Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Basically a brainstorm

Basically a brainstorm

I haven't quite worked out the argument for the most important chunks of the thesis: explaining the relationship among the causes. As I'm beginning my study of metaphysics, I'm finding that this is precisely one of the great challenges of the metaphysician, so I'm somewhat worried about how to proceed, but I'll just try to avoid saying false things and not forget important points.

The order of causes will come up in two places: explaining God's creation and how it is distinct from natural/artistic changes; and then how God is himself a likeness of prime matter sufficient for knowing it. God and prime matter are alike insofar as they are first causes. But cause is said in many ways (this why the treatment of analogous names was given above). The word cause is not said wholly equivocally of efficient, material, formal, and final cause, rather they are said analogously: they are reducible or referable back to some first meaning. Although we first say cause about material (or efficient?) causality, it is final cause which is truly first among causes. It is the cause of causes. (Explain why final cause is first in artistic and natural happenings; then move on toward creation.)

I keep hesitating to get very specific, but I'll do it this weekend. In that place, I will only explain creation and why material causality is caused by God. Later in explaining how God knows it, I will look at that analogy. Then there is the section on knowing individuals. This can have a more detailed account of our cognition of them, which then extends to God's. This is only a that argument, the how will come later and be discussed according to the analogies among causes and also by looking at matter's disposition to form. Will that be enough? Maybe. I'll have to talk about the sort of likeness knowing requires. That could be tough, but not too much. I hope I'm not too vague in my approach to things, though I anticipate that criticism. All right, this weekend for sure. Being done will be great. I can probably look up Cajetan or Scotus on these matters and be ready for a more thorough elucidation at the defense. Pretty exciting!

Sent from my iPhone

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Singular difficulty

Having shown above how the senses and the intellect differ in their objects of knowledge, a difficulty arises concerning God's knowledge. The intellect receives its object by abstracting it from the material conditions of the senses, thereby making it universal. Among these material conditions are the particular wheres and whens that accompany the object of sense, without which it is impossible for men to know things in their singularity. Aristotle even says, "reason [or intellect] has to do with universals, sense with singular things." So then it would seem to follow that God, who is his own intellect and does not know by means of a sensitive organ, is wholly ignorant of these singular realities and only knows them as they fall under some universal concept. Since God excels his effects in every way, it is not possible that man should know something that God does not. In order to answer this difficulty, St. Thomas argues that God contains within himself "an immaterial likeness of prime matter" by which he is able to know singulars. In order to resolve more satisfactorily the difficulty of whether God knows singulars, it is worth inquiring further into whether and how God knows prime matter and, finally, why this solves the difficulty involved in God knowing singulars.

[Next write about God's power over prime matter. Then inquire further into the likeness. A lot further. Then return to the relation between prime matter and singulars.]

Friday, January 18, 2013

God's knowledge in general

There are several ways to go about proving that God has knowledge. (Place a footnote here about the other ways of proving this; perhaps explain why you are using this one) The argument St. Thomas gives in the Summa Theologiae is from God's immateriality. He starts by stating a difference between intelligent and non-intelligent beings, one that was stated earlier in this essay. "We must note that intelligent beings are distinguished from non-intelligent beings in that the latter possess only their own form; whereas the intelligent being is naturally adapted to have also the form of some other thing." This is similar to what was stated earlier about sensation when it was said that a sense organ receives a sensible form in a way other than the way matter receives forms. The eye remains what it is while it receives the form of and sees what is other than it. This is only possible by some kind of immaterial having, since matter is only capable of possessing one form at a time. As matter is limited to only possessing one form, the more removed from matter something is, the greater is its ability to have many forms. For example, it was above stated that the intellect is able to abstract from what is received from the senses and hold universal truth. This abstraction is from the material conditions of the here and the now, and this is possible because the intellect is itself not constricted by a bodily organ. Since God is in no way confined by matter, he is most free of all, and therefore most a knower.

[Question: why aren't angels all knowing if they are wholly immaterial? I probably don't need to address that here, but I should have some idea, just in case.]

