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.