Monday, November 28, 2016

Mexican link off


Argentine standoff: Pope Francis and the four cardinals, as reported by National Catholic Register and Catholic Herald.  Commentary from First Things and Bishop Athanasius Schneider.

Richard Dawkins misrepresents science, according to British scientists


Enter the Brotherhood of Steely Dan, at Vinyl Me, Please.  Live for Live Music looks back on Gaucho.

At Crisis magazine, Anthony Esolen asked: What will you do when persecution comes?  And then the persecutors came for Anthony Esolen, as reported by The American Conservative, National Review, Touchstone, and Catholic World Report.

Michael Lind on how science fiction fails us, at The Smart Set.

At Vanity Fair, Exorcist director William Friedkin on exorcist Fr. Gabriele Amorth.

To deal with ISIS, says the Archbishop of Canterbury, let’s start by admitting the obvious.

A new edition of The Gifts of the Holy Spirit by John of St. Thomas is forthcoming from Cluny Media.  A translation of Fr. Josef Kleutgen’s Pre-Modern Philosophy Defended is forthcoming from St. Augustine’s Press.




Matthew Levering’s Proofs of God: Classical Arguments from Tertullian to Barth is reviewed by William Carroll at Public Discourse.



The University Bookman on The War of the Worlds in H.G. Wells, Orson Welles, Steven Spielberg, and beyond.


Bill Maher, Michael Moore, and Slate Star Codex urge their fellow Trump critics to stop it with the PC bullshit already.
 
Real Clear Religion reports that Thomism is ready for its close-up.


The late Scott Ryan, greatly missed friend of this blog, recorded an album, The Gift, before his death.  Scott’s wife Lilla has started a KickStarter campaign to get the album heard.


The Washington Post reviews Peter Ackroyd’s new book on Alfred Hitchcock.  An interview with Ackroyd at The University BookmanLos Angeles Review of Books on Stanley Kubrick

If, like me, you’ve spent a big chunk of your life hanging out in L.A. area bookstores that no longer exist, you’ll dig the Bookstore Memories blog.  (I remember well when Hollywood Boulevard was bookstore row.  You’d never know it today, alas.) 

65 comments:

Arthur A. Jacomelli said...

Professor Feser,

...

If everything has a cause, what caused God ? (Just kidding)

More seriously though : what do you think of demonic possession ?

Arthur A. Jacomelli said...

And have you personally read Levering's book ?

I'm considering buying it, if it's good.

Rey said...

Interesting to see that Bannon has quite a bit of knowledge on Dugin's Eurasianism and Julius Evola. Americans rarely understand the mysticism behind the European Right and how it's tied to Perennialist thinkers.

whitney said...

I'm not a fan of Dawkins but 80% of scientists bringing him up to criticize, without prompting, sounds like envy.

Crude said...

I'm not a fan of Dawkins but 80% of scientists bringing him up to criticize, without prompting, sounds like envy.

Scientists are subject to human emotions? About fellow scientists, even?

Dawkins himself assured me this was not at all the case. They live and breathe the scientific method! They have a wide array of tools to ensure that they are fair and reasonable in their judgments.

And they've judged Dawkins to be full of caca.

Greg said...

@ whitney

It is not the case that 80% of scientists brought him up to criticize. 48 scientists out of the 137 interviewed brought him up, and of those 48, 80% were critical. So it was really about 28% of scientists who brought him up critically "without prompting".

That said, "without prompting" may mean nothing more than "the researchers did not ask questions about Dawkins". That is compatible with the researchers asking questions about, say, popular science, or the relationship between science and religion, or science in the public sphere. Dawkins is a prominent public figure, and it isn't particularly surprising that scientists would reach for him as an example of what they view as good or bad behavior of scientists in public.

Ivan Knezović said...

I was waiting to see what Ed would write on the dubia. I cannot see him supporting Kasper and Francis, but I'm hoping to see his own thoughts on it. In any case, the crisis within the Church is now very, very obvious and I believe hard times are coming. The four cardinals are showing courage, when everyone else in the hierarchy is staying silent.
I had the honour of meeting cardinal Burke on his visit to Croatia, I think the words I would use to describe the meeting are very reminiscent of when Gene Wolfe met cardinal Fulton Sheen: "You understand other people who are in similar situations, and not only in religious matters. I once met Archbishop Fulton Sheen, who we’re trying to get made a saint now. He looked at you and you felt that he knew all about you, that he had taken your worth, both positive and negative, and had formed a correct opinion about you, and that was it."

polskaus90 said...

I found the Friedkin interview fascinating - I was particularly interested by the following throwaway comment: "The authors of the New Testament—none of whom, it is now generally believed by historians, actually knew Jesus—were creating a religion, not writing history." Is this accurate? And can anybody recommend some good sources that deals with this idea?

Kiel said...

Check out Brant Pitre's book, The Case for Christ.

jem said...

I'm seriously amazed every time I see these link posts. I just can't fathom how someone so busy reads so many articles from so many different websites.

Half the time I feel like I'm taking a gamble clicking around all these outlets on my own. Like, there's a 90% chance I'll stop reading after 3 sentences and maybe a single heavy downward scroll for good measure. Now that I think about it, in this way the majority of my time online is actually completely squandered.

Anonymous said...

Re the Traditionalists that Bannon is supposedly inspired by, some of the key members of this movement were converts to Islam - Schuon for instance.

But what tradition does Bannon really belong too? It seems to me that he sits squarely within the very modern TV created punk-adolescent "tradition" portrayed in the movie Beavis and Butthead Do America.
As does the "reality"-TV star Donald Trump.

Markk said...

Anyone seen this piece on biological essentialism and care to comment? Biological essentialism, thanks but no thsnks

Anonymous said...