After establishing that God is a knower, an argument must be given for what he knows. Knowing occurs whenever a knower is united with what is to be known. For example, the senses must be joined (through a medium) to some sensible object in order to actually sense, and intellect actually knows when it is joined to an intelligible form. God is himself both intellect and intelligible at once, always one and therefore always knowing and known. (This is begging to be expanded, but move on.)  God is the chief object of his own knowledge, and through this knowledge he knows all that he knows. Since God is the same with his power, and by this power he is capable of bringing forth all that exists and can exist, so he also knows all of those things which can be effects of his power.

[Next post: God's power. Is prime matter in it?]

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Brief account of human knowledge of prime matter

[This seems like a rather bold task, but some consideration of we come to know is essential if we're going to make sense of the difficulties involved in knowing matter and if we are to give an account of how God knows at all. I think I have the truths about these things in my mind, but I'm not at all comfortable determining the order of approach. Nor is it clear to what extent these things should be considered.]

All human knowledge begins with the senses. Sensation occurs when a sense organ is acted upon by a sensible object in such a way that the sensible form is received in a way other than the way matter receives forms. For example, a rock can be heated but cannot feel heat; on the other hand, if a man stands near a fire, he will not only become heated, but he will feel the heat. This cognition or awareness of heat is peculiar to sensation, and requires a possibility to receive which goes beyond the capacity of non-living bodies. Furthermore, our senses can be brought into act only by some sensible object acting on it, which requires that it actually have some sensible quality. Since prime matter is pure potency, as was said above, (and potency is opposed to actuality) prime matter will be incapable of acting upon our senses in virtue of itself.

Beyond the senses, man also has a mind or intellect. By this power he is able to abstract from what his senses receive and know things in a universal way. For example, man not only sees this red and that red, but has abstracted from this sense experience a universal concept of red, through which he is able think about and make statements about red, without attending to some particular instance of it (e.g. red is my favorite color, apples are red, and so on). It is not by our intellect abstracting that we have a concept of prime matter. Since abstraction only happens by making universal what is perceived by the senses, and prime matter is not an object of sensation, prime matter is not abstracted from our senses. Our concept of it comes from an argument (like the one given above) and depends on other concepts which we have abstracted from our senses. So when it is said that prime matter is pure potency to substance, we understand this through an analogy of how a substance stands to its accidents, substance and accident being two concepts which we have abstracted from sensation. (a footnote or perhaps some more body where I mention the truth that "everything is intelligible insofar as it is act")

Although we are able to form some analogous concept of prime matter, we only understand it by likening it to something else which is actual. Prime matter in itself still seems to remain unknown and even unknowable. Now it remains a question as to whether God knows prime matter in itself. Before this, we must first consider God's knowledge more generally.

[There are a few ways I could go from here, most of which deviate from the outline in part... Instead of just talking about human cognition in general, as I intended, I went ahead and talked about how prime matter relates to our knowledge. This seemed important for manifesting the difficulty. I could just say "something is intelligible insofar as it is actual", but I wanted to make more clear the meaning of that statement by situating it within the context of human knowledge. At the end, I made it sound like I'm just going to talk about God's knowledge generally... I'll probably do that. I want to talk at some point about how we know singulars, and that account doesn't work for God. That should be coming up soon. Perhaps after the general consideration.]

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Account of prime matter

Since prime matter is itself a concept which is not known to all, it is useful to begin with a consideration of what it is and why there are difficulties involved in knowing it. (footnote about Physics 1 and how it lays out the discovery of prime matter) The concept of prime matter first arises when one is analyzing the principles of change. Whenever some change occurs, something must remains and something must pass away. For example, when a sick man becomes healthy, the illness ceases to be and the health begins to be, but the man exists both before and after the change. So also in any change there will something which persists through the change. If it were not the case that something persisted, then one could never say that any thing changed, but just that things sometimes exist and sometimes do not exist. Granting the existence of change, something must underlie it. To come to prime matter, one must see that this is true of both substantial change and accidental change. Accidental changes refer to the coming to be or passing away of accidents: for example, a change in size, place, or some quality. In such cases, it is always a substance which underlies the changes. Yet when a change occurs from one kind of substance to another, then something beside substance must underlie this change. This is what Aristotle calls the underlying nature, and what St. Thomas calls materia prima or first matter. (footnote about how I will use the phrase "prime matter" since that is the typical English rendition, although it seems first matter is better translation)

