Friday, December 21, 2012

Thesis intro draft/outline

  • God knows himself perfectly
  • Therefore God knows his power perfectly
  • Therefore he knows all of the effects of his power
  • First matter is one of the effects of his power
    • In a sense, yes
    • In a sense, no
  • Therefore God knows first matter
The argument above is basically the argument that God knows anything other than himself. Since he is the only immediate object of his knowledge, his knowledge of all other things is through his self-knowledge. The only difficult premise is the way in which God is the cause of first matter.

Another argument that God knows first matter is through explaining how God knows singulars.

  • All perfections of creatures exist in God in a higher way.
  • It is a perfection in creatures to know singulars.
  • Therefore God knows singulars.
  • Now material creatures know the universal by the intellect and the particular by the sense
    • When the intellect abstracts, it receives the form without the matter, without the here and now, and therefore cannot perceive the particular
    • The sense, on the other hand, does receive with the here and now, with material conditions, because the sense power belongs to a material organ
  • Now God does not have material organs on account of which he could perceive with material conditions, so he must know singulars by his intellect
  • Unlike our intellect, God does not abstract in his knowing, rather everything he knows must exist within him in a higher way
  • So God contains within himself an immaterial likeness of matter by which he knows singulars.
That argument is a little longer and requires one to consider more carefully how our cognition compares to God's. By presenting both of these arguments, one sees better the more interesting truths related to God's knowledge of first matter:
  • God is the cause of material things, even with regard to their materiality
  • God knows singulars, even in their singularity
The first argument really only has one difficult premise (so long as the rest about God's knowledge is granted), but the latter one has more involved difficulties. To what extent is a consideration of human cognition helpful? One really only needs to see that cognition of singulars is a perfection, and yet we do not have that perfection in the most perfect way. God does. So then there is the last sentence which demands explication: What is "an immaterial likeness of matter"? So I will explain in what way God has an immaterial likeness of matter, rather in what way God is an immaterial likeness of matter. And also how this likeness suffices for God to know singulars in all their singularity.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Good in Nature

There is an almost complete absence of natural philosophy in the typical philosophy curriculum. That is a mistake. Since the starting point for a common pursuit (wisdom) must be something common, it makes sense that nature be this common thing. This is especially the case in American society, where pluralism and diversity of cultural backgrounds make it impossible to find common ground in a common heritage. So human nature is what we have common. But because it is often difficult to distinguish in men between what is according to nature and what is according to custom, it may be wise to step back and consider nature more generally. If there are principles that must be true about every motion and every mobile thing, then they must also be true about men, at least insofar as they are mobile.

I'm just going to copy and paste of chunk of the Summa Theologiae (I-II.1.2) and rearrange it.

Every agent, of necessity, acts for an end.
For if, in a number of causes ordained to one another, the first be removed, the others must, of necessity, be removed also. 
Now the first of all causes is the final cause.
The reason of which is that matter does not receive form, save in so far as it is moved by an agent; for nothing reduces itself from potentiality to act.
But an agent does not move except out of intention for an end.
For if the agent were not determinate to some particular effect, it would not do one thing rather than another: consequently in order that it produce a determinate effect, it must, of necessity, be determined to some certain one, which has the nature of an end.
And just as this determination is effected, in the rational nature, by the "rational appetite," which is called the will; so, in other things, it is caused by their natural inclination, which is called the "natural appetite."

[Given that the italicized statement is true, the bold statements are true as well. Since 'end' has the notion of 'good', a natural end is equivalent to a natural good. So if man has a nature, he has a natural end and a natural good.]

The way St. Thomas proceeds in the following question is interesting: he follows a negative path to reach what constitutes man's happiness, namely God. This is interesting because negation of created things is proper to the consideration of God. Does this constitute a distinct argument for God's existence? If one denied the existence of God would it have to follow that men are necessarily unhappy? Or just not as happy as possible?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Book idea

Book idea

Sounds crazy, but would be fun. All right so, we're at TAC ultimately to study St. Thomas and holy Scripture, to learn from God himself. This makes it sometimes difficult to give a fair treatment of certain authors that appear later, such as Spinoza, Hegel, Marx. Often the conflict with reality is manifest, some of these authors are difficult. So, in order to study them more carefully, it would be fun to write the story of a student captivated by the arguments, unable to find faults in the words of Hegel and Marx, taking them as the culmination of the world-historical motion toward self-consciousness.

Of course our central character would have to see himself as the culmination or next step, and he would also have to be active in bringing forth history.

Sometimes these thinkers seem to put forth what amounts to a justification of evil, self love, and so on. The problem is that many already live according to principles laid down in these authors. One need not be a philosopher to act against nature. Hm, I'll have to think about this more but not be absorbed by it. I should to spend my free hours in a more direct pursuit of wisdom. Of course a student who is capable of understanding Marx and Hegel must have some keenness of wit, and therefore cannot abandon the truth found in Aristotle or St. Thomas. Unfortunately he would have to be either an apostate or one who never believed if he is able to embrace what such thinkers teach.

I was talking to someone yesterday who called Epictetus the anti-Christian, and this surprised me. Yet he said it because Ep teaches one to find truth in one's own will rather than in something outside. I tried to defend him by saying that spiritual goods are indeed better than material goods, but he seemed that there is denial of the external good. That will also mean a rejection of a common good. Does any one see how isolated is the world of Descartes or Hume? Despite his errors, Marx must seem like a breath of fresh air. Yet he is a materialist and therefore cannot embrace or teach a true common good.

Where could our character go after seeing the troubles in denying God or immateriality? Perhaps he doesn't see them. But then isn't he merely a slave? Either to his passions or to material necessity. Isn't he alone?

He couldn't be alone. We live in an intellectual community. Would he be capable of dialogue? He would be a beastly man if he reduced all intellectual habits to mere material processes. Yet could he really hold anything else? Even about himself?

I'm torn now between whether or not he could retain anything of ancient wisdom. Is it not explained away by the later thinkers? But if that is so, then it seems his understanding will only be of a shallow sort.

Some how he will have to meet people. They will have to be real persons. By real, I mean that they show forth the truths which are perennial. Yet perhaps our friend cannot see it. Perhaps he will even reduce it in his mind. This shouldn't be a difficult part to play: it is an evil man. To enter such a mentality does not sound appealing though, perhaps it would even be a danger to my own habits of mind. I don't want to preach a message in this book, I just want to see this character. If he appears absurd, I want that only to be because he is. But it must be seen, not said.

Who can live like that? Anyone. We are all sinners. Oh, but to see what is the true way of life and then to see this, is it anything less than pitiable in the highest degree?

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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thesis Post, 11/11

I'm just doing another freewrite to get thoughts flowing on my thesis. First, an outline of sorts.

Thesis: God knows first matter.
  • Explain the relevance of the question
    •  Better understand knowledge, God, and matter
    • This premise is part of the argument for God's providence over particulars
  • Explain the problem, which is:
    • Matter seems in itself unintelligible, wholly removed from being known
    • Yet God is supposed to know all things
    • Certain philosophers think he did not know first matter
      • Thus some deny first matter's existence
      • Others deny God's providence over particulars
  • Give the argument for God's knowledge of first matter, starting with his simplicity
All right, that last bullet point could be shown in the form of premises/syllogisms. If my understanding of those arguments are as a scientific as they ought to be, then there should be no problem in presenting them and writing an essay around them. I follow the progress of St. Thomas in Summa, I, question 14.

Knowledge begins where immateriality begins.
God is immaterial.
Therefore, God is a knower.

Knowledge occurs when the knower and the known are united.
Immaterial beings are one with themselves.
Therefore, God knows himself. 
(And comprehensively/perfectly. Look up the argument to see if it is anything beyond noting God's perfection.)

God knows himself perfectly.
God is the same as his power.
Therefore, he knows his power perfectly.

God knows his power perfectly.
His power extends to all possible creatures.
Therefore, God knows all possible creatures.

So after four or five syllogisms, I've proved (with some hesitation) that God knows all creatures through his self-knowledge. What needs proving is still that first matter is a creature. Not too difficult, though it has some problems because it is not quite a being either.

