Friday, June 4, 2021

Aquinas and Hayek on abstraction

Common sense and Aristotelian philosophy alike take it that we first know particular individual things (this triangle, that dog, etc.) and only afterward arrive at abstract ideas (triangularity, dogginess, etc.).  F. A. Hayek, who was a philosopher of mind as well as an economist and political philosopher, argued that this gets things the wrong way around.  The theme is most fully developed in his essay “The Primacy of the Abstract” (in his New Studies in Philosophy, Politics, Economics and the History of Ideas).  Thomas Aquinas, naturally, upholds the Aristotelian position.  However, though his views differ from Hayek’s in several crucial ways, there is a sense in which he allows that abstractions do have a kind of priority.  A compare and contrast seems worthwhile.  Let’s start with Hayek and then come back to Aquinas.

Hayek on the mind

Here, to oversimplify a bit, is how Hayek’s account goes.  Different neural structures dispose an organism toward behavioral responses to different aspects of possible stimuli.  For example, neural structure A will dispose an organism toward reaching for a round object; neural structure B will dispose it toward reaching for an orange object; neural structure C will dispose it toward halting at a hissing object; neural structure D will dispose it toward retreating from a slithering object; and so on.  A stimulus that triggers activity in A, B, and related structures will be experienced as an orange; a stimulus that triggers activity in C, D, and related structures will be experienced as a snake; and so forth.

Now, the dispositions embodied in these various neural structures have an abstract character insofar as they are sensitive to a wide variety of possible instantiations of the aspects in question.  For example, activity in neural structure A might be triggered by the roundness of an orange, or that of a Frisbee, a dinner plate, a bicycle wheel, or what have you.  Hayek characterizes these dispositions as “rules” of action.  And insofar as any particular action (such as reaching for an orange or running from a snake) will result from the aggregate of activity in several such neural structures (A, B, etc.), it can be said to result from what Hayek calls a “superimposition” of dispositions or rules. 

For Hayek, the abstract is prior to the concrete in a couple of related ways.  First, Hayek seems to identify any particular perceptual experience with the activation of the set of dispositions that give rise to a particular action.  For instance, he seems to think of an experience of seeing an orange as identical to the aggregate of the activity in A, B, etc. that triggers the act of reaching for the orange.  Now, we usually think of the perceptual experience of a concrete object like an orange as primary, and of abstractions like roundness, orangeness, etc. as derivative from these experiences of concrete particulars.  But Hayek’s view is that in fact the abstractions come first and make possible the concrete perceptual experience.  Only if abstract dispositions or rules corresponding to roundness, orangeness, etc. are already embodied in the brain can we have a perceptual experience of a particular orange.

Second, Hayek concludes, accordingly, that these abstractions are largely innate, and in that way too prior to any experience of particular things.  That is not to deny that experience plays a crucial role in shaping the mind, but the way it does so, in Hayek’s view, is not by building up abstractions but rather by pruning them away.  That is to say, before we come to interact with the world, a very large number of dispositions to react to various possible aspects of stimuli are already embodied in the brain.  Those dispositions that end up being conducive to the success of the organism’s interactions with the environment are strengthened, and those that do not end up atrophying. 

The idea is similar to the “theory of neuronal group selection” later developed by Gerald Edelman, and to connectionist models in Artificial Intelligence research.  Hayek also compares it to Popper’s philosophy of science, according to which knowledge is not a result of reasoning from particular cases to general conclusions, but rather of drawing out implications of general claims and attempting to falsify them.  Falsified claims are analogous to dispositions that atrophy, and claims that survive falsification are analogous to dispositions that are strengthened. 

Of course, we are typically not consciously aware of being governed by such dispositions or rules; indeed, conscious awareness is precisely a result of their operation.  For this reason, Hayek thinks we can never in principle know all the abstract rules that govern the mind.  For us to be consciously aware of some level of abstract rules, yet higher-order rules must be operating so as to make that act of conscious awareness possible; if those higher-order rules are themselves to become the objects of conscious awareness, yet higher-order rules must be operating; and so on ad infinitum. 

(As a side note, it is worth commenting that this, in Hayek’s view, is the deep reason why we ought to favor a kind of Burkean conservatism in social philosophy.  Moral rules and dispositions are among those that guide our actions, and like other rules they have in his view been put into us by natural selection and cultural evolution.  We cannot, he thinks, fully understand all of these rules any more than we can know all of the other rules that govern the mind.  Hence we ought to be wary of tampering too radically with traditional norms.  For the most part, the rules make us, we don’t make them; and when we try, we end up making things worse, because we don’t have all the information to which biological and cultural evolutionary processes are sensitive.)

Aquinas on knowledge of the universal

In Summa Theologiae I.85.3, Aquinas addresses the question of whether the more universal or abstract comes first in our cognition of the world.  He answers that in one sense it does not, insofar as we first have sensory experience of individual particular things, from which the intellect goes on to abstract universal patterns and thereby form concepts.  That is, of course, standard Aristotelian epistemology.  However, he goes on to say:

The perfect act of the intellect is complete knowledge, when the object is distinctly and determinately known; whereas the incomplete act is imperfect knowledge, when the object is known indistinctly, and as it were confusedly… Now it is evident that to know an object that comprises many things, without proper knowledge of each thing contained in it, is to know that thing confusedly.  In this way we can have knowledge not only of the universal whole, which contains parts potentially, but also of the integral whole; for each whole can be known confusedly, without its parts being known.  But to know distinctly what is contained in the universal whole is to know the less common, as to know “animal” indistinctly is to know it as “animal”; whereas to know “animal” distinctly is know it as “rational” or “irrational animal,” that is, to know a man or a lion: therefore our intellect knows “animal” before it knows man; and the same reason holds in comparing any more universal idea with the less universal.

Moreover, as sense, like the intellect, proceeds from potentiality to act, the same order of knowledge appears in the senses.  For by sense we judge of the more common before the less common, in reference both to place and time; in reference to place, when a thing is seen afar off it is seen to be a body before it is seen to be an animal; and to be an animal before it is seen to be a man, and to be a man before it seen to be Socrates or Plato; and the same is true as regards time, for a child can distinguish man from not man before he distinguishes this man from that…

We must therefore conclude that knowledge of the singular and individual is prior, as regards us, to the knowledge of the universal; as sensible knowledge is prior to intellectual knowledge. But in both sense and intellect the knowledge of the more common precedes the knowledge of the less common.

End quote.  What does all this mean?  Aquinas is saying, first, that we can know something either clearly and distinctly, or confusedly and indistinctly.  Now, consider how this is so in the case of the intellect’s knowledge of the essence of a thing.  A human being is by nature a rational animal.  Accordingly, clearly and distinctly to know the essence of human beings requires explicit knowledge of what animality and rationality are.  But these are more universal concepts than the concept of being a human being.  Hence, clear and distinct knowledge of what a human being is presupposes knowledge of these more universal or abstract concepts, even if a more confused and indistinct knowledge of what a human being is (namely, knowledge which does not involve grasping animality and rationality as the parts of human nature) does not presuppose it.

Similarly, there is a sense in which in sensory perception too, knowledge of more universal or abstract features is prior to knowledge of more concrete ones.  As Aquinas says, we take something to be an animal only because we first take it to be a physical object of some kind, we take it to be a man only because we take it to be an animal of some kind, and so on.

Notice that this does not conflict with the more familiar Aristotelian thesis.  It can still be true that, as Aquinas affirms, we could not have any universal concepts at all unless we had sensory experience of particulars from which to abstract them.  But sensory experience itself involves first grasping more universal features of things rather than less universal features.  And once sensory experience has given rise to a number of concepts, a clearer and more distinct grasp of any one of them presupposes a grasp of more universal ones.

Compare and contrast

To that extent, at least, Aquinas could agree that Hayek is on to something.  Naturally, though, there are crucial differences between them.  The most obvious is that Hayek is a materialist of sorts, and Aquinas is not.  Specifically, Hayek was committed to a version of what would later be called functionalism, according to which any mental state can be defined in terms of its causal relations to the input from the senses that gives rise to it, the bodily behavior that it in turn generates as output, and the other mental states together with which it mediates between these inputs and outputs. 

As Thomists argue, whatever we say about sensory experience, affective states, and the like, the operations of the intellect, specifically (which are characterized by conceptual content) cannot in principle be identified with anything material.  One reason for this is that thoughts can have an unambiguous or exact conceptual content, whereas no material system can possibly have that (a claim I have defended at length elsewhere). 

In fact, from a Thomistic point of view, the processes Hayek was describing do not have anything essentially to do with the intellect per se at all (though Hayek wrongly supposed that they did).  Rather, what he was describing (whether correctly or incorrectly) are the processes underlying both sensation and what in Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy are called the “internal senses”: the “common” or synthetic sense, which unites the deliverances of the senses into a single experience; the imagination, which forms images or phantasms; the estimative power or instinct, which draws an organism toward something beneficial to it or away from what is harmful to it; and sensory memory.  All of this can exist without intellect, and thus all of it can exist in non-human animals.

But since none of it amounts to genuinely intellectual activity – the grasping of concepts, of the propositions built out of concepts, and of the inferential relations between propositions – none of it really amounts to abstraction in the strict sense, which always does involve concepts.  Hence Hayek and Aquinas are, at the end of the day, not really talking about the same thing after all.

Related reading:

Meta-abstraction in the physical and social sciences

Progressive dematerialization

David Foster Wallace on abstraction

Concretizing the abstract

Think, McFly, think!

Stan Lee meets F. A. Hayek

Hayek on Tradition

Hayek the cognitive scientist and philosopher of mind

Hayek, Popper, and the Causal Theory of the Mind

140 comments:

  1. Computer science puts an end to this whole nonsensical debate. Say I want to model a dog with a data structure. Which existed first, individual particular dogs, or the data structure? The data structure is abstract. I look at a bunch of dogs and say, Ok, what attributes do dogs have? A nose, ears, tail, four legs, and so on...and what do dogs do? bark, fetch, eat, poop, and so on. So I create a datastructure like:

    class dog
    {
    int ear_size;
    int tail_size;
    int hair_color;
    int length;
    int width;
    int age;
    function bark(){ ... };
    function poop(){ ... };
    function fetch(){ ... };
    }

    Clearly the dog existed first. So the abstraction comes later.

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    1. jorgey,

      Computer science itself offers nothing new because typing information into a fancy machine is no different than writing it on papyrus; it's just more convenient, that's all.

      " I look at a bunch of dogs"

      How you first knew they were dogs before you went looking for them is the question.

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    2. Back when I programmed in Fortran 77, I would have set aside separate arrays for ear_size, tail_size, etc. So in that case, the abstraction would have come first.

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    3. WCB writes:

      Jorgey:
      "Clearly the dog existed first. So the abstraction comes later."

      Maybe not. We can have abstractions about things that do not exist. Comic book superheros. Cthulhu mythos eldritch Gods. Esoteric physics theories about particles that may not exist.

      WCB

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    4. @WCB

      Sorry to dump this on you but.

      Comic Book superheros do exist.....wait for it...as beings of reason and fiction invented in the imagination then reproduced on the paper of the comics that publish their tales. What you really mean is superheros do not apparently exist as substantive beings like the computer upon which you write yer so called philosophical criticisms.

      But because we have experience with the real things we can imagine fictions about them and enhance them.

      So it is clear abstraction comes later.

      BTW I detect you might be making Hume's mistake? Confusing comprehension with imagination?

      This explains yer obsession with Descartes channeling his errors.

      Comic book superheros are imagined not comprehended.

      Now off you pop.

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    5. WCB writes:

      Son of Ya'Kov does not understand comic book characters. They are imaginary. Thus Batman's Joker has been re-imagined numerous times since that character was created. And thus abstraction about that character have changed at various writers' whims over the years.

      WCB

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    6. >Son of Ya'Kov does not understand comic book characters. They are imaginary.

      But I just said that? Only using fancy essentialist philosophical language not ordinary popular speech like you anti-philosophy Gnu Atheist plebs.

      Of course comic book characters are imaginary I just gave an essentialist metaphysical description on how they are imaginary.

