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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