First matter is potency to form, and therefore not actual of itself.
Something exists insofar as it is in act.
Therefore, matter cannot exist from on its own.
And therefore, only exists with/in/as/under/on-account-of a substance.
But God is the cause of substances.
Therefore, God is the cause of first matter.
And therefore, first matter falls under God's power.
And therefore, God knows first matter.

All right. Those argument could be fleshed out or clarified or perhaps even slimmed down (that last chunk is not concise). Then comes the question of how God knows matter. (This will constitute a separate bullet point.) Although the proof seems sound, it hasn't solved the difficulty that matter seems of itself unknowable. I'll have to look at it again (I suppose I could do it now, but it's fun to see how much of this I can bring forth from the memory), but I believe St. Thomas explains how God knows creatures in their distinction (in kind) by looking at perfection. Because all perfections exist in him in a higher way, he is able to know them as they exist in creatures has differentiating essences. Then in the article on how God knows individuals, St. Thomas says that God must have within him a likeness, not only of common principles, but also of individual principles (i.e. matter).

Now this is difficult to explain because, whereas the common principles (natures) involve varying degrees of perfection, matter is by definition imperfect, almost imperfection itself. So in what way could God know it? Certainly he does, for it falls within his power. One way matter is like God, is that it is a principle, and therefore has some participation in God's principality (in an extended sense..).

It seems better to look more closely at the articles concerning God's knowledge of evil and non-being. He knows evil only through the privation of good. He knows non-being only insofar as it is possible being. Thus, this allows two more possibilities for how he knows matter. Since matter is not a being in the proper sense, but a principle of a being, it makes sense that God have a knowledge of it through that of which it is a principle (namely, substance). There are reasons why one would want disagree with that, but it still seems plausible to me.

On the other hand, matter is potential being. Since God knows non-beings only insofar as they are possible, perhaps his knowledge of matter is related to this.

[Question: (Oh no, brackets!) Is it the same thing to know first matter and to know the possibility of a substance to become another substance? Is matter anything other than that possibility? It seems so. More like a principle of that possibility. Yet also a principle of the substance. Hm...] 
Lost my train of thought...

Now it seems like, the above is actually fairly concise, so I want to spend the most time laying and understanding various possibilities for how God knows first matter. It seems very possible that I will not be able to give a definitive account of that. But to look at all the plausible possibilities, follow them out, and perhaps decide on a most probable account seems doable. Perhaps a list of what to look at more closely would be helpful.

  • St. Thomas on whether God has an idea of matter
  • On God's knowledge of non-being, since matter is in some way non-being
  • On God's knowledge of evil which is through good, since matter is possibly known through privation
  • A look at how we know first matter, to see if anything of this account is fitting to God's knowledge
This should be the fun part of the thesis. Have fun! Read the Summa. Read De Veritate. Read De ente et essentia? Read whatever will give some plausible account of God's knowledge of matter.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Vatican II against individualism

Vatican II against individualism

Reading the documents of the Second Vatican Council, it seems that a primary concern was that men know salvation is only found within the context of a community. The 4 major constitutions relate to this in some way. Dei Verbum teaches that Scropture must be read within the context of the Church. Sacrosanctum Concilium teaches that worship must arise from tradition and include the participation of all. Lumen Gentium most clearly states the need of a Church, saying that God did not will to call men one by one, but rather he willed to bring them into a people for himself. The document goes on to explain the unity of this body and ends with the first among her members, the holy Mother of God. Gaudium et Spes is the document I am least familiar with, but t seems to situate the Church within the community of the world at large. None of us come into this world entirely alone, so also none of us enter the next alone.

Perhaps it is a perennial heresy, that men seek God apart from the community established by him. Then again, St. Augustine calls Pelagius' heresy a new one and perhaps the form of individualism in our day is of a new sort. Protestantism seems to have planted the seeds for this. Protestants removed the mediation established by God and sought a 'direct line' with him. No priests, no sacraments, and ultimately no Church. Of course most Protestants will claim to take church in a different sense of the word, it remains empty for many. "It's between me and God," they say. In doing this, the Church really becomes a kind of ornament or arrangement for those being saved, rather than the chief instrument and sign of salvation. Indeed, it is only insofar as men are part of the Church that they have hope of salvation.

Lumen Gentium spends much of chapter one talking about the Church as the body of Christ. Christ only has one body, and if we are not part of this, we do not die and rise with him. How essential it is that we be there! Bad philosophy may be involved. There is a renegade form of personalism lurking somewhere, and this needs to be exposed. It is the personalism of someone like Ratzinger that leads to seeing need for a place within a community. There is also the problem of secondary causes. How can the Church be essential to salvation if God is the one who decides? For God has willed that it be so.

I read 2 Thessalonians today. It is frightening to read about those who reject the truth. Lord, save me from that number. Gather me with the rest of your saints!

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

I. Q. 45, a. 3

I. Q. 45, a. 3

Respondeo dicendum quod creatio ponit aliquid in creato secundum relationem tantum. Quia quod creatur, non fit per motum vel per mutationem. Quod enim fit per motum vel mutationem, fit ex aliquo praeexistenti, quod quidem contingit in productionibus particularibus aliquorum entium; non autem potest hoc contingere in productione totius esse a causa universali omnium entium, quae est Deus. Unde Deus, creando, producit res sine motu. Subtracto autem motu ab actione et passione, nihil remanet nisi relatio, ut dictum est. Unde relinquitur quod creatio in creatura non sit nisi relatio quaedam ad creatorem, ut ad principium sui esse; sicut in passione quae est cum motu, importatur relatio ad principium motus.

Subtract motion from action and passion, and nothing remains but relation. Passion with motion involves a relation to the principle. Try to understand how this is within God, where bringing forth a concept is like act/pas, yet neither term is really said to suffer, but are rather only in the same order.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Council Excerpts On The Mass

Trent on the Roman Rite

Excerpted from the canons on the Holy Mass

"Can. 9. If anyone says that the rite of the Roman Church, according to which a part of the canon and the words of consecration are pronounced in a low tone, is to be condemned; or that the mass ought to be celebrated in the vernacular tongue only; or that water ought not to be mixed with the wine that is to be offered in the chalice because it is contrary to the institution of Christ, let him be anathema."

Vatican II

"30. To promote active participation, the people should be encouraged to take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalms, antiphons, hymns, as well as by actions, gestures and bodily attitudes. And at the proper time a reverent silence should be observed."

"36. (1) The use of the Latin language, with due respect to particular law, is to be preserved in the Latin rites. (2) But since the use of the vernacular whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or in other parts of the liturgy, may frequently be of great advantage to the people, a wider use may be made of it, especially in readings, directives and in some prayers and chants. Regulations governing this will be given separately in subsequent chapters."

Thus Vatican II does not abrogate the use of Latin nor the silence of the congregation at times.

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Friday, September 21, 2012

Women in Faust

Women and other things

Spoiler alert.

I just finished Faust (Goethe's). A bizarre book for sure, but the end was especially odd. Woman, eternally, shows the way. What does that mean? And in the context? It's odd the the heaven in the beginning depicts our Lord with a handful of angelic voices, whereas the end shows Faust's immortal part being led to a mountain with saints and angels, the glorious Mother, and yet the Lord is not present as before. Why this change of persons? It's odd that Faust's penitent lover is here with our Lady, though her last words were a call to the God of justice.

The end also seemed to have nothing to do with woman. Mephistopheles and the mighty men frighten a couple to death, but that is the last mention of a woman. Not so significant. Helen is certainly a surprise, and that she comes from the Mothers. And that Faust is so offput by that name. And why does Helen vanish when Euphorion vanishes? Is that to say when euphoria dies, so does the bond of love? He's interesting because, like Faust, he's obsessed with activity.

And what about this theme of activity? It is true that God is most actual, yet what good can be said of Faust's actions? They're not all that commendable. He's always striving though. And what is the deal with the ocean? Faust is obsessed with it. Mephistopheles doesn't seem to get it. There is something beautiful, almost infinite about it. It's interesting that Faust seems to find the divine in worldly things. Certainly the sea is one place to find it. Thales and Proteus are noteworthy.

