Intus apparens (2)

1.) The principle intus apparens is used to prove the immateriality of intellect. In speaking of it we will take two things as self-evident:

a.) Sense powers are passive physical cognitive powers.

b.) Human intellects are passive cognitive powers that are not self-evidently physical. One has to prove the case one way or another.

In this present argument, we postulate that the intellect is a form of a body (though we think, in fact, that it is provable.) The postulate is uncontroversial to those who think intellect is physical, so it does not seem any presumptive benefit to those of us who think that we can use it to prove the intellect is not physical.

2.) The principle intus apparens is

A passive cognitive faculty cannot have in its nature the form that it knows primo and per se.  

“The form” in question is any form, whether existing in esse naturale and in esse intentionale. It is, however, both uncontroversial and evident from the terms that the nature of a passive faculty cannot have the form it knows in esse intentionale, since if it did it would not be passive to a form that makes it know, which is precisely what being a passive cognitive power consists in. We therefore leave that claim aside and focus only on why the nature of the passive cognitive faculty lacks the form it knows in any way, including in esse naturale. 

3.) There are many objections to this claim which commentators have, for centuries, been taking as almost laughingly self-evident:

a.) Eyes see colors and have colors.

b.) Eyes see magnitudes and have magnitude.

c.) The organs we use to feel temperature have a temperature.

One can spin out objections like this ad infinitum, making it seem completely nuts to claim that passive cognitive powers have to lack the form they perceive in any way, including in esse naturale. 

4a.) All the objections fail due to one evident universal principle, which we’ll first apply to exterior sense powers and next to interior sense powers. First, the exterior sense powers are passive per se to bodies exterior to the sense organ.  It’s evident, however, that nothing exterior to a sense organ is interior to it. When we say, for example in (3a), that eyes see colors, we mean they see them precisely in the way appropriate to a passive, physical power that detects things exterior to itself. My eyes, for example, don’t see the black of my own pupils, the brown of my own irises, the white of my own sclera, but only, e.g. the black charcoal marks in a drawing of my pupil, the pixelated brown irises on my drivers license, or things like this that are exterior to the organ and capable of acting on it through light in the medium.

4b.) This is also true about interior sense powers, e.g. those that feel pain. The pain seems to be damage to a nerve relayed to a brain, which the brain treats as exterior to itself. The brain itself, interestingly, does not have pain receptors, and it cannot, per the account just given in keeping with the principle intus apparens. The only difference between the interior and exterior powers is between that the latter are a whole acting exteriorly on another whole while the former are a part acting exteriorly to on another part.

5.) There are also particular reasons for why the above objections fail. (b) fails to realize that the principle intus apparens applies to what the power knows primo and per se, and no common sensible (like magnitude) is known primo and per se, but only through the proper sensibles. We would say something similar to one who tried to say that the principle intus apparens proves that if intellects know being, then they can’t exist, as we’ll prove below that they don’t know being in all its latitude primo and per se. (c) fails from too loose and general account of the temperatures that touch detects, which are in a range between high temperatures that can harm us and low temperatures that can harm us, and dropping or raising the temperature of the organ itself (as happens in fevers) impedes its ability to correctly detect what is in this range. So far from disproving the principle, it presupposes it.

6.) Per (1b.) the intellect is a passive power. Aristotle also gave a proof for this, sc. the human intellect is passive because it sometimes knows and sometimes does not. The intellect also knows physical substances primo and per se since, given the postulate in (1), it knows everything it knows as the form of a body, but it clearly knows that physical things are substances, i.e. that they exist of themselves, are objective, and have features essential to them as physical, which are the only sorts of features that form universal laws. Notice that other physical, interior senses (like the estimative sense, common sense, etc) do not perceive substance primo and per se any more than the individual proper senses.

7.) Therefore, per (2) the human intellect in esse naturale is neither a physical substance nor is it composed of physical substances, and no exterior or interior sense power is such.