After resolving to the existence of such a principle, there are further things that can be said about it. Just as a substance is not in a certain place on account of being that substance, but is potentially in any place; so also it is true that prime matter, not being itself a substance, is potentially any substance. From this, prime matter is said to be pure potency with regard to every substantial form.

[It looks like I might have to do some restructuring of the outline. I next wanted to talk about how prime matter is not a principle of our knowledge. I was thinking that follows easily enough from it being pure potency, but without at least a brief account of how we abstract, it's going to be difficult to express the problem.]

[There's also the bit in the outline about how prime matter is a principle of individuation. It seems that I could talk about that here or later. That is a rather difficult topic all on its own... I do want to talk about how we know singulars though, and why God's knowledge of them has to be different from that. Especially look at the fact that we know singulars through our senses and how God does not have senses. Yes, this will do for now.]

[One more comment, the stuff written on theology can probably go even before this section. Also, there's no reason to bring up Berkeley: the existence of prime matter is sufficiently established. But it will be helpful to bring up Timaeus' position later on.]

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Method and Limits of Theology

In this and following posts, I hope to write sections that will be incorporated into my thesis. Although I am writing with a view to the main thesis topic, each of the preliminary are independent enough that they can be considered individually:

Theology simply means divine science, or the science about God and divine things. Often this word is used exclusively to mean the study of sacred scripture and the truths revealed by God through the prophets, but this is not the only way to approach a study of God. At the conclusion of the Physics, Aristotle proves that there must be some intelligent being without a body. Since it belongs to natural science to consider bodies, it must belong to some other science to consider what does not have a body. This proof of God's existence from material things is the beginning of a philosophical theology which does not depend on faith in the words of a prophet.

Since God is not present to our senses and is unlike anything in common experience, knowledge about him is reached through argument and most often through a denial of attributes which are seen in creatures. For example, St. Thomas Aquinas's articles on divine simplicity proceed by showing that various modes of composition which are present in creatures do not exist in God. Another way of proceeding in theology is by discussing how the perfections of creatures are found in God. Since the arguments for God's existence are from his effects, the perfections of these effects must exist within God in a higher way, without the imperfections that accompany them in creatures. For example, wisdom is a habit in men which can be attained or lost, whereas in God it is the same with his essence.

Because of how distant God is from creatures, it is necessary to consider the names we use about God and how they are able to signify something true about him. Aristotle begins his Categories by making a distinction between univocal and equivocal names. Names are said univocally of two things when both the sound and the account are the same for the things spoken about. Names are said equivocally of two things when the same sound is said of two things, but the account differ. No name will be said univocally of God and creatures, for everything in creatures is caused, whereas nothing is caused in God. On the other hand, if names are said wholly equivocally of God and creatures, it will be impossible to speak about God, for all the names we use have their meaning from creatures. The names said about both God and creatures are called analogous, which is a certain kind of equivocal name. Some names are equivocal on account of chance, such as bat, which is said of both the winged mammal and the instrument of a baseball player (footnote confirming that those are etymologically unrelated words); such names are of no use in considering God. On the other hand, some names are said equivocally of several things because of they have a relationship of cause and effect. For example, healthy is said of both man and food, where man is primarily called healthy and food is called healthy because it makes a man to be healthy. Such names are analogous, and these will be useful for talking about God, since all creatures are his effects.

[Next segue into talking about God's knowledge, and how this will require a preliminary consideration of knowledge more generally and how it relates to immateriality. From what I've written so far, it is not clear how this consideration is necessary for the overall paper, but that can be fixed.]

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Revised outline

After attempting to write another draft (based on the previous outline), it has become more and more clear, that my outline does not give sufficient space and ordering to the topics which I will need to consider in a preliminary way before I will be able to give my actual argument in a way that makes sense.

