Wednesday, September 29, 2021

It’s the next thrilling open thread!

Please keep in mind, dear reader, that if you’re inclined to begin a comment with “This is off-topic, but…” then you shouldn’t post it.  Certainly I won’t approve it.  Wait for a post where it will be on-topic – such as this one, the latest, exciting open thread, where everything is on-topic.  From logic gates to interest rates, from CRT to CBD, from Charlemagne to House of Pain – the field is wide open.  Just keep it civil and keep it classy, as always.

Previous open threads can be found here.

267 comments:

  1. Any idea of when the new book on the soul will come out?

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  2. Ryan Mullins, in his book The End of the Timeless God and his article “Why Can’t the Impassible God Suffer?”, argues that figures such as Boethius, Peter Lombard, and Aquinas deny that God undergoes even external or Cambridge change because God is not really related to the creature. I hold the position that God does undergo Cambridge change but that Cambridge change does not undermine divine immutability in any real sense, and I think that you have argued the same (including in a youtube dialogue with Mullins).
    I have two questions: “Is Mullins right concerning Boethius, Lombard, and Aquinas?” and “If so, are Boethius etc right so that divine immutability does imply that God does not undergo Cambridge change?”

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    1. Good questions. I would say Mullins is not right unless one takes an unnecessarily narrow reading of the idea of a Cambridge change. The core of a Cambridge change is that something *becomes true* and in virtue of that it can be true to *say something true and new* about a subject without that subject undergoing intrinsic change. So, I think that fits well with what Aquinas says in ST 1.13.7 reply to obj 5 i.e. "He is called Lord according to the manner in which the creature is subject to him."

      I also break this down in a podcast episode here: http://www.classicaltheism.com/mullinsrecap/

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    2. Hi Tim, Christopher Tomaszewski addresses Ryan’s arguments in the classical theism podcast on the episode from August 31.

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    3. It depends on how you define “Cambridge Change”. If you define Cambridge Change in the narrow sense of (fir example) a rocket leaving Earth as only being a Cambridge change to the Earth, then this sense of Cambridge change does not happen to God. For in the case of the rocket and the Earth, there is still a real relation between the rocket and the Earth. In fact the Earth being a finite and mutable substance is just the thing that makes it susceptible to things approaching and departing it. But if you think of a Cambridge change in a broader sense of any change in a thing that in some way refers back to the other thing in a way that is neutral as to the type of relation it bears (real, logical, or mixed) to the other thing, then you certainly can speak of Cambridge changes in that sense. But in that sense, it is the doctrine of mixed relations that is doing the heavy lifting. Talk of Cambridge changes gives it a nice little analytical flair, which can be a good dialectical choice, but it needs to be seriously qualified to prevent the kinds of misinterpretations Mullins is making.

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    4. About question 2, i don't get its point, why would God not really being related to creation mean that He can't get Cambridge changes? Is not this type of change precisely one were the "changed" being is still the same?

      Michael Jordan and Jean Paul Sartre were not related, i doubt that one even knew the other, but Sartre sure eventually got a Cambridge Change from "taller than Jordan" to "don't stand next to him, bro, you look silly". I don't get how Mullins could make this objection even work.

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    5. Thank you John DeRosa! That podcast was extremely helpful and I agree with you (I have not found Mullins' neoclassical theism convincing). I also downloaded Thomas White's paper on Simplicity and the Trinity from your site to look at later.

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    6. I wonder how to solve the objection that God as Pure Actuality can't create or cause anything because such language intrinsically implies an unactualised power in God.

      Usually when we speak of an effect being caused by something this implies the cause has the power to bring about the effect, but a power by definition is a potentiality for something. So unless the effect flows necessarily from its cause, attributing power to something is necessarily to attribute potentiality.

      So how do we solve this dilemma? Some say we shouldn't speak of God DOING anything at all since in creating He doesn't exercise any power of the nature, but this just seems to make it even more problematic how God can create anything.

      Even if we used causation and power of God only analogously, such terms by definition include potency, so either God's not DOING anything means He also isn't in any way the cause of anything, or He is but this means modal collapse.

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    7. Another thing worth mentioning would be the possibility of God being related to creation via an intentional relation, as Mark Spencer puts forward in his paper: https://www.academia.edu/26922293/The_Flexibility_of_Divine_Simplicity_Aquinas_Scotus_Palamas_International_Philosophical_Quarterly_57_2_July_2017_123_139?auto=download

      Basically, God can really have different "conscious experiences" across different possible worlds because possessing forms in the intellect and willing things don't amount to an intrinsic gain in perfection. Just as the intellect doesn't become the form it contains, so too does God remained unchanged even if His intentions are in a sense "different".

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    8. Since God is eternal, couldn't just say that hie creation is an eternal act that has "always been, is, and will be" fully actual for eternity? Meaning, to create is to be God? And whatever change occurs is really a change in the relation of creation to reality? Sort of like the way we can block the sun and reflect its rays while the sun shines without change when we do so?

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    9. Mullins is wrong about this. In his book, one of his footnotes makes part of the problem plain: he confuses Lombard's 'extrinsic' and 'intrinsic' change with 'external' and 'internal' change.

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    10. Scott: I think your comment is right on point.

      Tim: I'm glad you enjoyed the episode; I think Christopher has a good grasp on the issues.

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    11. @JoeD

      Thomists antecipated that, actually. There is a distinction between passive potency, the capacity to be changed, and active potency, the capacity to change things. While God has none of the first, He has all of the other. I remember Dr. Feser making the distinction sometimes.

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    12. JoeD,

      To add to Talmid's answer, one can also realize that our use of terms can be stretched. While typically we use the term 'power' in that sense, it doesn't mean it only applies in that sense. Similarly, just as the term 'curvature' refers to some property of objects in space, physicists also refer to the curvature of space itself.

      Of course, this does stretch terms to extremes, but just because its stretched doesn't mean it's not legitimate. It just means its not exactly the same.

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  3. One question for Professor Feser:

    In a blog post entitled "Unconditional Surrender", you defended the United States policy of unconditional surrender, saying "It is hard to see how [destroying Japanese militarism] could have been accomplished without the Allied policy of demanding unconditional surrender from the Japanese." In your argument for this point, you claim that "the tenacious 'to the death' attitude of the Japanese soldier was a deeply ingrained feature of Japanese military culture" that would've made life difficult for the American military whether or not they pursued this policy.

    Several years later, however, you seem to have done a 180 on this position. In your response to Greg Weigel's essay last year, you cite Elizabeth Anscombe's paper arguing against unconditional surrender, claiming that "a population is far more likely to fight to the last man when you demand that they put themselves entirely at your mercy, rather than asking for only the more limited terms of peace that had been traditional in warfare." Nowhere in this article do you refer to your earlier position.

    I just am curious: did you change your mind on unconditional surrender? If you did, how did this happen? If you didn't, then how can you reconcile these two statements?

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  4. Would love to see you do a blog post or write an article reviewing this linked article

    https://churchlifejournal.nd.edu/articles/the-collapse-of-the-intrinsic-prudential-wall/

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    1. Interesting post, the relativistic point is very smart, but i don't think it really goes that well on politics. Did not Aquinas see some evils as not intrinsic when the subject was politics? See this answer from the ST: https://www.newadvent.org/summa/3010.htm#article11

      It seems that he would say that some acts that are wrong on a individual level could be done by the State when necessary, so some policies would stay on the prudential side of the fence.

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  5. I'm going to get a few threads going, if I can. Feser is one of my favorite living modern philosophers, & it's a privilege commenting on him work on his own blog!

    1st off: Feser's Aristotelian proof. Now, one question for me is, does it work by itself? (I'll get to other issuez in another thread)

    If it DOES, then we can only avoid bringing in the concept of Form & Prime Matter, or Essence & Existence- as explaining WHY we need an Explanation of why things exist HERE and NOW, rather than being explained by their coming to Exist sometime in the Past- this is something we'd want to do, I'd think, just to focus on THIS particular argument; we could only avoid bringing these things in by... well, going back to: "Sometime (or times) in the distant past, every causal change must be traced back to a 1st cause." (Which would be cool, but it seems like that's something Feser wants to avoid!)

    It seems to me like the alternative is to bring in arguments for all these other Arguments in the Theist's arsenal, like the Thomistic or the Rationalistic Proof... again, those would be cool, but they seem very much not what Feser wants to do- so... any ideas?

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    1. Can you... make an argument for your assertion? None of Feser's arguments as written assume that "some time in the past, every causal change must be traced back to a first cause" or anything like that. I'd know, having read Five Proofs of the Existence of God.

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    2. Let's see... ok, take Feser's example of a Mug of Coffee. There doesn't seem to be any particular reason why, having traced the existence of its water, coffee grounds, etc. back to Quantum Particles... etc., why we should go any further. At least, that is, unless we bring in something like the Rationalist or Thomistic Arguments- like I said. But my question is whether this argument stands by ITSELF!

      It just seems to me that we are perfectly at liberty to rescue this argument (Analytic Philosopher-style)- by itself- by re-formulating it: but, around tracing causality back in TIME, rather than simply back to the present working of a Unactulized Actualizer. At least doing that for things like Coffee Mugs, maybe not things like Divine Inspiration or the Creation of a Soul.