8.) The proof for the immateriality of the intellect presupposes that the intellect is a form united to a body, as this was a necessary postulate in proving that it physical substances are what it knew primo and per se. So even if the immateriality of the intellect is understood as involving some sort of substance dualism – sapiens non curat de nominibus – this “dualism” itself presupposes the unity of the intellect and physical organs in a single substance.

9.) This refutes Pasnau’s charge that Aquinas commits what he calls a content fallacy when he supposedly illicitly infers from what Pasnau calls internal to intentional characteristic of thought. Aquinas does this whenever the principle intus apparens allows him to, as this principle is explained in (2.)

Cartesian selves

1.) The separated soul is a Cartesian self. 

It is only an intellect, and every intellect is self-reflexive and understands the cogito.

2.) A Cartesian self is not a person. 

This is clearest in Chalcedonian Christology, since Christ has two intellects and so is two Cartesian selves, but is only one person.

Faith and agnosticism

1.) Faith is always a way of getting some good, so consider it as a means of getting reasons. We seek to know something and so we take advantage of someone who we take to be in a position to know something. Asking for directions to the bathroom, for help with calculus, for help framing a window, etc.

2.) “Student” is formally a mode of having faith in another, i.e. the teacher.

3.) We can’t take someone to be in a position of knowing something by knowing that they do, i.e. students as such are not teachers. We can point to goods of believing in them and compare them to risks of believing (this is one way to understand Pascal’s point) but obviously as soon as some objector ties the goods we are speaking of to our need to know whether our teacher is right, we have to admit we’re in no position to even defend the goods.

4.) For all that, it’s not rational to demand any student or believer as such know the teacher is right. This is simply to insist that students shouldn’t exist.

5.) If consciousness survives death, obviously its abilities are radically altered. One’s whole brain and nervous system has gone dead and been buried in a box or burned to ashes! The act of faith seeking knowledge of things after death must therefore be faith in an intelligence transcending the present state of human intelligence. The whole definition of such faith demands we be students of that transcending intelligence until death.

6.) So what does the case look like for refusing to be a student of an intelligence transcending human life? It can’t be “we can’t know, and (in our present state) we’ll never know” since this is, again, precisely the foundation of the faith. Those who say “we can’t know and will never know” seem to be confusing a principle with a conclusion. Both the believer and the agnostic are agnostics as the agnostic understands the term.

7.) The difference between the believer and agnostic is about what one should do with agnosticism in the face of the fact that knowledge is, taken absolutely, better than faith. The believer says “Knowledge is better than faith, therefore I will have faith now for the sake of knowledge later.” The agnostic says “knowledge is better than faith, therefore I will limit myself to what I can know now”

The Principle Intus Apparens

Thomists seem to be unique among Aristotelians by believing that a cognitive power must in reality lack a form that it receives. In the lit, this principle is called intus apparens prohibet extraneum (cf. III De Anima c. 4  429a 20.) The objection to intus apparens is straightforward: it requires that eyes be invisible, the tongue have no taste, and intellects not exist in reality. I’m not sure what to say in defense but am feeling out my options. One option is that the objection conflates what is proper to objects in reality and powers in reality.

Tongue meat certainly has some taste or another, as one can find lingua on Mexican menus and Ochsenzunge on German ones. I can’t recall the taste, but the present argument requires only that it has some taste or another. Assume it’s garlicky.

This requires two senses of the claim “my tongue tastes garlicky” since, though this is the taste it would have to whomever it was served, it is not what I taste whenever I taste things. So it’s garlicky to another but not to myself? True, but the “other” is as an object of any sense power, including my own, whereas the “to myself” is in reference to any sense power, even someone else’s. So I mean that a garlic taste characterizes the object of a cognitive power but not the cognitive power as such.