What could be said of Homunculus? He comes forth apart from natural generation. He is already intelligent, able to peer into the mind of Faust. He's already obstinate, leaving the one who made him. He's formless. I didn't quite catch where he left the story.

What of Gretchen? Is the whole first part to be reread in light of the second. Wagner, the bachelor, Mater Dolorosa. I feel like reading it again in another translation, more leisurely. Walpurgis Night's Dream still seems excessively obscure. The work as a whole is charming though the mingling of Romantic and classical worlds is pleasant. A bit disorienting. I think the bell that drives Faust crazy is a sacramental. Why is he blinded by Care? How does one prevent oneself from falling into Faust's terrible position?

Knowledge is perfective of man. Why not Faust? He didn't really know. And what of women? This is why any chaste man must be devoted to Mary. It seems that one needs the aid of a woman, and only she perfectly supplies the temporal lack of female company. Perhaps that's why she comes in prominently at the end?

Why is Doctor Marianus given such a high seat? Is that Scotus? He is the only one I know who claims that title, and how fitting, for he defended Her immaculate conception. A perfect woman! I still do not understand the Mothers. Some thought they were evil, but I don't think so since they are considered by the eternal mind.

What a packed play. Goethe himself had interesting run ins with women. I remember one account of his dealings with the two daughters of his French dance teacher. Oh my!

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A consideration on the subject of math

It seems to me that substance is in some way the subject of every science. This is a topic that I've been concerned with lately, mostly because of claims made about the nature of mathematics. The most common claim is that math is the science of quantity (a reasonable claim) and that further developments in math turn it into a science of relation (a reasonable step, granting the prior claim). Yet, it seems to me, that if math is to remain a science about reality, it must in some way include the notion of substance.

But what substance? The continuum, that is, substance considered only under the aspect of having dimension. Math considers substance with regard to its quantity and those qualities and relations that arise from quantity alone. Thus sensible qualities, which in some way involve the activity of a substance or the capacity to be sensed by animal, do not belong to the consideration of math. Motion is a little more difficult, since it can be considered apart from sensible quality, yet it seems to be unintelligible without an end. Then again, when used in math, and end is often supplied. Is this something artificial? That seems more likely to me. The mathematical objects considered by Euclid or Apollonius do not in any way involve motion (perhaps slightly for postulating certain subject), and therefore it is fair to say that what they are doing does not involve the notion of the good. In physics, on the other hand, motion is always considered. Yet nature does not act in vain, so this motion must always be for the sake of an end and therefore involves a good.

What then of the motion in, say, the calculus? Here it seems that we choose a terminus of the motion ourselves. For example, we look for the limit as the change of x approaches zero. We do this because we want to know a certain value that cannot be found otherwise. Yet this terminus is not natural in any way, and so no motion would be toward it without our considering it.

Perhaps a more common art would make this clearer. There's nothing in the nature of peanut butter, jelly and bread that would naturally bring them into proximity with each other. On the other hand, a man, perceiving the good that would arise from such a union, can take the steps necessary to move them together and bring about an artificial good. When limits are taken in the calculus, the terminus seems to be this kind of good. Thus, calculus (insofar as it involves motion) is an art, for the good is posited by man and not found in the nature of the thing.

It might still be asked if there is anything scientific about the calculus, and I would say there is. The derivative of the integral of a function is the same with that function. This is true and makes no reference to the good. Some define integrals and derivatives by limits, but such are not the definition, rather a way of finding them. (There is a similar case in Euclid's book 5; he defines same ratio by a property which lets one know if ratios are the same, yet it seems rather clear that this definition does not penetrate the nature of same ratio.) And when one speak of a way of finding, one is speaking of art. Now this art seems entirely necessary for coming to conclusions in calculus, yet it does not seem to belong to the science in the fullest. (Just as Ptolemy needs to construct his table of chords and arcs in order to proceed, yet the reason he picks what values he does comes down to his own will, that is, they are not natural values.)

Another question arises from my initial study of book 6 of Aristole's Physics. Here he is making propositions about continuity and the composition of the continuum. Would these propositions belong to mathematics, since they do not seem to rely on the qualities proper to natural bodies? And then there are the propositions about motion. Aristotle seems to think that these belong to physics, yet they do not attend to sensible qualities or the kind of substance moving. If any motion belonged to the study of math, it would seem that these propositions would certainly be called mathematical.

Another possibility is that mathematics takes up the existence and nature of the continuum from physics, and therefore is not concerned with giving demonstrations of it. This seems plausible, since the demonstrations in the Physics (at least as far as I've read) don't have anything to do with the things considered in Euclid, neither about ratios nor about shapes. There is some consideration of the finite and the infinite, but Aristotle made clear earlier that these go with a consideration of motion. It is also the case that physics (natural science generally) is typically considered the science about mobile beings. Thus if math tries to take motion for itself, what is left for physics?

Another question arises from the consideration of the mixed sciences, such as in the work of Ptolemy or Newton. There the subject matter is this or that planet, yet the method bears a great resemblance to that of mathematics. This would take a further consideration.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Are the senses enough?

Are the senses enough?

In trying to explain how God has an immaterial likeness of matter, I will have to explain how an immaterial likeness is related to knowing in the first place. Although sensation is a lower cognitive power, it should suffice for illustrating the otherness of cognition, how it is unlike the material reception of form, and how it receives a likeness.

The senses differ from the intellect, both in their object and their subject. The senses have organs as subject, the intellect does not. The senses have one or another sensible as their object, the intellect has all things. Yet they are alike in possessing an immaterial likeness. This is in a way obvious, and in a way completely surprising. What can one say to someone who does not grasp the transcendence of cognition? How will I explain in my paper? Am I prepared to do anything but just give examples?

Beginning the treatise on the Trinity shows the importance of understanding understanding if one wants some idea of the persons in God. Nonetheless, it still remains obscure. Matter then introduces further difficulties. A careful look at De Anima and a good nap will be very helpful.

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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Reading the minor prophets

Since Scripture is the inspired word of God, this writing above all others ought to be studied. In the liturgy, the Church teaches and prays from Holy Scripture. On one's own, it seems that one who can should put extra effort into becoming familiar with the whole text. 

Part of the Bible that remains obscure to me is that containing the prophets, especially the minor prophets. Isaiah and Daniel are somewhat familiar on account their frequent reference in the Gospel or on account of having a coherent narrative. The minor prophets are difficult on account of their multitude and the apparent sameness of what they talk about and how they talk about it. Nevertheless, the Spirit has willed that these books be written and contained in the canon, so they must be attended to. 

Haggai is one of the first to catch my attention. It is brief, only 2 chapters, and yet much happens. The biggest surprise initially is that those hearing the word of God obey and Spirit comes to them. The two main characters were unfamiliar to me, yet play prominent roles in the book of Ezra. Zerubbabel the governor and Jeshua the high priest. Zerubbabel is interesting also on account of appearing in both genealogies of Christ. One cannot understand Scripture without its context. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Object of the Interior Senses

It's odd that the medieval tradition of philosophy contains a longer list of interior senses than that found in the De Anima of Aristotle. Was it the case that Aristotle was not aware of these other powers? Or perhaps he talks about them and I have just overlooked it? No idea. But the medievals (St. Thomas comes to mind right away) make a good case for their existence in the soul, especially in the soul of animals.

These two powers are the memorative and the estimative. Their object is not any one of the proper sensibles, or even any of the common sensibles, but rather the sensible per accidens. Thomas calls them intentions. This word is a bit annoying, since the same word is often used to talk about what goes on in the mind, first intentions being our names/concepts of various things (dog, red, three) and second intentions being the names/concepts about the first intentions (genus, species, etc.). So not only do these intentions of the inner senses share a name with those of the intellect, but they even seem to be universal. St. Thomas and St. Albert do not teach that these are universal, but even call them particular intentions.

I haven't read their teaching on this for a little while, but these particular intentions are only for the sake of action. This sounds reasonable, for when we talk about instinct in animals, it is generally understood that we are only talking about a principle of their activity. The argument that animals have some power in addition to the imagination is simple: the sheep are not afraid of the wolf's color, but of the wolf.