      Hope that helps!

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    3. G&P,

      The reason why quantum particles cannot be the ultimate cause is made clear from the text: those quantum particles have to be mixtures of act and potency since they are still material objects that undergo change. Since they are, they themselves need a cause for their existence. Thus, the Aristotelian argument doesn't have to presuppose the Kalam argument.

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    4. But isn't that to appeal to ANOTHER argument to booster this one?

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    5. G&P,

      No, it's right there within the Aristotelian Proof. The basic argument in that chapter is that anything that undergoes change a mixture of act and potency. Since mixtures of act and potency need a cause that keeps them in existence at all times, this necessitates the existence of a first cause that is Pure Act. Quantum particles pose no problem to the argument.

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    6. Geekiness,

      By quantum particles, are you basically referring to simples, units of matter that are fundamental and not composed of anything more fundamental?

      If so, have you watched Feser's debate with Graham Oppy on the Capturing Christianity youtube channel? I think he basically answers that there.

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  6. William Lane Craig gives two philosophical arguments to support the second premise of the Kalam Cosmological Argument (that the universe began to exist). Craig details these arguments in his dialogue with Jimmy Akin on the Kalam (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJC2RuvWajU&ab_channel=PintsWithAquinas). The first argument is

    (A1) An actually infinite number of things cannot exist.
    (A2) An infinite regress of past events implies an actually infinite number of things.
    (A3) Therefore an infinite regress of past events cannot exist.

    and the second argument is

    (B1) It is impossible to form an infinite number of things by successive addition.
    (B2) The series of past events has been formed by successive addition.
    (B3) Therefore it is impossible that the series of past events is infinite.

    My questions is this - how does Craig square these arguments with his adherence to the A theory of time, specifically his view (at least, I think it's his view) that only the present exists (which I think is called presentism)? If the past literally no longer exists, then even if the universe had no beginning there does not exist an actually infinite number of things because only the present exists (contra A2). Similarly, if the past no longer exists, then even if the universe had no beginning there is no infinite number of things being formed because the past no longer exists (contra B2).

    Isn't this analogous to Craig's view on mathematical objects - e.g. numbers and sets. Craig has no issue with the idea of infinite sets (say, the set of natural numbers), but in his view numbers do not exists, and hence the set of natural numbers is not an actual infinite number of things. Do these arguments only work if one holds to a B theory of time?

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    1. Dr. Feser mentioned this before:http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2016/09/a-difficulty-for-craigs-kalam_2.html?m=1

      While i agree about A, i think than B can work out. While past events no longer exist, the series still do in a sense and it would be a infinite one, which should not be possible if it is formed by adding.

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    2. Awesome! I'm sorry to say I missed that post!

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    3. I don’t think that his arguments lose force given that the past no longer exists. The past still forms a kind of collection of things. I still find it intuitively forceful to say that the past number of days would have to have to equal the past number of years even though they exist at a 365:1 ratio. That is, what makes it absurd to posit an infinite number of actually existing objects also makes it absurd to posit the same number of past days. Dr. Craig has also specified that he believes they only exist in their totality in the mind of God, but unified as a single idea in line with thomism. Again, intuitively this seems to make it coherent. Perhaps the past shares a certain amount of actuality in some analogous sense. Does the past not seem to be something more actual to you than the future? Cheers

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    4. I don’t think that his arguments lose force given that the past no longer exists. The past still forms a kind of collection of things. I still find it intuitively forceful to say that the past number of days would have to have to equal the past number of years even though they exist at a 365:1 ratio. That is, what makes it absurd to posit an infinite number of actually existing objects also makes it absurd to posit the same number of past days. Dr. Craig has also specified that he believes they only exist in their totality in the mind of God, but unified as a single idea in line with thomism. Again, intuitively this seems to make it coherent. Perhaps the past shares a certain amount of actuality in some analogous sense. Does the past not seem to be something more actual to you than the future? Cheers

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  7. I would love to hear Dr. Feser’s analysis on the morality of full contact Mixed Martial Arts. Specifically, what is the precise level of physical violence permitted before a sport becomes intrinsically evil? I have heard good arguments on both sides for or against MMA. My current view is somewhat divided.

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    1. Scott,

      It's less specific violent acts that bother me rather than the spirit of the whole thing. I've even seem women in the audiences yell for a fighter to "F--k him up!" Thomas Sowell makes some great points about this in boxing:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPUZXHRuWaA

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    2. Yes but that is accidental to MMA. People say similar things at football and even basketball games. And people are often hammered drunk while doing it. But that does not mean that you could not in principle have honest good hearted people seeking to achieve athletic excellence through full contact MMA. The question is how much physical aggression is permissible? Certainly there could exist some form of MMA (bare knuckle fight to the death) that is uncontroversially evil, and there probably is some form of MMA (point sparring) that is uncontroversially innocuous, but there is a lot of ground between those two points, and the question to ask is where that fine line is.

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    3. Yes but that is accidental to MMA. People say similar things at football and even basketball games. And people are often hammered drunk while doing it. But that does not mean that you could not in principle have honest good hearted people seeking to achieve athletic excellence through full contact MMA. The question is how much physical aggression is permissible? Certainly there could exist some form of MMA (bare knuckle fight to the death) that is uncontroversially evil, and there probably is some form of MMA (point sparring) that is uncontroversially innocuous, but there is a lot of ground between those two points, and the question to ask is where that fine line is.

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    4. Yeah, I think the basic principle is that the practice needs to NOT encompass a specific intention to cause grave or lasting harm. Non-grave, non-lasting harm (I think) can be justified on the same grounds that all of the minor harm that occurs in training to begin with.

      The second point has always been that you cannot intend to harm at all for unjustified reasons - there has to be proportionality between the (even modest, non-lasting) harm being inflicted and the ends to be accomplished. And (traditionally) "to make money" doesn't cut it. Training as a purpose suffices, because you are aiming ultimately to make the other person BETTER (in the long run), so the one who suffers the pain or (moderate, non-lasting) damage is himself gaining in excellence by doing so. Professional boxing (i.e. for pay) has been condemned many times by the Church, and as far as I know, those condemnations are still applicable. Amateur boxing was not similarly condemned. The differences (which have varied over time) are significant: for amateur boxing, the glove is larger, they wear protective headgear, and lasts only 3 rounds. For pros, the smaller glove, no headgear, and 12 rounds (used to be 15) lead to much more damaging matches. Because, at the amateur level, lasting damage was difficult to accomplish, "winning" generally means scoring points, and in the drive to score points, there is no essential connection to "must hurt him".

      So I think the core point is this: whether you are in a pro or amateur event, going into it with the specific intention to harm the other person, harm for its own sake, is intrinsically immoral, and the intention to harm the other person for money cannot constitute proportionate reason.

      Eastern-style martial arts are not, themselves essentially different, as far as I can tell. Amateur bouts - especially at formal contests of large associations - is more for training and testing yourself than for causing pain and damage. I don't watch MMA stuff, especially not the full-contact stuff, but my limited exposure to other fighting "sports" is that when you introduce money and "full contact" you pretty much guarantee an enormous increase in the amount of physical damage that occurs, and (which is most critical) it LENDS ITSELF to a specific intent to cause harm without proportionate reason.

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    5. I am worried that the “money” factor is a bit of a straw-man. Obviously many fighters are immoral and only care about the money. But the same could be said for every sport. The point is though that there is a value to increasing the amount of damage that can be done by a fighter. It more closely resembles real fighting. Obviously the goal is not to maximize damage, that is why mouthpieces are worn, padded gloves, wraps, technical knockouts, etc. In fact I would argue that MMA in many ways is less dangerous than professional boxing because the smaller gloves means you cannot take the same amount of head hits without getting a TKO. But then again, it does seem like you are trying to use enough force to knock out the opponent. Can it ever be morally justified to intentionally render someone unconscious for sport? I feel like the answer is no, but then you have to prove that in MMA it is essentially necessary to try to render the person unconscious as opposed to merely a heavy hit to get a TKO. I have seen some hellacious head kicks in MMA that have clearly been damaging. Perhaps certain head kicks cross the line and ought to be illegal. I am not completely convinced that all full contact MMA is completely immoral.

      Where are the condemnations on boxing? I am interested to see what they say.

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    6. Scott, I grew up watching pro boxing and not hearing one word about it being immoral. But in my 30's or so, I came across an article by a Catholic theologian, who said it was condemned, and why, and was very surprised. In the last 20 years or so, I have seen, online, maybe 4 or 5 other theologians take the same tack, pretty consistently. But when I looked for "official" condemnations (E.g. in the Catechism), it seems they don't exist. You can read this article for what is a surprisingly balanced and extensive survey of the issues.

      https://vault.si.com/vault/1962/11/05/is-professional-boxing-immoral

      The author is a theologian, but not one I would normally trust on most issues, which makes his fairly extensive and balanced analysis a bit of a surprise to me.

