Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Truth as a transcendental


Last June, I presented a talk on the topic “Truth as a Transcendental” at the Aquinas Philosophy Workshop on the theme Aquinas on Knowledge, Truth, and Wisdom in Greenville, South Carolina.  You can now listen to the talk at the Thomistic Institute’s Soundcloud page.  (What you see above is the chart on the transcendentals referred to in the talk.  Click on the image to enlarge.  You'll also find a handout for the talk, which includes the chart, at the link to the Soundcloud audio of the talk.)

50 comments:

  1. What do you think of the view that beauty is not truth and goodness together, but a different transcendental? I mean, St. Thomas says in the Summa Theologiae that "Beauty and goodness... differ logically, for goodness properly relates to the appetite (goodness being what all things desire); and therefore it has the aspect of an end (the appetite being a kind of movement towards a thing). On the other hand, beauty relates to the cognitive faculty; for beautiful things are those which please when seen. Hence beauty consists in due proportion; for the senses delight in things duly proportioned, as in what is after their own kind—because even sense is a sort of reason, just as is every cognitive faculty. Now since knowledge is by assimilation, and similarity relates to form, beauty properly belongs to the nature of a formal cause." This would seem to imply something other than the view that beauty is not truth + goodness but something else.

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    1. @ Mister Geocon,

      Your last sentence has 3 negatives, which make it a bit of a train wreck. They are "something other than", "not", and "but something else". Could you clarify the meaning here?

      One of the last sentences not behind a paywall from the Aizen citation below [of a paper by John Knasas] is, "Once more, however, I believe that we have philosophers speaking past each other"

      I agree. Obscurity causes this and obscurity does not contribute to transcendent beauty but it (obscurity) is a good cover for bad thinking, or so it seems to a low and common mind like mine. :-)

      I am reminded of a case of two famous physicist quietly differing on some point about unification discovering after years of debate that they were using different definitions for an important term, and had been talking past each other the whole time. Still, it had not been a total waste of time as they had enjoyed themselves.

      Tom Cohoe

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  2. I'm enjoying these latest talks on Thomistic theories of cognition. This is, after all, the main topic that surfaces when the tradition is contrasted against contemporary continental philosophy.

    Which brings me to the question (please let me know if you have answered this elsewhere). How would the Aristotelian-Thomist go about defending the possibility of conformity between being and intellect against charges like that of Heidegger that consciousness of something as being commits one to a priori notion of being - since being 'sets up' experienced beings in the first place?

    That puzzle is, of course, what leads Heidegger to recover the "being that is already there prior to knowing" from the Parmenidean equivalence of being and thinking and thus confine knowable truth merely to its process of appearing to us, or "parousia" of being as originally understood by the greeks, and which Voegelin correctly identifies (but fails to object to, in my opinion) as the essential gnostic construct of modernity.

    I'm aware of some thomists arguing that the concept of being is also immediately abstracted from particulars. That, it would seem, only pushes the problem to common being - which we never experience as form apart from matter, and thus to posit it as possibly immaterial (and in order to move on to metaphysics) would seem like an a priori move, also.

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    1. Aizen,

      We know of being from our experiences of material being. And we know that material being cannot be exhaustive of being because of arguments for the immateriality of the mind or the cosmological arguments for classical theism. Does that answer Heidegger?

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    2. @Aizen

      What is the purpose of the word "possibility" in your comment? It's a thought stopper. Your comment seems to split here into threads whose meaning has one possibility or others, the way the cars in a train can pile up and go all over the place when the train stops suddenly. :-)

      But what do I know?

      Tom Cohoe

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    3. @Mister Geocon

      The problem is moving from "being = act+potency = form+matter", to the higher abstraction of "being qua being". The first sense is all you get directly from experience, and thus you have to keep any proof of the immaterial confined to form/matter talk to avoid the charge of a priorism. To make reference to the asymmetry of act and potency in an argument would pressupose its possibility outside the form/matter range - an abstraction higher than the data - and thus would be open to the objection that an a priori intuition of being is at play.

      @Tom Cohoe

      The point I'm trying to get across is a litte too demanding for my english writing skills. I'm surprised the train was ever on the rails.

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    4. Aizen,

      The act/potency distinction and the superiority of act over potency is a consideration that comes in to avoid the twin extremes of Heraclitus on the one hand and Parmenides on the other.

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    5. @Aizen

      "The problem is moving from 'being = act+potency = form+matter'"

      If the relation "=" is supposed to be transitive then you can immediately infer that "being=form+matter", but this would be false in the system of Aquinas, as there, being is general and includes not only form with matter but also form without matter (eg, angels).

      This cannot be done? Why not, in an argument that is not circular, as one from the "authority" of materialism?

      Aquinas assumes the asymmetry of potency and act and does not confine himself to form/matter talk. Quite daring of him, huh?

      "Potency and Act so divide being that whatsoever exists either is a Pure Act, or is necessarily composed of Potency and Act, as to its primordial and intrinsic principles". (From "The 24 Thomistic Theses").

      This is obviously asymmetric as it precludes pure act. But I cannot really see any reason why I should accept the finite materialist strictures. They do not have the simple transcendent Beauty of the undefineable God and do not appeal, no matter who asserted them as necessary.

      "an abstraction higher than the data - and thus would be open to the objection that an a priori intuition is at play"

      Oh no!

