The mystery of The Trinity from the word “trinity”

-So: is threeness three or one?

Like any abstraction, it is clearly one, but this explains it only so far as it is an abstraction. Quaternity is just as one as threeness or trinity. So there must be a true “three” in threeness or trinity.

-Like an iridescent surface, which contains the information about two colors, “trinity” contains information about two quantities. Again, what color is black hair in a comic book: black or blue? No, what color is it really? 

-If humanity existed, would it be a human? In one sense, yes, since this is all one means in shifting from an abstract to its concrete. In another sense, no, since humanity is not a human. This is how a Trinity would be three, if it existed.

-Ultimately, abstract forms differ from concrete ones because the concrete cannot actualize all possible perfections of of the abstract. Humans must be introverted or extroverted, male or female, personable or lone-wolfish, preferring things definite and final or open-ended, but humanity must contain all of these possibilities. So what if we just removed this discrepancy by a transcendental unity of perfections that are multiple?

Media massacre-binging

This is one of those times when it’s difficult to avoid binging on corporate news-product. Under normal conditions, my consciousness of TV news falls somewhere on a spectrum between watching wallpaper and seeing a skunk on the path, but events that auger wars are things that I probably don’t have enough character to avoid getting sucked into. Not having enough character to simply ignore it, I’m stuck with a three-part work-around policy.

1.) Give in. Feel all the shock. Listen obediently to the experts. Experience the hurried, thrown-together look of the on-site reporter. Be convinced he cares (how could he not?). Bite into the hook they give you before they cut to commercial. Experience a homicidal or Nationalist urge or two (how else can you deal with these fanatics?) Find yourself eating more comfort food or blowing some money at Target or Walmart. Later that night, feel like things are different now and that this will lead to a long overdue new era. Experience a thrill at the possibilities.

2.) Spend an hour or two with the opposition. Chomsky is a contrary voice for anything in the news, though for the present story I watched Graham Fuller too. Experience the event as eminently rational, even what you yourself would have done or sympathized with were the shoe on the other foot. In fact, experience how this event is just the normal human response of someone who felt like you at stage 1. If President Netanyahu were killing persons in the Midwest with, say, cruise missiles, drone strikes, or embargoes that tolerated mass-starvation, I could understand someone dancing the streets if group of Kansas college kids shot up a diner in Tel-Aviv.

3.) See what I’m left with. Since step #2 can’t debunk #1 or make it any less awful, and since it even makes the event worse by depriving me of the comfort of believing that everything that is horribly evil must be craven, insane, and Disney villain-esque, I’m left trying to make sense of evil done rationally.

In part, all these events are a history of confirmations of Murphy’s law. The massacre was a failure in the eyes of those who did it (there’s never been one where the killers weren’t planning on death tolls ten times higher). That said, the motive for the massacre was a previous government sponsored massacre that failed through half-measures, unavoidable mistakes, folly and hubris. The motive for the government massacre was another atrocity, and the government planners responding to that atrocity marched off with very reasonable hopes, high spirits and patriotic fervor… and so on ad infinitum.

Yeah, yeah, cycle of violence and all that. But none of this argues for pacificism, moral equivalence, or even the futility of the cycle. It’s contrary to experience to say that violence never solves anything or that all aggressors are equal. But violence can be just while still being a failure. Appreciate the place of just war theory in the Summa.

The future and the principle of contradiction

One of two contradictories must be true. Aristotle noticed this was a problem for statements about the future:

There will be a sea battle tomorrow

There will not be a sea battle tomorrow.

If either of these must be then the future is determined. Even if we are necessarily ignorant of which is true, logic alone seems to prove that all is determined in advance.  What to say?

1.) The Principle of Contradiction (POC) can determine truth only so far as things are knowable to us. Because it is impossible for us to know future contingent things, the POC can throw no light on them.

2.) No, the POC demands that one must be true, but it does not demand that it be true before it happens. Truth is not just something being the case but it being so for some intellect, and not all intellects seeing the whole of time see it before it happens.

3.) No, the problem arises from wanting to take necessary and contingent, when said with respect to time, as absolute designations when in fact they are only relative ones. Anything in sensation takes part of its being from the one perceiving it: If you want to know whether the water is warm or cold you’ll have to specify if you want persons or polar bears to swim in it; if you want to know if a six-pack is six or one you’ll have to specify what counts as one. But time is known through sensation, and so the future is observer-relative in the same way that anything sensed is. But contingency is necessary when it is happening – this is the only non-nugatory sense of the principle of identity, and so contingency is and necessity can be relative distinctions when considered relative to time. And so the priority of the Principle of Identity allows for the absolute necessity of the POC.

Eternity, not determinism

1.) Transcendence unifies what is diverse at a lower level, without simply mixing it together. 

The brain unifies the information of the eye and the ear without being an eye-ear. The friendship of virtue is both pleasant and useful, but it is not just a mix of friendship of pleasure and of use.

2.) Eternity transcends time. 

Eternity is outside of time, but it is not a time outside all time. In fact, a time outside all time is a contradiction (since it is to have an X beyond all there is of X). A Parmenidean (or Einsteinian) block universe is either impossible or exists only for an observer transcending time.

3.) The eternal sees all things at once, but not before they happen. 

The eternal sees sees the whole of time, whether actual or possible, at once. The “at once” is the “at once” of transcendence, the way higher friendships unify the lower ones at once, or higher cognitive power unifies all the lower ones at once. But seeing things at once is not to see things before they happen, which is a contradiction. To see things “before they happen” means “to see them happen when they are not happening”.

4.) Eternity is not determinism.