      There are a lot of elements to consider, but the core issue that keeps coming out is that unlike other sports, in pro boxing the object is either directly or indirectly to cause sufficient damage that your opponent cannot continue; while it is adequate IN THEORY for achieving that object that the damage be entirely short-lived, in actual reality there is no such thing as fine-tuned control over how much damage you do so that it will be limited to ONLY short-lived damage, the sport engages in the sort of physical forces that WILL cause permanent damage. Hence the choice to use such physical forces to cause damage is - in effect - the choice to cause indiscrimate damage, since the boxer CANNOT choose to employ only so much force as will cause short-term damage: he cannot discriminate in the force of his punches so as to limit the level of damage.

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    7. That is a good point. I will take a look at the article. However, while the fighter cannot reasonably discriminate his force, the rules and regulations can discriminate. Obviously not allowing certain types of head kicks, ensuring certain quality of mouth guards, etc. One could even look at the statistical data to see what the chances of lasting damage are compared with other contact sports. I suppose if you made the rules such that a lights out knockout was as rare as it is in football, then maybe you would have a compelling case for legitimacy.

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  8. Has Aristotle ever adressed on his writings that we have today the reason why humans suck so hard at following their nature? If you look on even the greek society he lived on, let alone today, you see that:

    - Humans are made to be virtuous, but only a elite is capable of really doing it. Rich and poor, educated and ignorant, the average man has quite a lot of vices.

    - The human intellect is made to know the truth, but even the elite in most societies is wrong about a lot of things, especially when we get more philosophical.

    - The human beautitude is obtained when we comtemplate God and, in a way, become like Him. But, again, only a elite is capable of doing that, the average folks don't even understand the concept.

    I don't know, for a guy that famously said that nature "does nothing in vain" he sure had found a exception. How this system works if there is not something like The Fall?

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    1. The examples you give show that humans are imperfect. How this shows that Aristotle is wrong is beyond me.

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    2. That last sentence is interesting though, on their last joined interview, Jim Madden and Gaven Kerr affirmed that Plato and Aristotle were aware of something like The Fall

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    3. This question doesn't make any sense; Aristotle's entire ethics is a second-nature ethics -- it's about how we need to develop the dispositions to exercise the activities of our nature in a way that is rational and not self-defeating; those dispositions are called virtues and skills. All human beings are naturally set up so that we need virtues and skills; it's bizarre to be complaining that Aristotle recognizes this as true. And 'nature does nothing in vain' doesn't mean nothing is required beyond nature -- it simply indicates that nature and chance are distinct causal explanations that should not be confused.

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    4. I think that the main point of dispute between your contentions and Aristotle (and the rest of the classical family of philosophies) is whether your contention that “only an elite is capable” of becoming virtuous or contemplating God (and, it sounds like, your contention that even an elite is not capable of knowing truth) is relevant to the question of whether or not human beings have a nature. In the Aristotlean epistemology, here is what happens: you gather sense data about particular human beings; your intellect is then able to abstract from the sensory particulars the universal nature of human beings, which (if your intellect is working and your will is properly directed) is just that humans are rational animals (sometimes Ed and other right-wingers with a less libertarian bent throw in “social” to the traditional “rational” and “animal,” though I’m not sure what the classical basis is for that, though I certainly agree). For Aristotleans, to know what a human being is at all is to know that a human is a rational animal. Further reflection in the intellect will lead you to deduce that the final cause of the human being is to pursue truth and goodness (before or after you have deduced that good/truth/being are the convertible transcendentals). Further reflection will cause you to deduce that it is particular to the “rational” aspect of human nature for humans to possess an intellect and a will. The will is what causes the unusual feature of humans that they can more-or-less-perfectly fulfill their natures.
      Whether or not some, many, most, or all of the particular human beings end up fully actualizing this distinctive nature is a separate question. Defective specimens are no counterargument to the Aristotlean, for reasons I admit I do not fully understand and cannot explain here (and there may be a bit of sophistry or even fallaciousness in the reasoning, but leave that aside for now). E.g. Catholics will say: just because a human is born with parts of its brain missing which severely limit its ability to use its reason, it is not thereby something other than a human being – it is still “oriented to,” “directed to,” etc. the things of human nature, the good and the true. Ed always says a dog with three legs is still a dog, even though it can’t fully actualize dog nature by running through parks. Maybe another commenter can help me here, because I don’t get this piece. (I keep believing it, admittedly, because I like its use in defending arguments against euthanasia of children born with developmental disabilities, despite having no clue if this argument has any value).
      Now, I wonder if you are trying to complain about a different issue – that, statistically speaking, we observe humans who appear ordered to pursue selfish pleasure, or who at least are so mistaken about what is true and what is good that the mass of men stay mired in misery, so wouldn’t it be more reasonable to conclude that man’s “nature” consists of just this? (“ABSOLUTELY,” say lots of competing philosophies!). (But again, you approach the question of “what is man’s nature” from a kind of normative inquiry; Aristotle doesn’t do that, he is analyzing concepts, I mean, essences). And, I suspect that in the background of your complaint is, how can we build a social order which is founded on this very noble concept of human nature, when 99% of the society cannot live up to it? I think the classicists (especially Catholics) will concede that this is a grave issue, and say that is why they are in favor of integralism/Catholic schools/evangelism, because all humans would be lost from natural causes alone without the educational and coercive social forces of the Church (or the noble elite) which guide them to right reason and right action. They would say they do this not to reshape or change human nature, but merely to remove impediments to its actualization (material defects; misinformation; tempting sensory pleasures; weakness of will; and so on).

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    5. It seems that i failed to make sense, not unusual. The question is: has Aristotle ever commented on the reason why the human race has more dificult on fullfiling its nature than other beings?

      Just to be clear, i'am a thomist myself so i agree with a lot of what the greek philosopher defended. What i find strange is that from what i know he does seems to take it for granted and that is all.

      @Dominik

      That is interesting, could you put the link here? While Plato clearly has something like the doctrine, seeing on how he sees our bodily condition as unnatural, i never thinked that his disciple had one.

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    6. I'm not sure Aristotle does think that the human race has any more difficulty in fulfilling its nature than other beings; excellence is always rare. But if he did, the most probable place for explaining it would be through his view that men are political animals. Our society is part of our fulfillment of nature, so if there's any special difficulty in human life, it would almost certainly tie into the fact that fulfillment of our nature depends in part on the society of which we are part. To excel we have to build and maintain civil society, become civilized. I suppose it would to some degree make sense that if, unlike other animals, humans have to build an environment appropriate to our excellence (the well-run city), this could make our natural fulfillment more difficult.

      In Aquinas it wouldn't be quite the same; Aquinas is arguably more optimistic about our ability to be virtuous outside of civil society because he has a more promiscuous account of virtues than Aristotle does -- he thinks we can have virtues appropriate to any society; they are not all equal -- the virtues of civil society are higher than the virtues of primitive tribal society, for instance -- but they are genuinely virtues in the same sense. But Aquinas would of course say that in one sense it's impossible to fulfill our natures -- our natures can't be fulfilled except in God, and we are currently in an estranged state with respect to God.

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    7. Talmid,
      I am too ignorant to know if this answer is presented by Aristotle, but I know that the Catholic answer is that humans can fail to actualize their natures due to their free will (which "follows upon" their intellect). Animal and vegetal souls lack a will - in the classical understanding, animals simply respond to sensory information in accordance with their essential teleology. However, animals and plants can also fail to actualize their natures due to defects in matter (defects in matter also can hamper humans' ability to actualize their natures. However, humans are not culpable for those impairments, e.g., a human who is brain damaged and cannot understand the concepts of stoplights cannot be fully culpable for not obeying a stoplight).

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    8. Interesting answers there, thanks, guys. Sorry for the more polemical language when talking about the Philosopher.

      And the idea that Aristotle had a Fall doctrine is sure something i never heard before.

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  9. I'd appreciate someone reviews, corrects or confirms my address of this question; would've been better for the person who ends up in Hell to have never been born?

    Yes, but not because of the fact of being born, but rather because of that person's choice that lead him to Hell. For being born is objectively (or absolutely) good and with being born that person had the possibility of choosing otherwise.

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    1. well, I can not understand how anything could be better for a person never born. Therefore I guess you right, "better to never been born" it is a kinda of hyperbole just to streess how bad evil is

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  10. If you are born homosexual, actualized by god, then why is it a sin to live this Lifestyle?

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    1. Lifestyles aren't things you are born with.

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    2. I have problems with the concept of a 'born homosexual', as if it were possible to walk around a nursery room going "Now there's the gay baby, and over there is the straight baby...."

      Having said that, let's say that a pedophile has a brain that works differently. I'm NOT saying the cases are on a par. I'm saying that this is not enough to conclude that people should be allowed to follow whatever their desires are, even if their desires are hardwired in some way. We would insist that a pedophile not act on his desire and recognized it as disordered.