      But that can't be allowed! It would violate the a priori intuition of those of us who run away from the exquisitely balanced Aquinas screaming and pulling out their hair and crashing trains! :-)

      Tom Cohoe

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    6. @Tom Cohoe @Mister Geocon

      The objection aims to undermine the reliability of metaphysics - whose subject is "being qua being" as fully understood in the Thomistic tradition. The problem is formulating the source of this abstraction strictly in a posteriori terms. The Heideggerian would want the Thomist to admit that he is relying, at least partially, on an intuition of what being is.
      Of course, it can be said that being is abstracted from things and then used to examine them. But all we can get directly from abstraction is the form/matter distinction - "common being" - which isn't wide enough to include God and angels, or to move to metaphysics proper.
      I found a paper that explains the problem better than I can. It's called "A Heideggerian Critique of Aquinas and a Gilsonian Reply" by John Knasas, if you're interested. He argues that any proof that would get from common being to immaterial being is problematic from the A-T perspective, because "the proof appears to posit an efficient cause whose nature is form alone. But a case can be made, as Joseph Owens has, that in an Aristotelian context in which act is identified with form no pure form can be an efficient cause".
      Knasas (and Etienne Gilson) suggests that we can avoid the problem by beginning the inquiry with the essence/existence distinction instead of common being, but I'll have to read Being and Some Philosophers to see how that could play out.

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    7. Aizen,

      Could your recommend further reading on this? Wouldn't the answer be in the ability of a conscious subject to abstract per se, rather than abstraction about inanimate objects?

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    8. @T N

      Well, Heidegger's main points are developed in a lecture called "What is metaphysics?" and the book, "Being and Time", which elaborate, respectively, the objection I mentioned and the construct of being as parousia, or presence, which he was famous for.
      When I first read Voegelin's critique of Heidegger in "Science, Politics and Gnosticism", I thought it was odd that he addresses the latter but not the former. Turns out it is a powerful enough objection to the extent that many philosophers, despite resisting Heidegger's conclusions, tried to "move beyond metaphysics" after that, including Voegelin himself.

      Ètienne Gilson argued that Aquinas alone in the history of western philosophy has met Heidegger's criteria for legit metaphysics, though I'm not sure if he develops the point himself in "Being and Some Philosophers" or if later Gilsonians were just applying his arguments. Haven't read it yet.

      Spanish theologian Xavier Zubiri, who was Heidegger's student for a while, is known to have pointed out many flaws in his professor’s thought and then incorporating phenomenology to arrive at a new Scholastic synthesis, which is controversial (I suspect because he was very critical of Thomism), but some thinkers in Latin America, specially Brazil, are very enthusiastic about him. If you want to read more about Zubiri, I suggest Crimson Catholic’s blog.

      Regarding your point about the abstraction process, it would depend on the concept of being that is abstracted. If it is outright wide enough to include God and immaterial beings, like Heidegger seems to think is representative of the scholastic position, then it fails to come from sensible things. Of course, one can start with a modest notion of being and then move on to a more comprehensive one, but this movement is difficult if all one has is the form/matter distinction, like Aristotle had. John Knasas defends in the paper I mentioned that starting with the essence/existence distinction is a viable alternative.

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    9. Aizen,

      Thanks! I will look into that. I have read "Being and Some Philosophers", but it has been a long time and I'm not putting the pieces together. I'm sure I still have my copy so I'll look through it and see if I can get the juices flowing. I'll look at the other things you mentioned too.

      Interesting question.

      Dominik Kowalski, your reading this? Thoughts?

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    10. @Aizen

      I tried to write a comment in Portuguese - since I'm Brazilian too but unfortunately it wasn't approved :(

      I tried to answer this in our language but I want to be quick to remind you that I just meet this awesome blog in 2019 when I was facing a huge personal problem with myself since I was an unaware scientificist-naturalist till I acknowledge the bizarreness that my previous metaphysical visions were up to. So I'm a kind of a noob to say things with property about A-T, but I want to say some things:

      1 - the answer that you gave to @Tom and @Geocon I would say it get things backward since we don't get directly to Form and Matter without acknowledging Act and Potency first and that makes a huge difference because the starting point isn't just as materially confined. Act and Potency apply beyond material things, so the objection that we somehow have to make a ''jump'' to immaterial things from form and matter get's things wrong. Like Tom happily remembered us from the first of the twenty-four Thomistic thesis: Act and Potency divide ALL beings. The objection, in My view anyway, since you even stated that in the comments above, is that act and potency = form and matter and that is not right in the way you think it is. Form and Matter is just an especial application of Act and Potency to material things.

      2 - Ed has an incredible book - that I still need to give 5 stars on amazon - about Scholastic Metaphysics (I'm biased to say anything about this book btw). I guess the first chapter, the third, and the fourth chapter will help you clear out all these doubts. Especially the difference between Essence and Existence. If you want to really learn the subject, I recommend starting with this book.

      3- That's a friendly warning beware when comparing what we learn here from what they learn there. I don't even need to say that most of what we see here is very different from what they are trained to do in philosophy there. So most of the criticism applied to Aristotle and Scholastic, in general, is just a huge misunderstanding and sloppiness -not to say a lot of straw-mans that I grew up with within my own education. So be careful!