Polskaus90 a good place to start would be the comprehensive research of Robert Price as described in his book titled The Pre-Nicene New Testament. A book which thoroughly debunks all of the usual explanations promoted by the Christian ecclesiastical establishment.
Also
What Really Happened To Jesus: A Historical Approach to the Resurrection by Gerd Ludemann

Two books by G A Wells
Who Was Jesus? A Critique of the New Testament Record
Can We Trust the New Testament? Thoughts on the Reliability of Early Christian Testimony.

And of course the various books by Bart D Ehrman, another scholar who has really done his homework.
Especially these books published by Oxford University Press.
The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings.
Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew.
After the New Testament: A Reader in Early Christianity

Rey said...

@Anonymous

"the Traditionalists that Bannon is supposedly inspired by, some of the key members of this movement were converts to Islam - Schuon for instance."

Bannon doesn't particularly seem influenced by Perennial Traditionalists, and the European right likewise don't take much from this Schuon or Guenon as they didn't write much on Political Philosophy.
Dugin, the key figure behind Russian Eurasianism is himself an Orthodox Old Believer.

Anonymous said...

'It seems to me that [Bannon] sits squarely within the... punk-adolescent "tradition" portrayed in the movie Beavis and Butthead Do America.'

In addition to ranking amongst the sharpest satire of the 90s, Beavis and Butthead sit squarely within an ancient mythic tradition (indeed) of mischievous, imbecilic twin tricksters.

Anonymous said...

'...some of the key members of [the Traditionalist] movement were converts to Islam - Schuon for instance.'

Too simplistic. Schuon, like other Traditionalist thinkers, recognised a higher synthesis within the revealed faiths. He remained a devotee of the Blessed Virgin throughout his life. This was no more an act of conversion than E. Michael Jones's acknowledgement of positive aspects in Iranian Shi'ite faith, while remaining a staunch Catholic.

Jeremy Taylor said...

The kind of neo-reactionary that Bannon seems to be, draws mostly from Evola, as far as they do any of the traditionalists. And if there is a united traditionalists movement (which is not as true as some of Schuon's disciples make it appear), then Evola is on the outside of that. The neo-reactionaries might mention Guenon from time to time but seem to take little from him. Even with Evola they seem to take little beyond some political and social influences. The neo-reactionaries are mostly interested in politics, and writing tedious blog posts about it.

Bannon gets basic details about Evola wrong. Italian fascism certainly didn't come from his work. His relationship with fascism, and its with him, is far from simply a close embrace.

A. A. Jacomelli said...

Anonymous 10:51,

Bart Ehrman is a respectable historian and I have no problem with you citing him.
But citing Robert Price as if he were a respectable New Testament authority, that means you're either intentionally deceiving Polskaut or just plain ignorant.
Price is as biased as can be as well as one of the very last New Testament scholars to suscribe to the Christ Myth Theory which has now been completely discredited by the academia for decades, and which is still regularly debunked by non-Christian prominent historians including atheist historians, agnostic historians, and Jews.
In other terms, it's been debunked by many historians whose spiritual lives (or lack thereof) do not depend in the least on whether Jesus existed or not.
As for Wells... Flash news, not a historian. Never been. He was a teacher of German Language, a subject as related as history as one can imagine.

So be kind, spare us your bullshit for one second, and go learn some accurate history.

A. A. Jacomelli said...

Anonymous 10:51,

I'm not even Christian, by the way.

But presenting overly biased sources as if they were reliable, like you just did, should be a federal offense.

Craig Payne said...

Dear Polskaus90: I would recommend the book "Jesus and the Eyewitnesses," by Bauckham (memory on the name; I could be wrong).

I would avoid Bart Ehrman like two or three different kinds of plagues.

A. A. Jacomelli said...

Craig Payne,

Richard Bauckham, if memory serves me well. You got his name right.
Why avoid Ehrman so much, though ? He's got the credentials, he's considered to be a competent historian by friends and foes alike (...) and at least he isn't one of those Christ-Myth Theory proponents ?

Anon said...

Re: the Traditionalists that Bannon is supposedly inspired by, some of the key members of this movement were converts to Islam - Schuon for instance.

Are you out of your mind? The traditionalists in question have nothing, absolutely nothing to do with Republican politics. You are confused by mere words.

A. A. Jacomelli said...

I still don't understand the First Way.

Could anybody try to re-formulate it for me in his own words (while of course staying true to Aquinas) ?
I've been attempting to wrap my mind around it for way too long, and I still don't get it.
I think I might unfortunately give up trying to understand the argument.
It's been too much effort and too much time spent trying to get it, for so little understanding at the end of the day.
Could you ?

The Masked Chicken said...

Dear A. A. Jacomelli,

You wrote:

"As for Wells... Flash news, not a historian. Never been. He was a teacher of German Language, a subject as related as history as one can imagine.

So be kind, spare us your bullshit for one second, and go learn some accurate history."

I cannot speak to the research literature extensively, but just because someone has expertise in one field does not mean that they can't have expertise in another. I am a scientist and a musician, but I, also, do humor research without formal training (good luck finding that) and I am a recognized expert in the field. Of course, I spent thirty years publishing in peer-reviewed journals, attending international conferences, delivering many papers, etc.

I don't know if Wells has paid his dues with regards to learning how to do historical research. I do have a graduate degree in an historical field (music history), so I know what training is involved to become an historian. While it is traditionally the fallacy of appeal to a false authority that would allow one to dismiss someone's ideas simply because they lack a degree (and therefore, supposedly, not having expertise in the field), nevertheless, that fallacy does not, always, apply. It may apply here, it may not, but simply citing that Wells was a German language teacher does not mean that he could not, also, have done valuable work in Biblical criticism. I am not familiar with Wells's work. He might be a crackpot or he might be a serious uncredentialed scholar. That has to be decided from his work, not how he earned his living. Pierre de Fermat was a jurist, but he was second-to-none as a number theorist.