      You are falling back into yer fallacies of equivocation because yer a philosophical illiterate and after 6 months to a year of pleading with you to go learn at least some Atheist philosophy I see my efforts are in vain.

      Answers in Genesis is over there WCB. Stay in yer lane. You will never be able to offer Atheist polemics to any form of theism more sophisticated than Young Earth Creationist fundamentalism.

      Sad since I know you have intelligence. You would just rather waste time trolling than being challenging.

      Everybody here knows this.

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    7. additionally:

      BTW when we take about dogs preceding abstraction we are talking about substantive beings not beings of reason or imagination.

      Do keep up.

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    8. Let's keep it as civil as possible, please. I'm moderating with a heavier hand of late.

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    9. Is immoderate moderation still moderation or just an oxymoron? In any case, I was assuming Ed had just found an abstract enough subject matter with this post to avoid triggering any of the usual depressingly stupid self-righteous diatribes from people who don't like what he has to say. Maybe not...

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    10. I was assuming Ed had just found an abstract enough subject matter with this post to avoid triggering any of the usual depressingly stupid self-righteous diatribes from people who don't like what he has to say.

      Alas, I've found over the years that there's no such topic. I could say "1 + 1 = 2" or "Grass is green" and someone is sure to go off on some rant!

      But anyway, let's avoid even meta-level stuff re: trolling, etc., OK?

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    11. WCB writes:

      Let us consider a more down to Earth and historical example. Empedocles idea that the world is made up of four elements, Earth, Wind, Fire and water. The heavens were made of aether. Adopted by many others i9ncluding Aristotle and similar systems of though could be found in Chine, India and elsewhere. It is easy then to created abstractions on these ideas. One was alchemy. All of these things were simply wrong. Abstraction built on abstractions with no basis in reality simply is not a useful manner of thought.

      This idea of the four Earthly materials sent mankind on a millenia long wild goose chase. This should be an object lesson.

      This is why science basically demarks hypothesis from demonstrated theories based on hard evidence. Theory guides,experiment decides.

      WCB

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    12. WCB,

      So now yer serving up yer past (invalid) argument of dismissing Aristotelian Philosophy because of the ancient scientific errors he held too followed by you making an absurd and unproven inference Aristotle's philosophy somehow withheld progress? Seriously guy?

      (An odd charge considering modern science presupposes Aristotle's metaphysics as Dr. Feser showed in his last book)

      Ladd Democretus was an Atomist Atheist Philosopher and a flat Earther. So Bob's yer uncle.
      Are we to blame Atheism for misleading people in later generations in terms of the true shape of the Earth? Should we make a big deal out of the fact all the Theistic Philosophers contra Democretus believed in a round Earth?

      This is an old invalid argument WCB. I dina know why you keep using it?

      Yer criticism on the elements is also an anachronism and an equivocation.

      An "element" in this case is a component or constituent of a whole or one of the parts into which a whole may be resolved by analysis.

      Certainly the world was made up of components like Earth, Wind, Fire and Water and other natural components.

      Yer clearly equivocating these correct observations with later chemical theory where the term refers to a class of substances that cannot be separated into simpler substances by chemical means. Like Gold, Carbon and all the stuff we find on periodic tables.

      This is like assuming that what Democretus called an "Atom" back in his time was equivalent to what we call an "Atom" today. It isn't really. Democretus's "Atom" was a hypothetical component of material reality that contained no void. Not a unit of matter made up of electrons. Protons and Neutrons(which by definition would contain void)...

      I don't see how any of this proves abstractions comes later?

      >This is why science basically demarks hypothesis from demonstrated theories based on hard evidence. ​Theory guides,experiment decides.

      Yer plea we should surrender to Positivism is noted.

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  2. Hayek sounds like someone Jung or Jordan Peterson might agree with. Frankly, it seems that Aquinas would agree to a certain extent as well, keeping in mind the distinctions you made in the last section.

    How far can we agree though? Can we say with Peterson, for example, that our religious stories and myths stick around because they have been chosen by natural selection?

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    1. I don't think that you can argue that natural selection choses our religious stories and myths except in the Hayekian cultural evolution sense. That is to say, those who passed on those stories and myths tended to survive and reproduce more than those who didn't. Stories and myths are concept-dependent and thus ultimately rely on non-physical processes. Therefore, they cannot be the result of genetics.

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    2. Thanks for responding MG - I guess there is an analogous way that immaterial ideas might evolve, but that excludes the materialist conception that Hayek is operating with. And it is certainly not determanistic, otherwise that would rule out free will....

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  3. Dr Feser,

    What are your thoughts of this blog addressing your arguments against Platonism https://majestyofreason.wordpress.com/2021/06/04/fesers-insuperable-arguments-against-platonism/ ?

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    1. Interesting post. these responses do seems convincing to me, except on the second objection. Taking the quote used:

      "Furthermore, if [an abstract object like triangularity] has no effect on anything, then it has no effect on individual material objects, like the triangular billiard ball rack or dinner bell. But in that case, how could it be that which explains why those things fit the particular pattern they do?"

      Ed point here seems actually that the Forms, being incapable of causing anything, can't be the explanation of why things are orderly on the way they are. His writing is sure strange here, though. The modern platonist postulates these two radically diferent worlds that are connected on one being organized like the other but why matter is shaped like the Forms is a brute fact which can't be explained by matter or the Forms. One would notice that this point is something that Plato itself saw and that William Lane Craig pointed out to Roger Penrose.

      That would be a hard dificulty with the platonic view. Another would be the one St. Thomas(and Avicenna before him, i think) laid out in his argument to God having a intellect: https://www.newadvent.org/summa/1014.htm#article1

      If that argument holds, as i think it does, them a immaterial non-rational thing is impossible.

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    2. May be of interest: https://journals.openedition.org/etudesplatoniciennes/448

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  4. So Aquinas says we use senses to know the particular, then abstract to the universal through intellectual activity, and then refine our concepts from there (if I got that right). As a materialist, Hayek just claims that the neural states that correspond to knowledge of universals just exist like the slate in a blank slate theory.

    If Aquinas is right, the act of abstraction somehow connects us with transcendence: we know what “ought” to be. As Chesterton says: “we may tell the drunk who’s had his 5th drink that he should be a man, but we never tell the crocodile who’s eaten its 5th tourist that it should be a crocodile, because that is exactly what it is”.

    In Hayek’s view, there can be no “ought”—neural states simply are what they are. But the materialist still needs to ground it all in something, so they go for “survival”. Why “survival” is any more relevant than any other possible justification betrays the presumption the materialist set out to deny.

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    1. Hey TN, what work is that Chesterton quote from. I like it.

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    2. Why “survival” is any more relevant than any other possible justification betrays the presumption the materialist set out to deny.

      I have thought just the same thing. And a materialist can argue also that "survival might be uppermost in YOUR neural states, but pleasure (or sadism, or blue flowers) is uppermost in mine, and that's all there is to it". No contrarian materialist could prove him wrong.

      The idea also has this problem, common with other stripes of materialism: the neural states would be judged on some criterion like "survival", but (without a prejudicial assumption) nobody could claim that this criterion necessarily aligns with truth-finding. Then the difficulty comes that in effect, WE THINK we have these neural states because the neural states lead us to think that, but NOT because we are judging the matter on a criterion of truth. So our minds could not be relied upon in respect to ANY of our conclusions: they are just neural states in response to stimuli, that's all.

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    3. I have zero first-hand knowledge of Hayek, but neural "oughts" would seem to be grounded for him just as Feser described, via natural selection. And thus they would be inherently grounded in a survival criterion, since what is (and continues to be) is just what survives. And survival (being, continued existence) is, analytically(?), the first and most basic (and most universal and abstract) component of thriving (well-being), and thus the most basic component of any kind of natural "oughtness." And from there I'm not sure what there is barring the way to a standard full-blown account of natural law moral "oughtness."

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    4. Kyle, I think this is the passage, from The Blatchford Controversies:

      "If you wanted to dissuade a man from drinking his tenth whisky you would slap him on the back and say, "Be a man." No one who wished to dissuade a crocodile from eating his tenth explorer would slap it on the back and say, "Be a crocodile." For we have no notion of a perfect crocodile; no allegory of a whale expelled from his whaley Eden."

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    5. And from there I'm not sure what there is barring the way to a standard full-blown account of natural law moral "oughtness."

      David, I would be worried that trying to get to natural law solely from evolutionary biology would run into this problem: whatever selective processes put into place to form the usual "oughtnesses" we expect from the classical virtues, there could never be one that properly grounds the rightness of a young man (in the prime of life, but ESPECIALLY before he has had children) being willing to go to war - and potentially to die - to protect the aged. If survival is the first and prime motive, (and survival for bearing children the most critical subset of survival for evolutionary purposes), then it could never have generated an ought like the above.

      I am a bit familiar with the type of "enlightened" self-interest models that hope to craft a way for this sort of altruism to be "better" for the society as a whole - that part's pretty easy - but they never seem to get around to trying to ground "better for society as a whole" down to an actual mechanism that would successfully convert that into "better for this one individual himself" even though he would never reproduce. (It is different in species like bees and ants, because the drone individuals have a different set of genetic expressions making them not designed to reproduce. We don't think humans have "drone" individuals.)

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  5. Does this mean a more advanced Thomistic Philosophy of Mind book from Dr. Feser is forthcoming?

    I would love to hear your thoughts on just how advanced animal intelligence can be. The more I study Thomism and its very strict criteria for what counts as intellectual operation, the more I think that animals could do many things that people attribute to the human intellect (paint pictures, make fire, make tools and simple clothing, etc.)

    I would love to see Dr. Feser walk us through some of these actions and give his input as to whether these activities can be accomplished without an immaterial intellect.

    It gets doubly interesting as well when, as Dr. Feser has pointed out in the past, strictly animal operations (eating, mating, etc.) take on an immaterial mode when exercised by humans. For example, humans do not merely eat, we dine, we do not mate, we have conjugal relations, etc.

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    1. He has said that he is writing a book on the Soul. That would include a lot of philosophy of mind, as well as metaphysics.

      But, I think, that the book on sexual morality is going to come out first.

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    2. Actually, the book on the soul is first, then the sexual morality book. The former will indeed address the topics Scott asks about.

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    3. That's great to hear, Ed!

      When do you think it will be ready to be published?

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    4. Hi Zeno,

      It's been taking me longer than I expected, in part because (as usual) I commit myself to too many things and then find I'm always facing deadlines I forgot about. But I've been cutting back on new commitments in recent months, and have finally been able to get back to doing significant work on the book. It is possible that I will get it done by the end of the year, though that may be optimistic. I would not expect it to be out any earlier than the latter part of 2022.

      The sexual morality book (long overdue) is next on the schedule after that. The order of these things (including the books planned for after those) is deliberate. I like to think of it as my own Marvel Cinematic Universe master plan. Though I'm not sure what phase it's in at the moment!

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    5. And in case you are wondering, the books planned for after those two are on Catholicism specifically. You might say that after nature has been covered in some depth, we turn to grace.

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    6. Should you not better write a book on Christianity first before the book on Catholicism? Wouldn't that be the correct order?

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    7. Hello Jaime,

      No, because I don't believe in the "mere Christianity" idea. Naturally, a book defending the truth of Catholicism will contain, as a part, a defense of the Resurrection and other things that Catholics and non-Catholic Christians have in common. But in my view, you cannot defend Christianity without at the same time defending a certain specific view about the vehicle through which special divine revelation is given. And in my view such revelation comes primarily through the institution of the Church. Yes, there are various qualifications and elaborations to be made (which will be covered in the book) but I don't take the view that these questions ought to be separated out from a more general apologetic for Christianity.

      To put the point even more provocatively, in my view Christianity = Catholicism. That doesn't mean that non-Catholics aren't Christians, but rather that their Christianity is incomplete. Catholicism is not some extra bit added to generic Christianity. Rather, non-Catholic forms of Christianity are Christianity with important bits taken out. Hence a defense of Christianity per se entails a defense of Catholicism.

