumstances or made apt for some goal, nature will execute the action by itself while art won’t.

Why didn’t Aristotle divide nature from art by the latter acting by knowledge and the former not? This seems to follow the correct Aristotelian axioms that one should start with what is most known to us and get to what is more fundamental by negation. But Aristotle’s definition is better for two reasons:

1.) Art is not defined through knowledge since as art becomes more perfect the knowledge that gives rise to it is less perfect as knowledge. An act of knowledge is more perfect when it is actually being thought but an act of art becomes perfect in the measure that one does it without thinking. The better one gets at typing or walking or throwing the less one is thinking about the action and the more automatic and less deliberated the it becomes. This is part of the reason why Aristotle says

It is absurd to suppose that purpose is not present [in nature] because we do not observe the agent deliberating. Art does not deliberate.

2.) If the absence of knowledge formally divided art from nature, then nature would not be different from luck, since persons are only lucky when they are ignorant of outcomes. Though non-knowledge is formally necessary for luck, nature is much further from luck than art is since both good luck and art involve a good one actually desires, e.g. if you didn’t want money then you wouldn’t be lucky for finding a treasure while digging a well.

On the antecedent and consequent will

This is per se nota:

One giving a test antecedently wills every individual taking it to pass, but one cannot consequently will every individual to pass, assuming some do not. 

The antecedent will of one giving a test is exercised by writing it and/or preparing students for it, so antecedently willing failure means to intend the failure of some individual even before he sees their answers, in which case one does not have a trial at all but merely the appearance of one. The consequent will is how one evaluates the test given the students have taken it, and in this sense to will that every individual pass (assuming some in fact did not) means that one would pass no matter how he did, which again means that it was not a test at all but only the appearance of one.

And so to say that God antecedently wills the salvation of each individual but consequently does not follows simply from salvation following a test that some fail, and this is not a fact about God as such but about tests.  The antecedent and consequent will is one simple reality ex parte dei and two distinct realities ex parte creatorum i.e. the real distinction between the person before and after death and judgment.

Notice that when Thomas divides the antecedent and consequent will he divides them simpliciter, but we are here dividing them with respect to a test or trial, and further stipulating that life is a trial that some in fact fail.

The two physics

-Physics is the study of what is fundamental in the natural world.

-All fundamental accounts of the physical world reduce it to something pushed around and something pushing: Newton’s body and vis impressa, the 19th Century energy and mass, our fermions and bosons, etc. For Aristotle, the actuality and passivity themselves were fundamental.

-Physics is an account of motion, change or coming to be, whether as something moved or doing the moving.

-Change is divided into uniform units of space and time. These units are further combined and related ad infinitum to make complex quantities like mass, energy, momentum. The word “is” in bold is taken in the sense of equivalent exchange, as in “a dollar is 1.12 euros” or “A cruise is 750 credits.”

-In this sense of physics, the natural world is an economy of exchange values. This economy is ruled by invariant rules of exchange called laws of nature. These rules are sometimes absolute, sometimes probabilistic, though qua exchange this makes no difference.

-Change formally is not the exchange rate of its units but a coming to be from a terminus a quo to a terminus ad quem. Coming to be is literally what it says: being that was not and now is.

-Parmenides found a contradiction in change taken formally: given that the terminus ad quem was being the terminus a quo would be non-being, but it is impossible to start with nothing and get something, and so motion was as subjective as sunrises.

-Parmenides missed that being, like many nouns, has both a potential and actual meaning. Just as both the cooked and uncooked object are pizza, both the bulb and the bloom are a tulip, and both the beans and the drink are coffee, being is also both the potential and the actual, and so taken being comes to be from being, though only if we understand a mobile subject as potential being existing derivatively and relatively to its terminus ad quem.

-Notice that the motion is teleological as soon as its described formally. Even calling it coming to be is teleological. Only potentials are in motion, and potential arises only after the terminus ad quem exists in the manner appropriate to a terminus ad quem.

-So physics is both the account of how nature is the invariant rules of exchange for uniform units of divided space time and it is formally the study of teleological action arising from the intrinsic orientation of some potency to a terminus ad quem existing in the manner appropriate to such a reality.

-Through a series of historical accidents the laws of nature physics is so well known that it is now simply identified with science, while physics taken formally is a boutique interest studied by almost no one. This is largely harmless and fine. Popular things attract sophists and conmen, and nowadays those who study formal physics can study it serenely and free from such dialectical pests. On the other hand, the vast interest in laws of nature physics allows for considerable advances and subtle insights, even if at the cost of attracting all the bad attention that formal physics doesn’t attract.

Freedom as highest good.

Liberalism takes as the highest good of the regime the maximization of autonomy and the removal of extrinsic restraints on freedom. The first way this manifests itself is in a policy of minimal governance, free thought and speech, and laissez faire markets. It’s just as reasonable, however, to take the maximization of autonomy as the highest good of the regime, and so taken one places no limits on his efforts to bring that good about. Just as a doctor qua doctor believes that anything goes so far as it brings about health, so too the liberal as liberal believes that anything goes so far as it removes extrinsic restraints on freedom. While the doctor, however, recognizes some limits on what he might do as man or citizen, liberalism just is a theory of man’s highest common good, and so absolutely anything that removes restraints on freedom or the self-determination of persons is not just permissible but morally obligatory. As soon as we identify some group that is imposes restraints on freedom we are morally obliged to do whatever it takes to eliminate them.

So one and the same liberalism has what we now call a conservative and liberal manifestation, with the conservative one seeking minimal governance and oversight and the liberal one feeling justified in doing absolutely anything to remove groups that resist the revolution.

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