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    11. Oh, and by the way, I almost let slip a crucial detail - since it is someway taken for granted in my head that I even forgot to mention it. It is not because Being could be divided in Act and Potency that all beings have potency. God doesn't have any limitations or passive potencies (when I formulated the example in my last comment I, unfortunately, forgot to talk about that important detail. What I meant was that ALL beings could (only) be (plausibly) understood by the application of the theory of Act and Potency as a basic start. And God is not a being among others too).

      I'm sorry for leaving that argument vague for a while. I totally forgot.

      May God bless you all!

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    12. @Tadeo

      Thanks for the reply. Feser should know he's getting real popular for a philosopher. "Come to Brazil" as the kids say.

      Still, I think you missed the point of the objection. It is a kind of indeterminacy charge, aimed towards not the scholastic concept of being per se but rather the abstraction process one uses to get to it.

      I understand form/matter as a specific kind of act/potency distinction, or as Knasas writes "a composite transphysical commonality" that "admits realization in non-bodies", but the heideggerian would object that such a notion shows an already existing intuition of being that one is using to examine existing things. In other words, the distinction would fail to be an abstraction "controlled by the data", say, since what we in fact don't directly experience an example of act/potency that isn't "materially confined" as you call it.

      Thus, we can single out the elements of being that are properly "a posteriori" and that is equal to the form/matter distinction, that is what was meant when I identified the two.

      A thomist who isn't willing to bite the a priorist bullet (like Maritain does) would devise a strategy for metaphysical inquiry that gets to the fullness of the scholastic notion of being with only the form/matter-distinction-as-experienced starter pack, and without any pre-existing wider distinction.
      Knasas doesn't think this viable, but would rather suggest the "essence/existence" starter pack as a better option.

      In Scholastic Metaphysics, Feser comments on Ètienne Gilson’s “more general view […] that modern inheritors of the Scholastic tradition have too often lapsed into a rationalist ‘essentialism’ and thereby moved away from the ‘existentialism’ one finds in Aquinas.”
      I haven’t read Gilson yet, but this remark and Knasas’ paper suggest that a strictly a posteriori strategy is what he was trying to elaborate with his existential Thomism.

      P.S: Hard to debate these things in English isn't it? I think the words for “being” we inherited from Latin help separate the act, “ser”, from the existing thing, “ente”. In English you have all these "being, but like in this" or "being, inasmuch as in that" crowded around like an awkward 20 year high school reunion.

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    13. "Knasas (and Etienne Gilson) suggests that we can avoid the problem by beginning the inquiry with the essence/existence distinction instead of common being, but I'll have to read Being and Some Philosophers to see how that could play out."

      I liked the Knasas/Gilson approach. It establishes metaphysics on the things of our senses and only later comes to ens commune, on the basis of the essence existence distinction found in individual things.

      The Heideggerian is constantly on the lookout for ontotheologizing though, calling foul whenever he sees some a priori thinking occurring. But I think one of the main issues is that Heidegger seems to base his notion of being on the univocal Scotist notion, and follows others in the same error, as Barth and Suarez.

      I am personally attracted to Aquinas' theory of analogy. I think it preserves the mystery and otherness of God in his divinity, while leaving room for some similitude between God and his creation as his effects.

      Here is a quote from Benedict Ashley, I like:

      "The First Cause, in its infinity, is utterly beyond human comprehension and definition, and is best described as in the Bible: "I Am" - that is, the one in whom essence and existence are identical, the one who exists necessarily. This at least distinguishes the First Cause absolutely from its creatures that exist only contingently, that is, as having existence that is really distinct from all they are, from their "essence". Properly understood, this fully answers Heidegger's complaint that classical philosophy had only an "onto-theological" conception of God, that is, conceived the First Cause as simply the highest degree of the sort of "being" possessed by humans in the world. This of course would be true if the First Cause were included in the ens commune that is the subject of Metascience [what Asheley calls Metaphysics for modern readers] ; but for Aquinas it is not so included but is the goal of that science, which, however, the science can never claim to comprehend."

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    14. @ Aizen,


      The Knasas paper you cited to me was behind a paywall. But almost the last sentence in the free extract was, "Once more, however, I believe that we have philosophers speaking past each other". I agree. You do not engage Thomism at all, but merely seek to smother it from false authority.


      Heidegger was an unrepentant Nazi and never regretted the extermination programs. While I can see that a certain subset of philosophers ("continental" you named them) would excuse this sign that his head wasn't on straight, would indeed perhaps be even enthused by it, most would see it as a sign that he could not think properly (even though from his miasma an occasionally correct bit would emerge, the way a broken clock is correct twice a day). The majority, however, would reject the idea of becoming one of his disciples, requiring as it would, the digestion of a congeries of nonsense with its strange ideas and manifold terminology at odds with established standards.


      This stuff from Heidegger is just malevolent poison purposed to "killing God a la Nietzsche" in order to ease the establishment of an order whose power would be based on killing people the way his Nazi co-rulers did in his early years, and the way the Marxists, with whom he fellow-traveled, did in their years of rule.


      With clever sophistry, he denied that his system implied atheism by saying that it was indifferent to the existence of God. But this, of course, is atheistic, because his system was totalitarian in terms of how we should act and think, completely inconsistent with freely choosing the Way of God. Why then would any naive young person undermined by Heidegger's teaching worship God? The reasons would be undercut.