Now in man, things become more difficult. What is called the estimative power in animals, is called the cogitative power in men. This is on account of its close association with the intellect. St. Albert will often mention both the cogitative power and the intellect together when discussing certain things, as though it would be inconvenient to separate the activity of the one from the other. Besides receiving intentions in men, it also serves as a kind of medium between out intellect and our actions. Since the intellect has as its object the universal, it is not of itself able to make a proposition about individual actions and must therefore mediate through a lower power that is seated in some organ.

That these intentions are ordered to action gives them some degree of particularity, but there still seems to be something universal about them. Perhaps I'm just abstracting with my intellect and therefore missing it? For example, the sheep seems to have a universal principle (avoid wolves) which is applied to a particular instance (avoid that wolf). It seems that it might be worth considering what is meant by "universal" when talking about things that aren't in the mind. For example, any given body is such that it inclines to every other body according to an inverse square law. Thus, one body has a certain disposition to all bodies--hence one might say this is "universal" in some sense. Universal, when said of things in the mind, usually just means "said of many" or "true of many".

Immateriality and knowledge

Immateriality and senses

Angel of God, guide my thoughts and my words. St. Thomas, pray for us.

The more I think about the topic mentioned below, it seems that when immateriality begins, so does knowledge. And vice versa. I'm not confident about that, but is there anything apart from matter that does not involve knowing?

Perhaps 'apart' is a bit vague. For in matter are many sensible qualities and other accidents which are not knowing. Yet what is happening in sensation? The form is received in a way other the way in which matter receives form. Which is to say, it is received immaterially. Is this readily admitted by all? Surely no one will deny sensation. Some may deny the intellect and its operations, but no one will deny sense. That this is something over and above material activity should be clear from one's own experience. Descartes manages to deny sensation in animals, and furthermore, he completely mistrusts it in himself. Yet he cannot deny that he senses. On what basis? What is more prior in experience?

The next most striking thing is the vast difference between the senses. Touch and sight are so radically different in their proper objects. One is necessary for even the lowest form of life, whereas the other is almost a luxury, yet one that brings us knowledge of bodies light-years away, incapable of ever being touched by men. A whole science (astronomy) is possible only on account of sight. Sight and hearing seem to be the more 'immaterial' of the senses, for they can receive their object from further away and have nothing to do with chemicals as far as I know (thus, not being attached to this or that substance, they have more universality about them). A sign of this is movies which can be played anywhere at anytime, yet only reproduce sights and sounds, the othe senses requiring more exact chemicals (except touch, which is even more material on account of the contact it requires).

I want to develop this understanding of immateriality's relationship with knowledge. I also want to consider the Christ who took on a body for love of us.

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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Immaterial Likeness of Matter

In St. Thomas' Disputed Questions on Truth, the end of his argument that God knows singulars involves him saying that God has within Him an immaterial likeness of matter. Delving into the meaning of this will shed much light on the nature of cognition.

Knowledge comes to be, not when the knower is the same as what's known, but when there is some likeness or representation of the known within the knower. Aristotle's De Anima seems to go back to the principle many times, from the initial dialectical considerations of the first book, to his definition of sensation, to his accounts about the operation of the intellect.

His response to Empedocles shows why something like this must be true. He says that if like is known by like, it would be the case that God would be ignorant of the elements, but that he would make him most foolish of all. Certainly not a position to be held.

The whole consideration of sensation in book two makes it clear that some likeness must enter in. The eye does not become the color that it sees, yet somehow the color appears to it or is represented to it. And this, without matter.

Any body, insofar as it is a body, is capable of receiving sensible forms. This does not require any degree of life or knowledge. (Berkeley would beg to differ, but that's another story.) Knowledge seems to begin when forms exist in an immaterial way. This may present a difficulty with sensation: For doesn't sensation always happen with a corporeal organ? Sensation certainly takes place apart from an organ; and, in some cases, that organ cannot help but to materially receive the sensible form (as being near hot things makes us hot), yet it is not in this that sensation consists. It is only when the form is received apart from matter.

Another difficulty arises: Isn't the intellect, when it abstracts, knowing the form without the matter? How does this differ? Since the sense powers are seated in corporeal organ, sensation always happens with material conditions, yet these are on the part of the organ, not on the part of what is being received. For this reason, sensation is always of the particular (as Aristotle says in book one of the Physics). Our organs have their own here and now, and these are what cause sensation always to be of the particular.

But wait: What about the imagination or the other interior senses? Don't these remove the here and now? Otherwise, how could I imagine something that isn't actually happening? I don't have a complete answer to this, especially as regards the interior senses related more immediately to instinct. Yet at least with imagination, it is the case that our organ (some part of the brain) is corporeal, and therefore its use will have material conditions. The other powers are more difficult, on account of the obscurity of their objects. Aristotle himself does not give any extended consideration to these higher sense powers, so it is only with the developments by the Arabs and the Medievals (perhaps also some ancient commentators) that an understanding of these have been appended to Aristotle's account of the powers of the soul.

Not only are these powers (these being the memorative and the estimative/cogitative powers) not part of De Anima, but they are not part of the current curriculum at Thomas Aquinas College, so that it seems a thesis considering how a representation of the known is needed for knowledge, will also need to give an account of these powers and the kind of abstraction that is done by them, and how it exceeds what the other sense power do, and yet falls short of what the intellect does.

After this, a consideration of the intellect will be in order. Here it will be fitting to give the argument that our intellect is incapable of receiving a likeness of matter, and therefore that we are only able to consider by some kind of analogy. From here, we must ascend even higher.

Higher, unto God Himself and His knowledge. Here it will be fitting to consider briefly that He is the proper object of His own thought. Then how it is that He knows all things. Then how it is that matter is a thing, and how it is thus known by God.

St. Thomas, in his consideration on God's creation of matter (Summa, I.44.2) and on whether God has an idea of prime matter (De Veritate, 3.5), St. Thomas makes clear that matter is somehow included under the notion of being, and as such falls under the universal scope of God's knowledge and causality. This will be the place to address what seems incongruous about an immaterial likeness of matter, but then also how such a likeness or representation is possible. And further in what way this compares to the analogous knowledge we have of matter.

Very little has been attended to above about the nature of matter itself as a being in potency. There many places where it comes up (such as the argument that our intellect does not know it), but perhaps it may be God to give a preliminary account of Aristotle's argument for its existence and that it is wholly a being in potency.

This looks pretty good. I'm now at peace about the direction of my thesis. A lot of blanks to fill in, but at least I know where they are, and there's some order. Also, I'll be able to make use of a lot of the research I did this summer on the Medieval/Arabic theories on how individuals are cognized.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

St. Maximilian and Mary

St. Maximilian and Mary

Today is the memorial of St. Maximilian Kolbe and the vigil of the Assumption of our Blessed Mother. St. Maximilian would have loved to know that these dates coincide, such that a day in honor of him is cut off in the evening in order to honor the Virgin Mother of God.

This saint has been a major influence on my life, inflaming my desire to become a priest and to give myself more completely to the intercession of Our Lady. His entire life was informed by unceasing consecration to her and imitation of this is what brought me as far as I am in the spiritual life.

Only a couple years ago did I ever hear that anything he wrote caused controversy among theologians and since then I've been less zealous in my devotion to him, not that I do not hold him in great esteem, but only that I want to be more sure about those points that cause uncertainty. Much of his teaching on Mary is related to his understanding of the Trinity, a subject of study I have not spent time on since coming to TAC. Yet this next year, I will study what St. Thomas teaches and thus have the foundation to approach these mysteries with greater confidence. Much has been made (by certain Franciscans) about St. Kolbe's reliance on Bl. Scotus, thus I've spent time trying to understand Scotus. Although he is the champion of the Immaculate Conception, his philosophy seems lacking in some respects (my thesis will directly contradict certain doctrines of his).

All that put aside, I should continue to look on St. Maximilian as an exemplar of devotion to Mary and continue to seek his intercession as I move closer to the priesthood and the kingdom to come.

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Possible thesis outline

Possible thesis outline

I am considering a division of my essay into three parts:
1. The individual is not the object of the intellect. (matter)
2. How it is that we know individuals. (interior senses)
3. Separated knowers also know individuals. (immaterial likeness of matter)

That may look like 3 different thesis topics, but the last two points are responses to the most obvious objections. I will primarily be drawing on St. Thomas in my arguments.