The Chicken

A. A. Jacomelli said...

Masked Chicken,

I agree with what you said : you don't necessarily need a recognized degree in some field to actually be taken seriously when you talk about it, that's correct.

It's just that anonymous is here presenting the works of people I *know* are ideologically biased and / or amateurs at the very same time (...) as if they were 'the' finest pieces of work on history one can read on the matter.
And this indeed I have found unacceptable.

What I wanted to point out is that Christ-Myth proponents are as neutral towards Jesus' historicity as religious fundamentalists are towards modern science. Long story short, not neutral at all.
Don't get me wrong : history is definitely not (and has never been) a completely neutral, pristine-like field of study.
Believing it is would be in my opinion extremely naive.
But there are different "levels" of ideological bias.
And contemporary Christ-Myth proponents have reached the highest level of bias I've ever seen in two years of studies concerning Jesus' historicity.

A. A. Jacomelli said...

By far.
By a very, very wide margin.

Tony said...

A.A. Jacomelli, that is my experience also. Whatever else is true of the field of history in dealing with Jesus, the Christ-Myth proponents frequently trumpet arguments that a child of 10 can see through without difficulty. If they were exercising the same level of self-critical care on this that they require in all other matters, they would reduce their theses about Jesus by about 80% or more, and be MUCH more tentative about the rest. We would have a something like a Christ-myth Hypothesis, struggling to make it to "theory" stage and having a rough go of it.

Why avoid Ehrman so much, though? He's got the credentials,

I agree that he has the credentials. But he has also, so far as I recall, also engaged in recklessly tendentious arguments. I.e. arguments that no credentialed historian could put forth without shame.

As far as I am concerned, the subset of historian-ish types that have been trying to debunk the Gospels and Jesus for the last 100 years + has proven itself little better than astrology and alchemy. Sure, there is SOME decent material, but so much more of it is junk "history" that you just have to approach the whole shebang with a lot of suspicion.

Robert Byers said...

Dawkins is rightly attacked for saying science proves god/bible is wrong. Science can only prove that there is no proof of god/bible.
There is no such thing as science. its just people (tailless primates for some0 figuring out things and claiming a special system to control paths to conclusions.
However its still ideas and raw data being weighed and thats all it is.
Dawkins is not misrepresenting science but showing incompetence in researchers who do biology origins.
its too complicated for them. Its all speculation.
In fact creationism does actual "science" since we just attack the other sides evidence claims.
Dawkins has been a boon to creationism. he creates audiences for these things and YEC/ID can then step in for rounds.
otherwise censorship in society keeps one out.
Who cares what scientists think except what they specialize in. for what thats worth for most of them.


Vincent Torley said...

Anonymous A. A. Jacomelli said...

"I still don't understand the First Way."

Quotes below are taken from Professor Feser's 2011 article, "Existential Inertia and the Five Ways" (American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 85, No. 2, pp. 237-267.]


"The First Way is otherwise known as the argument from motion to an Unmoved Mover, where by 'motion' Aquinas means change of any sort and where by 'change' he means the reduction of potency to act (or potentiality to actuality)...But I would suggest that the heart of the argument ... can be expressed exclusively in the language of act and potency... [T]he thrust of the argument is best understood in terms of substances rather than events. For the occurrence of an event ultimately presupposes (for an Aristotelian like Aquinas, certainly) the existence of a substance or substances; and the existence of a natural substance involves, no less than the events it enters into does, the reduction of potency to act. (2011, p. 241)

Feser's reconstruction of Aquinas' First Way

1. That the actualization of potency is a real feature of the world follows from the occurrence of the events we know of via sensory experience. [In plain English: potencies get actualized. We can see this. - VJT]
2. The occurrence of any event E presupposes the operation of a substance.
3. The existence of any natural substance S at any given moment presupposes the concurrent actualization of a potency.
(The idea here, as Feser writes, is that "whatever the metaphysical details turn out to be vis-à-vis the structure of events and substances, they will involve the actualization of potency, and that this presupposes the operation of that which is pure act.")
4. No mere potency can actualize a potency; only something actual can do so.
5. So any actualizer A of S's current existence must itself be actual.
6. A's own existence at the moment it actualizes S itself presupposes either (a) the concurrent actualization of a further potency or (b) A's being purely actual.
7. If A's existence at the moment it actualizes S presupposes the concurrent actualization of a further potency, then there exists a regress of concurrent actualizers that is either infinite or terminates in a purely actual actualizer.
8. But such a regress of concurrent actualizers would constitute a causal series ordered per se, and such a series cannot regress infinitely.
( By way of explanation, Feser writes: "[T]he idea ... is that if A’s existence depends on the concurrent existence and actualizing activity of some further actualizer B, and B’s existence depends on the concurrent existence and actualizing activity of some further actualizer C, then we clearly have a series ordered per se which can terminate only in that which can actualize without itself requiring actualization — something that just is, already, purely actual.")
9. So either A itself is purely actual or there is a purely actual actualizer which terminates the regress of concurrent actualizers.
10. So the occurrence of E and thus the existence of S at any given moment presupposes the existence of a purely actual actualizer. (pp. 241-242)

In my opinion, the argument successfully demonstrates the existence of a First Cause of change which can actualize without needing to be actualized. What it fails to show is that this First Cause is incapable of being actualized, and that this First Cause is unique. More here: http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/on-not-putting-all-your-theological-eggs-into-one-basket/#E

Hope that helps.