      This then, is the real reason to actively oppose Heigeggerian teaching. Not as an interesting exercise for the self, which it is not, but to help innoculate the other, the impressionable young minds, out of love of neighbour.


      Some who are wavering weakly might feel that mentioning his Nazi past and lifelong lack of repentance is not relevant to the intellectual exercise of philosophy, but it is not so. The decisions he made on how to conduct his own life are the absolutely clearest signs that he was a bad thinker from the deepest level and to stay away from him if you could not see this. Sophistry that includes lying as a technique is pretty easy and pretty dangerous. As someone said, "Don't argue with the devil. He lies!" Heidegger demonstrated his use of lying by his assertion that his irrational system did not imply atheism, but it absolutely did _ut ex superioribus patet_. And shouldn't disciples follow the master in all of his method?


      So be warned. The way of Heidegger is not the way of love.


      Now what is the opposite of the "conitinental"? The dumb "American", exemplified by Ed and those with him, especially Catholics of course?


      Tom Cohoe

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    15. @Daniel

      Yes, from what I've read the approach is promising. And it is consistent with the figure of Aquinas for such a crucial insight to surface centuries later and put the house in order. I wonder if Heidegger's mistake here is behind Zubiri's constant focus on God's transcendence - the "absolutely absolute reality" and all that.

      @Tom Cohoe

      Your cautionary tale isn't unwarranted, and the break with dialogue is understandable, I don't like the guy either. Still, there's something Karen-ish in your tone so I won't engage at length (F for subtlety).

      There's a link to the full paper in my reply to T N above.

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    16. @ Aizen,

      Now why would anyone think that it would be good to be subtle about truth when a direct and clear approach is available. Subtlety would be good, though, where deception is the end and I can understand that you might not think I was subtle in accusing _you_ personally of something, but honestly, I was trying to avoid that, as I am not even sure what your purpose is. Still, it's sometimes hard to avoid the blast stinging the person reporting, and while I deny that lack of sublety here is a problem (it is a necessary approach direction among others), I might fairly cop to the charge that I was not careful enough and may have been unfair to you.

      Tom Cohoe

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    17. @Aizen

      Oh, I think I get it now.

      Unfortunately, I am not capable to give you an answer to that. I can see something "fishy" about it but I am unqualified to address this issue since I don't know how to properly answer that.

      My original concern was related to Substance (of course, my problem was a huge amount of misunderstandings and distress caused by people like Libet, Harris e co., and bizarre metaphysical views like buddhism - that was subtle in Harris - and Naturalism plus my own amount of dumbness and ignorance lol). So I can't properly give you a direction in your problem. Sorry mate :(

      P.S I guess if Ed was to come to Brazil I would be like: "What? Who do I have to kill to talk with this guy personally?" But jokes aside I would be his touristic guide any time.

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    18. "Yes, from what I've read the approach is promising. And it is consistent with the figure of Aquinas for such a crucial insight to surface centuries later and put the house in order."

      I haven't read enough Heidegger to see if he has made any kind of case against an analogical view of being, but he would have to specifically address this before I would consider his onto-theologizing accusation as applicable to Aquinas.

      It seems to work with Suarez's or Scotus's univocal conception of being though (which Heidegger was known to have been exposed to). Still, Scotus and Suarez had their reasons for rejecting Analogy. Also, Scotus did not accept that Essence and Existence were truly distinct, which again would throw a wrench into Aquinas's approach.

      Ed talks a lot about these controversies in his Scholastic Metaphysics, where he defends the analogy of being and the real distinction between essence and existence. There is a good bibliography there if you wanted to go deeper.

      "I wonder if Heidegger's mistake here is behind Zubiri's constant focus on God's transcendence - the "absolutely absolute reality" and all that."

      I went to the Web site you mentioned. If he was in agreement with Heidegger's claims about onto theology, then it seems likely that he would insist on something like this as a way out of Heidegger's accusation. I have never been exposed to his thinking though, so I don't know.

      Heidegger is such a word salad though. I have to admit I like the specificity of Thomistic thinking, where every word is like the cog in a machine, strictly defined for its purpose to make the whole engine operate.

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    19. What Daniel has said is, no doubt, true and part of the equation. Tom Cohoe's post was just an ad hominem--just because someone is a bad person doesn't mean they can't make a true argument. Nonetheless, if the atheist argument is true, there's no reason to not accept theism anyway (what makes atheists think they get to tell us purposeless chemicals how to waste our meaningless time anyway?).

      I'm rereading "Being and Some Philosophers", but that'll take a while. Thanks for bringing this issue up!

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    20. @ T N,

      Just because someone makes an ad hominem (it wasn't) actually), doesn't mean he can't make a true argument. I mean if never repenting of a killer ideology doesn't disqualify then much less does saying words that are direct and blunt.

      Jeez!

      Tom Cohoe

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    21. @Daniel

      Heidegger's a word pinãta. I remember a lecture by brazillian philospher Olavo de Carvalho where he remarked that german is a language for talking with elves in the forest, not to do philosophy. I don't speak german but, well, it would explain a lot.