      That is in no way intended as an insult to non-Catholic Christians, for many of whom I have tremendous respect. It's just an entailment of the basic claims that the Catholic Church makes about herself.

      But we're getting way off-topic!

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    8. "But we're getting way off-topic!"

      Sorry for that.

      Just let me say one thing: thank you for your work.

      Christianity = Catholicism. I agree.

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    9. Sorry for that.

      No worries, not your fault! I opened the door to it myself in my earlier comment.

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  6. For the most part, the rules make us, we don’t make them; and when we try, we end up making things worse, because we don’t have all the information to which biological and cultural evolutionary processes are sensitive.

    This is past-oriented thinking.

    There are three types of people: those with eyes on the back of their head (past-oriented) those with no eyes at all (present-oriented), and those with eyes on the front of their head (future-oriented). Burkean conservatism is for people with eyes on the back of their head.

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    1. @FreeThinker Well, that just goes to show you how unnatural past and present oriented thinking is!

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    2. If I understand what you even mean by these 3 categories, BTO, (no small assumption), a premise that there IS such a thing as a "forward-looking" sort of human, and that this is (or may be) just as valid, fruitful, and rightly organized way to be human, would be an assumption that actually disputes Hayek's thesis. Because, after all, evolutionary development (as we so far understand it) is not and CANNOT be organized on the basis of some FUTURE condition, state, or model, but only on the basis of conditions / states that HAVE existed and affected survival.

      As such, your comment would require some sort of explanation and argument to support it as being better than Hayek's model of what humans are like.

      For myself (since I am neither Hayekian nor progressive), I note only that I don't know even what it would mean to be "forward-oriented" without a claim of some sort ABOUT the future; i.e. without at least an implicit picture or sense or content of some specific future, it would be a semantically empty phrase. And if made on the basis of some specific content X of a future, then it would be (arguably) not so much forward-oriented as X-oriented. For if not oriented toward something X that is specific, the "forward-ho" charge might JUST AS WELL move toward something that just happens to look exactly like the past - why not, if there is no principle precluding it?

      Nor do I have a clue why it makes sense to describe those who are "present-oriented" as having "no eyes at all" instead of, perhaps, self-focused eyes? I mean, wouldn't "no eyes at all" be a phrase more suited things like lower animals, and plants, and rocks, which do not act on the basis of a conscious motivation?

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  7. I'd be very interested in your thoughts on how this relates to Bongard problems and what the following essay calls "meta rationality":
    https://metarationality.com/bongard-meta-rationality

    How does an intellect come up with the possible abstractions that could be solutions to these problems. I suppose Hayek would say they are already bult-in, and somehow people quickly filter out all the ones that don't fit. How would Aquinas answer?

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  8. "Common sense and Aristotelian philosophy alike take it that we first know particular individual things (this triangle, that dog, etc.) and only afterward arrive at abstract ideas (triangularity, dogginess, etc.)."

    Hmm... I don't know how I stand in relation to common sense, but I'd say that we first encounter individual things, but we don't know them as individual things since such knowing is a highly abstract achievement. We just encounter a blooming, buzzing confusion. Is this encountered confusion of our (temporally) primordial experience universal, individual, abstract? I'd say it's none of these things, but in potency to all of these things, as a function of the development and maturation of the intellect through the use of language, whereby alone it is possible for these distinctions to become actually distinct. But once we come to know particular individual things, this triangle, this dog, etc. and know them as such, we have already arrived at abstract ideas, so it doesn't make sense that only afterwards do we do so.

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    1. I think it's important to notice that in ST I.85.3 Aquinas is talking about the priority of the more and less universal in our knowledge, not the priority of the universal vs. the individual or abstract vs. concrete. The more and less universal are both universal and both abstract, and all of our knowledge is universal and abstract. This is true even of sense knowledge, even if sense knowledge is subjectively material and its object is material. Also sense knowledge on its own is not univocally the same kind of thing as sense knowledge after its integration and hylemorphic melding with the intellectual (formal) activity of the knowing agent. There is no science of the individual, so all knowledge is abstract and universal, even our knowledge of particular individuals. The object of our knowledge may be particular, but our mode of knowing is always universal.

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    2. If you allow me to change the subject...

      "Hmm... I don't know how I stand in relation to common sense, but I'd say that we first encounter individual things, but we don't know them as individual things since such knowing is a highly abstract achievement. We just encounter a blooming, buzzing confusion."

      And here would be why aristotelian epistemology fails. The aristotelian intelect can only abstract the universal from the particular beings if the senses give him particular *beings* but that is not what the senses do.

      Instead of giving me, say, particular apples, the senses give me a series of experiences that features certain colors, certain textures, smells and tastes that my memory tend to associate. It does not give me a apple: a substance that *has* these atributes. If the mind is like Aristotle tell us, the most that the intellect could give me would be universals like redness, sweetness, softness etc. I would never have any knowledge of the universal substance, let alone of substances like gold, rock, human etc.

      In fact, if this epistemology was right i doubt we could know any atribute as a universal, let alone substances. For the intellect to abstract the universal redness from particular red things it needs to be capable of knowing what all the experiences of red things share, red. But how could a mind that do not already knows what its to share something be capable of knowing what these experiences share.

      It seems that to experience to be possible in the way it is to us we either have some *a priori* concepts that allows to organize experience(like Kant said) or we have something helping the human mind all along(like St. Augustine said)*. Like empiricism, Aristotle view seems to not work.

      *one could defend that we aways knew everything and experience just trigger the knowledge, like rationalists say, but that i think Aquinas refuted: https://www.newadvent.org/summa/1084.htm#article3

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    3. Talmid: "And here would be why aristotelian epistemology fails."

      What are you even referring to here? What "aristotelian epistemology"? Got a text in mind?

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    4. Aristotelian epistemology is Aristotle view in epistemology, and also the ones who, like thomists, follow him on that. I believe that the book where he talks about it is the De Anima.

      You know, the view that Dr. Feser is contrasting with Hayek view on the post...

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    5. That's awfully broad. And you haven't remotely done justice with your slapdash argument even to the tiny bit Feser has mentioned in the post.

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  9. With that in mind, here's a question/objection to natural theology from the nature of mind:

    There's such a thing as the active intellect (which makes the forms) and the passive intellect. Let's say both are in God.
    How could one be justified in thinking God is *actually knowing*, *omniscient*, just from that?
    "Since God is purely actual, and there is intellect in God, God is actually knowing, as the intellect is actualizing what it does"
    The problem is that God is only purely actual with respect to passive actualities - i.e. actualities which would involve a change in intrinsic properties of a being, were they to become actual. Otherwise God's active power of causing things would itself always be actual, and therefore God would always be creating things, and the universe and everything else would be modally necessary.

    Yet if God isn't always actualizing his creative power, why would he have to be always actualizing his active intellect? From pure actuality one could not infer that God's active intellect is actual/operating, unless one also infers that God's active power (creation) is actual/operating necessarily, as well. Yet if God's active intellect isn't actual, He cannot be knowing the forms of anything, either from Himself and his creative potentials, or from external objects.

    (PS: I am aware thomistic classical theists would insist on a strong divine simplicity - fine, but there should still be a distinction between active potencies and passive potencies in God, or between active actualities and passive actualities, as I put it. The power to create the world would be an active potency or actuality. But the power to know forms, abstracta, etc - that which is the power of the active intellect - would presumably also be an active potency or active actuality. Yet why/how would God's active intellect be necessarily operating if his active creative power is not?)

    If the objection succeeds, then God would not be necessarily omniscient.

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    1. There's such a thing as the active intellect (which makes the forms) and the passive intellect. Let's say both are in God.

      Unknown, I fail to see why a Classical Theist would be inclined to grant this hypothesis. There is "active intellect" and "passive intellect" IN US. What would we think we gain by asserting it in God?

      As far as I can tell (which, I admit, is not very far), your entire model here completely discounts the Thomistic distinction between causes and effects IN the world, in terms of having real relations, and God and the world, which is not a real relation on God's part, but only on the part of the world. And all that flows from this, including Thomas's teaching on how God knows contingent being and past events.

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    2. First error yer comparing the divine intellect univocally with how a human intellect works.

      That cannot be done at all with God.

      Second error U said "There's such a thing as the active intellect (which makes the forms) and the passive intellect. Let's say both are in God."

      There is no such thing in God. God simply knows. God doesn't gain knowledge or information and as the producer of all that contains information God simply knows because He knows what He will create and cause in one single act from all eternity.

      >The problem is that God is only purely actual with respect to passive actualities -

      There is no such thing as a passive actuality. Yer just making up your own terms....


      Anybody kinder then myself want to take a crack at correcting this?

      Your wrote:
      ""Since God is purely actual, and there is intellect in God, God is actually knowing, as the intellect is actualizing what it does"

      This makes no sense since God is Pure Act and contains no passive potencies then it follows God doesn't actualize himself at all.

      The problem with yer "objection" is you don't understand the subject matter sufficiently to formulate an objection.

      Cheers.

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    3. @Unknown.

      Another correction.

      >I am aware thomistic classical theists would insist on a strong divine simplicity - fine, but there should still be a distinction between active potencies and passive potencies in God, or between active actualities and passive actualities,

      Active potencies is just another way to say "Something that is in Act". Potencies are powers. Because God is Pure Act all of God's powers are in Act as He contains no passive potencies by definition.

      There is no such thing as active or passive actuality. Or more accurately those phrases you came up with are not proper terms of Art used by scholastics.

      I was confused by all this once. I read St Maximos the Confessor and he said God contains all the potency of Being. I thought "God is pure act so isn't this wrong? God contains no potency".

      Well the thing is Maximos was saying God has all the power of Being not that God has passive potencies that become actual thus changing God.

      St Maximos is rather clear God does not change.

      Cheers.

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    4. I think our friend here is trying to refer to passive potencies and active potencies. Active potencies are the ability of an agent to possibly do something (for example, I have the power to write long essays). Passive potencies are the ability of an agent to receive some trait from an outside source (for example, I have the ability to be satiated by the food I happen to consume). Thing is, God has no potentialities, so he cannot be said to have either passive potencies or active potencies.

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    5. Unknown wrote: "There's such a thing as the active intellect (which makes the forms) and the passive intellect. Let's say both are in God."

      I guess you could say that, understanding that the actuality of both are found in God in a preeminent and simple way. So the active intellect makes all things (Father), and the passive intellect becomes all things (Son). Or again, the fully eternally actualized possible intellect (analogous to our habitual knowledge, compare memoria, Father) eternally and simply contemplates (intellectus, Son) the fullness of this actuality. (Recall, (memoria: intellectus: voluntas :: Father: Son: Holy Spirit.)

      It seems your mistake is to suppose that creation is a work of the (divine) active intellect alone, and that the object of creation is in fact the (divine) passive intellect (rightly understood), whereas the kind of thing that is analogous to that in God is part of the procession or circumincession/ circuminsession of the Trinity of divine persons, which is entirely distinct from the act of creation.

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    6. I don't think any of the responses so far have answered the problem I've posed.

      For instance, Tony said

      "As far as I can tell (which, I admit, is not very far), your entire model here completely discounts the Thomistic distinction between causes and effects IN the world, in terms of having real relations..."

      I AM taking that distinction into account, which is precisely why I made the distinction between passive actuality and active actuality. In traditional thomistic terms, that would be "active potency" vs "passive potency".

      All that Aquinas's argument proves about God (before getting into the divine attributes) is that it is purely actual with respect to *passive* potency, or passive actuality as I put it. Since God is that which is the First Mover, it does not itself undergo any motion, hence it never moves from a state of potential to actuality, it just always is actual - this is to say it has no passive potency, only passive actuality.

      To be more precise, God does not change with respect to his *intrinsic* properties. So, Tony, I did take that into account. My whole argument in fact presupposes this subtle distinction. God is purely actual with respect to his intrinsic properties, NOT with respect to extrinsic properties (such as "being the creator of the world" - God becomes a creator, but this is a change in extrinsic properties with no change in intrinsic properties, what Feser would call a "Cambridge change").