The main argument for the first point is taken almost completely from De Veritate, and this argument will require me to know rather thoroughly about the intellect and about matter. I have read a lot of St. Thomas on the intellect and should continue to become more familiar with the intellect and its immateriality. Matter is in a way more difficult because I only know that it is dealt with at length in the Metaphysics, a work I am hesitant to approach, though I have begun book 7 (where he begins the science of substance). One problem is being able give a satisfying account of what it means for matter to be wholly in potency. Scotus objects to that claim, so I should perhaps find that. Scotus also differs from Thomas on the principle of individuation, which is another middle term in the argument. Thus, I have plenty that I still need to read in order to defend my premises, although the argument is sound. I'll type that argument up before long.

The second point is perhaps the most difficult because I'm not sure how thorough to get. The answer will involve the interior senses and how thy relate to the intellect. Thomas says some key things in this but does not go into great detail. Thus I'm considering reading Albert to get a more thorough grasp of how they work, though I might even have to look at some modern brain science. That might be too much. Here is also where I should be familiar with modern philosophers who don't grasp the distinction between sense and intellect.

The third point will be especially fun. It was actually the topic that I told my advisor I would be doing. Avicenna holds the false position here, saying that no intellect can no singulars. Though that is true for our intellect now, it is not the case with God, the angels, and the separated souls. Here I will explain why God must know matter and consequently all individuals. Then how the knowledge of the other intellects take part in this knowledge.

This looks pretty concise. I'm hoping it will do the job. If I can finish a decent draft, then I will be free to study more Plato and write a couple essays on that. Also on the Physics. And Scripture. And Newton. So much good!

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Avicenna and Albert

Avicenna and Albert

Having become fairly familiar with st. Thomas' position on individuals and how we know them, I decided to seek out an opinion contrary to his. I first tried Leibniz, who discusses the individual substances in his Discourse on Metaphysics, but I had trouble finding the argument for his position. It seemed to be reducible to the objection on Thomas about how we can make the statement "Socrates is a man." therefore, both of the terms must be intelligible. (and then some...)

So then I happened to pick up Scotus' Quaestiones super De Anima, of which question 22 is whether individuals are per se intelligible to our intellect. Basically the exact the question I was asking. I had trouble reading parts of it, but his answer was basically yes. Two things were most of all hard to understand: what is a vague individual? And on what basis does he differ from Thomas on the principle of individuation?

The first question led me to an article by Deborah Black explaining the history of the phrase vague individual. Very helpful! Avicenna takes the position quite opposite Scotus saying that the individual is in no way the object of the intellect, even denying that the Lord knows them. Yet he begins to give an account of how the vague individual is grasped by the interior sense powers. Albert develops this and I'm excited to read more of him. It seems that since our knowledge of individuals is tied up with sense, the interior senses will be key to understanding. Albert wrote extensively on this in his De Anima and De homine. Hopefully, I will not find any great conflict with st. Thomas but rather an elucidation and expansion. I knw he disagrees on the number of interior senses, but beyond that we shall see.

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Friday, July 6, 2012

Imaginationem continui

Imaginationem continui

My new favorite text for studying my thesis topic is De Veritate. I've found that the principle Aristotle lays down in the first book of the Physics is always true for men: sense of the particular, understanding is of the universal. A consequence of this is that the intellect and the imagination are bound up in such a way that the former never acts at all without using the latter.

There is one point where st. Thomas says the imagination is necessary to know things. For it is of the nature of things to exist in particular rather than in the universal, thus the intellect does not hold things most truly and completely. Thus the imagination is at work providing the here and now which accompanies every nature in reality. He makes the simpler argument tha whenever we want some to understand something, we provide them with examples that their imagination can grasp.

Although all of this is a it complicated, it seems consistent and proportionate to the way we know. For this reason I wonder why others have posited that individuals are the object of the intellect. I still haven't completely answered how it is that we propositions about singulars but I think I'm approaching it.

This is turning out to be a response not only to Leibniz, but really to all of the philosophers who fail to distinguish the imagination and the intellect. Still much more to understand.

It is wonderful to see that all of these considerations in De Veritate are ordered to understanding and loving the Triune God without whom all is in vain.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Individuals as the object

Individuals as the object of the intellect

This question (the only one approved by my advisor so far) is rather broad in its scope. One could consider the individual's intelligibility in itself, to us, to angels, to God, and so on. Thus for my thesis it seems wise to narrow the scope of my question to refuting the position of Leibniz, or at lead separate out the true and the false that are present in it.

[small problem: I don't have the Leibniz text. We can fix that. ]

He basically takes a proposition such as "Socrates is a man." he makes the claim that every predicate is contained within its subject. Thus "Socrates" is some idea of the individual within which is contained all that ever has happened, is happening, or will happen to him.

After this it seems I can take two approaches: point out what is right and point out what is wrong. I recently read a section in De Veritate where st Thomas says that God certainly has ideas about every particular thing in this universe for it all falls under his providence. He says this wouldn't be the case if God were only the cause of our form, bt since God is the cause of matter (the principle of individuality in bodies) he thus has a knowledge of particulars. Thus Leibniz' thought that there is some immaterial form corresponding to individuals ceases to be so far fetched.

Then one must look at the fact that this is not how we know. All our knowledge takes its beginning from the senses. From the senses which terminate in one central sense organ, images are formed from which intelligible forms are abstracted. These intelligible forms of bodies are the object of the intellect and are universal, belonging to many.

When propositions are formed about singulars, we are referring to our senses.

One difficulty arises here. It seems that we must always use our imagination when using our intellect, thus there is always some reference to the sense powers when understanding. So why is this especially noted for thoughts about particulars?

I guess I need to read Leibniz, De Trinitate on abstraction, Summa on need of sense powers to understand, and more on divine ideas. No worries.

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Monday, June 25, 2012



I haven't had nearly as much time to study as I had hoped, but perhaps this next week I will. I'm still not settled on a topic. My reading lately has been about knowing, having read the questions on the soul's knowledge of self, separated substances, and how it know ls when itself separated. All of these I read with special attention to how individuals are known. The criteria he gave for know individuals after death were interesting. One must have prior knowledge, affection, natural relationships, or some divine dispensation. He doesn't give reasons for these, although it seemed a key text was Dives and Lazarus from st Luke. I have met some who think that story is only a myth and therefore disregard the particulars of it. I'm not sure how essential it for the arguments.

I also just obtained the part of the Summa in what a person is, so I'm going to start reading that. I have a couple friends who have been considering that question and hope to write a thesis on that topic.

I also the other day began rereading St. Paul. This for two reasons. I wanted to see his teaching on grace and a friend of mine is considering a thesis in the gifts associated with the charismatic renewal. One does not need an excuse to read st Paul. Some passages is still very difficult, and I have found st Thomas helpful with his commentaries.

Having just found articles about natural movement of the will, I may go back to considering nature. Also I have been reading a doctoral thesis on the common good and will soon join a seminar on the common good.

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

In supremo apostolatus

In supremo apostolatus

A friend was asking about the church's teaching in slavery and I fortuitously was told about Pope Gregory XVI. Here's what he says:

"[W]e have judged that it belonged to Our pastoral solicitude to exert Ourselves to turn away the Faithful from the inhuman slave trade in Negroes and all other men. [...] [D]esiring to remove such a shame from all the Christian nations, having fully reflected over the whole question and having taken the advice of many of Our Venerable Brothers the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, and walking in the footsteps of Our Predecessors, We warn and adjure earnestly in the Lord faithful Christians of every condition that no one in the future dare to vex anyone, despoil him of his possessions, reduce to servitude, or lend aid and favour to those who give themselves up to these practices, or exercise that inhuman traffic by which the Blacks, as if they were not men but rather animals, having been brought into servitude, in no matter what way, are, without any distinction, in contempt of the rights of justice and humanity, bought, sold, and devoted sometimes to the hardest labour. Further, in the hope of gain, propositions of purchase being made to the first owners of the Blacks, dissensions and almost perpetual conflicts are aroused in these regions.
We reprove, then, by virtue of Our Apostolic Authority, all the practices abovementioned as absolutely unworthy of the Christian name. By the same Authority We prohibit and strictly forbid any Ecclesiastic or lay person from presuming to defend as permissible this traffic in Blacks under no matter what pretext or excuse, or from publishing or teaching in any manner whatsoever, in public or privately, opinions contrary to what We have set forth in this Apostolic Letter."