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    22. Hey Aizen,

      I've been doing a lot of reading this weekend, and wanted to post some additional thoughts on your initial post:

      "That puzzle is, of course, what leads Heidegger to recover the "being that is already there prior to knowing" from the Parmenidean equivalence of being and thinking and thus confine knowable truth merely to its process of appearing to us, or "parousia" of being as originally understood by the greeks, and which Voegelin correctly identifies (but fails to object to, in my opinion) as the essential gnostic construct of modernity.

      I'm aware of some thomists arguing that the concept of being is also immediately abstracted from particulars. That, it would seem, only pushes the problem to common being - which we never experience as form apart from matter, and thus to posit it as possibly immaterial (and in order to move on to metaphysics) would seem like an a priori move, also."

      Common being is not what we first experience. All knowledge comes to us through the senses, as per Aristotle and Thomas. Thus the first thing we become aware of is ens mobile or being in motion or changing being. All our knowledge is based on this experience of the external world of changeable things. We notice that things come and go, that there are differences between things - different sensations - touch, taste, smell, sight, sound. From these our logic begins to develop. We start to formulate first principles, such as the law of non contradiction, the principle of causality, etc... even though our knowledge of these is not explicit. We don't somehow come to a knowledge of all beings that exist, but from the starting point of ens mobile, we can slowly widen our knowledge of things until we reach ens commune and then the first cause analogically.

      I noticed that Mr. Geocon was making a similar comment, and your response was as follows:

      "Of course, it can be said that being is abstracted from things and then used to examine them. But all we can get directly from abstraction is the form/matter distinction - "common being" - which isn't wide enough to include God and angels, or to move to metaphysics proper."

      I would say that there is an epistemological order to the sciences where the natural sciences are first. These are the sciences directly "controlled by the data" and the form/matter distinction. But there is no reason to simply stay at this level, and there are other sciences, each with its own set of first principles that exist at a level of abstraction above what can be directly experienced. Mathematics comes to mind as an example of a discipline that posits things that go beyond what is empirically verifiable.

      But the building blocks of Aristotelian and Thomistic metaphysics are far more self evident than some of these. For example, the act/potency distinction seems to just make sense to me. It is based on our experience of change. Something is actually one way, but could potentially be some limited set of other ways. Thus being is divided by act and potency and potency is really distinct from act. This by itself negates a univocal conception of being. We already have two types of being. Being in potency and being in act.

      From there, as Tadea pointed out, we get the form matter distinction. And then when we analyze form and our grasp of universals, we get proof of the ability of human beings to grasp immaterial things as objects of our intellect. And from the principle actio sequitur esse we get a sense of the immateriality of the human soul, and so on and so forth.

      Where have we gone beyond the data? You could, of course, marshal arguments against the principles I've used, but I don't think you could accuse me of a priori thinking.

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    23. I'm not sure about that Daniel. Isn't that using derivatives of being via the sciences as substitutions for being itself? That's really the whole complaint, no? Perhaps if you cut through all the words what's really being complained about is that being qua being is not accessible to the human mind and therefore any claims about it should be thrown out. But how would the skeptic pass his own test in that regard? He must make the same axiomatic assumptions no less for complaining about it.

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    24. Hey TN,

      I think for Aristotle and Thomas, knowledge always begins from the senses and flows to the intellect as it investigates effects to arrive at their causes (a posteriori). You can get to ens commune in that direction, and even up to a Frist Mover, First Cause, etc... But once you have gotten to that point, you can then proceed to demonstrate effects from their causes (a priori). You reason up first (and that is what I mean when I say the natural sciences are epistemically first, then mathematics, then logic, then metaphysics...), then you can reason down in an a priori way.

      The Cartesian insistence on turning to the subject and grounding all knowledge on the cogito is a foundation made of sand, because the cogito can't sustain any real knowledge. Plus, the turn to the subjective just muddies the water and confuses subjectivity with objectivity. Just read a bit of Hiedegger or any phenomenologist, and emotional states are all jumbled up in the package with indepth analysis of anxiety and boredom as though these things were equivalent to the act potency distinction. Not that these musings don't have a place, its just that it seems to lead to all sorts of confusions.

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    25. @T N,


      Daniel is using the empirical sciences as particular examples of abstracting "beyond the data" to get "common being" (this already being Heidegger's language from that pinãta of his), in which Heidegger, not Thomas, is therefore self contradictory. Daniel is also using mathematics as another, similar, example.


      With these examples of particular empirical data leading to the generalizations that today we call "the sciences", Daniel is showing that Heidegger violates his own rules about abstracting "beyond the data" if he accepts the validity of the sciences. IOW, how we know does not follow Heidegger's apparent rules (I have to figure them out by abstraction too) if we know anything beyond particular data. And since Heidegger is actually incoherent, he could always make up some more words, more suited to talking about elves in woods, to claim that his attack on metaphysics hadn't been understood. No wonder people didn't want to talk about metaphysics as "metaphysics", without denying it while the obsessed lunatic was around to throw endless nonsense at it.


      But this is not Daniel's argument as to the validity of the Thomistic recognition and use of analogy, which, because we can use our minds for abstraction after all, in spite of Heidegger's inconsistent attack on it whenever it was used against his _a priori_ assumption. Daniel's argument is an explanation of the Thomistic reasoning from change to "beyond" change, to analogy and its valid use which is part of how we can know that there is God without knowing God comprehensively, which, Thomas actually knows and often acknowledges,  is "beyond the data".