      The issue is when it comes to God's knowledge. God's knowledge must follow an "externalist" model, such that "God's knowing that Tony responds to a post" involves no change in intrinsic properties. This is required because if "God's knowing he chose to make the world" vs "God's knowing he chose not to make the world" involved a change in intrinsic properties, then God would be changing, which is impossible for a thomist. So the difference between what God knows and doesn't know is a difference of extrinsic properties only, same for God's act of creating the world.

      And clearly, God has the active potential, or "active actuality", as I put it, for creating the world. The actualization of this potency is only a change in extrinsic properties. And then he has the active potential to know things.

      However, he doesn't *have* to actualize his potential for creating the world, if the world is contingent. But if that's the case, why must he actualize his active potential for knowing? Yet if he doesn't *have* to, then he isn't essentially omniscient.

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    7. In other words, and in very simplified form (please read my other, more developed post first):

      In God, there is such a thing as the capacity to create the world. However, just because there is this capacity in God, that doesn't mean this capacity must be activated. God *can* create the world, but he doesn't have to. (Unless necessitarianism/modal collapse were true).

      Likewise, in God there is the capacity to know things (more perfectly than in our case - unlike what some have suggested, nothing in my argument presupposes univocity, just basic analogical predication). God can know things. But why is it that, unlike his creative power, this capacity *MUST* be activated in God, such that he necessarily knows things?

      "Pure actuality" doesn't answer it because the capacities in question are active potencies, not passive potencies. And again, all that Aquinas proves is that God has no *passive potencies*. Aquinas believes God has active potencies, such as the capacity to create the world - which God can contingently exercise or not.

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    8. Unknown wrote: "However, he doesn't *have* to actualize his potential for creating the world, if the world is contingent. But if that's the case, why must he actualize his active potential for knowing? Yet if he doesn't *have* to, then he isn't essentially omniscient."

      So I guess your misunderstanding is maybe tangentially actually related to the OP? You're apparently assuming that divine knowledge starts with divine abstraction from sensory acquaintance with particulars or some such nonsensical notion. But it obviously doesn't. God doesn't create by necessity, but insofar as he does freely create, this is something he necessarily eternally knows that he freely does, and he isn't free to nonetheless also not create, and he certainly isn't free to create but then only subsequently decide, at his free discretion, to either know or not know that which he creates. Like I said before, whatever it is you can intelligibly predicate of God must be predicated of him in a preeminent and simple (sui generis) way, and his mode of knowing is necessarily always divine, even when the object of his knowledge is not (just as human knowledge is always abstract and universal, even when the object of knowledge is not).

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    9. Unknown, I still fail to follow your thesis. Perhaps the lack is more in me...but, not completely?

      So the difference between what God knows and doesn't know is a difference of extrinsic properties only, same for God's act of creating the world.

      The difference between what God knows and what God doesn't know is... nothing. God knows everything. There isn't any "there" in "what he doesn't know."

      God can know things. But why is it that, unlike his creative power, this capacity *MUST* be activated in God, such that he necessarily knows things?

      To not know a truth is to be not actual in respect of something. God cannot be not-actual in respect of something.

      However, just because there is this capacity in God, that doesn't mean this capacity must be activated. God *can* create the world, but he doesn't have to.

      You seem (to me) to use the "can" to reference something that stands as a difference to God: there's the "can make but has not been actualized" power, and there's the "now has been actualized" power. But God, from his standpoint, makes the world from all eternity: He is ALWAYS making the world, always doing it. There is no before-and-after, and thus no difference in states.

      The contingency issue is separate from difference. God, though IS always making, was (is) FREE to have not made. His making was not a mandate from his essence. Yet there was never a time when he was not creating.

      Aquinas believes God has active potencies, such as the capacity to create the world - which God can contingently exercise or not.

      He IS ALWAYS acting as maker, it is not a power that "got" activated in distinction from when it was not activated. The distinction is in whether it was free or necessary.

      But if he had chosen to not create, he would have known from all eternity he was not creating. Whereas given that from all eternity he does create, we can say he knows from all eternity that he does create (but the order of statement does not follow the order in the things). The only difference here (in the proposed "what is known") is a hypothetical thing, a "being of reason", and thus is not something that needs a cause like beings need a cause.

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    10. Tony says it better than I could by an order of magnitude.

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    11. Tony,

      "The difference between what God knows and what God doesn't know is... nothing. Etc"

      Yes, if God is omniscient, then there isn't anything that God doesn't know. That's not the point. The point is that it's possible (for instance) for God to have chosen not to create the world, in which case God would not have known many facts which God knows as a result of His choosing to create the world - and this world, specifically. To put it differently, what God knows is different in different possible worlds. In the PW in which God chose to create Earth, he knows the Earth exists. In the PW in which he chose not to create anything, he doesn't know that the Earth exists, that we exist, etc. This prima facie leads to a problem for Divine Simplicity, because God's knowledge is thus changeable, contingent. A popular solution, which Bill Valicella and Alex Pruss endorse would be to adopt an "externalist" theory of knowledge for God. See more here, for instance:

      https://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/externalism/

      In short, though there is nothing that God doesn't know, God could've known different things, and he would've not-known some things if he chose to not create, for instance. A thomist must hold that these changes in knowledge would be changes in extrinsic properties only.

      "To not know a truth is to be not actual in respect of something. God cannot be not-actual in respect of something."

      And this is the problem: what you just said is not the case with active potencies, or with "actualities" that involve only extrinsic properties. Otherwise one could also say: "To not-create is to be not actual in respect of something"... so God necessarily has to create things? No.

      Creating involves only a change in extrinsic properties (the thomist will argue), and so to not-create is NOT to be non-actual in the way that is unavailable to God.

      But then the same could go for knowing, and this is the problem I'm posing. When God knows something, this actuality would be an extrinsic actuality (if not, we face the problem of contingent knowledge). But in that case, God's being purely actual does not entail that God is actually knowing anything. He's not essentially omniscient.

      Is it clearer what the issue is?

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    12. "His making was not a mandate from his essence. Yet there was never a time when he was not creating."

      The problem is not with time. Sure, it's hard for us to speak with tenseless language, but the issue isn't about time. The thing is that (unless you embrace necessitarianism, contra Aquinas), we'll want to say God contingently makes the world. But we want to say that God necessarily knows facts. I'm not even posing a problem about how God could know he'll create something "in advance", etc., that's a different issue. The thing is that a thomist wants to say that God is necessarily omniscient, but only contingently creates the world. And if "God's capacity to know" is an active potential, or an active power, like "God's capacity to create", then just the fact that God is purely actual won't entail that God must know anything, anymore than it would entail that God must be a creator. And we want to say God's knowledge is an active power because the alternative would make God's knowledge contingent.

      Finally, the problem is particularly worrying if we adopt Aquinas's strict separation of the intellect into "active intellect" and "passive intellect", which ties this issue to the OP. If knowledge as we're acquainted with in ourselves isn't a simple perfection that just understands/thinks of/perceives properties as what they are and then universalizes them in the same process - if, instead, our intelligence first has to somehow create the forms (through the Active Intellect) which only then can be apprehended by the Passive Intellect, then in God (who possesses these perfections eminently as his own being) it seems we'd have another reason for thinking that, in order for Him to know, He'd first have to use some power to make whatever intelligible, which is also something that thomists wouldn't want to say.

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    13. I think that Aquinas view of God knowledge is useful here:https://www.newadvent.org/summa/1014.htm

      God ommniscience is not exactly a choice, for He necessarily understand Himself perfectly and, because of the knowledge of all He could create, knows also all the other possible things. This means that, unlike His creating the world, God perfect knowledge flows from His essence, so the comparison does not hold.

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    14. Unknown, I am struggling to follow you. I really DON'T find your use of "externalist" terminology beneficial, I find it more confusing than helpful. However,

      The thing is that (unless you embrace necessitarianism, contra Aquinas), we'll want to say God contingently makes the world. But we want to say that God necessarily knows facts.

      Maybe I am beginning to finally see what your difficulty is. Perhaps this is just one facet of a more fundamental problem, but how can God necessarily know a contingent truth?

      I probably have read what Aquinas said about God's knowledge that responds to this, but I am going to hazard a guess based instead on my grasp of Thomas's methods. Before I answer, I would point out a sort of "qualified necessity" that applies to past (and present) factuals: Given that some (past) fact is so, it is necessary that it is true - it is NOT POSSIBLE that it is not so. But this is called a "suppositional necessity", i.e. based on a supposition.

      I propose that we speak of God's knowing contingent facts under two aspects. First, he knows ALL possibles (both the ones that do come to pass and the ones that do not) qua possible through his essence itself, and this is known necessarily full stop. (No qualifier on "necessary" here.)

      Second, he knows all contingent truths and facts qua actual, in knowing his own act of creating. Now, God knows himself and his acting (which is unitary with himself) in one act of knowing, because he knows himself through his own essence. But he knows his freely willed act to create contingent being as freely willed, and therefore it is known in a sense freely while in a sense necessarily. (and here the "necessarily" is thus qualified, by the FACT of His creating freely; it is something analogous to suppositional necessity). But since God's act of (freely) creating is not separate from his essence, neither is his knowledge of contingent facts dependent on anything outside of his essence.

      It is not, then, required to say God knows contingent facts "necessarily" in COMPLETELY the same sense he knows other truths necessarily. He does know them necessarily (in the same simple sense as he knows other truths necessarily) qua possible, and in addition he knows them "necessarily" in a different (and qualified sense) qua actual.

      And I freely admit I am just guessing this is something like what Thomas would say about it.

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    15. And by the way, it is a toss-up whether it is better to say God "knows contingent facts qua actual through knowing his act of creating", or the other way around: for (says Thomas) God's knowledge of things is the cause of those things. Don't get too wrapped up in any sense of priority that seems to hang the knowing on the fact of creating.

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    16. @Tony,

      I think you hit the nail on the head - God isn't just identical to His essence, or to His love and wisdom, but also to His freedom and His free act of creation, which is why the world isn't necessary.

      In fact, the names we predicate of God (such as love, essence, wisdom, act of creation, free will, free act, self-love, etc.) don't actually grasp His essence or what God truly is in Himself because He is infinite. In reality, God isn't any of those names as we predicate it of Him because they (on Thomas's view) aren't univocal in God and are all one thing in God that includes what those names mean but in a transcendent and simple way, and though similar to them is also different from them, making predication analogous.

      What do you think?

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    17. @Unknown,

      Do you know of any solid literature on the subject of externalist knowledge and how it relates to God?

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  10. @Geocon

    I hate to quibble with a follow Thomist partisan in front of the Gnus.

    You wrote:

    >. Active potencies are the ability of an agent to possibly do something.....God has no potentialities, so he cannot be said to have either passive potencies or active potencies.

    Are you sure about this? Obviously God can have no passive potencies. That is something that can made actual by something already in act. God being Pure Act excludes that we agree.

    But I am not sure how God cannot have "active potencies"? Or do you mean God is Active Potency and yer objecting to Unknows use of plurals?

    Anyway cheers.

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    1. God can't have active potencies because He cannot have any potencies. If He did have active potencies, then He would not be Pure Act and would then need a cause. As a fellow Thomist, I'm certain you can see why that's a problem.

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    2. Mister Geocon,

      If God cannot have any active potencies, then God cannot choose to create the world or not. God is forced to create and necessitarianism follows.

      That could answer my objection - if God's knowledge, like his creative power, is a matter of active potencies, then God is always omniscient because he has no active potencies, they're all actual. But this comes at a very high cost:

      1- this entails a modal collapse since the whole universe would become necessary; there would be no possible world in which God exists without our universe, no possible world in which the universe does not exist. God is not free to not-create the world, he just can't help necessarily creating the universe;

      2- Aquinas's classical arguments only establish that God is purely actual with respect to passive potencies (or "passive actualities" as I put it). Since an active potency would be a type of act. More precisely, Aquinas's argument establishes the existence of a being that cannot undergo any change of *intrinsic properties*.

      The distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic properties is intuitive. Your being 6 feet tall, for instance, would be an intrinsic property. Your being a factory worker or a professor is not an intrinsic property, but a merely extrinsic property.