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    3. I think the Catholic would say that God does not create anyone as a homosexual (nor does he really create anyone as being “heterosexual” in the modern sense – I will explain this idea in what follows). Human procreation passes on the material and formal elements of their progeny, and God implants the rational soul at the moment of conception. The locus of sexual desires, at least as experienced affectively and bodily, are not part-and-parcel of the rational soul which God creates and imparts to the individual. The rational soul, if its intellect is informed and its will is pure, will see that it is good to pursue sexual intercourse within the confines of marriage in a manner which strengthens the union of the marriage and which is open to procreation, and it will see that it is bad to pursue sexual pleasure outside of these circumstances. If the rational soul has a “sexuality,” that is the entirety of it.
      Now, I am a little fuzzy on the specific contours of the doctrine of concupiscence, so I may be explaining this like a two-bit Cartesian and the real Scholastics can correct me. But, I believe that lust (as affectively and bodily experienced) arises from purely material aspects of the person, and so are prone to the disorders which afflict all of matter. The material drive may be too strong, too weak, and/or may be directed towards irrational ends. Many “heterosexuals” struggle with disordered desires, even though they are ordered towards the opposite sex. Catholics say that heterosexual disordered desires are sinful; homosexual desires are disordered in a similar way.
      So, a child may be born with a greater tendency towards disordered homosexual desires, just as most humans suffer the effects of defective matter. Catholics don’t think it is a special case to ask the homosexual person to use his/her will to resist acting on those desires.
      Obviously there are practical objections to this line of thinking; I think the strongest one is that gay people who enter into a de facto marriage are immune to most objections, unless Catholics take a consequentialist dodge and say that each of the gay spouses are depriving the world of two potentially-procreative marriages.

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    4. Because its not an actuality, but a lack of actuality. Something in them has not actualized. This is what a disorder, defect, disability, impairment, or underdevelopment ultimate derives from, something not being actual that should be.

      There are people who a born deaf, and while we might colloquially say the person is actually deaf, we all know that being deaf is a disability, a lack of an ability. So, if we were to be more specific about it, being deaf is to NOT have hearing actualized.

      Just as with physiological issues, the same applies with psychological issues. Just because you are born lacking something you should have, it doesn't follow that you are meant to live a lifestyle in accordance with that lacking.

      Say that someone is born with an overpowering tendency toward lying. They are a pathological liar of sorts who struggle to tell the truth even if they have nothing to gain by lying. Now, would that make it okay for them to lie? Would being "born this way" justify anything? Of course not. We would recognize that they have a disorder, however it might have arisen, that affects their ability to tell the truth. This will be a massive struggle for them, many simply give in, but while we can recognize how hard it might be for them, it wouldn't be loving to tell them its okay to lie.

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    5. Die,

      Having an inclination does not automatically make the inclination good. Some people are born with a predisposition to abuse alcohol, but that does not mean that indulging that inclination and becoming an alcoholic would be good.

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    6. Anon,

      You're on track up until that last paragraph. You can't make an ordered marriage out of disordered acts. Two people of the opposite sex can't actually be married due to certain defects, such as;
      being married to someone else, being under age, being of unsound mind, being closely related, seeking only pleasure, to gain or avoid legal effects (gain inheritance or avoid deportation, etc). A homosexual pair has a number disordered factors associated with it.
      First of all, it is not compatible with the ends of marriage.

      1. Procreation and education of children- Procreation is impossible, education begins by being a role model for children of both sexes by parents of both sexes, also impossible.

      2. Mutual love and support- impossible; in a same sex couple, one of the two is pretending to be something they are not, or being treated as something they are not. This constitutes
      sexual and emotional abuse in principle, and often in practice, even if the couple is subjectively pleased with the arrangement.

      3. Remedy against sin- Same sex unions involving sexual acts, or approximating marriage in practice constitute sin due to the forgoing defects. This is a similar scenario to a union of those not of the proper age.

      Any additional consequential issues only enhance the essential issues.

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    7. Tim,
      If you have time, can you expand more on #2. I think the implicit warrant in your assertion is that a marriage involves complementary genders, but wanted to confirm. I think #2 could be the strongest point against modern proponents of gay marriage, if it is sophisticated in presentation.
      I think #1 is easily deflected by pointing out the acceptance of sterile couples and that children obtain a role model of both sexes from sources other than the parents.
      I think #3 hinges on #2.

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    8. Anon, your main argument is excellent. I want to elaborate on one aspect of it: the whole point of the sexual function is placed in an act of love - by which I don't mean merely "making love" but love for another person: the child that may be conceived. This free and self-less promise of unconditional life-long love, should a child be conceived, is the essential ground of the sexual act in its proper meaning. If this love is not present in the act, then it is not a proper human act of sexuality at all. (For (seemingly) sterile couples, the intent still needs to be there, which is what the examples of Abraham and Sarah, and Zechariah and Elizabeth show: God can overcome the sterility of the physical system, and when He did, they loved the child conceived.)

      Human acts of of sex that, by their very nature, cannot be life-giving, or which (though they are of a form which can be life-giving but are done without any intent to love if a child is conceived) are both disordered in that lack. Thus same-sex acts of sex, and contracepted acts of sex, are fundamentally opposed to sexuality as it pertains to human nature in that they omit its proper meaning as love of a new person.

      The love of spouse that is also present to the proper act of sex is not a SECOND PRIMARY purpose of human sexuality. It is, rather, a second ASPECT of the love that is the primary purpose of human sexuality. For example, one aspect of the love of spouse is to gift (through the donation of your body) to your spouse the right to (possibly) become a parent, the progenitor of a new human being. Going into a sex act made sterile by contraception cannot be a due act of the sexual function as the "mutual support" of spouses because it short-circuits the very gift of life-giving that is the meaning of the love. It isn't loving to gift with the left hand and take it away with the right.

      A word about "heterosexual" desires: since the only properly human sexual act is intercourse with your spouse, wanting to have sex with someone not your spouse is a disordered desire. This is true even when the person desired is of the proper (complementary) sex. What we experience short of full-on, deliberate and intended desires of wanting sex with a person not our spouse, is the stirrings of concupiscible appetite that acts apart from reason. But to desire apart from reason just is to be in a condition of defect. In the state of original justice, Adam and Eve were NOT SUBJECT to such disordered desires. Without that gift of original justice, our job as humans is to re-acquire the supremacy of reason by acquiring the HABIT of chastity, in which a man (eventually) no longer desires any woman but his own spouse. He is then not properly described as "heterosexual" in the sense that he desires "women" rather than "men", he is properly described as "heterosexual" in the narrower sense that he desires proper complementary intercourse with his wife and no other. It is, of course, impossible to be (in the narrow sense) chastely heterosexual without being also heterosexual (in the broader sense), but the state of being regularly and strongly engaged in desiring MANY women for sex is a description of a man disordered by passions that lie outside of chastity - though they run as a lesser kind of disorder than same-sex desires.

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    9. @Anonymous
      "The locus of sexual desires, at least as experienced affectively and bodily, are not part-and-parcel of the rational soul which God creates and imparts to the individual. The rational soul, if its intellect is informed and its will is pure, will see that it is good to pursue sexual intercourse within the confines of marriage in a manner which strengthens the union of the marriage and which is open to procreation, and it will see that it is bad to pursue sexual pleasure outside of these circumstances. If the rational soul has a “sexuality,” that is the entirety of it."
      I don't think this is right way to see things. The soul that God creates is not simply the rational mind, but the form of the body. Thus in an Aristotelian account it is the source of our natural inclinations. These include the inclination to reproduce (procreate being the word for the specifically human version of this.) This natural inclination is wounded because of sin, which leads it towards distortions and exaggerations. However when the person chooses in accordance with reason these distortions and exaggerations are avoided and the natural inclination is lived virtuously.
      It is not right to say that sexual relations outside marriage are all equally disordered, whether they are homosexual or heterosexual relations. Homosexual acts are more gravely disordered. They stem from a deeper wound and require a particular compassion.

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    10. What is the evidence that anyone is born gay? Usually, gay people say they have been that way as long as they can remember. But how far back can we remember? Normally, none of us can remember anything that happened in the first two years of our lives. So nobody can remember coming out of the womb gay.

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  11. I've been trying to ask this question a few times but the comment was never approved. Maybe because it was off-topic. Let's try here. You say one should stick with the catholic church no matter what. For example here: https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2021/05/do-not-abandon-your-mother.html
    I'm from Austria and here catholic churches hang LGBT flags outside their buildings, and priests invite gays and transexuals to talk at their meetings. In short, they openly push the LGBT agenda. Same in Germany. I'm not a churchgoing person, but if one is, how you think he is supposed to act? Given that it's not feasible to travel to another country every Sunday to attend mass, should that person keep attending a church with rainbow flags hanging out of its windows?

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    1. I'd like to add to this question and ask: how can churches that do this sort of thing still be considered Catholic? Doesn't this sort of thing get attention from the Vatican?

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    2. Since the second Vatican council, a large part of the clergy are infected by the heresy of modernism; some due to ignorance, some due to weakness, and those responsible for all this due to malice.

      Do not participate in scandalous programs or parishes. Try to find a traditional group where you can still get the Tridentine Mass and sacraments. This will be increasingly difficult due to the effort of Francis to suppress the True Mass , but he does this out of desperation as the conciliar mass losing ground for the reasons you cite.
      The Church will get through this in due time, but the unlawful attempt to suppress the Mass will bring increasing tribulation until things are sorted out.

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    3. @DrYogami
      As for now they did not take "official" positions in contrast to the Vatican, they got away from it. But sooner or later a clash will have to happen.
      Actually, a Synodaler Weg is underway in Germany and will end next year, most likely with the official introduction of female priests, recognition of homosexual unions, abolition of mandatory celibate for priests, and communion with the protestant churches. Honestly, I do not see how this could not lead to a schism. And probably something similar will then follow in Austria. 2022 could be the year that breaks up the catholic church in Europe.