      It's pretty hard to believe that somebody allied to Nazi killing for wrong being could have ever understood the concept "God is love" beyond understanding that Love as the fundamental principal of everything was something he wanted to destroy.

      Daniel is also much better at expressing himself than I am.


      Tom Cohoe

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    26. Hey Tom!

      Good post! I'm not sure Heidegger would not bite the bullet and try to subvert science itself though. Just look at what his post modernist successors are doing to science today! LOL

      Just an FYI - Ed posted this article in new Untangling the Web post about De Konick. https://thomistica.net/essays/coughlincdk I think it touches on all the things we have been discussing in this thread and expresses what I've been trying to say much better than I've been able to.

      Cheers!
      Daniel

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    27. I agree with Daniel’s point as I wrote in my own post that the skeptic cannot pass his own test. What I’m “not sure about” is the method of making the point, namely making mathematics a different “level” of abstraction in this regard (not in the regard of whether numbers are real, or forms, or whatever). For our purpose here, Aristotle regarded mathematics as a “science” like the others: physics is the science of motion, but what is motion? Good luck! Biology is the science of life, but what is life? Good luck! All we can do is describe, not capture essentially.

      Metaphysics is the science of being (which is interchangeable with truth), but what is being/truth? It’s at least an axiom that we can’t not know and claiming skepticism about it is no help toward denying it, so the Thomist is not in any unique position in that regard.

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    28. Thanks Daniel! I'll look at it.

      Tom Cohoe

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    29. @ T N,

      Try reading the article cited by Daniel above.

      Tom Cohoe

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    30. He TN,

      Let me circle back to your original post:

      "I'm not sure about that Daniel. Isn't that using derivatives of being via the sciences as substitutions for being itself? That's really the whole complaint, no? Perhaps if you cut through all the words what's really being complained about is that being qua being is not accessible to the human mind and therefore any claims about it should be thrown out."

      My point in bringing up Mathematics was to show that, yes, you begin with the data, but you can also move beyond the data to reach conclusions that were unknown before starting the science. Thus, what we have access to is not being qua being, but ens mobile. And if that is all we have and can never move beyond (as in discover), then there is no need for a being as being that abstracts away from the matter/form composite substances. Natural Philosophy is all we could ever rise to.

      But, we do, in fact have good arguments that move from ens mobile to one immaterial being, at least, which is the first cause. And in the process of investigating this first cause, we get arguments for immateriality. And thus we arrive at a deeper understanding of what being is. It includes beings that we know directly via our senses and also a being that we know via argumentation which is immaterial (as per the arguments made, not known to be immaterial a priori).This allows us to escape the charge of circularity in our definition of being. We did not start with the assumption of being qua being, but only with ens mobile.

      "I'm not sure about that Daniel. Isn't that using derivatives of being via the sciences as substitutions for being itself? That's really the whole complaint, no? Perhaps if you cut through all the words what's really being complained about is that being qua being is not accessible to the human mind and therefore any claims about it should be thrown out. But how would the skeptic pass his own test in that regard? He must make the same axiomatic assumptions no less for complaining about it."

      Every science has an object that it investigates. The work of a science is to deepen ones understanding of its object.And the first, most important question that must be answered before any investigation can start is whether the object of the science actually exists. And that is simply the starting point. The work is discovering new and interesting facets and properties of this thing one only confusedly knows at first.

      And from the meager evidence one can put together of the immateriality of the first cause, we can only establish that there is an analogical sense in which the first cause shares the term being with us composite beings. Not equivocal, but definitely not univocal.


      "Metaphysics is the science of being (which is interchangeable with truth), but what is being/truth? It’s at least an axiom that we can’t not know and claiming skepticism about it is no help toward denying it, so the Thomist is not in any unique position in that regard."

      Again, we don't start with such a claim as an axiom. We arrive at it after argumentation.

      Let me know what you think.

      Cheers,
      Daniel

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    31. I was reading through Heidegger's Being and Time, and I think he makes a mistake at the very beginning here in the second chapter:

      "What is asked about is Being. That which determines entities as entities. It is that on the basis which entities are already understood. The being of entities is not itself an entity. If we are to understand the concept of being, our first philosophical step is in not telling a story. That is to say, in not defining entities by tracing them back in their origin to some other entities, as if the being had some character of some possible entity. Hence being, as that which is asked about must be exhibited in a way of its own, essentially different from the way in which entities are discovered."

      But we can tell a story - one which differentiates between act and potency, essence and existence, substance and accident. And ens mobile requires an origin to explain its motion. Its moving from potency to act. Right from the start, he is claiming, without arguing, that it is his first philosophical step, to not trace back the origins of being beyond itself. This is on account of his univocal preconception of being, I think. He cannot imagine differences in being that are analogical. That there might be a hierarchy of being.

      "But there are many things that we designate as being. We do so in various senses. Everything we talk about or have in view is Being. What we are is being. And so is how we are. Being lies in that a thing is as as it is. In reality and in presence at hand. In subsistence. In validity. In Dasein. In the, There is. In which entities is the meaning of being discerned? Is the starting point optional?

      In choosing one entity, we have to first make the inquirer transparent in his own being. This means we are asking about the entity’s mode of being. As such it gets it essential character from what is inquired about – namely being. This entity which includes ourselves and our inquiring as one of the possibilities of its being, we shall call Dasein."