A. A. Jacomelli said...

@ Tony,

Exactly. Glad to see other people have come to that conclusion too.

@ Robert Byers,

Science doesn't directly disapprove God's existence, I'd agree with you on that point, but science does however prove the Bible is an unreliable "truth"-teller as it proves its account of human origins wrong, its account of the earth's shape is wrong, the Exodus it claims has happened most probably never happened, and so on, and so forth.
Now if the Bible is wrong on so many details, how could its most fundamental teaching - that there's a God, be right ?!

To take an illustrative example of what I'm getting at, if a biologist claiming to introduce a revolutionary biological theory nobody else has supported so far (...) happens to be wrong about basic biology ; how then could his revolutionary theory
be right ?

So to conclude, even though science doesn't *directly* disapprove the Judeo-Christian God's existence, in my opinion, it seems however to strongly point to it.

That's where arguments such as Aquinas' Five Ways, come into play.
Because if they actually work, then they would prove that although the Bible is wrong about many things, it nonetheless, and against all odds has it right, when it comes to the existence of the God it claims exists.

(Which is why I'm so interested in the Five Ways).
(Which is why I'm frustrated by me not understanding them).

Am I making sense ?

Then you say "who cares what scientists think except what they specialize in."
This you got right. I'm pretty sure everybody here has already seen some very competent scientists spit bull**** as if being a great scientist, somehow also makes you authoritative on *enter any other field of studies in that space*.

But then you add that Creationists are the ones to do actual science.
I think it a bit out of touch.
Science is supposed to be an ideologically neutral enquiry - it's actually never been neutral considering it wasn't neutral under the influence of the Roman Catholic Church in the West and that of Sunni Islam in the Middle East, and then under
the influence of Atheism since at least a good one hundred years, but it is *supposed* to be.
Now tell me, how neutral can it be to only question a theory only insofar as it goes against your sacred book ?

A. A. Jacomelli said...

I hadn't realized I was writing a book.
Guess someone's on fiyah, today.

Tony said...

(Which is why I'm frustrated by me not understanding them).

A.A, have you grasped the fact that the 5 ways rely on metaphysical foundations that are generally not recognized and respected (at least some of them) by modern thinking? Without realizing this, the arguments will never gel.

Such things as
act - potency distinction;
form - matter;
being - essence;
substance - accident ;
evil as defect from the good;
primary and instrumental causality;
causal series per se vs causal series per accidens
and good, truth, and beauty being transcendentals coordinate with being

With these foundational concepts, the principle that actuality cannot come from potency SIMPLY, is a paramount principle. Feser goes into the required concepts at length in Aquinas, and more in Scholastic Metaphysics.

A A. Jacomelli said...

@ Tony,

"A.A, have you grasped the fact that the 5 ways rely on metaphysical foundations that are generally not recognized and respected (at least some of them) by modern thinking?"

Yep. This I know.

As for the concepts you've listed above, I know most of them (actuality - potentiality, essence - existence, primary
- instrumental causality and hierarchical causal series, most particularly).

Furthermore, I actually did read Professor Feser's Aquinas (which I have on my shelf).

And yet I still don't get the Five Ways. Which is exactly why I'm so bugged about it : I'm supposed to have all the keys necessary to understand the Five Ways, and yet I do not ?

For instance, why is it impossible for something to change itself ?
The explanation Professor Feser seems to provide us with, is that it is because a potential cannot actualize anything, let alone itself, and therefore necessarily has, when actualized, to be actualized by something else.
That's ok.
But here we're talking about *causation* and not change, aren't we ?
Which is supposed to be what the SECOND way is concerned with, not the first.
I'm so confused.

A. A. Jacomelli said...

Replace "a potential cannot" by "something that is only potential cannot".
That's what I meant.

Crude said...

So to conclude, even though science doesn't *directly* disapprove the Judeo-Christian God's existence, in my opinion, it seems however to strongly point to it.

That doesn't seem to work.

If evidence of type X would indicate a given claim is true (but not necessarily be extant if X was in fact true), then knocking down X doesn't get you to 'the claim is most likely false'. All else being equal, you get to 'I no longer know one way or the other'. I'd need evidence that a given claim is false - and science doesn't even begin to get in that direction. That's especially the case since 'God exists' isn't exactly a claim specific to Christianity; undercut Christianity all you like, and that shouldn't affect the perceived likelihood of the bare existence of God an iota.

Run on science alone, and as far as you get is 'Well we don't know'. And even then, you generally have to cast a blind eye or make some pretty damn interesting metaphysical assumptions to frame your science to pull that off. Putting all that aside, I don't think the criticisms you lodge against the Bible stand up much; I think at best it undercuts this or that interpretation of the Bible, but others remain - rather easily. (I'm not talking about totally writing it all off as allegory either; Adam and Eve, real people, complete with a Fall, gets retained. Is that the interpretation some scientists rely on? Maybe not, but then it's not a scientific question anyway so their authority isn't on the scene.)

Re: change, pardon me, I'm forever an amateur here, so someone can and likely will correct me if I screw this up. But I believe it's not the case that a composite cannot 'change itself'; that's possible. But the composite will undergo change while changing itself, thus having a potential inside of itself, and so it has a potential which needs to be actualized. You can't have change in a vicious circularity, so ultimately you must arrive at something that changes others yet is itself unchanged and unchanging.

Robert Byers said...

A.a. Jacomelli
Well i, so many, don't agree the bible has been shown to be wrong on a single point. Its people who are wrong about interpretation. So science isn't proving God/bible is wrong. In fact science should be doing this if the bible was made up by men thousands of years ago who must of got things wrong . Yet where are the errors?