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    4. To add to what Tim says: the very fact of there being no "regular" parishes around that DO NOT push in the gay agenda would provide a major reason to go to one of the traditional masses that the Pope is trying to suppress. The Church makes room for going around "regular" rules when necessity strikes, and a situation where "no regular parish is available that is not gravely disordered" would seem to present a necessity of going elsewhere.

      If even that is impossible (and that's going to be true for a lot of people), Catholics in such places have one of three options: (1) go to mass at those parishes, and hunker down with a fortress mentality except to the extent of receiving the sacraments from the parish; (2) become a visible member of the parish, try to get on the parish council or otherwise a position with a voice, and SPEAK OUT against the abuses (while knowing there is almost no hope of achieving anything within the foreseable future OTHER than the stand-up resistance itself (which is a good regardless of whether it achieves anything else)); or (3) become a human lightning rod and do overt acts of defiance such as tearing down the flags, etc. (which WILL get you persecuted, and MAY get you jailed, for example, in defense of the true faith). (Or (4) depart for other climes.) Which of these is the "right" option for you will be different for people with different stations in life and different skill-sets.

      No persecution justifies leaving the Church, for that represents giving up a greater good for a lesser good. "The Church" is the body of Christ, and is always larger than just these specific parts of the Church which are withered and need pruning. You are not baptized as a "member of St. Oubliette's 'singing a new faith community into being' faith community", you are baptized into the Universal Church.

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  12. Aristotelian-Scholastics approach to metaphysics is certainly interesting and it takes real phenomenal experience much better into account, but I wonder how lucid dreaming fits in this picture?

    On the one hand, dream world is much better described though potential/actual qualities while it can not be adequately described within modern atomist framework.

    On the other, I did not found anywhere any disscussion on this topic.

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    1. I don't have a good source, but I remember reading in a broader Catholic treatise some remarks to the effect that dreaming is an activity of the imagination and memory only, and that the rational intellect does not participate at all in the activity of dreaming. This sort of jibes with my experience with dreams - the experience of thinking, reasoning, even reading text in dreams is always warped and incoherent. It may be well explained by the idea that, when dreaming of activities which require reasoning, the imagination is merely spitting out the bare sensory data which often accompanies rational activity (and the emotional and tough-to-describe qualia of sensory experience as well). I am suspicious of the validity of "lucid" dreaming - while I have experienced the sensation of lucidity in dreams, it is possibly just a sensation, and not the true entrance of the intellect and will into a dream. I experience the affective and sensory pieces which often accompany exercising my free will, but in reality, the "lucid" dream is still a random churning of images and memories. An analogy is the false sense of profundity which psychedelic drugs cause - the intellect is not actually empowered with additional insight, but through purely material influence, the person intoxicated with lsd or marijuana strongly believes that he is thinking profound thoughts.

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  13. God's essence. Our beloved Doctor says we can not know God's essence, however we can know what God's essence is not and know the essence-existence identity of God. How is possible if we can not know God's essence?

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    1. Knowing what He is not is indeed some knowledge of His essence, which is a good thing. We cannot, however, fully grasp what it is to be God as we can a fruit. You may know an apple is not a pear because you first knew what an apple was with sufficient precision, but to an unknowing person, to hear that an apple is not a pear is to learn something, however minuscule. When it comes to God, the difference is that, unlike an apple, the essence of God can never be fully contained by the mind even after one has learned that God is immaterial, eternal, etc.

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    2. If you say the essence is its that-ness, you still haven't said anything about the essence, except that it is. But Aquinas never says anything about the nature of is-ness except that it is

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    3. @Dominik,

      Reposting some questions about indeterminism from another blog.

      1) About the difference between agency and mere indeterminate causation, I think what I laid out in the comments of this post about the possible metaphysical principles behind indeterminism might be helpful: http://alexanderpruss.blogspot.com/2019/01/can-free-will-be-grounded-in-quantum.html?showComment=1631390707193

      Basically, if the main reason why our free will is free is because our intellect is only necessarily attracted to universals which include particulars in them so any attraction to particulars can't be necessitating, and our will can only be necessarily satisfied by what is infinitely good, then similar principles may be behind physical indeterminacy.

      The basic principle is having your specific effects under a more general / greater principle of unity - and for purely physical things this can be as simple as only having a general final cause, which includes particular ways of fulfilling it, so the particular direction an electron moves, the number a die shows, and the moment an electron spits out a photon are all indeterminate, as only something which fulfills the general purposes of "Moving either up or down", "Shooting a photon in the next 10 seconds" and "Showing a number between 1 and 6" could necessitate them.

      And when I think about this more it seems a bit clunky, since there most likely isn't anything concrete that could be the fulfillment of these general final causes - nothing satisfies moving either up or down for the electron, for example. Except perhaps motion itself, so the electron is determined to move, but the particular direction isn't determined. Another question would be how exactly those general causes unify their particular solutions (up, down, photon-shot-at-the-5th-second, showing 3, etc.) into the umbrella of their generality.

      But it seems this might work in some way - a cause is indeterminate because it possesses its effects in a more unified way. If so, one could view this as a basic metaphysical causative principle, like self-motion. And the higher you go up the chain of being, the more perfect that principle becomes - and since we are living beings who can immaterially possess the forms of things, our indeterminacy is likely of a higher ontological category than that of quantum particles. Kinda like the self-motion of living things is more perfect and of a higher category than that of non-living substances - the same general principle, but higher.

      So agency is more perfect than physical indeterminacy because it possesses its ends in a more united way - living things in general have more unity than merely physical substances. This also touches on the idea that agency is categorically different because it has more possible effects - as living beings we consciously interact with the world and keep information about it in a way that non-living things can't, and our ends are more general and so of a much wider scope than physical susbtances; but even if you had a die with a million sides, and each side produced an additional effect unique to it, there would still be the important difference that we possess our effects in a more perfect way by being aware of them and even possessing them immaterially in our intellects.

      What do you think of that model? I asked Alex Pruss what he thought of it, and he said it sounds fairly plausible, at least after the first reading of it.

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    4. @Dominik,

      2) Do you have a link to Kenneth Pearce's paper? Sounds interesting; I'd like to see his explanation of how physical indeterminism is still entailing, but agency isn't.


      3) You say, "I would say that the event itself is very much determined, at least it's content. The indeterminancy is within the substance, namely in its possible actuation of a certain power alongside an uncertainty about when it's going to happen."

      Can you explain this a bit more, if you don't mind? How would free will in that case have undetermined content as well as having undetermined actualisation of its choices?


      4) You say, "Presumably a non-entailing one." and "Perhaps the difference is that in the latter there really can't be any probability or intelligible use of possible worlds?"

      Well, this gets into some other questions I've asked. Basically, indeterminism in general means that the causation is non-entailing. However, does this also imply that it's necessarily non-contrastive? For example, we sometimes make choices where we prefer one option over the other, so there seems to be a contrastive element there, yet we'd still say it's a free choice - I think Aquinas' account of the intellect/will only being determined towards the universal/infinite good, which means that the attraction and strength of choice for anything contingent can't be of a necessary nature and is finite and so non-entailing, is a good way of explaining this intuition. But this would then be different from saying that all indeterminism is necessarily non-contrastive.

      So you can have non-entailing causation along with contrastivity in principle - so what about non-contrastive indeterminism? Do we use the same principle as before to explain how it's possible, along with some other principles to explain how non-contrastive acts are also possible as well - say, for Buridan's Ass decisions? I'd be interesting in what Pruss would say about this.

      As for free will not having probability or possible-world distribution, I don't think that's necessary. We can easily imagine people preferring something such that they always choose that thing over another, no matter what situation they are in or how many times it's replayed, which would imply something roughly like probability - maybe not quantitative probability since higher thing such as qualities aren't quantities, but greater or lesser tendencies nonetheless.

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    5. @Journey, understood. One thing is to know something, another to fully know the essence.

      @Dominik, actually Thomas says something about God's "is-ness", he says is equal to His existence and he says it not as an assumption of faith but as a result of human reasoning. Now, even if human reasoning it is not a direct knowledge, nevertheless it imply to directly know something of the essence. Of course this means "reasoning" and "knowing" are 2 distinct act of the intellect

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  14. Anybody have any recommendations regarding general anti-realist challenges to metaphysics?

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  15. In a recent podcast, William Lane was asked about Theistic Personalism. He said that the term theistic personalism was invented recently by Thomists who want to denigrate theistic philosophers who disagree with Thomism. What do you think?

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    1. Considering you can reject theistic personalism without being a Thomist (as Orthodox Christians David Bentley Hart and non-Thomistic Scholastics like the Scotists do), I'd say that WLC is wrong per usual.

      People don't use terms like neo-theism, theistic personalism, or monopolytheism to describe anyone who disagrees with them. Rather, these terms describe a particular conception of monotheism that anthropomorphizes God by denying His simplicity or His immutability.