      Feser calls a change that involves only extrinsic properties a "Cambridge change". If you meet a kid, and in the future that kid grows and becomes taller than you, you didn't undergo any change in intrinsic properties. That kid did. And your extrinsic property (relating to that kid) changed, but you underwent no change in intrinsic properties.

      So yeah, if God has no active potential that could answer my problem, but at a pretty high cost.

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    3. Geocon with respect I don't think that is technically correct.

      https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/potency

      Quote"Active potency is the inner power of an agent to perform some action, though it may not be actually so doing, e.g., the power of an artist to paint a picture, of a bird to fly, or of God to create beings. Since active potency does not of itself imply imperfection, it can be found in both God and creatures..........When divisions into act and potency are compared, active potency belongs more properly with act than potency; the latter, unless further specified, usually means passive potency. Hence, to avoid confusion in terminology, active potency is more safely referred to as active power."

      God cannot have any passive potency since God cannot change being Pure Act. When we say God contains no potency that is usually shorthand for God contains no passive potency.

      Cheers.

      PS I learned the above from other Thomists and if I recall I think it was likely on this blog? My memory is fuzzy. I don't want it to be a contest between us but maybe Dr. Feser will chime in to enlighten us briefly?

      Our Lady be with you.

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    4. @Unknown

      This might help you understand.

      https://www.encyclopedia.com/literature-and-arts/performing-arts/theater/act.

      There is no such thing as "passive actuality". That is not a scholastic term of Art.

      Quote"Since act in itself is said to denote perfection, it is not limited except by a principle distinct from itself, namely, potency; wherefore the axiom: actus non limitatur a seipso. Both potency and act should be considered as principles of being, not as beings themselves. It is also important not to confuse potency and act as principles in the structure of being with two successive stages in the development of a being, as when one speaks of being first in potency (in potentia ) and then in act (in actu )."

      "The notions of potency and act are basically analogical."

      Like I said above drop the univocal comparisons between human intellect and Divine Intellect and you will do better.

      Unknown wrote:
      >there would be no possible world in which God exists without our universe, no possible world in which the universe does not exist. God is not free to not-create the world, he just can't help necessarily creating the universe;

      The only necessitarianism here is if God wills X then by necessity God must do X. Which is trivial. Since nothing determines God's will other than God.

      God's will is free because in God there is no passive potency that can be made actual that can move His Will (like a man being hungry which helps compeling him to choose to eat) and nothing outside of God can move His Will.

      Another mistake here is God does not exist in a world. God is Unconditional Reality Itself or Existence Itself/Being Itself thus speaking of God as existing in a world is incoherent.

      We can say God might have willed not to create because nothing compels God to create other then God Himself willing it which is trivial in terms of necessity. Nothing by necessity makes God will X or Not X other then God.

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    5. "There is no such thing as "passive actuality". That is not a scholastic term of Art."

      "Passive actuality" is just the name I'm giving to "actual intrinsic property". God is purely actual with respect to passive actuality. This is what Aquinas proves in the First Way.

      This is to differentiate it from the notion of active potency. We can say that God "actualizes" his potential to create the world, but this does not involve an actual change because proper change refers to (what I called) passive actualities, which just refer to intrinsic properties.

      "Another mistake here is God does not exist in a world. God is Unconditional Reality Itself or Existence Itself/Being Itself thus speaking of God as existing in a world is incoherent."

      No it's not incoherent, you just don't know how to properly use modal logic. The best contemporary classical theists are well-versed in it however, and understand perfectly what is meant by God existing in a world all by Himself, God existing in a world with a created universe, etc. I don't know why you have such a hard time understanding this stuff, honestly. You keep reading metaphysical commitments into clear logical propositions, and it doesn't do you any favors.

      PS: this also has nothing to do with Feser's own criticism of *some* talks of possible worlds. Feser's criticism has to do with how philosophers analyze the metaphysics of Essence, not simply with philosophers using possible worlds as a handy fa├žon de parler to discuss modal logic. Seriously, Yakov, a bit of humility would do wonders for you. You'd do well to scrutinize some prejudices you have.

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    6. Ya'kov, I'm always open to being corrected. Still, it seems counterintuitive to talk about an "active potency" as though it weren't a potency. I mean, it's in the name.

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    7. @Geocon

      Well you will note the link I cited said to avoid confusion we usually say "active power" instead of "active potency". Of course in ye olden days these discussions where conducted in Latin so the terms would most likely be more precise then what we say in English.

      A potency is a "power" and God being Omnipotent has All Powers which obviously are all in Act. So when the usual suspects ask us if God can make 2+2=5 or "a Rock so heavy yada yada etc" we say no because there is no "power" to make those things so.

      Cheers.

      PS thanks for being a good sport sir.

      Blessings

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  11. And with all that being said, still related with my "question" about God's knowledge, but more directly related to the OP: I think thomists should ditch strong distinctions between active and passive intellects, and should be more careful when it comes to the relationship between knowledge and abstracta.

    Basically, we want to say that our knowledge of fire is strongly connected to *real existing fire*. It's hard to clarify everything now, but as I see it we should not want to say that the "active intellect" makes an "intellectual form" which only then is understood by the "passive intellect". The intellectual form should itself (for instance, Fire) should itself be the fire which we are grasping with our minds, not some abstract "blueprint" that was in the fire only "in potency" (as Aquinas says). No change should occur in the fire when we understand that it is fire. It just is fire, and we grasp it in our minds. Yet the way Aquinas argues for the active intellect makes it seem like an intelligible form is something distinct which somehow exists in the fire as a passive potential, that we then need the active intellect to actualize said potential. Seems wrongheaded and not very realistic.

    We should rather prefer to say that the mind just grasps the (already actual, concrete) properties of fire, and can also universalize these properties (thus forming the universal and determinate concept). This change should occur only in the mind, not involving any actualization in the fire or targetted object, and just is the act of the "passive intellect", that which has the known things in itself.

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    1. Unknown, you're evidently a bit of a philosophical rube, your arguments are at best marginally coherent, but a basic methodological principle you should try to adhere to is to familiarize yourself with whatever you decide you want to criticize before embarking on any actual attempt to criticize it. A good way to ensure you're being honest in this department is to cite an actual text, for example, "Aquinas grounds the distinction between active and passive intellect with this argument in such and such text, but his argument fails for the following reason..." As it stands, you seem to be just spouting pretentious BS based on nothing but your own unknowing.

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  12. @Unknown,

    >Passive actuality" is just the name I'm giving to "actual intrinsic property".

    So yer making up yer own terms oot of thin air and making them mean what you want at any give moment?

    I am sorry but doing this makes rational discussion with you impossible since you are not actually saying anything coherent I can identify.

    >God is purely actual with respect to passive actuality. This is what Aquinas proves in the First Way.

    The correct term of Art is "God is Pure Act". Sorry but you can't make up yer own terms. It is like a Doctor making up his own term in an operating room instead of using the correct medical terms of art. Hilarity and malpractice suit ensues...

    If yer not gonna talk Thomism to us then what is the point of you being here?

    Also in philosophy a property is a characteristic of an object. God is not an object. So claiming God has properties is as incoherent as claiming God has a color, weight or mass. It is not correct to say God has properties.

    God has attributes and given there is no real distinction between God's Essence (What God is) or God's Being (that God is) then God is identical to His Attributes via the divine simplicity.

    I think you conceive of God in strongly Theistic Personalist terms and not in Classical Theistic terms. Wrong God mate. We are all Atheists toward that "god".

    >We can say that God "actualizes" his potential to create the world,

    No Thomist or Classic Theist here believes such a "god" exists or can exist. God as Tony correctly puts it "from His standpoint, makes the world from all eternity: He is ALWAYS making the world, always doing it. There is no before-and-after, and thus no difference in states.".

    You are not conceiving of God as eternal here but something that exists in time and by yer own words "in the world".

    That is not God in the classic sense at all.

    >but this does not involve an actual change because proper change refers to (what I called) passive actualities, which just refer to intrinsic properties.

    So are you confusing "properties" with "Attributes" & making up other terms Scholastic types don't normally use or have even heard of before?
    Do you really think this or is this some metatroll?

    >No it's not incoherent, you just don't know how to properly use modal logic.

    Scholastic types prefer intelligibility not just mere logic & what yer writing so far isn't intelligible to any of us..

    >The best contemporary classical theists are well-versed in it however, and understand perfectly what is meant by God existing in a world all by Himself...

    God doesn't exist in a world anymore then the divine essence can take a shower. Sorry but this is incoherent and no Classic Theist can believe it anymore than a convinced Calvinist can reject all pf Calvin's five points and still be regarded as a Calvinist.

    >God existing in a world with a created universe, etc. I don't know why you have such a hard time understanding this stuff, honestly.

    Because "this stuff" cannot coherently be applied to a Classic theist view of God and no doubt analytic thomists, who are classic theists like Brian Davies know something about modal logic. But I don't seen how modal logic can grant properties to God and confuse them with attributes?

    Are you just trolling or Sea lioning because nothing you have said here makes a lick of sense. I am certain the others Scholastic posters (even Geocon) will agree with me on this.

    > You keep reading metaphysical commitments into clear logical propositions,

    So is this an admission yer not presupposing Classic Theistic or Scholastic Metaphysics? Then by definition yer not discussing our God.

    If yer logical propositions are not based on a common metaphysics then you are either discussing a red herring or yer just equivocating. Yer not making sense. Perhaps Professor Feser should weight in?

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    1. Why could it not be that God's knowledge abd creative power have no active potencies, ie all are actual, so the whole universe is necessary? In fact reality might be promiscuous, in that all logically possible realities may be necessarily actualised.

      Of course, the above scenario does not comport with Christian theology, but bare bones classical theism may be correct and your theological beliefs in gross error.

      What do you say to that?

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    2. What if my Mother was a kitty cat? Then I would be a kitty cat too.

      Yer asking me a "What if" question and I don't find it philosophically interesting.

      Delete
    3. If you wanted to understand reality in oppose to unconditionally defending your belief system regardless of whether it is correct or not, you would be interested is analysing how a 'bare bones' classical theism can can be developed in alternative ways. You would be keen to analyse all presuppositions.

      You are not a philosopher. You are a believer and an apologist, using philosophy to sound sophisticated and cover up your prejudices.

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    4. Flame war caution: Do not let this spiral into name-calling etc., none of which will get through comment moderation.

      Delete
    5. @Dr. Feser

      I just told "Freethinker" I did not find his "what if?" questions interesting and he asked me another one.

      I don't wish to talk to him. Nothing personal but I see no profit in it. He can just politely do something else.

      I wish him well.

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    6. Prof Feser

      I do not expect this comment to be published, but really Prof Feser, how ridiculous that Son of Ya'kov cannot just refrain from responding to a post he is not inclined to engage with, in oppose to writing to you to justify it! Mind you, it is progress in his case, and a big improvement on the abuse and accusations of trolling that would have ensued were it not for your warning and comment moderation.

      Incidentally, my posts were perfectly genuine and meant to be taken seriously.

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    7. FT: "Why could it not be that God's knowledge abd creative power have no active potencies, ie all are actual, so the whole universe is necessary?"

      How about because it contradicts or ignores a most basic starting point of our knowledge, our philosophical reflection, which is the observation of the reality of change, becoming, things that are not purely actual, not God, not necessary. (You're going right back to the basic starting points of primitive philosophical reflection with the pre-Socratics with this one.)

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    8. FreeThinker,

      I can't force people to engage with one another's arguments or even to respond at all. All I can do, when they do respond, is to keep them from responding in a certain unproductive way (e.g. by flaming).

      This is a completely general comment, by the way, not intended to as a criticism of you, of Son of Yakov, or anyone else in particular.

      Carry on, folks.

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    9. FT,

      I guess David McPike finds yer post interesting? Good on him. Have fun.