A. A. Jacomelli said...

Crude,

Mwell. I guess we all have our own opinion on the matter, at the end of the day.

As for the Unmoved Mover, I still don't understand why it is that he should be the cause of absolutely all changes, rather than that of *some* of the changes happening here and now.
I think a couple good internet ressources on the topic could help. If you have any, I'd happily jot them down.


Robert Byers,

"I don't agree the bible has been shown to be wrong on a single point. Its people who are wrong about interpretation."
It seems to me that fundamentalists are intellectually dishonest.
Whenever science finds out something that *seems* to contradict the Bible ; it's suddenly time to interpret the Bible because
it cannot be wrong ?
And why can't it be wrong ?
Because the Bible's inspired by God.
And why is it inspired by God ?
Because the Bible says so.

Pardon me, but this looks a lot like circular reasoning and special pleading.

Then, you conclude with "Where are the errors ?"
In the Book of Genesis, in the Book of Exodus...
To take a stock example, if God had really crushed the ancient Egyptian army so that Moses and the Jewish people could flee, then, we should have found remnants of the said army in the depth of the Red Sea !
Researches have been done, and to my knowledge, no such remnants have been found.

A. A. Jacomelli said...

Vincent Torley,

Excuse me; I hadn't realized you had kindly sent me a message trying to explain to me the First Way, for some reason...

I'm going to read it, thank you.

A. A. Jacomelli said...

Ok.

So... There's almost no difference between the First Way and the Second Way, isn't it ?

The only difference I seem to find is that the Second Way uses the concepts of Essence and Existence, while the First Way does not.

For when something goes from potential to actual, then, it's simply caused to be.
Which means the Second Way is just the First way expressed in other words + the Essence - Existence distinction ?
I know professor Feser has addressed this matter in Aquinas, I recall myself reading what he said on that topic.
But I personally still do not see any difference between the two... Except for what I've written two lines above.

Tony said...

For instance, why is it impossible for something to change itself ?
The explanation Professor Feser seems to provide us with, is that it is because a potential cannot actualize anything, let alone itself, and therefore necessarily has, when actualized, to be actualized by something else.
That's ok.
But here we're talking about *causation* and not change, aren't we ?


A.A., in order to ask "why is it impossible for something to change itself" you either have to not yet "get" what is meant by the act - potency distinction, or you have to be missing the implicit assumption "with respect to the very thing in which it is in potential"

Take a wall. Right now, it is blue. It can, potentially, be red. It cannot be the SOLE and WHOLE reason for it's becoming red. If it is truly only in potential to being red, and not merely red underneath or something like that, then it hasn't the red in it to make itself red. If there is no red IN it, the red has to come from ELSEWHERE. (And I don't mean simply as under local movement. A blue steel wall might turn red-ish by oxidation, but the OXYGEN has to come from elsewhere, the wall cannot be the whole and entire cause of its becoming red, or it would ALREADY BE red.)

The same appears to be true of all entities that are in potency to some attribute or quality: to be "in potency" to it means, precisely, to be lacking something that would make it ACTUALLY that quality or attribute. And to be lacking it means it doesn't have what it takes, yet, to BE that quality. Getting "what it takes" requires it be acted on by something else than itself as lacking. (A robot might turn red by taking a can of red paint out from its interior reservoir and painting itself, but THEN what we mean is that the part of "itself" that wasn't red can become red by applying the part of itself (the paint in the can) that IS ALREADY RED and applying that to the part that isn't red. It remains true of the part that wasn't, initially, red, that it could not become red of itself, but in virtue of something ELSE - some other part - that was red.)

To be in potency to some state of being means not having what it takes to be that state of being, and changing into "having that state of being" cannot come from "what does not have what it takes to be that state of being". Being does not come from nothing. Potency cannot, itself, account for actuality.

Since the Aristotelian account of potency and act arises in the context of explaining "change" and "motion", there is no way to sever the understanding of the two from the causality that is involved in change and motion. Yet the first way focuses on the aspect of potency that it is UNABLE to produce itself to actuality, not on the PROCESS of producing to actuality. I.E. it focuses on the terms of the change, not on the change itself.

Don Jindra said...

A. A. Jacomelli,

"For instance, why is it impossible for something to change itself?"

I agree. Clearly it is not metaphysically impossible for something to change itself. One can assume such change is impossible, but there is no reason to believe that assumption is true other than looking for confirmation in how the real world seems to behave. But the real world doesn't give a definite answer for that. It looks like everything, including the Higgs boson, is in a state of change. The question could be asked, is existence even possible without change? If not, an unchanging Prime Mover is not possible.

Act/potency doesn't help. In the real world all change seems to be reciprocal. Act/potency does not move in one direction. It moves equally in both directions. An agent of change must have the potential to effect that change. It is changed when it changes something. So if we work backwards to a Prime Mover, that Prime Mover must have the potential to effect change. Obviously it cannot be "Pure Actuality" since it must have the potential to change what it changes. According to physics, which the First Way uses in a carefully chosen way, the Prime Mover will be changed in equal proportion to the change it causes. The First Way finds an Equally Moved Mover, or a Potential Mover, which is square one.

A. A. J. said...

@ Tony,

I like your explanation.
It's easy to understand, interesting, and above all, it does make a lot of sense.
So that's the logic going on in the First Way. I think I understand it better now, thank you for that.
Just have to finish reading Vincent's explanation... And I should then be seeing the bigger picture.

@ Don Jindra,

Yeah, that's also one of the many things that have always bugged me : how could anything be unchangeable ?
That goes against everything we've ever heard of or seen.
Of course, it is not because we've never seen such a thing, that it must therefore not exist... But as long as everything we know is changeable... It is one big assumption to posit the existence of something unchangeable. Such a thing seems to
me so other-worldly !