Eternal knowledge makes determinism only if it were seen as making the whole of time like a film already shot, so that we could no more change the future than we could change the past. But a whole film differs crucially from the whole of time – the whole film exists at one time, but all time does not and cannot exist at one time.

Losing supposition

Hypothesis: The shift from inflected to invariant languages makes it harder to see supposition, or the idea that meaning is only an element in speech and needs a complement in use. All categorematic terms in inflected languages are composites of meaning and use: you can’t separate the meaning of “magnus” (conveyed by the stem magn-) from the information about how it is used any more than, when talking about yourself in English you can separate what “I” and “me” mean from their relation to a verb.

Supposition adds, beyond the sense that language conveys meaning, that it also has an underlying structure allowing it to be used in definite ways. It’s this feature that we’d expect someone to be most interested in when he saw language as limiting and structuring human thought.

Fatalism vs. the divine mind

-A block universe, whether we make it exist by fatalism or theology, is a universe where every moment in time exists at the same time. This is incoherent, as it asserts there is a time in addition to all time.

-Or this: if all time is known by God, it is like a film that has already been shot. But a film that has already been shot has a crucial difference to the universe known by God: the whole film is determined because it exists at one time, but the universe in the divine mind does not exist at one time, but in eternity.

-God sees all things when they happen, but not before they happen. “When” indicates unity, which can happen between ontologically distinct things (like spirit and body, meaning and sound, divine and human nature) but “before” indicates division or separation in time.

-If you see things before they happen, you either see a representation or the event itself.

A representation would not suffice for knowledge unless it came from one who saw the event itself.*

But if one sees the event itself before it happens, then he sees, say, 2025 in 2015.

But this means 2025 itself occurs in 2015, which is a contradiction.

So if one knows he sees the future, he does not see it before it happens.

*Even if some machine infallibly delivered you snapshots of things that came to happen the next day, your trust would be in the judgment that it wasn’t just hitting a lucky streak of prediction but was based on some process that had contact with the event itself.

Where inertia comes from (2)

Pre-Newton (for us “pre-science”)

1.) Physics is the science of motion

2.) Science is an ordered presentation of cause-effect relations.

3.) So physics is an ordered presentation of movers in their relation to moved things. We relate all motions (even the births of things) to the rotation of the stars, the impression of forces, or the action of energy on initial conditions.


1.) Physics is the science of motion.

2.) Motion is (or reduces to) action in space.

3.) Space is, of itself, without fixed borders, reference points, or landmarks.

4.) So of itself, motion is an action with no fixed borders or reference points. These must be provided by pure stipulation.

5.) Therefore, whether something is at rest or at motion is a matter of pure stipulation. Of themselves, motion and rest are indistinguishable. Call them states. 

Where inertia comes from

The equivalence of motion and rest arises from a subtle reconsideration or redefinition of motion. While physics before inertia was interested in the asymmetric relations of movers and moved, agent causes and effects, the physics after this considered motion as a symmetrical relation, where “from here to there” is the same as “from there to here”. Reconsidered in this way, motion became relative to its backdrop or the other parts of its motion – both of which were chosen arbitrarily or for convenience – and passivity became a sort of activity (which is why inertia is exerted precisely by a body being acted upon.)

First Way Notes

– Objection: The First Way concludes not to pure act, but to something that is immobile with respect to the motion one starts with. The first mover of an object that changes place can still have the potency to heat up or cool down.

Response: This is true but it misses the point. Something that causes motion without being in motion is self-evidently non-natural. It would be a soul that did not move along with its body; a force that did not move along with what it was forcing; a skyhook that didn’t have to ascend with what it lifted, a magnetic field that didn’t flow and warp with the iron it tugged, etc. It’s evident that such a mover can’t be a body (and so is a spirit). Given this, things have to be present to him as things are present to spirits, i.e. by being known.

-If our explanations of motion give no account of the first mover, their logic is identical to resting the world on a stack of turtles. The whole problem with the turtle is that just as one can’t explain motion by mobile movers, he can’t explain stability by stabilized stabilizers.

Objection: the point of science is not to reduce to ultimate causes but to co-ordinate phenomena to each other.

Response: False – and in fact deeply false in a way that doesn’t understand the first thing about science. Energy is not a phenomenon. Who observes a single reality that can be cashed-in from motion to heat to friction to height to chemical bonds? Feynman is right that it is unthinkable that a single reality should be preserved though all these changes.

It would be truer to say that science continually tries to explain the concrete through the abstract, i.e. phenomena in light of the ideal or simple form. The Thomist quip about “reducing all causes to material and efficient causes” is ill-considered. Science wants to reduce everything to formal causes: abstractions like laws, idealizations, blackboard realities, etc. The First Way is thus in keeping with the scientific spirit as it’s actually practiced, as opposed to the press junket that talks about limiting ourselves to the observable.

-Motion is relative only when we cease to consider the asymmetry of action and passion. I am not “moving with respect to” anything when I act. Pushing is not just the translation of matter (which is relative) but an activity exerted on something. It makes no difference to a physicist whether I push down a woman or she pulls down my hands when she throws herself down, but to say that there is no physical, asymmetrical reality to observe here is nonsense.

Theophany to Abraham.

The theophany to Abraham is so trinitarian one would suspect it was added by some Medieval scribe. Leaving off the obvious “three persons are one Lord” Abraham at different times calls all three “Lord”, then only one “Lord”, then the two that are sent (the angeloi) are addressed as “Lord” by Lot. The two are sent down as judges (after saying “will go down”), into Sodom, i.e. into the full measure of the sin of the world. Abraham intercedes for mercy standing, literally, in the place of the second person.

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