      Cheers

      Delete
    10. David McPike 1.32PM

      We certainly observe change in the world, but couldn't God ( for want of a better term - I am not necessarily thinking of the Christian God here ) have ordained the history of the universe 'from all eternity', ie in one creative act, so its outworking is actualised and necessary? This history may not seem to you to be necessary because you think that you can imagine alternatives that really could have happened, but on the picture I am proposing this would be illusory. Perhaps God's creative power has not only has no passive potencies, but maybe he has created promiscuously, so that all logically possible universes and universe histories co-exist in an ensemble, causally seperate from each other.

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    11. @FT:
      Not only could God have done that -- ordained the history of the universe 'from all eternity', ie in one creative act, so its outworking is actualised and necessary (w.r.t. his knowledge) -- he necessarily has done that. That this is the case follows necessarily from the divine attributes of eternity, simplicity, omniscience. Nonetheless what is necessary from the standpoint of its relation to perfect eternal omniscience is not necessary from the standpoint of its own temporal existence. History really is necessary, considered from an eternal (or just quasi-eternal, intellectual) standpoint outside of history, but it really isn't necessary, considered from a limited, finite internal standpoint, the standpoint of its own essential existence. The internal standpoint is not omniscient, but also not illusory. Instead it's just finite.

      Of course illusion is itself a significant part of the finite, but only because illusion is a (real) mode of (finite) reality. Moreover, human play (homo ludens, alluding to the play of illusion) is a significant element in the essential activity of man, and of man precisely as image of God (God both in his own essence and as creator).

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    12. David McPike

      Thanks for replying, though the above sounds like a right old word salad to me, as does a great deal of Thomist talk. I will provisionally accept that this may be due to my lack of mastery over the subject matter however, and so withhold judgement until I have read up on it more.

      If God ( for want of a better term, and once again, without any particular deity in mind ) has preordained the history of our spacetime continuum in one creative act 'from all eternity', we need to ask 'why this history?'. It might not be part of your tradition, but I take it there is nothing in principle which would prevent 'God' from actualising all logically possible spacetime histories in an ensemble, being 'being itself' and so omnipotent. This would remove the arbitrariness of selecting one history. So in principle, even on Christianity, do you think that reality might be highly promiscuous so to soeak, and the multiverse a reality?

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    13. Similarly, God indeed necessarily creates all that is 'logically possible,' in the sense that it is logically necessary that in the perfect omniscience of the divine logos is contained the fullness of the designs of divine providence regarding all of creation, so that the source of the delimiting force of the modifier 'logically' in the phrase 'logically possible' is found precisely in the eternally perfect divine knowledge (logos) of creation (objective genitive, not subjective). IOW, no creation that is not fully comprehended by the divine logos is logically possible. We know this by a posteriori reasoning from effects to cause (and attributes thereof), but we don't thereby achieve essential knowledge of the cause, God, so we can't reason back from cause to effect so as to gain any insight into the comprehensive content of what is thus 'logically possible,' other than to note that it is indeed in the domain of the 'logically possible,' and thus not necessary in the sense that God is, and thus that God is free in respect of it, regardless of how 'promiscuous' its nature might be (or rather, might seem to us to be -- from the standpoint of the perfectly comprehensive omniscience of the divine logos the notion of 'promiscuity' is probably just nonsensical).

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    14. Obviously the term 'promiscuous' has a number of different senses, not all of which would be nonsensical in this context, but the term seems more likely to confuse things, or to say only something perfectly trivial, than to be helpful.

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    15. "Thanks for replying, though the above sounds like a right old word salad to me, as does a great deal of Thomist talk. I will provisionally accept that this may be due to my lack of mastery over the subject matter however, and so withhold judgement until I have read up on it more."

      Keep reading! I'm glad you're not just dismissing it because you don't understand it. I'm pretty sure there's nothing actually "word salad" about what I wrote, but note that the fact that it strikes you that way should probably indicate to you that you have been using a lot of words heretofore without really understanding what they mean, and/or, just as importantly, without understanding that you don't understand what they mean. The basic Socratic point about recognizing one's own ignorance is by no means a trivial matter, philosophically speaking. Also note that everything I've written is essentially concerned with the rigorous development of the concepts in question and is only incidentally Thomist, so your difficulty in understanding is essentially a difficulty in grasping concepts, not a difficulty with "Thomist talk" per se.

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  13. Hi Unknown (the one who wrote on God’s intrinsic unchangeability’s implication on God’s knowledge of contingent facts),

    You wrote in one of your comments:

    “To be more precise, God does not change with respect to his *intrinsic* properties... God is purely actual with respect to his intrinsic properties, NOT with respect to extrinsic properties (such as "being the creator of the world" - ... this is a change in extrinsic properties with no change in intrinsic properties, what Feser would call a "Cambridge change"). The issue is when it comes to God's knowledge. God's knowledge must follow an "externalist" model, such that "God's knowing that Tony responds to a post" involves no change in intrinsic properties. This is required because if "God's knowing he chose to make the world" vs "God's knowing he chose not to make the world" involved a change in intrinsic properties, then God would be changing, which is impossible for a thomist. So the difference between what God knows and doesn't know is a difference of extrinsic properties only, same for God's act of creating the world. And clearly, God has the active potential, or "active actuality", as I put it, for creating the world. The actualization of this potency is only a change in extrinsic properties. And then he has the active potential to know things. However, he doesn't *have* to actualize his potential for creating the world, if the world is contingent. But if that's the case, why must he actualize his active potential for knowing? Yet if he doesn't *have* to, then he isn't essentially omniscient.”

    If all that you said is correct, then God would still be omniscient because omniscience is about knowing all that is LOGICALLY POSSIBLE to be known. It is not about knowing what is logically impossible to be known, such as the kind of knowing you described given divine immutability (God is Pure Act) and divine simplicity. This is similar to omnipotence being able to do all that is logically possible to be done. God’s inability to draw a two dimensional circular square on a paper does not count against God’s omnipotence because drawing a circular square is a logical impossibility.


    Cheers!

    johannes y k hui

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  14. SoY: "So yer making up yer own terms oot of thin air and making them mean what you want at any give moment? I am sorry but doing this makes rational discussion with you impossible since you are not actually saying anything coherent I can identify."

    A more intelligent, constructive response: "St Thomas and Thomists in general don't use that term, but the term they do use that seems to correspond to what you're getting at is ... and here's what they would say about that in relation to what you seem to be arguing..."

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    1. Thank you for that.

      Cheers.

      PS:BTW

      "but the term they do use that seems to correspond to what you're getting at is ... "

      How would you finish that sentence? Just curious.

      Cheers.

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    2. @SoY: Well obviously, for example, Thomists don't say God has an active and passive intellect, but see my first response above to Unknown for my attempt to help him towards something true about God that actually corresponds somewhat to what he's saying (which in itself would be just wrong). In philosophy we want to use terms in a rigorous way, but also cultivate versatility in translating between different philosophical idioms -- the latter being what the OP was largely an exercise in.

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  15. WCB writes:

    Read Augustine's "Confessions - Book XI" On Time. God is outside of time. (Aquinas agrees). There is no past and now and future for God. No before creation, creation, and after creation. Creation is also timeless. For God, all is One Big Now.

    If so, things always have been the way they are. all is. All is immutable. That God is immutable is a dogma of Aquinas again.

    Then all is necessary, it always has been thus timelessly and cannot be otherwise. All is necessary. All is pure act.

    Reading Augustine on time, and then Aquinas and reasoning from those foundations is rather enlightening. Aristotle thought the future was not determined, see the Great Sea Battle of De Interpretatione. So Augustine and Aquinas are not Aristotelians on the issue of time and future. Aristotle's prime mover is not the God outside of time of Augustine.

    This is a bit of a bumper sticker take on God, Time, timelessness, and necessity of all things.

    See Aquinas, Summa Theologica -Part 1 - Question 10
    Also Anselm Prosologion on God and timelessness.
    Boethius - "Consolations Of Philosophy - Book V".

    Follow the claims to their logical conclusion. Practice safe analytical philosophy.

    Look up theological fatalism.

    WCB

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    1. Can anybody find an argument here in the post above?

      I got nothing......

      Cheers.

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    2. That God is immutable is a dogma of Aquinas again.


      So is that God created freely (not of necessity), and that contingent beings are real and act contingently. And that we humans sin or love with free will.

      To pin it to a primary point: What God willed to exist in a contingent manner, EXISTS IN CONTINGENT MANNER. Hence it is not existing in a necessary manner.

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  16. WCB writes:

    If everything is an eternal Big Now, and always has been eternally out of time, everything is also eternal, part of now and always has been co-eternally with God. Things always have been and always are, always will be, and thus in that sense are necessary. They cannot be other than what is. It then makes little or no sense to say anything is contingent if by contingent, we mean accidental.

    It means all acts of horrendous moral evil have always existed, do exist and will exist for all time as they are. How did we, all things and God himself get into this unchanging, unchangeable, necessary as it is eternal situation? There was no time in which God could think, things are not, I shall created them and will choose to create them a certain way. God gets no free will either.

    In that sense, everything is necessary, and cannot be otherwise.

    WCB

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    1. "In that sense, everything is necessary, and cannot be otherwise."

      In a sense, yes (amor fati! -- and now reconcile yourself to that psychologically/ spiritually) -- just not quite that (conceptually confused) sense. And of course in other senses, no. And if you want to become less confused you need to start distinguishing the different senses of 'necessary.'

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    2. WCB

      It does not follow from "X has always been and always is" that X is necessary, because there may be a possible world in which X has never been.
      There are several good arguments for why Thomism leads to a modal collapse, but you haven't presented one.

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  17. WCB writes:

    Depends on your definition of necessary, doesn't it? If everything is as it is and has been this way for infinite tenseless time, it is all necessary as it cannot be some other then the eternal Big Now of God.

    And of course, God is claimed to be immutable. God does not change. So what that Big Now is is cannot change because that means God's will changes.

    This calls into question the claim God even has free will.

    WCB

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    1. @WCB:
      Why do I get the sense that there's something other than just an honest desire to understand underlying these remarks?

      All you're really doing here is pointing out that God can't be free in any sense that would be incompatible with being God. Well hey, good observation! Not everyone picks up on that right away.

      But you really haven't even engaged with, never mind called into question, the claim that God has free will.

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    2. WCB writes:

      I simply take theological claims such as God outside of time, and follow them to their logical conclusion. This is engaging with theological claims.

      If all is, and always was as it is timelessly, there was no real beginning, no choice to be made how things will be.

      and of course, since this world had no beginning, that also takes down WLC's beloved Kalam Cosmological Argument. And Aquinas. The first three of Aquinas's five ways are now doubtful. If all is eternal, there was no beginning of the Universe, it is co-eternal with God. Taking the claims God is outside and beyond time and following the implications of such a claim is engaging with these claims.

      WCB

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    3. About the idea that free will requires time, funnily, William Lane Craig would disagree: https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/question-answer/does-the-b-theory-of-time-exclude-human-freedom/
      (He was already mentioned, so why not?)

      About the cosmological arguments, i only see the First Way failling in b-theory, as it needs change to work. The Second Way can be constructed to use the essence-existence distinction, or already uses it, and the Third uses contigency, both things that can exist even if there is no time. So only one of Aquinas arguments would be useless if there was no real change.

      This assuming that the b-theory is right, for i don't see why the idea that God is outside time means that time is a illusion. A post that correct some errors that could be the cause of this inference is this one: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2021/02/smith-and-divine-eternity.html?m=1

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    4. Hmm... still getting the sense that there's something other than just an honest desire to understand underlying WCB's remarks.

      "I simply take theological claims such as God outside of time, and follow them to their logical conclusion. This is engaging with theological claims."

      Indications are, it may be a waste of time to point this out to you, but the truth is you simply take theological claims you don't understand, misconstrue them, and follow them to illogical conclusions. This is not so much engaging with theological claims as parading your angst, pride, ignorance, etc. And if that's all you're interested in, have at it -- or then again, maybe not? If you do want to actually engage with theological claims, you need to be a lot more modest and careful in spelling out your arguments, which also implies being a lot more modest and careful in spelling out the arguments you propose to criticize. While you don't seem like a real courteous person, this would be an act of basic courtesy to Ed, who understandably doesn't want his comment boxes filled up with mindless dumb shit.