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    2. It's a term that came about because there was a need for a label, and that was the one that happened to stick. 'Classical theism' is a term that was invented and popularized by process theists (Hartshorne, in particular) to indicate the dominant traditional view specifically opposed to their position. 'Theistic personalism' is a label that in its current form was made popular by Brian Davies to indicate an approach to theism that was not classical theism, in order to criticize it. Thomists do in fact tend to use it most. So Craig is in a sense right, but is being tendentious in saying it is for the purpose of denigration rather than criticism.

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    3. Well, Thomism is a subset of classical theism. Thomists don't apply this term to other classical theists that aren't Thomists.

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  16. How many of you frequent commenters here hold degrees in philosophy? I am an engineer and am just starting to dabble in this sort of thing as a hobby. I have read a few books, including some by Feser. But I still find a lot of it difficult. I am curious to know if any of you knowledgeable people came to it through your own self study.

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    1. Anon,

      Just keep reading. Podcasts are good too. Check out the Thomistic Institute: https://thomisticinstitute.org/.

      Also, the Classical Theism podcast.

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    2. Anon, my degree is in math. (However, my undergraduate degree had an emphasis in Aristotelian philosophy and Thomistic theology, so I got a huge leg up for this environment here.) I know there are others here with degrees in math and physics or other physical sciences, as well as a couple that teach philosophy.

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    3. I have an undergrad in it and am currently studying for my Master's in philosophy.
      I should mention that I didn't really start reading Thomist philosophy until after I found this blog.

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  17. Dr Feser: When are you going to say shahada and embrace Islam, the one true faith? If classical theism is your jam, you would love Ash'ari and the Mutazileh trads.

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    1. TIK,

      I don't speak for Dr Feser, but my guess would be never.

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    2. If I may be so bold,
      I believe the good Dr. prefers the Catholic Afterlife, and is far more satisfied with the arguments of Catholic philosophy; not only as far as Islam is concerned, but in regard to all matters of Faith.

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  18. Hey Dr. Feser! What do you think about that the philosophical divide between empiricists and rationalists after the Middle Ages? Do you think its valid from a aristotelian-thomistic perspective? I am talking specifically about the debate around the nature of knowledge (does it begin with the experiences or the mind, etc.). And do you consider Kants proposed "solution" invalid?

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    1. Dr. Feser adress the question here: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2020/01/the-rationalistempiricist-false-choice.html?m=1

      Quite a informative post, the part about Kant being a synthesis of the errors is awesome.

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  19. It seems to me that reason can in a certain sense be thought of as 'material'. I used to have problems with the Thomist account of the intellect as purely immaterial and not seeing how it could be reconciled with brain damage and the like. However (I can't recall where) I remember reading that Aquinas regards human reason as a defect of the intellect. Since our intellects can't know things directly, but only indirectly through the medium of the senses and the body, unlike God and the angels. Now forms are not defective but matter/form composites are, since matter can fail to properly actualized the human form. So it sounds like matter impedes human intellectual powers. Is this the right way to think of it?

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    1. Yes, that is a fairly decent way to say it in a short space. Intellectual power is itself a kind of immateriality, because it requires extending to universal and abstract things that could never be material; thus matter hinders actual understanding. (An obvious example i actual human life: we confuse being able to imagine something with being able to understand it.) However, the tricky thing is that our intellectual powers are not very great to begin with; we are rational rather than intellectual beings because we understand in bits and pieces. Thus, although matter hinders intellectual power, human beings are in fact set up to unity intellectual power with sensation, physical feelings, and the like; and we use these things to help us to understand better. It's like training wheels on a bike: training wheels hamper bike movement, for everyone, but riders with weak bike riding skills can use them to ride in a way better than their skills would otherwise allow. Or like a baby-walker: baby-walkers hamper smooth walking, including for toddlers, but a toddler nonetheless walks better with it. Or like crutches. The human intellect is the kid with bad balance in the intellectual universe; our minds are the weakest kind of intellect that can still function as an intellect. However, our bodies are our natural compensations for this; we can do as much as we can do because we don't live based purely on intellectual insight, but are using sensation and imagination to fill in gaps, give us a starting point, assist us when we get confused, etc. Someone with severe brain damage and the like is trying to get by with a defective form of our natural means for compensating for the weakness of our intellectual insight.

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    2. Brandon, those are very illuminating analogies, thanks.

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    3. Brandon, while I don't want to dispute your main thesis, would it not be equally accurate to describe human capacity of knowing as being "like that of the animals...except a leap beyond them because we have intellects as well"? So, while compared to PURE intelligences (like the angels) we are "defective", on the other hand compared to other material things and even brute animals, we are vastly more than they are.

      Ultimately, while our intellects are limited in function by our bodily nature, this is (at the same time) by design and therefore the kind of limitation that is - as a whole - orderly and well-fit. Just as fish are limited by not having legs, but for fish that is fitting and by design, and allows them to fit into the larger order as having a proper niche. God intended that the created order have pure intelligences, and pure material beings, and beings that cross the gap by being material but intelligent also - and this created order is GOOD for having some things limited by having intelligence married to matter, and other things even more limited by not having intellects. While the animals are MORE LIMITED by not having intellects at all, they are not "defective" as animals in being so. They would be defective only if they lacked intellect but were MEANT to have intellect by their natures. Humans are limited by having their intellects married to material organs, but that's not "defective" according to human nature, it's "limited". Angels too, are limited, in that they are created beings, not the Uncreated. But being so is according to their natures, so it is a way of being lesser without being defective.

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    4. @Brandon,

      Aren't the limitations of our intellects part of our nature though? Our intellect isn't in a perpetual state of limitation and thus frustration of nature or what we are meant to be - though it's limited, it's a feature of our nature, which isn't primarily defined by its limitations but has a finite particular nature with limitations that flow from its finite but still good mode of being.

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    5. Tony and Joe,

      Yes. An intellect is a pure perfection; having it is in itself better than not having it. Our intellect is, however, very weak as intellects go; it is not an intellect that can function adequately without assistance, material or divine.

      The big danger in my analogies is that it could convey that our intellects are disabled; they are in fact exactly what they should be, since we are supposed to be the bridge creature between the material and the intellectual world. But because of that we are a peculiar case in that our intellect is so weak it ordinarily requires material assistance (or divine compensation for its lack), despite the fact that our dependence on phantasms hampers even our own intellectual power.

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  20. One man who stops lying can bring down a tyranny. -- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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  21. What is the theological significance of the Jewish rejection of Christ the Logos? Does it result in a theology of rebellion and revolution?

    If Christ is the Logos, and the rejection was rooted in rebellion rather than invincible ignorance (and this would seem to be the most probable case given that if 1st century Jews couldn't discern Jesus as the Son of God, then how could we be expected to do so today?), then the rejectors were acting out of pride and bad faith. Thus, it would be impossible for them to continue to be Jews in the same way they were Jews before Christ. They must respond to Christ and the events that transpired and their response must now be reflected, I think, in how they live and believe (and indeed, the Talmud mentions inter alia Christ in a blasphemous way as boiling in excrement). Rejection of Logos is ultimately rejection of reason and the moral law and these are rebellious acts.

    Note, I am not saying that your average Jew today is walking around consciously rejecting Logos and cursing the name of Jesus (and no man can fully reject Logos since all men have at least some rationality and conformity with the moral law). I am asking whether the theology and the resulting culture that emerged in the Tamudic/Rabbinical Judaism of the centuries following the Resurrection and the destruction of the Temple are ones steeped in rebellion. What would the effects of such a culture and such a theology be?

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    1. Is this not more or less explicit in the term "Synagogue of Satan" that Jesus applied to those pharisees who should have recognized and proclaimed Him instead of disavowing and crucifying Him?

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    2. Possibly. I claim no real grasp of the Apocalypse of St. John. Here, I think you refer to 2:9 and 3:9 where there is explicit mention of those who claim to be Jews, but are not. Are Christians therefore the bona fide Jews, i.e., those who accepted Christ (and therefore those who call themselves Jews today but aren't Christians are those who are not)?

      Another passage worth noting is 1 Thessalonians 2:15 where Paul (obviously himself a Jewish convert to Christianity) calls Jews "adversaries to all men". How would this manifest in concrete terms? For example, Ed (if I may be so familiar) has written about how certain social phenomena are the logical consequence of liberal presuppositions, a thesis I basically accept. Analogously, could we expect a theology of rebellion to play out among Jews in certain discernible ways? Christianity accepts that all men are in various states of rebellion against Logos (i.e., sinful), but a theology of rebellion that is a direct response to the Incarnate Logos would seem to codify rebellion of the highest order in a way that outstrips any quotidian or garden variety of pride where appeals to banal weaknesses, ignorance and foolishness are often still possible. In a theology of rebellion, rejection is virtually if not overtly doctrinal. You have planted your stake in rejection.

      Would this theology produce a revolutionary spirit, a religion of "The World"? Could this hermeneutic be used for historical interpretation as well as social, political and cultural phenomena today? It seems that it could and that the Church has historically done so (often prior to a shift in sensibilities with the publication of Nostra Aetate). Volume VII of La Civilta Cattolica comes to mind as an example. Georg Ratzinger (great uncle of Benedict XVI) also wrote on the subject.