Furthermore, if the Purely Actual thing actualizes a potency, it had to have the potential to actualize that potency first... No ?
But then, if it does have the potential to actualize some things, how can it be Purely Actual indeed ?

I see I'm not the only one asking myself those questions.
That's... Reassuring.

Jason said...

@don jindra

To say "it is impossible for something to change itself" is a sloppy way to put it. For in the loose sense we know animals "move themselves"; but this ultimately is really just one potency being actualized by some actuality, that actuality's potency to actualize another itself being actualized by another etc.

Potency cannot actualize itself e.g. a plank of wood is potentially saw dust and not a solid plank, but this dust does not make itself turn into saw dust...

You say: "is existence even possible without change? If not, an unchanging Prime Mover is not possible."

This ignores the argument. Precisely in virtue of there being a series in which "movers" can only move in virtue of themselves being "moved", there needs to be a mover who is not moved, otherwise we result in saying were have a series of instruments...which are instruments of nothing.

You say: "So if we work backwards to a Prime Mover, that Prime Mover must have the potential to effect change.

This is an error. Again, in virtue of the fact there cannot merely be a series of instruments and thus the need for a "first", it is just of the Unmoved Mover's nature to be such that it actualizes others without being actualized.

But a physical being precisely because it is physical and thus act/potency, when actualizing another is itself being actualized.

In other words, merely asserting there cannot be an Unmoved Mover as it must have a potential actualized just ignores the argument

@A.A.J

You say: It is one big assumption to posit the existence of something unchangeable

Thing is, we must follow the argument to its necessary conclusion. And this is its conclusion.

Anonymous said...

To find oneself in agreement with Don is not my idea of reassuring....

Robert Byers said...

Jacomelli
One would not find remains of that army or any anywhere. All decays especially in water.
My only point is that the bible is true and never has anything been found wrong in it. If a claim is made then bible defenders take them on.

SK said...

Don Jindra and Jacomelli

God as Pure Act does not have potencies, but by potency it is meant that there is no passive potency. God for Thomists has all the active potencies. There are active potencies and passive potencies. Passive potencies mean that the object has the ability to be affected or receive a determination by something other than itself. For example, wood has the passive potency to be on fire. This passive potency can be actualized by let's say rubbing two sticks together or maybe a lit match. While active potency means the ability to produce an effect. A passive potency necessarily has connected to it a active potency. If I punch a wall and the wall has on it a certain dent on it, then I had the active potency of making a dent on the wall, while the wall had the passive potency to be morphed into that dent. I make the effect, while the wall receives the effect. The maker of the effect is the one who has the active potency while the receiver of the effect is the one who has the passive potency.

God is basically seen as Pure Active Potency or in other words God has every active potency which basically means God has all the possible power (basically means God is all-powerful).

Anonymous said...

@Markk,
Massimo Pigliucci? Thanks but no thanks.

A. A. J. said...

@ Robert,

My only point is that the bible is true and never has anything been found wrong in it.
But... Considering God didn't create us directly but that we human beings have evolved through evolutionary processes, and considering also that the universe wasn't created in six days, then it follows that... Man, I don't think I nor anyone can change your opinion anyways, so I guess I'll just let you believe whatever it is you believe about the Bible.
After all, I don't really mind and it looks like there's nothing I can do, so...

@ Jason,

Your comment might help me further my understanding of the argument, thank you for posting it.

A. A. J. said...

So... Thanks to Vincent's and Jason's comments, I think I may have re-formulated Aquinas' argument.

Please do correct me if I'm wrong ; here's how it goes :


As long as a thing is potentially X, it lacks what it needs to actually be X.
And as it cannot just give itself what it doesn’t have - for that would be identical to saying that something can come from nothing, which is nonsensical ; therefore it must receive what it lacks to become actually X, necessarily, from something else.
Thus, that which goes from potentially X to actually X, must be caused to do so by something else.

If the thing which causes that which is potentially X to become actually X, itself goes from potentially different to actually different, accordingly, it must also be caused to do so by (yet) something else.

This process cannot have an infinite number of members.
For that which causes something to change only insofar as it is itself changed (by something else), therefore only derives its causal power.
And thus, if this process included an infinite number of members, things would derive their causal power from (fundamentally) nothing at all, and would therefore not have any causal power in the first place.
And so the series would not (and could not) exist.
But as it *does* exist, therefore it cannot contain an infinite number of members : anything which derives its causal power, must necessarily derive it from something which does not.

Although it would cause the other members of the causal series to produce various changes, such a thing would however not itself be changed.


It seems to me to be fair to what Aquinas wrote.
We can clearly identify here the principle according to which something that changes only changes because of something else’s influence or action upon it + the impossibility of an infinite regress in a causal series which includes at least one instrumental changer + the existence of an Unmoved Mover as the argument’s conclusion, following from its premises.


Then, there's the one move that I have not come to accept, that is, the move from an Unmoved Mover to an Unmovable Mover.


I recall Professor Feser has addressed the problem in Aquinas, when he talked about some MacDonald philosopher claiming Aquinas' First Way was "parasitic", or something like that.
But once again, didn't get Professor Feser's explanation... :'-T

Eduardo said...

actually your point is more, given the Bible must only be understood literally, as a description of facts as they happened in reality, the Bible must be Wrong.

Don Jindra said...

Jason,

If I ignore the argument, it's only after taking it seriously long enough to safely ignore it. One has to interpret the argument in the world as we find it. No change in the physical world happens in a nice and tidy arrow of change. When A changes B, B also changes A. That change happens equally in both directions. You say "a plank of wood is potentially saw dust and not a solid plank, but this dust does not make itself turn into saw dust." Yet the saw blade heats and wears as it makes that sawdust. It is as changed as the solid plank. I won't ignore that change even though you may choose to ignore it. The blade is potentially hotter, potentially more dull, etc. Act/potentiality doesn't help you since all happens in both directions.