Newly revised thesis outline:
  • An introduction (currently I just jump right in)
    • Briefly lead up to and state the thesis and topic under consideration
    • Explain the relevance/worthiness of the topic considered
      • The knowledge which is most truly knowledge is a knowledge of principles and causes. God and prime matter are each first causes in a certain respect, and therefore are each worth considering on account of that.
      • Knowledge is the primary means by which beings communicate. In showing how God knows prime matter, it will be seen how the highest of beings communicates with the lowest of beings. Also, through considering the extremes, light is shed on what falls between.
      • Knowledge of singulars is a particularly interesting aspect of knowledge, and God's knowledge of matter is related to how he knows material individuals in their individuality.
    • To prepare the reader, an outline (quite like this one) will be given to guide the reader through the considerations and arguments that will follow
  • The what and esse of prime matter
    • This will be for the most part a paraphrase of the Physics 1.
    • Focus will then be made on how prime matter barely exists and the problems it presents for knowing in general.
    • Perhaps here or later, it will be discussed that prime matter is a principle of individuation in material things, and therefore that it will have to do with knowing them
  • Consideration of the method and limits of (natural) theology, the science of God
    • (Perhaps this topic alone would suffice as thesis topic, but I'll just go at it to the extent that it will be helpful for my thesis. This seems necessary, for it one might be tempted to think that this is a purely academic exercise or worse, if it is not made clear just what is being done when one tries to understand something about God.)
    • Preliminary distinction between sacred theology and the divine science proper to philosophy, and that this is the latter.
    • We must go from the more known to the less known, go from creatures to God
    • Talk about analogous names here, how every name we say about God will first be said of creatures but will be more truly said of God because there is nothing of imperfection in him
  • Knowledge in general
    • Since we see perfections in creatures first, it is necessary to consider knowledge as it exists in creatures and in the highest of creatures
    • Focus on the immaterial aspect of knowing, this is obscure but develop it
  • Knowledge in God generally
    • Since all perfections exist in God in a higher way, God is indeed a knower
    • (Look at the argument in Contra Gentes, as they may be more proportioned to the consideration of a philosopher)
    • Explain why he primarily knows himself, and how he secondarily knows all creatures
    • Talk further about how he knows creatures in their distinctions from each other
  • God's knowledge of prime matter
    • Before discussing this more particular question, look at how man knows singulars and why this account does not fit to God (or angels), and how St. Thomas resolves it to an immaterial likeness of matter. This resolution is the reason for considering this kind of knowledge in particular.
    • His knowledge of prime matter involves special difficulties on account of what prime matter is.
    • Look at and address with some precision how it falls within God's power. (I keep mention Berkeley and Timaeus in the same breath, but really their objections to the doctrine of St. Thomas are so different in kind as to belong different parts of the paper. Here is where Timaeus is worth considering).
      • In what way is prime matter in God's power, and in what way is it not.
    • After it is clear that God must in some way know prime matter, talk about the handful of approaches to better understanding how he knows prime matter:
      • He knows it as it is, that is, as a principle of substance and therefore not apart from it. Although prime matter is not a perfection nor does it have perfection itself, it in potency to every material perfection and so God can know it as perfectible.
      • God can have a (quasi?) speculative knowledge of prime matter. This is where I will discuss in what way God is like prime matter and is a sufficient likeness for knowing it.
      • God can know it through privation (just as he knows evil through privation). This may not be as exciting or interesting, but I may address it if I give the fourfold division of God's knowledge from De Veritate 3.3, just for the sake of completeness.
  • If I spend enough time on the parts of the thesis above, I will probably be pretty much done with my thesis. If it is short, I can explain more. It will be helpful. Try to use examples when possible.
All right, so that is all I need to do. This division is much better than the last one I made, and it should not be difficult to write decent-sized chunks and then string them all together. The section where I give an outline, I will probably not be as thorough about subdivisions, but I will give the reasons for why I go in the order that I do.