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St Thomas on grace

St Thomas on grace

Today I read one of the most obscure texts I've yet seen, st Thomas on the essence of grace. I found it difficult first to understand what he was saying and second to understand why this was true but he points to other articles in the Summa. This came up when trying to think of objections to the thesis that grace does not destroy nature but elevates and perfects it. I spent some time considering what a theological consideration is. That was helpful. But now I am more confident that I do not know exactly what grace. I will read the text again more slowly and spending time with the Latin. And then I will turn to the parts he references to justify his arguments.

What does it mean for something to be in the essence of the soul? That is something else I must learn.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Thesis time

Thesis time

I think I fell into the temptation offered by nifty technology which allows one to let out thoughts and feelings in a kind of half-baked unthought-out way. Despite my posts on here, I'm almos nowhere nearer actually picking a topic and settling down with it. I'm actually rather far.

I think I should probably sit down and form an outline or two. I know I have enough thoughts to actually make several substantial papers, but I just have to do.

Let's do it.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

On the Spirit and the Letter, Chapter 52

On the Spirit and the Letter, Chapter 52

30. 52. Liberum ergo arbitrium evacuamus per gratiam? Absit, sed magis liberum arbitrium statuimus. Sicut enim lex per fidem 313, sic liberum arbitrium per gratiam non evacuatur, sed statuitur. Neque enim lex impletur nisi libero arbitrio. Sed per legem cognitio peccati, per fidem impetratio gratiae contra peccatum, per gratiam sanatio animae a vitio peccati 314, per animae sanitatem libertas arbitrii, per liberum arbitrium iustitiae dilectio, per iustitiae dilectionem legis operato. Ac per hoc, sicut lex non exacuatur, sed statuitur per fidem, quia fides impetrat gratiam, qua lex impleatur, ita liberum arbitrium non evacuatur per gratiam, sed statuitur, quia gratia sanat voluntatem, quia iustitia libere diligatur. Omnia haec, quae velut catenatim connexi,habent voces suas in Scripturis sanctis. Lex dicit: Non concupisces 315; fides dicit: Sana animam meam, quoniam peccavi tibi 316; gratia dicit: Ecce sanus factus es; iam noli peccare, ne quid tibi deterius contingat 317; sanitas dicit: Domine Deus meus, esclamavi ad te et sanasti me 318; liberum arbitrium dicit: Voluntarie sacrificabo tibi 319; dilectio iustitiae dicit: Narraverunt mihi iniusti delectationes, sed non sicut lex tua, Domine 320. Ut quid ergo miseri homines aut de libero arbitrio audent superbire, antequam liberentur, aut de suis viribus, si iam liberati sunt? Nec adtendunt in ipso nomine liberi arbitrii utique libertatem sonare; Ubi autem spiritus Domini, ibi libertas 321. Si ergo servi sunt peccati, quid se iactant de libero arbitrio? A quo enim quis devictus est, huic et servus addictus est 322. Si autem liberati sunt, quid se iactant velut de opere proprio et gloriantur, quasi non acceperint 323? An ita sunt liberi, ut nec illum velint habere Dominum, qui eis dicit: Sine me nihil potestis facere 324, et: Si vos Filius liberaverit, tunc vere liberi eritis 325?

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Aristotle's heavy and light

Aristotle's heavy and light

This is going to be a very short post. I was skimming the part in the De Caelo where Aristotle considers the meaning of heavy and light, and also the meanings of upward and downward movement. He says that upward movement is movement which is toward the extremity of the universe, downward movement is that which seeks a center.

Now the center he refers to above is most probably the center of the earth as he conceives this to be the center of the universe, yet it's interesting that the definitions remain a bit open ended. It seems that upward motion could correspond to the so-called inertial motion by which a body maintains its speed and direction even unto the edge of the universe. It is even more obvious that account downward motion as centripetal motion corresponds to gravitational motion by which every body tends to every other body as a center.

I intend to read fully books 3 and 4 of De Caelo which discuss the natural motion of terrestrial bodies. Hopefully this will help me to determine if planetary motion is natural, given Newton's proof the they are moved according to the same principle by which lower bodies are moved.

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An example of true exegesis

An example of true exegesis

One criticism of scriptural exegesis is that one will often have some preconceived doctrine and then will try to find this in Scripture, using just a few words and extending their meaning far beyond what the author could possibly have intended.

I've heard st Thomas criticized if this, both in his sed contras and in his commentaries of Scripture, but I recently found a passage in the Summa that show St. Thomas was aware of this problem and took care to avoid it.

The passages I have in mind are the bodies of I-II.84.1 and 2. Here he is considering how it can be said the avarice is the root of all sin and pride is beginning of all sin. In each of these he lays out three meaning if the vice in question and the last meaning is always the most agreeable to the thesis of the article. Yet after he shows this agreeable meaning, he goes on to say "although this is all true, it is not what the author had in mind." What an exegete! Instead of imposing meaning and truth on the words, he looks to the context to find the author's intended lesson. Instead of taking pride and avarice in their more general senses, he take them as special vices (as the sacred authors seem to intend) and then is able to teach us a great deal more about our turning away from God.

I was especially intrigued by his understanding of how avarice as love of wealth is fittingly called the root of all sin. He says that all temporal goods can be obtained by wealth, whereas the only unchanging good cannot. In this way he shows why money is so greatly desired by the wicked (it can attain anything they want) and exactly what it can't obtain. Reading this article is almost like receiving an exhortation to poverty, at least for those who desire the unchanging good.
I came upon these articles while trying better to understand sin. Someone had asked me why Catholics pray for the dead, and I was able to give some answer, but I was I unsatisfied with my understanding of these things. This has led to a lot of jumping around the Summa.

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Taking a census

Taking a census

The book of Numbers is perhaps even more puzzling than Leviticus. It's been awhile since I read it, but I remember that a decent amount of it is spent giving a count of how many Israelites there are. There are other stories of happenings in the desert, but the census is what gives the book its name.

Why is this done?

Even more mysterious is the sinfulness of David in taking a census toward the end of his reign. At the end of Samuel, it says that the Lord led David to do it on account of anger against the Israelites. But that it requires a punishment is not obvious.

There are also the mystical numberings of those who live in heaven found in Daniel and Revelation. These certainly seem figurative (not in the sense of a ballpark figure), yet it would not be given without reason. This should point us back to the earthly censes which otherwise may not seem significant, but merely accidental.

Finally there is the fact that Christ was born while his family was reporting for a census. Perhaps one might say it is stated just so that we know why the holy family was searching for an inn in the first place. Yet it seems providential in a greater way. This should be considered.

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Newtonian angelology

Newtonian angelology

The title might be a bit misleading, but seemed like a good eye catch for this post. I told my thesis advisor that I would probably write about how it is possible for angels to know bodily individuals. I knew that they could on account of our faith in guardian angels, but it seemed doubtful on rational grounds since angels lack some material organ by which they could perceive bodies. God is simpler in a way. Since he is the cause of materiality, it makes sense that he know all of his material effects, and thus every particular. According to st Thomas, angels know material things because God places in them knowledge of both the formal and material principles of beings, and therefore know us individuals with bodies. More could be explained, but that's a decent summary.

Now what intrigued me in st Thomas' account is that he frequently referred to an analogy with bodies.

[terrestrial bodies]:[celestial bodies]::[human mind]:[angelic mind]

Fairly clear analogy. He relates motion in the bodies to knowledge in the minds. I'd have to read again to see the exact terms, but through this he is able to explain why it is fitting that the angels do not have to learn, just as the heavenly bodies do not suffer alteration. Now most people in our modern world look at this and immediately think that that whatever st Thomas thinks about the planets is false and therefore disregard the analogy. There is plenty of reason to do this. The analogy seems to be more of an illustration than an argument, so I don't think an astronomical argument will destroy angelology.