Translated Thomistically, garlicky or garlic tasting is just “the form of garlic”, so the relevant distinction is that this form must characterize the structure of garlicky objects but cannot characterize the structure of cognitive tasting powers. Notice that we’re speaking of both objects and powers in their real being. It may be true that one can also distinguish “tasting garlic” into an object existing in reality and that same object existing intentionally, but this misses the point of what can and cannot belong to objects and powers in reality. The unity of the power demands that in reality it not be determined or informed in its nature by one of its many incompossible objects (viz. garlic and non-garlic) but garlic (or in our example, the tongue) must be objectively garlic and not its opposite. Is this the sense of intus apparens? 

But why not respond to this by saying that it still conflates the real and the intentional? Why not say that powers to incompossible objects must lack these objects intentionally but can have then really? Isn’t it possible for the tongue to be made up of molecules that in one way constitute it and in another way are transduced through it as sense information?

Seen from one particularly prominent angle, the history of salvation is a series of barren women conceiving by divine power after years of failure. The line starts with Sarah and runs through Elizabeth after passing through the hinge stories of Rachel, the mother of Samson, Hannah, and the Acolyte of Elisha. What is the point of this?

The foundation of the Gospel is by grace you have been saved by faith (Eph. 2:8). This faith starts with Abraham, whose faith consisted in his belief that he will be the father of many nations despite the fact… that Sarah’s womb was dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Rm. 4: 19-22.) Abraham renewed this faith in his willingness to sacrifice Isaac, since he went to the sacrifice having reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death (Heb. 11: 19.) The faith that justifies, therefore, is an interior transformation giving one confidence in the power of God to bring forth new life which is strong enough even to flout the best testimony we have apart from the revelation, namely the testimony of secondary causes. True, secondary causes only ever work by the power of the primary, but one can recognize this intellectually without the truth of the axiom ever transforming the heart, and it’s one thing to believe an abstract axiom and another to believe it in the face of secondary causes telling us that ninety year old women who have never conceived after decades of trying won’t conceive, and dead children don’t rise from the dead. But Abraham’s confidence in divine power, renewed and challenged again and again though the barren women, always returns to the spotlight in the story of salvation. 

By the time anyone figures out they need to take the spiritual life seriously, they already have years worth of habits that run directly counter to it. We’ll have any number of food addictions or physical consolations that we couldn’t imagine living without, years of inordinate attachment to possessions, of indulging anger, of hating the goods of others that are rival our own, etc. We’ll have years of evidence that trusting secondary causes yields good results, but by definition little experience of the power of divine causality. We’ll turn to the stories of the saints and see levels of sanctity that seem about as attainable as a cow jumping over the moon. The Gospel message of God’s desire to make us holy will be no more inherently reasonable as God’s promise to Abraham, and the thought of being holy will be be as silly as the thought of conceiving was to Sarah, and we, like them, don’t have the privilege of knowing how our story ends.

De causis prop. 8

Intelligence understands all below it because it is its cause, and all above it because it receives good from it. 

Receiving good is to be caused in the order of final causality, and so the proposition is in general a causal axiom. Intelligence turns out to be a principle of goodness, as terminus a quo to everything below it, even lower intelligences, and the terminus ad quem for the same. Intelligence generates the motion of exitus/reditus. 

This exitus reditus is in one sense a cosmological argument, e.g. Thomas’s Fifth Way. In another sense it is the principle constituting human beings intrinsically, sc. that intelligence is the principle of being for lower order existence (“the body”) to the extent that it’s one substance with it. Intelligence is the formal principle of the body’s existence, and exists for the sake of the intelligence and derives its good from it. 

Notice that this order applies to the intelligence not as self, but as an order of being, and so intelligence must seek this good precisely as a good due to it by its order, i.e. as a common good. In the purely material order, this is the desire of matter for many forms, in the immaterial order it is the desire for verum per se or the Prima Causa Universalis. 

De Auxiliis (2)


So why is divine auxilium different from creation? Fears of occasionalism may have played a part, but the better account is that a divine act of creation explains contingent esse while auxilium explains contingent operatio. Just as the real distinction in creatures requires reducing their actual existence to creation, the total contingency of created operation requires reducing their operation to a divine auxilium. Thomas is clear that the contingency of the will requires this, since the all will’s actions presuppose something willed naturally, but willing naturally is itself a contingent fact within the world.