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  22. Do you think appealing to fulfilled OT prophecy can be part of a robust case for Christianity?

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    1. Yes. I am confident it can be PART of it, but I find that it does less than one would like. Many atheists doubt the authenticity of the NT so it’s very easy in their mind for an author to invent a story about Jesus fulfilling some prophecy or Jesus purposefully acting to bring about a prophecy. You would also need to spend time proving the meaning of the prophecy and improbability of it happening without divine assistance. Often prophecies foreshadow Christ more indirectly. I do think that prophecy plays an important role in determining the evidence for Christ’s resurrection. Atheists love to throw out Elvis sightings and the like as counter examples to the Christian case. But not ONLY, as many have pointed out, does the evidence not support those cases as strongly, but the background evidence points against it! The fact that Jesus does fulfill prophecies, does come at a time that fits with the book of Daniel, and does begin the prophesied dominion of God makes Him a real candidate for having a miracle claim about Him. He fits the bill, completely unlike Elvis or whomever.

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    2. That was what St. Mathew had in mind when he wrote his Gospel. He referenced the prophecies throughout.

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    3. I've always found the O.T. prophecies to be one of the most impressive 'reasons for believing', but I've always been a Christian.

      My experience though agrees with Journey 516's: your typical atheist is less impressed by it than one might hope.

      I imagine it could be effective with Orthodox Jews though (I've certainly read of Jews coming to faith based on seeing how Christ fulfilled the Old Testament. Also, some of the church fathers often cited fulfillment of O.T. prophecies in their apologetics against the Jews). Perhaps Muslims too.

      Part of the problem is no doubt that many of the prophecies can really be understood and made sense of only after one has already accepted the New Testament.

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    4. Ian, you're right that it is far easier to see Jesus as the fulfillment of some prophecies as through the lens of the New Testament Christians, and that presents the worry of confirmation bias.

      One answer to that, is to ask a different KIND of question: what sort of messiah COULD come in fulfillment of the prophecies? The difficulty is that the prophecies are mixed, jumbled, and even (appearing) as contradictory. There is the "messiah coming in glory and defeating evil", and then there is the "suffering servant" messiah. Without Christ as an model, what possible way could there be for a messiah to fit ALL those prophecies? One of the telling things about Christ's story is that he manages to fit the disparate prophecies in a way that nobody before him COULD HAVE IMAGINED.

      As a side note: even if some amalgamation of an incredible Old Testament scholar, a deep mystic, and a powerful preacher/leader were to dream up this mythic Christ that manages to "solve the riddles" of all those disparate prophecies - that's NOT who got Christianity going. That is to say: nobody thinks the 12 Apostles were (without Christ to help them) incredible Old Testament scholars, deep mystics, and powerfully persuasive evangelists and leaders. (Sure, some of them BECAME persuasive speakers, but their leader Peter (to take an example) was effectively a loyal but brash oaf in terms of his own natural abilities.) St. Paul would qualify as all three, perhaps, but nothing then could explain his CONVERSION from outright hostility to the Church to being its most outspoken proponent, and nobody thinks he invented the message anyway - it pre-existed his work.

      So, turn the problem of "fulfilling all those prophecies" around and look from the other end, and that's a partial answer to confirmation bias.

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    5. Ian, Jews have accused us of mistranslating words like 'lma in Isaiah 7:14 in order to make Jesus's virgin birth a fulfillment (although Matthew was just quoting the Septuagint translation which had been put together by Jewish scholars 150 years before Christ).

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    6. Journey 516, one issue with claiming the authors of the NT invented stories of Jesus fulfilling prophecies is that we have no evidence that people read many of the prophecies of the OT the way the Christians did. Most of the Roman-era Jews expected a conqueror who would overthrow Rome, not an offering for sin who would die and be resurrected. Even under the most common eschatological views which favored resurrection, they believed in a general resurrection of all the saints at the end of time, not a resurrection only for the Messiah in the middle of history. N.T. Wright talks about that quite a bit in making his case for the Resurrection.

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  23. I have a question regarding matter being the principle of individuation. There is a certain elegance to idea that I appreciate: form explains a thing's universality, while matter explains its particularity. However, it's not clear to me how it is supposed to work: if form explains what a thing has in common with other things sharing the same nature, then for matter to distinguish a thing from other members of the same species, doesn't there already have to be some distinguishing features in the underlying matter? But this seems to imply that there are forms already present in the underlying matter (at least to my way of thinking). What otherwise could account for these distinguishing features in the underlying matter?

    A second question related to the same topic: what do Thomists think of the Scotist doctrine of haecceity?

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    1. Ian,

      "doesn't there already have to be some distinguishing features in the underlying matter?"

      No. In fact "prime matter" is, so to speak, universal. I say "so to speak" because it doesn't really have any corresponding concept in modern physics; it's a more general, metaphysical idea. Therefore, it is the configuration and/or position in space that distinguishes.

      At least I believe that is correct, but perhaps people smarter than me know otherwise.

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    2. Thanks TN. Then the question remains for me how matter is supposed to account for individuation if there is nothing to distinguish it from other bits of matter.

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    3. Supposedly matter accounts for individuation by being this bit of matter rather than that. Works for physical matter – but does it work for metaphysical matter? Yes, if you believe in two things: materia prima itself and haecceities. Haecceities get a bad press, but they are actually more credible than materia prima, which is the Schrödinger's cat of metaphysics: something and nothing at the same time.

      That which individuates is the same as that which gives existence in the first place: the knowledge and will of God. Are not five sparrows sold for a farthing? If you will, each of them has its haecceity with God. Being and knowledge are convertible. Prime matter is a useful (or not so useful) fiction: in other words part of a model of reality and not reality itself.

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    4. Thanks Jonathan.

      I still don't quite see how "this bit of matter rather than that" would account for individuation: doesn't there have to be something different between the two bits of matter already even to make them 'this bit' versus 'that bit' in the first place? And couldn't one make the same argument about form? "Ian's form (soul) is not the same as Jonathan's form (soul), therefore this is what individuates them".

      Haecceity maybe resolves this, and something like it would seem to be required for metaphysical matter as you say, but I don't know enough about the doctrine to say for sure.

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    5. "how matter is supposed to account for individuation if there is nothing to distinguish it from other bits of matter."

      Configuration and position in space.

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    6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    7. Nobody seems to have actually answered your question really, and it is a good question, btw.

      Restated: if everything that a substance is is determined by its form, then whence comes the diversity of substances that instantiate the same form? Why is John dissimilar from Joe?

      The substantial form of a species is the same for all instances. Thus John and Joe have the same substantial form. But what is the cause of their diverse accidental forms?

      If I were to hazard a guess, I would say that the accidents are potential vis-a-vis the substantial form. So the accidental form of having blue eyes is a potentiality of the substantial form of Humanity. Now the question becomes: why is that potentiality, and not, say, brown eyes, actualized in some instance? Here, I would probably appeal to the powers of the substance vis-a-vis the accidents. Reproduction is a certain power of mutation. What we call heredity is then in some relation to the power to actualize certain accidental forms in the product of mutation by virtue of which ones are already present in the parent substances (either actually or potentially; think dominance and recessive traits).

      I.e., those accidents need to be actualized and which are actualized depends on some causal agent like a parent or an artist or whatever.

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    8. Hi Pugio Fidei,

      Interesting suggestion. So are you basically claiming that our accidents are what individuate us? I know this solution has precedent among the Scholastics, though I can't remember who exactly.

      TN,

      I'm going to have to think about your answer more.

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    9. And sorry TN: in your first reply I had missed the part where you had already said that configuration and position in space individuate, sorry for making you repeat yourself.

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  24. I'd be interested to hear views on the vaccine mandate and how Christians ought to respond to it. My view is that it is a hypocritical, brazen act of overreach that is completely out of proportion to the ‘crisis’ it ostensibly aims to solve.

    However, do we have any right to disobey it? I don't see that it requires us to do anything intrinsically immoral.

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    1. It appears that vaccination is now a sacrament in the leftist cult.

      Why would you have an obligation to obey something merely because it's not immoral?

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    2. In Unicornia, we need to protect the protected against the unprotected by forcing the unprotected to take the protection that failed to protect the protected. Disagree and you'll be fired.

      I'm kinda wondering how long we can pretend things are normal.

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    3. Are we to consent to hypocrisy, and overreach in subjecting ourselves to a partial solution to problem that endangers 5%ish of people despite the dangers of side effects and the woeful lack of credibility of those involved?

      The question answers itself.

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    4. TN,

      Why would you have an obligation to obey something merely because it's not immoral?

      Because we have an obligation to obey legitimate authorities?

      Tim the White: it's not a question about consent, but about obedience. I can disagree with the authorities while still submitting to their legitimate rule over me, which includes submitting to laws that I think foolish.

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    5. I see no reason to take the vaccine. It seems like most of the people getting sick right now are those who have taken it. There's also no telling what the long-term side effects of this drug will be. Add that to the madness of the official narratives, and you have a good argument against the taking the vaccine.

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    6. "Because we have an obligation to obey legitimate authorities?"

      Since when is the POTUS an authority on your healthcare decisions? Since he appointed himself?

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    7. > Because we have an obligation to obey legitimate authorities?