Yet the question remains: what can our physics teach us about the higher intellects? By our physics, I mean Newton's. I know there's all that Einstein and quantum stuff, but Newton is modern enough. If I can understand a cosmology which accommodates his greatest discovery, then we will be ready to move forward from there. Einstein's work seems like a development of Newton's; quantum is a whole different story, but one I would be interested to approach in time. Even if angelic arguments do not rest on physics, st Thomas seems interested in teaching that physics is a good means by which to understand angels.

So on to Newton. Newton's single greatest achievement as far as I know consists in seeing that the motion of the heavenly bodies is caused by the same cause which makes terrestrial bodies fall toward the earth. This is astounding. Perhaps atomists of old made similar claims, but Newton gives the excellent proof for it in his third book of the Principia. With this argument, it seems that there is no difference in kind between lower and higher bodies. This doesn't have to follow, for animals are certainly bodies and as such are subject to the conditions of bodies yet are still other in kind insofar as they transcend merely material existence. In the case of the planets however, no argument for a difference in kind is readily apparent.

Whether tangential or not, a consideration of animals seems necessary to make at some point. Descartes reduced to machines, mere conglomerations of bodies. Newton would seem to incline to this view as well. This brings me to my earnest desire to study physiology. It seems to me that animals have something of an interior life insofar as they have sensation. By sensation, it seems that they have a true experience, which is something that no machine could ever undergo. This certainly arises out of and from their bodies with their physico-chemical functions, but it is something beyond. I'm not sure exactly what a proof of this would look like. If one grants the otherness of our experience, then one could infer it for animals. I suppose it just seems true that cats chase mice in order to eat them. One could explain the billions of physical processes which explain this action, yet there would still be some intelligibility in saying that the cat was chasing the mouse in order to eat it. A cat is something. A mouse something. Eating is good for cats. Chasing is good for getting something to eat. Any child could grant the last four statements, but many socalled philosophers would avoid making those assertions at all costs. Or at least would say their meaning does not correspond to a reality.

This is going all the way around to a statement I considered last semester: Newton's account of motion does violence to our notion of goodness as a cause. If one reduced all of the motions of bodies to the rules in the Principia, there would be no diversity of natures, no morality, and really no natural good for anything. It would just be (which means one could still argue that God exists). Yet this is not what we experience. When I heard arguments that "arrow of time" could go in either direction, I was somewhat astounded but it seemed to follow. But then I realized that would mean we don't do anything because of anything, rather we happen to do one thing at a different time than we do another thing. This should strike us as odd.

I wonder biologists think about all of this. Perhaps chemists and even physiologists are not affected by this arbitrary account of direction, biologists would seem to take a great interest in it. Especially evolutionary biologists, who argue for a progression among life forms over time. Life and death would also lose their respective meanings. It just seems nonsensical.

So this brings me back to a consideration related to the above: how the object of apprehension is a cause of motion. After some ponderous thinking, I think I can grant the natural axiom that there is no action at a distance. (I'm actually going to talk about Einstein a little bit.) Now for men and animals to be moved by their appetites, they must somehow perceive what they want. The cat sees the mouse, wants it, and then chases it. One might say that the mouse is distant from the cat and therefore can't act on it, can't cause it to move. Yet the mouse is not distant insofar as it is in the cat's senses and imagination. It got there through a medium which joined them. Thus there was no action at a distance.

Now we move on to the socalled gravitational force. It seems to act at a distance, for instance when the earth pulls on the moon. Yet even this force seems to be exerted through a medium. Newton looked for some kind of fluid and couldn't find it, quantumists are looking for gravitrons but having trouble. I don't propose that this force is or isn't a body (I incline toward saying it isn't) but that the origin of the force is joined to its object by a medium. Thus a body will exert its power on what touches it, and what touches it will exert it on what touches it and so on. Since every body in the universe is connected, it will eventually exert some little influence on every body. Quantumists might say otherwise, but I have a suspicion that too much of what they say is based on the limitedness of human instruments. That's a bold claim and I could be wrong. So granting the continuousness of the universe, what I said would work. It seems congruent with Newton and Einstein at least, that latter one even proving that this force takes time to travel, evidence that the action is not at a distance.

So that's kind of a lot to think about. I want to think about plants more. They barely have an interior life and don't even have sense, so why are the called living? I also want to read more of Aristotle's account of the motion of bodies, including the upper ones. Physiology would be great too: what initiates motion in an animal? A good question.

I almost feel crazy spending time considering these things. It seems unnecessary to the modern mind to reconcile Aristotle's natural axioms with modern physical discoveries, and it also seems odd to make connections between morality and physics. Nonetheless, these have not been sufficiently considered to my knowledge and I think an intellect that recognizes problems seeks satisfaction of certain apparent contradictions. Yet the crowd with whom I talk about these things is extremely limited unless I find a better mode of presentation.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Holy orders

Holy orders

In the last week, I have received many questions about holy orders and I have also heard the stories of several men who are about to be ordained to the priesthood. When I was younger, I wondered why this sacrament was called holy orders, but there is good reason.

Between God and man, an order has been established through which they are joined. The most important order of all is that which Christ has between us and God, yet God established other orders as well for the purpose of bringing us before him. In the Old Testament, one finds the priesthood given to Aaron and his sons. This is detailed at length onion Leviticus. Moses writes about how Aaron and his sons are to be distinguished from the people, and even further how Aaron is distinguished from his sons. This is done through a difference in outward garments. There are furthermore specific offerings made and also impediments which correspond to the spiritual disposition that a priest must have.

Understanding that all of Leviticus carries a spiritual meaning which looks to the priesthood of the New Law opens up a book that seems otherwise obsolete to a Christian. The letter to the Hebrews relies heavily on the understanding of the priests in the Old Law. I do not have the Scriptire at hand or I would lay out some of the ways in which the new is hidden in the old.

I will look at one case: the rules governing how a priest is to marry. This is certainly spiritual with regard to the new law, for most of the holy priests now remain celibate and do not take a wife in marriage. He is not to marry a prostitute (he shall not make wealth his end) nor one who has lost her honor (he shall not give way to pleasure) nor one who is divorced (he shall not be hateful, causing division). The reason for all of this is that he is sacred and set apart by God. He is to marry a virgin, that is, he is to stay undefiled from the love of anything in this world, having his heart set on God alone.

That is very rough but gives some idea of a spiritual reading of the old priesthood. The gravity with which all is dealt in the old law, which is ineffective, should bring one to see the extreme gravity of those who enter holy orders under the new law which has the power to save. The power to save! Without the priesthood, there is no forgiveness of sins or divine sacrifice. There is little divine teaching and no authority. How necessary this order is for each and every man! This is why we must pray for the increase and perseverance of those in holy orders.

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Monday, June 11, 2012

The name of the Holy One

The name of the Holy One

In everyday life, one often hears the holy name used thoughtlessly. Even in prayer, one can use the Lord's name and become inattentive of what one is saying. The latter is no great crime, but does fall away from the attention due to the divine name.

Thou shall not use the Lord's name in vain.

Hallowed be thy name.

The Lord has done great things for me and holy is his name.

So many references are made to the Lord's name in both scripture and the liturgy, that it would be difficult for any one person to have them committed to memory. It is enough to see that it is present in the most important parts of scripture. The divine praises too bless the holy names of God, Christ, and Mary. Whole orders of religious are set aside for reparation on account of offenses against the holy name. How many are the offenses!

James talks about how the tongue is deadly member, such that controlling it is equivalent to having perfect virtue. Christ said that it is not what comes into the mouth that makes men evil, but rather what comes out of it, for this manifests the heart.

So not only must we careful to avoid offending against his holy name, but we must also give it due veneration.

May his name be always on our lips.

Through speaking the Lord's name in a worthy manner, our tongue will become like pen in the hand of a scribe, always ready to sing the Lord's praises. When our lips our cleansed and elevated, then our heart too will be properly disposed for true worship.