      Right from the start, he has confused the subjective and the objective realm by identifying Being with this hybrid of the self (as the inquirer) and of being.

      By saying this, I am not criticizing the need for self reflection and for a deep analysis of one's inner life. But this is not metaphysics. This is closer to theology, psychology, or anthropology.And it is not to say that there is no room for phenomenology. But it has to be grounded on good metaphysics for it to thrive. John Paul II, Deitrich von Hildebrand, and Edith Stien are great examples of what can be accomplished in this domain when they are guided by solid metaphysics.

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    32. @ T N, Daniel, Aizen,


      It seems to me that you, T N, are using some words with their modern meaning arbitrarily confused with their T-A meanings. "Motion", in Aristotle is "change", meant in a much broader sense than the motion of modern physics. Aristotles' "Physics" is also a much broader category than modern physics. It goes beyond even change and discusses how we can reach conclusions, not through _a priori_ assumptions, but by using our minds to think. "Science" is what we know and can know. Modern science is "speculative science". 


      Mathematics is another science, not a "higher" science, just a science different in its own way from other sciences, which also differ from each other. Abstraction from the particular data of the mathematical science is especially clear, easier to follow than abstracting from builders, builders minds, builders intentions, architects, and completed houses, etc.


      With mathematics, counting physical things is the empirical data, each count a particular item made a true particular sensible datum by the sensible piece of material it numbers. But as soon as we talk about numbers higher than we have counted, we are thinking "beyond the data" and generalizing. That multiplication works generally is either an unsupportable assumption where it reaches numbers higher than have been reached through concrete counting, or you can believe that thinking beyond the data works, and we can use reason or argumentation to correctly conclude things and use _a posteriori_ reasoning from there.


      If you read the paper cited (first here by Ed), you will see that nothing of your complaint is original in the modern era. Aquinas already had understood these objections and answered them. Heidegger didn't discover anything hundreds of years after Aquinas. Aquinas already knew the problem of _a priori_ assumptions beyond the sensible, wrote about it, and avoided such assumptions.


      You would have to get solid with Aristotelian Physics to understand this clearly. For example, the "motion" of a plain old piece of sensible material is not motion relative to a coordinate system but change from a potential state towards its natural state, so a falling rock would be approaching its natural terminal velocity as its natural state towards which it is changing.This would be a "state of motion" in Newtonian physics, even though it is accelerating in a static reference frame, so the Aristotelian "motion" is a fairly decent approximation of a modern coordinate free "state of motion".


      Daniel, I hope this isn't too far off what you are saying.


      Tom Cohoe

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    33. @Daniel,

      "Right from the start, he has confused the subjective and the objective realm by identifying Being with this hybrid of the self (as the inquirer) and of being"

      I think you've nailed him.

      Tom Cohoe

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  3. Can Consciousness be a transcendental?

    Hindus consider the Supreme Being as sat-cit-ananda: being/true, consciousness, bliss.

    God being the Supreme Spirit, he is the Supreme Consciousness. Being and consciousness seem to be two sides of the same coin. For God, in a way, Esse est percipi aut percipere.

    This supreme consciousness is also the being, the true, the good, the one, etc.

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    1. No because not everything is conscious to the degree it exists. The other transcendentals are present in so far as being is present. Rocks are in no way conscious unless you defined consciousness in a very strange way that is foreign to the normal usage. It also depends what you mean by consciousness. God knows, but he lacks sense experience as He has no senses.

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    2. "The other transcendentals are present in so far as being is present. Rocks are in no way conscious"
      The rocks are not conscious but are perceived by God. To be is always to perceive or be perceived, at least by God. Nothing can be without being perceived by God. The phenomenon is not better described than as what appears to the consciousness.

      "God knows, but he lacks sense experience as He has no senses."
      Consciousness is what perceives, it is even more primordial in a sense, because it is what perceives knowledge and ideas. And it does not necessarily need sensory experience.

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    3. @ Om

      By that logic, power, say, is a trascendental, as everything is the object of God's power (including Himself, as the object of knowledge, for example).

      At any rate, to be perceived is not to be conscious, it would seem, even on the "Hindu" analysis as presented here. So consciousness is not a transcendental, as Journey 516 notes, because consciousness is not coextensive with being. Rather, the object of consciousness is, which seems obviously true on the expansive view of consciousness you seem to take as -the- faculty of knowledge (?), the object being, well, being.

      Please note that on the Scholastic analysis, it is the subject that knows (rather than perceives), not consciousness (which isn't really a distinct part of Thomistic philosophical psychology, to my knowledge, as opposed to, say, sense experience).

      But then, the precise translation of "cit" (even into modern philosophical parlance, to say nothing of Scholastic language) and the justification of the corresponding account always seem to elude me.

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    4. Hey Om, it seems like you are on to something spoken of in Plotinus called the Nous which is mind aware of its ideas through understanding them. As long as you aren’t claiming God has sensory experience then I think you’re on the right track. But if this is the case, your new transcendental is nothing more than the already existing: truth. Truth is the being of a thing in so far as it is knowable and known, perceived or perceivable to the intellectual mind. Anything that exists is knowable which is why truth is a transcendental. Not everything is “conscious” though strictly speaking and thus it is a bit of a misnomer to use the terminology of “consciousness” being a transcendental. Cheers!

