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.

1 comment:

  1. I just noticed that in earlier post on my thesis, I'm really just delving into one of the premises taken up here. In particular, the relationship between cognition and immateriality. That really could constitute a whole thesis by itself.