The First way looks at a series of changes: A-->B-->C-->D. But it ignores the fact that change is going in reverse too. That is, we also have A<--B<--C<--D happening at the same time. Both A and D are of equal importance. Both A and D are equal agents of change. If we must have a logical Prime Mover at position A, we also need a Prime Mover at position D. The First Way needs two Prime Movers to fit the real world, not merely one. In poetic terms, the First Way needs both God and Satan.


SK,

In the real world there is no difference between active and passive potency. It's a human, subjective interpretation of physical events. Everything, whether you consider it the active agent or not, actualizes a potential for change in each and every event.

SK said...

Don Jindra

In the case of a saw cutting wood. You have two causal chains, but the causal chains are not A->B and B->A. It seems more accurate to say it is A->B and C->D where the two overlap in time, but are distinct in that the saw is the cause in while the wood is the cause in the other causal chain. Let's clear this up.

First you have the saw's motion causing the wood to be cut, and then you have the wood causing the saw to become duller. In both cases it's pretty to distinguish the active and passive potency. With respect to the wood being cut the wood is in passive potency to being in cut in two while the saw has the active potency to produce this effect on the wood. With respect to the saw being dulled, its clear that the saw has the passive potency to be dull and the wood has the active potency to make this occur to the saw. I'm not really sure what's the big deal with this example. The act/potency distinction is pretty clear to make in this example. We just need get clear with what it is we are explaining first.

A. A. J. said...

@ Eduardo,

You said, quote, "Actually, your point is more, given the Bible must only be understood literally, as a description of facts as they happened in reality, the Bible must be Wrong".

Hmm. I never said that the Bible is *completely* wrong, though - for instance, the New Testament seems to me to be way more reliable than the Old (...) since archeology and various researches have confirmed the existence of the Pool of Bethesda, of the village of Nazareth, and yet many more places we didn't think actually existed until we found them.

Also, I never said the Bible must *only* be understood literally ; but concerning passages such as the Exodus (for example), why should anyone take it allegorically ?
And also there's more : once one starts interpreting the Bible, to what extent is he supposed to do so ?

It also seems to me that the Old Testament contains a lot of propaganda.
God choses a people above all the others ?
Right. So logically, that immediately makes that one people superior to any other, I guess.

In any case, I didn't really come here to debate that much about the Bible's reliability - and more particularly the Old Testament's, although I readily admit that that's an interesting topic of discussion...

I mostly came here to try to finally understand the one philosophical argument that's been on my mind for quite a long
time now.
After all, it *is* the one argument which made me go from atheist to "opened" to the idea that such a thing as God may actually exist. That's quite a lot !

Tony said...

But the real world doesn't give a definite answer for that. It looks like everything, including the Higgs boson, is in a state of change. The question could be asked, is existence even possible without change?

Whether "existence is even possible without change" cannot be answered negatively solely from the standpoint and evidence of beings _all_ of which have received their being, composed beings of form and matter (or form and energy), if there is the theoretical possibility of a being that has not received its being, and which is not composite. An assertion that it is the nature of composite beings to be subject to change cannot constitute an assertion about beings that are NOT composite, other than by a mere assumption that there cannot BE a being that is not composed. Which, I am sure you can see, would be a circular argument against there being an unmoved mover.

Anonymous said...

Why you be sure of that?

Jason said...

@Don Jindra

I should hope you do not actually mean to say you have warrant to ignore the argument just because you've "taken it seriously long enough to ignore it". If you're trying to object to an argument...you have to deal with what the argument says...thus not ignore it in pain of straw-manning. If by ignore you mean not take it seriously anymore, that is wholly irrelevant to your attempts of objecting to the argument - which requires you to actually represent it correctly thus not ignore its actual claims.

The point you raise is not an objection to the argument, for reciprocal actualization of potencies does not do away with the constituents being actualized by yet other actual beings.

B actualizes a potency of C, C does of B...it doesn't follow that there is nothing from which B is actualized (A, say).

It seems you are conceiving the argument's claim RE: essential causal series as if it claims there is a neat and tidy chain. If that is what you view the argument to be proposing, I suggest you think a litter deeper.

Also, it seems you just seek to raise any and every objection you can think of, no matter how irrelevant the objection is.

Your "objection" is literally irrelevant...It does even constitute as an objection

Anonymous said...

Also, it seems you just seek to raise any and every objection you can think of, no matter how irrelevant the objection is.

Have you never met DJ before?

Mr. Green said...

Jason: If you're trying to object to an argument...you have to deal with what the argument says...

Well, he doesn't have to. Horses led to water and all that.


BALDRICK: I've been thinking…
BLACKADDER: I rather doubt it.
BALDRICK: ...I was listening to that visiting monk.
BLACKADDER: You mean Friar Tucks-into-his-dinner-so-much-they-had-to-cut-away-the-table-to-make-room-for-him?
BALDRICK: Yeah, that's the one. Well, he says that everything in the whole world is a moved mover.
BLACKADDER: Yes. Obviously.
BALDRICK: Now, if I cut some wood with a blade, the blade is moved. But that doesn't make sense.
BLACKADDER: What doesn't make sense, Baldrick, is the idea that you could cut wood. That would make you not entirely useless, which is a paradox not even Tommy from Aquino could resolve. But what do you think is the problem with that?
BALDRICK: Well, if the blade is a moved mover, then how can it be a mover that's moved? He never thought of that, did he!
BLACKADDER: [wincing and rubbing his temples] Baldrick, if you were any thicker, we could stand you outside the castle to protect it against crossbow-fire.
BALDRICK: Thank you, sir!
BLACKADDER: Now, look: here is some wood and here is a blade. [He takes a stick in one hand and a small hatchet in the other.] Pay close attention.
BALDRICK: Yes? [He leans in attentively]
BLACKADDER: [whacks Baldrick smartly on both sides of the head at once] Q.E.D.