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  4. In light of your talk and chart, could you comment on a few items from St. Thomas' comments on beauty and goodness in ST I Q5 Art 4 reply objection 1? He mentions there a few things you note in your talk. For example, he mentions that beautiful things are what please when seen. He also notes the relation of beauty to goodness (in that both are based upon the form) and suggests the relation to truth in that beauty relates to the cognitive faculty. However, this relation to the cognitive faculty is how he distinguishes the aspect of beauty from the aspect of goodness which relates to the rational appetite. Instead of relating to the rational appetite, "beauty relates to the cognitive faculty" in that "beauty consists in due proportion". It is considered under the aspect of proportion that beauty impresses the intellect first (and then draws the will). It seems to me that beauty is more intimately connected to Being and should be considered as a "property" of being on par with goodness and truth. The only reason I could see for "downgrading it" so to speak would be due to the modern misconception concerning what beauty is (i.e. beauty is in the eye of the beholder). That misconception is part and parcel of the relativism of our age. Yet it flows from a misconception about beauty as a transcendental. Your talk helps to remedy this point, but it does not seem to me that it is necessary or warranted to regard truth and goodness as properties of being and seeing beauty as in some way consequent upon them rather than seeing beauty as a "property" of being on par with goodness and truth, but only considered under a different aspect (as you noted in referring to the transcendentals as convertible with being).

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    1. Interesting, i read earlier a text that seems to agree with you: https://appliedvirtue.substack.com/p/the-metaphysics-of-qualitative-judgment

      The relevant part start after the middle of the text but the whole thing is very helpful.

      Aquinas do seems to really consider beauty a transcendental and his argument for it is very interesting. I think that at least Maritan defended this view too.

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    2. That article was interesting and helpful. I noted in the comment box there that it does not seem to me that "thing" is a transcendental. To be a thing is to be a "this" or a "that" which is to belong to a genus. However, the transcendentals do not belong to a genus. They are above genus, so to speak, which is was makes them transcendentals. The same seems true for "something". If something is being contrasted with "nothing", then something is redundant among the transcendentals for being is contrasted with nothing. For these reasons, it seems to me that neither "thing" nor "something" belong among the transcendentals.

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    3. Interesting arguments but i don't know if they go through. It is true that to be "this" or "that" normally is to be in a genus, just like being true or good is normally a way of being in a genus. But is not God, in a way, "this", because He is completely diferent from created beings, while not being part of a genus? This seems to mean that being part of a genus is not a necessary part of being a thing.

      About "something", it seems that something is contrasted here also with another being and not only with nothing. Besides, being is not what it his by being contrasted with nothing, it is nothing that is conceptually dependent on being, so it seems that even if "something" where only contrasted with nothing it would not be reducible to being(except on the sense that any transcendental is).

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  5. There are several points of confusion in your argument. To be true is not to be in a genus. It is to be above genus as a transcendental. That was my point. The same is the case for goodness. Neither goodness nor truth differ from being in reality, but only differ in what St. Thomas calls "aspect" or how we consider them. Truth is being as apprehended by the intellect. Goodness is being as desirable to the will. It is for this reason that truth, beauty, and goodness are convertible with being.

    It is also for this reason that we can say, due to Divine Simplicity, that God it truth itself (just as Jesus refers to Himself as Truth in John 14:6). It is also for this reason that we can say He is Being itself. Or as St. Thomas teaches that His existence is His essence (by nature of what He is, He is). Similarly He is Goodness itself or what St. Augustine and St. Thomas referred to as the Supreme Good and the cause or source of all Goodness. We could even say He is beauty itself (I think of the life, conversion, and writing of Thomist Lawrence Feingold on this point and particularly his doctoral dissertation On the Natural Desire to See God According to St. Thomas). However, we would not say He is "Thing itself" or "something itself". That is we should not say this.

    Likewise God is not a "this" or a "that" in that He is not "this god" or "that god" as though He were one among many. This is known not just from revelation, but is known from AT scholastics proofs that Feser has so clearly laid out.

    The article you linked to said that "the scholastics" regarded "thing" and "something" as transcendentals. My question in regard to this is: *which* scholastics? Scholasticism includes nominalists like Ockham, Buridan, and Gabriel Biel and it includes realists like St. Thomas, St. Albertus Magnus, and St. Bonaventure. I have seen St. Thomas discuss the transcendentals and "thing" or "something" is never named among them. Why would St. Thomas exclude them from the transcendentals? Because there are problems (such as I have noted) with including them among the transcendentals.

    Regarding your points on "something": If something is contrasted with other beings it is redundant to "thing" which entails being in a genus and a particular type of being. That nothing is conceptually dependent on being does nothing (pardon the pun) to undermine what I noted (viz. that nothing is metaphysically antithetical to being, thus making "something" redundant as I noted).

    Something could also be a way to point to a particular thing. This however would also undermine the suggestion that it is a transcendental because the transcendentals are not particulars. They are not individuated by matter and they are not part of a genus as I mentioned before.

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    1. Your points are very helpful, it does clearly seems like i got things wrong here.

      Now i can see your point, it does look strange to call these two things transcendental.

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  6. nooooo I live really close there wish I knew you were going to be there would have went!

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