Auxilium is therefore not peculiar to the will but is common to all contingent actions. The will requires divine auxilium to chose just as a bud requires it to bloom or an apple requires it to fall. This is clearer for us since we see how natural operations reduce to conserved quantities and energy, but neither explains operation simply speaking. A body has potential energy because of its position, so this energy is explained as much by the thing in the position as by whatever caused it to have that position (like me lifting an object in the air.) Again, kinetic energy is energy arising from motion, and so it is as much from the moving object as from whatever caused the object to move. As Aristotle put it, natural motion arises from the generator, and so cannot rest on a generator that itself requires a natural motion. So we get a cosmological argument from contingent operatio. 

Seen from this angle, Bañez’s physical premotion destroys free will only in the sense that it destroys an apple’s ability to fall or water’s ability to freeze. Bañez has no problem situating the physical premotion of the will inside a larger account of the physical premotion of everything, but it’s unclear what role a Molinist scientia media would play in conferring auxilia to falling apples or freezing lakes. Maybe God foresaw from all eternity that the Lake of the Woods would freeze if he put it on the Canadian border, and Lake Victoria would never freeze if he put it by Tanzania, and so this explains why one is by Canada and the other isn’t. 


Twentieth Century theologians were skeptical about the claim that Christ had the beatific vision throughout his earthly life, but here’s one argument for it: 

(1) All faith rests on another’s knowledge.

(2) So if Christ did not have this face-to-face knowledge of God, the Christian faith in this teaching does not rest on Christ. 

(3) But the Christian faith rests most of all on Christ. 

So Christ had face-to-face knowledge of God. 

This argument can be taken as a commentary on Thomas’s claim that Christ had beatific knowledge since he was the source of beatitude for others, i.e. the beatitude of others was from their faith, and the source and foundation of faith is the knowledge of another. 

The De auxiliis (1)

The De auxiliis controversy was between two groups who saw primary and secondary causes as really distinguished from the creating and created causes. The main fear seems to be that if one sees God as creating the action of a secondary cause, then action of a creature would not be from a secondary cause but from nothing. This seems to commit us to some sort of occasionalism. 

While I see the force of the argument it seems easy to respond to, namely that creation of an action – or of any other accident – arises according to the nature of that accident, and so presupposes whatever nature is presupposed to that accident. Leaving aside the accidents of the Eucharist, these accidents presuppose substances and so to create accidents ex nihilo is to create what naturally presupposes a substance. If the action has any being at all, after all, one has to relate it to the divine creative act, but the participants of the De auxiliis controversy seem to insist that there must be some additional and really distinguished real activity ex parte creatures. I see the point of this if one is woking from a principle like “when an accident is created ex nihilo, this treats it as not even according to its natural presupposition of substance.” This principle might be defensible, but I don’t see it. 

Operative v. cooperative grace

Grace elevates the soul above the level of a creature to the divine level, and so elevates the will. Taken in one sense, this elevation comes from outside the will. How could it not, as the whole point is to lift it beyond itself? This is operative grace. Taken in another sense, the elevation is an elevation of the will, and so must happen according to the nature of the will, and so it happens voluntarily or not at all. This is co-operative grace. Nevertheless, even the voluntariness just spoken of can be considered as brought about from the outside, and therefore as operative; or as from the nature of the will, and so as co-operative. So if one asks the question “how does operative grace become co-operative? the answer can only be to posit another grace whihc itself divides in the same way. This is not vicious circularity, but the a revelation of how the distinction is fundamental and does not reduce to something more fundamental, like any other axiom or common notion. 

The distinction between the operative and co-operative is comparable to the distinction between light going into a room and light being in the room. In the first, the room is a terminus ad quem of the light, and so as acted upon from without; in the second the room is a formal condition for the light giving it a location. 

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