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    5. WCB

      "If all is, and always was as it is timelessly, there was no real beginning, no choice to be made how things will be."

      Again, I think that doesn't necessarily follow.
      You'll have to argue for thta.

      "Since this world had no beginning, that also takes down WLC's beloved Kalam Cosmological Argument."

      This is absolutely true. The Thomist God, being absolutely immutable, is an eternal necessary and sufficient condition for the universe. Hence the universe cannot possibly have begun to exist.

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    6. Of course all the classic Theistic Arguments for the existence of God presuppose you cannot prove scientifically or philosophically the world had a formal beginning. The Kalam is the only exception and Dr. Feser himself has pleaded the agnostic view as to the validity of the Kalam. But the First Way doesn't require the Universe to have a formal beginning and one can presuppose a past eternal universe.
      But I don't see how God being absolutely immutable makes it impossible for Him being able to create a universe? God is still Pure Act and as such by nature can actualize potencies and God is Being Itself and can cause beings that are really distinct in their essences.
      Obviously God cannot cause Being like Himself which has no real distinction from His Essence.

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  18. Are all concepts universals (universals in the sense of those objects of medieval dispute betw realists, conceptualists and nominalists)?

    If 'yes,' can someone offer examples of concepts that are not universals?

    If 'no,' would tropes count as concepts that are not universals? E.g. Socrates' paleness, or Clinias' paleness, as opposed to The Pale Itself (or the name, "pale," or whatever)?

    Tx. On another board was a lot of disputation about universals last week.

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    1. ETA: whoops, wrote it wrong. Take out "If 'no'".

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    2. Tropes like Socrates' paleness would be examples of accidental forms I think. They would be universal when abstracted by an intellect but instantiated in Socrates himself.

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  19. The issue is that the following claims are not logically compossible:

    1) Divine simplicity/aseity;
    2) A contrastive explanation in God for the created world;
    3) Lack of modal collapse.

    Divine simplicity entails that God is His properties (properly so-called) and does not possess them like a (composite) creature does. Otherwise God would be metaphysically complex, consisting of His existence and His properties. (And this is the only answer that can be given to the Euthyphro dilemma.)

    So, if "Creator of the world" is a true property of God, then, since He exists necessarily, His being Creator of the world is likewise necessary, since His existence and being Creator of the world are identical. And thus, this world is necessary (with an absolute necessity and not merely a necessity of supposition).

    If, however, "Creator of the world" is a mere Cambridge property of God (like "widower" is for a man), and not a true property of God, then it does not describe anything internal to God; there is absolutely nothing different in God when He is creator of this world, or any another possible world. Thus, there is nothing whatsoever in God which explains why this world exists instead of another one.

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    1. "Properties" is an incorrect and equivocal term of Art here. God has attributes not properties. God is not an object. God cannot have a color, or weight or a gravitation attraction etc...

      Please use the proper terms of Art as much as possible to avoid equivocations & wasting time on non-starter objections.

      >So, if "Creator of the world" is a true property of God,

      God as creator of the world is the cause of the world existing not the effect which is the cause of a world from nothing.

      There is no reason to confuse the identity of the cause with the identity of the effect.

      Also there is yer improper use of the term "property" which leads to the fallacy that God creating the world is univocal to a physical entity causing a physical process which is likely the source of yer views this is not logically compossible.

      So this "objection" clearly is a non-starter.

      God is necessary being and obviously by definition necessary being is uncaused. God cannot cause necessary being because how could said being be both caused and uncaused?

      Whatever God causes therefore must be contingent.

      God as creator of the world is not a mere Cambridge property but rather when God creates this "change" from non-creator to creator is a mere Cambridge change because the divine essence remains unchanged.

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    2. It's true that "creator of the world" does not describe anything internal to God's essence (although "creator of any possible world" does). It doesn't follow that nothing internal to God explains why this world exists (his free creative power explains that). What does follow, on the other hand, is that nothing internal to God's essence necessitates that this is the world he had to create.

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    3. SOY,

      The terms "attribute" and "property" are used interchangeably in philosophy today: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/properties/

      But anyway, change "property" to "attribute" in my argument, and my argument still stands. It has nothing to do with God being the cause, or this causation not being univocal to a physical process (both premises are granted). But the point is that under Divine simplicity God is identical to His attributes.

      "God is necessary being and obviously by definition necessary being is uncaused."

      That is not true BY DEFINITION. If God creates necessarily then everything He creates also exists necessarily. You'll deny the antecedent and therefore the consequent but that isn't the same as BY DEFINITION.

      "God as creator of the world is not a mere Cambridge property but rather when God creates this "change" from non-creator to creator is a mere Cambridge change because the divine essence remains unchanged."

      That makes no sense. If it's a mere Cambridge change, then what is a changed is a Cambridge property, like the change from "married man" to "widower".

      DM:

      All you're doing is restating the problem using different terminology. If God's free creative power explains why this world exists, then either: 1) God is identical to His free creative power, which entails modal collapse; or 2) God is not identical to His free creative power; which entails Divine composition.




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    4. @David McPike

      The only sense by which we can say God "had" to create it is in the sense that if God wills it God by necessity Has to do His own will. But of course there is nothing internal to God that tells us God HAD to will to create this world or not etc etc.

      Cheers mate. I like yer posts.

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    5. It's 1), God is identical to his free creative power, but it doesn't entail modal collapse, as I explained.

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    6. @Anon1

      I will ask you two things:

      1. To God to not create by necessity, would He need to be able to do other thing instead or something like that?

      2. Suppose that free will is true* and that there was a way to time travel while not making any physical change on the past, no one sees you, no object is changed, every particle is the same. If i keep going back to say, the time you writed that post, would anyone change its behavior in any of these trips or they would do exactly the same thing aways?


      This looks off-topic, i know, but i feel like the modal collapse objection could be based on a wrong view of free will, so i think that a little play could be useful in testing my feeling and this look like a good oportunity to do it.


      *i so believe it is, but you might not, i don't know

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    7. Anon1

      Property according to yer own link refers primarily to the physical attributes of objects....

      quote"Properties are also ways things are, entities that things exemplify or instantiate. For example, if we say that this is a leaf and is green, we are attributing the properties leaf and green to...ence, properties can also be characterized as exemplifiables, with the controversial exception of those that cannot be instantiated, e.g., some would say, round and square. It is typically assumed that no other entities can be predicated and exemplified (Aristotle, Categories, 2a).......At least since Plato, who called them “ideas” or “forms”, properties are viewed as universals, i.e., as capable, (in typical cases) of being instantiated by different objects, “shared” by them,".

      Yeh God is not an object. God has attributes not properties. God is the Form of Forms not any particular form.

      So please use the correct terms of Art to avoid confusion.

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    8. DM:

      You're equivocating on the meaning of "explain". Yes, God's free creative power "explains" this world in the sense of a necessary condition, something metaphysically prior which makes this world possible. It does not "explain" this world in the sense of a sufficient condition (or contrastive explanation), something which explains why this world, and not some other world, exists, since God's free creative power could also have resulted in that other world. And once you attempt to place in God that sufficient condition you end in modal collapse, since God's creative power is identical to His existence by Divine simplicity.

      Talmid:

      I am using the modal logic definition of "necessity". So if God does not create this world by necessity (meaning, His nature does not entail He create it), then there are other worlds He could create (or not create at all). I reject the claim that, even if this were the only world God could (or would) create, He would not create out of "necessity", for that is simply tautologically false in modal logic. Put another way, when only one good is placed before the will (as is the case, say, for souls enjoying the Beatific Vision), yes it is a free will which "freely" wills the good in one sense (e.g. it is not forced); but it also "necessarily" wills the good in the modal sense, which is the relevant one here: there are no possible worlds where it does otherwise.



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    9. Aquinas view in that is interesting: https://www.newadvent.org/summa/1019.htm#article3

      What i get from him is that God does not will this world or any by necessity because there is no necessary connection between His nature and this world. God could had choosen another world even if is the case that He choose that one and would aways do it. Check out specially Aquinas reply to objection three, which looks similar to your own.

      Maybe this take us to a modal collapse if we use your definition of possible worlds*, but i would say that this is not thanks to Absolute Divine Simplicity. If you could take me up at T0 to choose which world should exist i would choose world Y and if you keeped going back in time i would aways pick Y. So, in your definition of modal collapse we would have one even if i was on God place. Both me and God are not by nature forced to pick what we pick, but we will aways do the same thing.

      Maybe this shows that a modal collapse is truly the case or that we have to change our definition. If we pick Aquinas, for instance, it seems that his definition of necessary choice is not the same as yours and i suppose that when the other theists said that God do not create by necessity they also did not agree with your definition. So maybe you are right but we should not care much that is a possibility too :)


      *maybe there is other ways of defining, i do not mean that i know a better one, sorry

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    10. I admit that i finded the modal collapse arguments so interesting that they made me not only take a look at how we see God but also at how we see free will and modality.

      Which is a good idea or only one that says a lot about me, who knows.

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  20. To reiterate Aquinas did not think you could scientifically or philosophically prove creation had a beginning. You can only know that is true via divine revelation alone.

    Even Fr. Lemaitre, the Priest Astronomer mathematician who helped discover the big bang is supposed to have corrected Pope Pius XII himself on this matter. He told Pius XII who is alleged to have said Big Bang scientifically proves creation that the Big Bang only shows how our local space time came to be & it wasn't a scientific proof of creation.**

    God is already Pure Act so God needs no explanation other then this as to how He maintains the changing universe. But creation is not something that happens via the Act/potency distinction. God cannot actualize "nothing" to produce a world since from nothing, nothing comes. There is after all nothing to actualize. God is said to cause there to be being from nothing. God is not taking "nothing" and turning it into something. That would be absurd and Aquinas denies this is how creation is described.

    We cannot formulate a philosophical proof that God creates from nothing. But neither Philosophy nor science can disprove God can cause there to be being from nothing.

    As for necessity God is necessary being but obviously God cannot create or cause necessary being because to do so would be incoherent. Such being God would cause or create must be contingent because it needs to rely on God for its being.

    Cheers.

    **(I should note my friend Dr. Dennis Bonnette told me this story is a popular myth and what Pius XII said and what Fr. Lemaitre said is a bit more nuanced. But for argument sake let us go with the popular myth Fr. L corrected his holiness)

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    1. Well, when we talk about creation from "nothing", do we mean nothing in act (granted) or nothing even in potency (highly debatable)? Isn't there a strong case to be made that initial singularity prior to the Big Bang is the universe in potency?

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    2. We mean none of that.

      Nothing in terms of to absence or lack of being. Creation does not involve the act/potency distinction. None of Krauss' weird equivocations of claiming quantum vacuums or the like are "nothing".

      The Singularity at the beginning of the Big Bang is not nothing. It has participatory being. So it needs God to cause it to be from nothing if we accept the claims of divine revelation that God is a creator. God would have to have created it from nothing.

      (BTW this can apply to a Harte/Hawking State as well. That is not nothing and require God to cause it to be).

      Now it is possible the Singularity or the Harte/Hawking state never had a formal beginning and always existed but as a thing that changes it still requires a First Cause to have it exist since forever.

      Aquinas' cosmological arguments and all the classic ones presuppose a past eternal creation without a formal beginning for sake of argument.

      I default to Aquinas' view we cannot know God is a creator apart from divine revelation telling us but the classic Cosmological Arguments all presuppose the past eternal nature of the universe. But since the Cosmos is a set of changing things then it still requires God to cause it to be here and now from all eternity.

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  21. Yak wrote: "As for necessity God is necessary being but obviously God cannot create or cause necessary being because to do so would be incoherent."

    Sed contra: "there is a kind of necessary thing which has a cause of its necessity. Hence it is not repugnant to a necessary or incorruptible being to depend for its existence on another as its cause" (ST I.50.5 ad 3; cf. ST I.44.1 ad 2)

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    1. David McPike,

      Not sure what yer citation has to do with what I said? Let us look at it then.