One interesting point is that honor for the divine name belongs to the natural law. I do not understand this fully, but it is among the ten commandments, which contain the natural law. The reason he gives is that man's natural end consists in the vision of God, and therefore the first three commandments are for the sake of attaining this end. A more human reason for its part in natural law is the common good. There are certain occasions in political life where a man must swear by someone higher than himself in order to assure his honesty. If the divine name is not held in esteem, then no man will care for pledges made in that name. This is not good for society, thus even natural reasoning can see why the holy name should not be used in vain. St. Thomas' reason with regard to our order to God is true as well, though it is more difficult to see how entirely our perfection depends on God without a revelation of his love.

So whereas lies have been a constant topic of conversation lately, it seems that conversation concerning the divine name would also be helpful for see the fundamental role speech plays in the moral life of man.

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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Not being Catholic

Not being Catholic

I am Catholic, but there are a lot who aren't. There are a lot who were raised in the faith but did not continue in it. There are many who do not baptize their children. Why? What do we do?

Two persons, both raised in nominally Catholic families critiqued the church for worshipping Mary and the saints. They fell away from the church on account of a false understanding of her teachings. I often question how important teaching is, but this kind of event makes it clear. Catholics must be educated. Without this, there will be error in the words and souls of many. And Christ is truth: in him there is not No but only Yes. I heard many flippant lies told today. Surely there is no great crime in a brief lie, yet to lie habitually is not becoming to one seeking the truth. And all should seek the truth.

Another thing is birth control. How many think it a standard! Yet how contrary to marriage. I met one married couple today who when asked about children said they were far foo young and busy to have children. My only thought: why did you get married then?! It's kind of bogus. Even on a natural level, it can be discerned that marriage and all sexuality is primarily ordered to the origin and care of children. For a Christian, these things are even more manifest, for the sacrament consists in a total self donation which bears immense fruit, physical and spiritual. Yet no one teaches this. Some do and the Lord will bless them.

In today's wedding, though it was Protestant, the preacher said basically all true things. How marriage reflects Christ and his Church, how it is to be indissoluble and fruitful, and so on. This is consoling.

So we must teach the faithful and actually all peoples insofar as the opportunity comes. But the truth is not enough. We must present it with love, for the will is unfortunately mixed up in great part with the intellectual life of man. Even that is not enough. We must recommend souls to God through the intercession of Mary, the most fruitful virgin and mother.

I met a couple other Protestants recently and they gave me great hope. They asked many questions. They cared for the truth and loved Christ. It seems that these are the kind of individuals with whom an intellectual conversation will be the most possible and the most fruitful. When many such as these have entered more fully into truth, it will radiate from them according to their character and this variety will appeal to more, make kingdom of God more known.

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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Habits and truth

Habits and truth

First of all, apparently the trial version of this typing app only allows up to five files, thus it's a good thing I found a way to export these things to a blog so that they may last just that much longer. I will put off paying the three dollars for the full app as long as I can...

Now to the topic at hand: habits. I had planned on writing about gravity but then I had another conversation which brought out to me how impossible the intellectual life is without well formed habits. Basically it came down to discussing something until the question was reduced to a contradiction where one side led to an immediate absurdity. This happened several times. Even on the very point of contradiction itself or the existence of motion and so on. How does one make a first principle clearer? There's almost nothing to be done if the other is dedicated to being contrary.

I'm not even sure where I should go after this. If one has a poor way of life (by poor I mean decadent and malicious), then one will be inclined to seek out and present arguments which defend that way of life. Sometimes one will cling to arguments with the most bogus premises, such that nothing exists or that change and difference are mere illusion. Such premises, if actually held, would destroy the possibility of any communication. Even letting them pass from the mouth is enough to make one concerned about the truth in that speaker's words. Perhaps with good reason, for if their passions cause their speech, then one is basically just working with a real dangerous animal. (Though it should be remembered that one must never lose hope in another's salvation.)

I intended to write much more about particular virtues, especially temperance, but sleep is coming quickly and will probably overtake me. At least it should be said that temperance allows one to enjoy bodily pleasure in the proper mode so that one is then free to seek true joy in freedom from the chains of passion and appetite. So much more. Ave Maria!

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Friday, June 8, 2012

St Thomas on the Bible

St Thomas on the Bible

This way of posting thoughts through my phone is actually pretty nifty. I can do it from anywhere. The keyboard is actually a decent enough size that it isn't tedious to type this up. Faster than writing at least.

So I was recently reminded of my interest in Thomistic Biblical theology. That is, learning how to read the bible from st Thomas. Something of this idea came to me while reading Servais Pinckaers who saw the need to integrate the parts of theology so that they do become separated and isolated from their context. He seemed to think that st Thomas saw this as well, which is why he placed the section on "moral theology" right in the middle of the Summa, wedged between the consideration of the Trinity and the Incarnation, the two great mysteries of the faith.

So a Thomistic biblical theology would consist primarily in learning how to read the bible well, as st Thomas and the wisest church fathers read it. This doesn't mean merely taking their interpretations and making them popular, but rather learning from them a method or spirit of biblical interpretation. St Augustine's work on Christian doctrine is one that falls in this school. I remember being a bit disappointed that in his rules of interpretation he didn't say things like "this animal always signifies this" and so on. Rather he gave the most general principles along with some examples. The most important principles being love and faith. An interpretation must not be contrary to the teaching of the faith for it would be false, and little good comes from falsehood. Not only must it be true and consonant but it must something which builds up the faithful in charity, encouraging them to a greater love of God and neighbor, for such is the whole law.

So st Thomas gives more examples of authentic interpretation, both literal and spiritual, and leads one to those fathers who have contemplated the spiritual meaning of the inspired scriptures. Two places in particular come to mind: the commentaries on St. Paul and the section in the summa on the Old Law. These are brilliant. The Pauline commentaries are of especial interest because he takes a seemingly haphazard collection of letters with various bits of advice and shows that some rationale can be seen behind all of it, ordering it all around the mystery of grace in the Mystical Body which is the central theme in the writings of st Paul. Thus it disposes the believer to discern order in scripture.

The questions on the Old law are brilliant because he is able give a literal and a spiritual meaning for nearly all contained in the Pentateuch, which is no mean feat. Now it by no means exhaustive and some of the interpretations seem may seem like a stretch, but this does not keep it from being one of the most fruitful interpretations on that part of scripture, even if only for bringing together the commentators who came before him. Not only does be find reasons for all that is said, but some of it is able to be situated within a human philosophy of ethics, namely when he talks about the moral precepts and how these are identical with natural law. In defending this claim, he justifies the study of moral philosophy for a Christian.

Those are only two examples, but there are probably other places in st Thomas where he shows skill as an exegete. The study of st Thomas doesn't end with him, but gives one the proper starting place for learning from the fathers or even from those doctors after st Thomas (Cornelius a Lapide comes to mind, also st John of the Cross).

Then one must ultimately return to the scriptures themselves and even further to one's own experience of God. Since the truth of scripture is held by faith, one must have a living faith in order to derive any great benefit from its study.

So that brings me back to my desire to study more thoroughly and eventually even teach st Thomas' mode of exegesis to others. A more perfect understanding of scripture will be necessary for the continued evangelization of the world.

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All right

All right, I suppose it works.

So I'm probably going to knock my last name off of my profile so that this isn't something that shows up when my name is searched. Not that I'm going to write anything off the wall, but it will be incomplete and unpolished. I'm also using my phone to type this so what can one expect?

Basically I just found myself without a computer or a notebook (what a situation), but I have this new-fangled phone. So I might as well use it to its fullest capacity. So I'll type in the word processor app I found and then just email post the final result to the blog.

What will I write about? Whatever. Lately I've been considering a possible thesis topic, though I've also been questioning the usefulness of speculative philosophy. In case some odd person is reading this, I ought to say that I am extremely fond of theoretical philosophy, and only question dedicating oneself to it given that the world seems to have greater needs in this age. Surely truth must have a dwelling among us and this will happen most effectively through diligent study.

I want to write about Newton and his account of motion and nature and forces. Also about Aristotle and the object. I also want to write about grace. How ill it is understood sometimes! People fall into extremes because the true position is perhaps too good to be true. I'm going to make dramatic claims like that without caring too much about what anyone thinks. This is basically my mobile notebook.

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Check this out..

This is just a test post, emailing from my phone to the blog.

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