Jason said...

My above comment was crucially misspelled in responding to DJ. I meant to say "doesn't constitute as an objection"...

@Anonymous 8:51pm

I've actually seen many of his comments around this blog, though had never directly replied to him. It's clear he has his motives...surely with all the egregious objections...

@Mr. Green

Hilarious! Perfectly said!

A. A. J. said...

About my little attempt to reformulate the First Way, is there any problem you've found within it ?
Any one ?
:T

Don Jindra said...

Jason,

Of course I contemplate any and all objections I find in an argument. Everyone should. But for reasons of brevity I raise here only the ones most appropriate.

Everyone should take an argument seriously long enough to find the flaws in it. After finding the flaws, it would be ridiculous to take it seriously. That's all I meant.

Similarly, you ought to take the objection I raise above seriously enough to find a good rebuttal. You have not shown you have done so. For the purposes of argument, I have accepted the act/potency distinction. I've accepted that there cannot be an infinite causal chain. I don't, and don't need to "do away with the constituents being actualized by yet other actual beings." You tell me I have to object to what an argument says. I've done just that. It's you who has ignored what I have said and objected to something I didn't say and don't need to say. I'm not trying to show "that there is nothing from which B is actualized (A, say)." Your rebuttal misses my point. All I need to do is what I have done. I've shown that in *every* actualization by another "being" the "being" is also actualized to the same degree by the thing/event it actualizes. The direction of actualization is bidirectional and mutual. The Aristotelian perspective looks at reality through a telescope from its subjective eyepiece. It ignores the fact that the telescope can be flipped around. The image may be tiny to our eyes, but it's there nevertheless. The Aristotelian perspective can never explain why causal chain A-->B-->C-->D is worth looking at while D-->C-->B-->A should not be. It cannot explain why there must be an endpoint A anchored in a Prime Mover while endpoint D can be open-ended. (If D ends in the same Prime Mover, the whole argument becomes nonsense -- the Prime Mover moving and acting merely upon itself.)


Mr. Green,

"BALDRICK: Now, if I cut some wood with a blade, the blade is moved. But that doesn't make sense."

I assume you have cut wood. So you should be aware that cutting wood has a feel distinctly different than cutting air. A rational person would admit the wood is somehow connected to the feel of the blade cutting against wood. Some wood puts up quite a fight while being cut. It's that fight that the Aristotelian tries to ignore. But I will not ignore it. If a Prime Mover is hidden behind the saw, a -(Prime Mover) is hidden behind the wood.


SK,

"With respect to the wood being cut the wood is in passive potency to being cut in two while the saw has the active potency to produce this effect on the wood."

That active/passive distinction is a subjective interpretation. Surely the -(Prime Mover) behind the wood "actively" made the wood hard.

A. A. J. said...

Hmm.
I don't know whether or not the argument actually works, but if I understood it well, it seems to me to be pretty good, actually.

A. A. J. said...

Or at least *possibly* true and to be taken seriously.
"Good" may not be the one most appropriate word, when talking about an argument.

Tony said...

Don Jindra:

When A changes B, B also changes A. That change happens equally in both directions.

The First way looks at a series of changes: A-->B-->C-->D. But it ignores the fact that change is going in reverse too. That is, we also have A<--B<--C<--D happening at the same time.

In addition to SK's completely sufficient answer to Don Jindra, there is another answer: There are too changes where the cause is not "acted upon" by the effected being. You are thinking of all change as reducible to efficient causality, and to local motion. But there are other sorts. If a pretty girl walks down the beach in skimpy suit, and some guy she doesn't even know is there sees her and has a reaction to her, that does not cause an "equal and opposite" action in her. The movement of his appetite and the subsequent movement of his physical attributes (increased heart rate, adrenaline, turning of the head, ...etc.) does not result in an action upon her.

If a math teacher teaches a class how to use the rules of powers, the students' learning a new truth does not cause an effect in the teacher. Consider it this way: if 17 of the students successfully learn the rules, and 8 don't, that does not cause something in the teacher different from when 16 of the students learn it and 9 don't. The successful learning of the 17th student does not have any "equal and opposite effect" in the teacher.

More generally: not all causation is that of efficient causation, and it is not all by physical forces.

That active/passive distinction is a subjective interpretation. Surely the -(Prime Mover) behind the wood "actively" made the wood hard.

This is wrong, for 2 reasons. First, the girl example above shows that there can be a cause without a reverse effect upon the cause, and thus the active potency and the passive potency are not mere subjective references to the same reality.

Secondly, it should be clear that "the wood being hard" and "there is an active cause of the wood being hard" is an irrelevancy to whether the saw's potential for becoming dull is "active" or "passive" to the saw. The wood is the wood. It no more active potency than its hardness gives it. But the wood has MUCH LESS power to dull a diamond saw than a carbon steel saw: the difference then is in the 2 saws, which have different PASSIVE potency to be dulled by contact with the saw. The wood's potency to be cut is fully actuated by either saw, but the 2 saws will be not be equally affected by the wood.

Tony said...

"the difference then is in the 2 saws, which have different PASSIVE potency to be dulled by contact with the saw."

correction: the difference then is in the 2 saws, which have different PASSIVE potency to be dulled by contact with the _wood_.