      Being immaterial, angels are incorruptible (ST I.50.5)

      Objection 3: Further, according to Gregory (Moral. xvi), "all things would tend towards nothing, unless the hand of the Almighty preserved them." But what can be brought to nothing is corruptible. Therefore, since the angels were made by God, it would appear that they are corruptible of their own nature.

      On the contrary, Dionysius says (Div. Nom. iv) that the intellectual substances "have unfailing life, being free from all corruption, death, matter, and generation."

      Reply to Objection 3: As was observed above ([469]Q[44], A[1]) there is a kind of necessary thing which has a cause of its necessity. Hence it is not repugnant to a necessary or incorruptible being to depend for its existence on another as its cause. Therefore, when it is said that all things, even the angels, would lapse into nothing, unless preserved by God, it is not to be gathered therefrom that there is any principle of corruption in the angels; but that the nature of the angels is dependent upon God as its cause. For a thing is said to be corruptible not merely because God can reduce it to non-existence, by withdrawing His act of preservation; but also because it has some principle of corruption within itself, or some contrariety, or at least the potentiality of matter."END


      Well David obviously it is a necessary thing for a circle to possess roundness and lack squareness in order to be counted a circle. But any particular instating of a circle like drawing it on a paper requires it depends on its existence from another(i.e. artist, paper etc)

      But I was talking about God's Necessary being and it is obvious God cannot create Divine Necessary being as that would be incoherent. If it is not clear to you that is what I meant then I apologize for not being clear and I amend it with this post to clarify my view.

      (ST I.44.1 ad 2) God is His own being and all created things are beings by participation.

      I don't disagree with that I presume it.

      Cheers.

      Thanks for the feedback and critique.

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    2. SoY: "obviously God cannot create or cause necessary being because to do so would be incoherent." "God is necessary being and obviously by definition necessary being is uncaused. God cannot cause necessary being because how could said being be both caused and uncaused?"

      And yet that flatly contradicts what St Thomas himself says, who holds, following Aristotle: "sunt quaedam necessaria [angels, for example -- see ST I.50.5] quae habent causam suae necessitatis" (ST I.44.1 ad 2). So you are in fact unwittingly accusing St Thomas of incoherence, when in fact it seems you are just misrepresenting his use of 'necessary' (as a term of art, if you will), and doing so in the course of chiding others for doing that very thing: "Please use the proper terms of Art as much as possible to avoid equivocations & wasting time on non-starter objections." Right, well, tu quoque.

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    3. >And yet that flatly contradicts what St Thomas himself says,........So you are in fact unwittingly accusing St Thomas of incoherence...

      Clearly not. Rather yer equivocating with the English Translation over the Latin thus yer charge is refuted by a plain reading of yer citations.

      Sorry sir but yer quote speaks of "a kind of necessary being"(which it does not define in terms of being uncreated/uncaused) and defines it as "incorruptible" which is what an Angel is given they are subsisting forms only and not forms joined with matter the later which can suffer corruption if said forms are separated from their matter.

      "it is impossible for its substance to be corruptible....roundness cannot be taken from a circle itself........But if the form subsists in its own being, as happens in the angels, as was said above (A. 2), it cannot lose its being. Therefore, the angel’s immateriality is the cause why it is incorruptible by its own nature."END QUOTE

      Which merely means Angels are indestructible short of God withdrawing His causal power to impart being to them.

      >""Please use the proper terms of Art as much as possible to avoid equivocations & wasting time on non-starter objections."

      I clearly am. Except yer equivocation here makes it look as if Aquinas teaches God isn't uncreated and uncaused which is another kind of necessary being".

      If I am using the term "necessary" incorrectly well then so is Dr. Feser & Aquinas.

      see here:
      https://philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/21160/what-do-necessity-and-possibility-mean-in-aquinas-third-way-argument-for-the-ex


      "Therefore, not all beings are merely possible, but there must exist something the existence of which is necessary. But every necessary thing either has its necessity caused by another, or not. Now it is impossible to go on to infinity in necessary things which have their necessity caused by another, as has been already proved in regard to efficient causes. Therefore we cannot but postulate the existence of some being having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in others their necessity. This all men speak of as God."-Aquinas

      Of course a "necessary thing" is not a "necessary being". If God wills being X exist then it by necessity must exist because God willed it so. Thus it is a necessary thing. But it is hardly uncaused.

      As per my link above "Edward Feser, in his book Aquinas, claims that Aquinas is using the terms possibility and necessity in a different way:"

      ". By “possible not to be,” then, what Aquinas means is something like “having a tendency to stop existing,” “inherently transitory,” or “impermanent”; and by “necessary” he just means something that is not like this, something that is everlasting, permanent, or non-transitory."

      Now as for me telling others to please use the proper terms of Art can you show me where Aquinas says God has properties like an object has "properties"? Well?

      I look forward to yer feedback.

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    4. additional:

      Perhaps this will clear it up for you Mr. McPike?

      Catholic Encyclopedia.
      https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10733a.htm

      "Considered under its metaphysical aspect, being in its relation to existence is divided into necessary and contingent. A necessary being is one of which the existence is included in and identical with its very essence. The different beings which we observe in our daily experience are subject to beginning, to change, to perfection, and to destruction; existence is not essential to them and they have not in themselves the reason of their existence; they are contingent. Their existence comes to them from an external efficient cause. It is from the real existence of contingent beings that we arrive at the notion and prove the existence of a necessary being-one that produces them but is not produced, one whose existence is its own essence and nature, that is at the same time eternal, all-perfect, infinite, viz., God (see CONTINGENCY). And so in relation to existence, God alone is absolutely necessary, all others are contingent.

      So it is yer learned opinion the CE is contradicting Aquinas? No I think they presuppose him.**
      Yer thoughts sir?

      **thought it has been suggested to me the editors of the CE are a wee bit bias toward Molinism and against Banez Thomism but ah well...

      Anyway it goes on to discuss the different types of necessity "necessity may be classified as metaphysical, physical, and moral."

      So I am not sure tu quoque applies to me here?

      Yer thoughts?

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    5. Perhaps qualifying “necessary being” with “conditional” and “unconditional” would make it unambiguous:

      angelic beings exist with a conditional necessity

      God exists with a unconditional necessity

      :)

      johannes y k hui






      God - unconditional

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    6. You said it better then I could Johannes.

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  22. @ Son of Ya'Kov and Reasonable:

    Does a given angel exist in every possible world? Or, put another way, is the proposition, Angel A exists, true in every possible world?

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    1. (What I love about Ficino is he asks really interesting questions. Would that the Gnus here and over at Strange Notions would follow his example. What a beautiful world that would be. Thank you my friend for this gift.
      This will be a pleasure.)

      It is my understanding given the presuppositions of Essentialism. God might have made a specific given angel and put said Angel in in one world or another but I don't think He could make that Angel into a man and have it somehow still be the same individual.

      Each thing has its own immutable essence and essences cannot change they can only be destroyed and replaced by a new essence. The essence of Hydrogen and Oxygen gas can be destroyed if Astronaut Mark Watney from the Martian movie wants to make it into water in his Martian hab (hopefully without blowing his arse up..oh wait he did? Poor guy!). Said water is a new essence.

      Two protons might seem completely identical but being one is not the other means they each have their own unique essence.

      I said this in the past. Maybe if we have a multiverse there is a "Ficino like" being who is a devout Traditional Catholic and a "Jim the Scott/BenYachov" like being who is a fallen away Catholic turned Agnostic. But it is a fallacy to say those beings are versions of you or me. They might be like us but they would not be us. They would be themselves.

      They each have their own essence distinct from us so they are different.

      Wither God makes Angel A or not is up to the Will of God. God is not obligated to create Angel A but if God will Angel A should exist then God must do His own will.

      It will be interesting to see what johannes says.

      Cheers my very good friend.

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    2. @ Jim/Ben Yachov: thanks for the answer. In yours higher on the thread, you wrote this:

      "Of course a "necessary thing" is not a "necessary being". If God wills being X exist then it by necessity must exist because God willed it so. Thus it is a necessary thing. But it is hardly uncaused."

      I'm thinking you may want to reword. Since ens are res as transcendentals are convertible, wouldn't a "necessary thing" also be a "necessary being"? But I think you are right in saying that Aquinas is working with different senses of "necessary", in the way that you quote Feser as explaining.

      I also wonder whether in what I quoted you are being too expansive when you seem to conclude that for all x, if God wills to create x, x is "necessary." That conclusion does not hold under the sense where "necessary" entails lacking any internal principle of corruption, as is the case with the separated substances. Because if that "non-corruptible" sense of "necessary" is used of any created thing, we'd get plants that God wills to create as "necessary beings/things," wouldn't we? But Aquinas wants to exclude from "necessary" all corruptible things.

      We'd only be left with the conditional necessity you point to, that if God willed to create F, it is necessary that F be created/exist. That sort of necessity is external to the "being" of F, unlike the necessity that Aquinas attributes to the separated substances, which lack a principle of corruption because they are not bodies.

      ???

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    3. @Ficino my man.

      Well as Davies, Feser, Hart and every Classic Theist I know of says God is not a thing alongside other things. So I am predisposed to think of "things" as different from beings. (OTOH Davies is rather fond of the phrase "God is not the sort of thing etc).

      Maybe they are inter changeable? Maybe not.

      As Bill Vallicella says "God as traditionally conceived in the West is not an isolani — to use a chess expression. He is not like an isolated pawn, unsupported and unsupporting. For if God exists, then God is the cause of the existence of every contingent being, and indeed, of every being distinct from himself. This is not true of lunar unicorns and celestial teapots. If there is a lunar unicorn, then this is just one more isolated fact about the universe. But if God exists, then everything is unified by this fact: everything has the ground of its being and its intelligibility in the creative activity of this one paradigmatic being."

      > But I think you are right in saying that Aquinas is working with different senses of "necessary", in the way that you quote Feser as explaining.


      Yes and when we have these discussions we have to "watch our language" as it where. Since we need to convey correct ideas.

      >I also wonder whether in what I quoted you are being too expansive when you seem to conclude that for all x, if God wills to create x, x is "necessary."

      Well in Classical Theism God must do His own will and God cannot, not do His own will, given the divine perfection.

      >That conclusion does not hold under the sense where "necessary" entails lacking any internal principle of corruption, as is the case with the separated substances.

      Why not? If God wills to create beings who are subsisting forms without matter which by definition cannot be corrupted by anything other then God withdrawing His sustaining power to grant them being then what is to stop Him? God could even create beings who are form and matter and then act on them supernaturally & miraculously to render them immune from the normal natural effects that might cause their forms to be separated from their matter(like setting a bush on fire and not letting it be consumed).

      >Because if that "non-corruptible" sense of "necessary" is used of any created thing, we'd get plants that God wills to create as "necessary beings/things," wouldn't we? But Aquinas wants to exclude from "necessary" all corruptible things.

      The necessity here is in God who must do His own will and if he willed a bunch of natural plants to exist they are only necessary in so far as they must exist because God has willed it. That does not exclude their natural tendency to be subject to oh let us say being eaten by Vegetarians.

      >We'd only be left with the conditional necessity etc etc etc etc.....that sort of necessity is external to the "being" of F, unlike the necessity that Aquinas attributes to the separated substances, which lack a principle of corruption because they are not bodies.

      Well things which are subsisting forms only by nature are incorruptible because they lack a material component that can be corrupted by separating it from it's form. Like water Ice is by nature cold.

      So I am not seeing the problem? Subsisting forms that are Angels do not sustain their own being but are recipients of being like the rest of us. Cheers.

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  23. "So I am not seeing the problem? Subsisting forms that are Angels do not sustain their own being but are recipients of being like the rest of us."

    Right. I was thinking that "necessary" needs to be predicated of angels in one way identically to how it's predicated of, say, plants, but in another way, equivocally, in that angels don't have a principle of corruption in their natures, but plants do.

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    1. Well plants are material forms. That is they are forms united with matter. Angels are subsisting forms without matter. Plants have a principle of corruption i.e. consequently a subject composed of matter and form ceases to be actually when the form is separated from the matter.

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