      Not if they issue illegitimate orders.

      > I can disagree with the authorities while still submitting to their legitimate rule over me, which includes submitting to laws that I think foolish.

      This is preposterous. If an order is evil, we have an obligation NOT to obey. This kind of absolute and unconditional obedience is thoroughly immoral. Only legitimate (i.e., moral licit) orders can become morally binding.

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    8. Pugio Fidei,

      Ok, I agree that if an order is intrinsically evil, we have an obligation not to obey.

      But what about the vaccine mandate is intrinsically immoral? I don't think a vaccine mandate in principle is necessarily immoral (we mandate vaccines for other diseases I believe), so it must be the particulars of this one that make it immoral. What are these particulars that make it so?

      Also, suggesting that we have an obligation not to obey this mandate suggests that is immoral even voluntarily to receive the vaccine. Is that what you are saying?

      TN,

      Certainly our government has the authority to make certain decisions with respect to public health that might impose obligations on the health care decisions of individuals. The question then is the degree to which this authority extends.

      Mister Geocon,

      That may all be true, but it doesn't really address the question I'm asking.

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    9. Ian,

      True that the government has authority over public health, and that "degree" matters. But this is not a power that POTUS can just claim by fiat and then cobble together a rationale to use OSHA to carry it out.

      The severity of the disease does not merit the reaction to it: If you aren't over 65 and you're not obese, your chances of a severe outcome are statistically zero. Yet we see would-be kings masking two-year-olds, destroying people's livelihoods, and carelessly disregarding the long-term costs in suicides, depression, economic devastation, and much more. All for a disease that has a 99.8% survival rate (and if you take out comorbidities,it's higher yet). This isn't Small Pox, or Ebola. Should we muster the full force of the government and institute martial law for the common cold?

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    10. Ian,

      The government doesn't have direct command over the bodies of their citizens. In paragraph 70 of Pius XI's Casti connubii, the pope says that "where no crime has taken place and there is no cause present for grave punishment, [the public magistrates] can never directly harm, or tamper with the integrity of the body, ether for reasons of eugenics or for any other reason." He then cites the Summa Theologiae (II-II, q 108, a 4), which states that "a man should never be condemned without fault of his own to an inflictive punishment, such as death, mutilation or flogging."

      Obviously, this is why the government cannot mandate a vaccine like this, especially given how ineffectual the vaccine in question is.

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  25. I have a question regarding how Christians can worship God through the arts. I can see how Christians can worship God if they are creating/performing the art (whether it's painting, music, theater, etc.) but how can a Christian worship God simply through observing the art.

    For example, can one worship through listening to Beethoven's 9th or Vivaldi's Four Seasons? (I can understand how one can worship through singing a song, but it seems more difficult to recognize how one can worship through passively experiencing the art).

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    Replies
    1. Works of art, and all good, true and beautiful things, remind the observer of God and His Goodness; thus inspiring him to make acts of Faith, Hope and Charity.

      Delete
  26. I'm really struggling to understand love, esp from a Thomistic standpoint. I know that Thomas says that it is willing the good of the other, but (1) this seems to leave out a lot of stuff going on and isn't sufficient for distinguishing between types of love/contexts of it, e.g., friendly and erotic love.

    (2) How do I argue that love is not a feeling or emotion and instead an act of the will?

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    1. Jack,

      If “friendly love” or “erotic love” lack “willing the good of the other” how are they love at all?

      “How do I argue that love is not a feeling or emotion and instead an act of the will?”

      Have you never done something good for another even though you gained nothing from it? Or even suffered to give something good to another?

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  27. Here's an excellent open letter on the topic of Covid-19 and Pope Francis' and the bishops' participation in tyranny, propaganda, and persecution of the innocent faithful. I think it's well worth commentary from Ed if he has the inclination and the time:
    https://www.markmallett.com/blog/open-letter-to-the-catholic-bishops/

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    1. I just don't pay any attention to Pope Francis. He speaks gibberish, I don't understand him, so I don't pay any attention.

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  28. Mr G
    Yes. My grandfather was a Marine and fought the Japs on Okinawa. He carried a flamethrower and when they refused to surrender, he burned them alive. He had no regrets about what he did and he was glad we nuked Japan and saved American lives

    Scott,
    The morality of MMA? Well, my Marine grandfather taught me to box when I was 16. He put the hurt on me but I'm grateful that he hardened me mentally and physically. I later boxed in college and in the Army, and I boxed up until I was 40. It's a great spot, a great exercise and it great for self defense.

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    1. Anonymous,

      My great-grandfather hated the Japanese until the day he died. War propaganda did a number on that generation, friend. FDR put Japanese-Americans into concentration camps, for goodness' sake!

      Delete
  29. "From logic gates..."

    Never forget DeMorgan's Theorem, y'all:
    NOT(A and B) = NOT(A) or NOT(B)
    NOT(A or B) = NOT(A) and NOT(B)

    In other words:
    Make your NAND a negative-OR, and your NOR and negative-AND, and your AND a negative-NOR, and your OR a negative-NAND!

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  30. What would St. Thomas make of the modern conception of atoms and cells as the building blocks of matter and of living things? Would he say that these make up the material cause of the thing, but this is secondary to the formal cause?

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  31. Which is the most reasonable argument, and why: (1) (2) or (3)?

    (1): It is more probable that the miracles of Catholicism are true than that they are not. Therefore, it is more reasonable to believe that God approves of Catholicism than that He does not. Therefore, we ought to believe that Catholicism is true because God cannot deceive nor be deceived and therefore cannot approve what is false. Therefore, even before examining Catholic dogma we are rightly justified in believing whatever the Church teaches. Thus, we know a priori to such an examination that any difficulties encountered in analyzing Catholic teaching have a solution even if we can't solve the difficulties. Coming up with solutions is laudable and useful but not absolutely necessary.

    (2): The difficulties encountered in taking Catholic teaching to logical conclusions are so strong that it seems more probable that Catholicism is false. Thus, even before examining particular miracle claims we know that these Catholicism-authenticating miracles did not really happen for otherwise that would imply that God could deceive or be deceived. Coming up with reasonable alternative explanations to these miracles is laudable and useful but not absolutely necessary.

    (3): It is more probable that the miracles of Catholicism are true. Thus, it is more reasonable to believe that God approves of Catholicism than that He does not. But the intellectual difficulties entailed by accepting the literal truth of a Catholic worldview make it more probable than not that Catholicism is not literally true. Thus, it is more reasonable to believe that God's "approval" of Catholicism does not entail its literal truth. Perhaps the miracles are simply God's way of nudging people in a particular direction, on account of the benefits accrued through religion (natural and/or supernatural), without God meaning by the miracles that He wishes us to take Catholicism as literally true. In fact, perhaps God intends the intellectual difficulties / contradictions as a sign to us that He doesn't want us to take the religion as literally true but only as beneficial in a way that abstracts away from or transcends whatever is in the religion that isn't literally true.

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    1. I would have to know the difficulties in question. I don’t think over the past 2000 years of genius theologians and mystic Saints that there are many Catholic beliefs that have not been taken to their logical conclusion. I don’t think there are any logically problematic dogmas. I also don’t think that a Church which proclaims to be infallible, the path to heaven, etc can be a little wrong. It’s either all or nothing or close to that.

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    2. @Albinus

      I would say that there is not 100% sure way of navigating. You particular angle will change your approach. To you is catholicism possible true? Them go look at miracles and other signs of credibility. It is not? Them look at why you think that it is not and evaluate your reasons. Also, besides looking at catholicism, look at the other worldviews that you find plausible, maybe they are even worse that catholicism :)

      This i say because i know that you, as a classical-minded guy, sees the intellect as capable of knowing a lot of philosophical truths. If you were a atheist(or any other worldview that doed not give much force to pure reason), i would just say "look at the signs of credibility, your puny reason can't know more that reality".

      The truth is that philoshical reasoning is probably the method that is better at being wrong and empirical evidence can be interpreted in several diferent ways, so no method is perfect. Look at miracles and other cool stuff, look at your problems with catholicism, look at oyher forms of christianity; look at other worldviews etc. Do what you can, your particular situation will be very important at getting things right or wrong, so never trust only one way. To show how a diferent perspective can change things:

      " Perhaps the miracles are simply God's way of nudging people in a particular direction, on account of the benefits accrued through religion (natural and/or supernatural), without God meaning by the miracles that He wishes us to take Catholicism as literally true. In fact, perhaps God intends the intellectual difficulties / contradictions as a sign to us that He doesn't want us to take the religion as literally true but only as beneficial in a way that abstracts away from or transcends whatever is in the religion that isn't literally true."

      I really can't see how that works. It is not like there were several exclusivistic religions and catholicism is just one, christianity pretty much created the concept. Why a religion like that, and one with dogmas that look like the least likely to be created by men, would exist in a universalist world is suprisingly, to say the least, let alone one that generated so many signs of credibility and that was(and kinda is) understood by billions of people as the real deal.

      Just putting my opinion here as a example of how many diferent perspectives there are, hope it can ilustrate the necessity to use several methods to reach the truth.

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    3. Journey 516,

      There are plenty of difficulties. Most of the ones I have in mind stem from tensions with the Church's teaching on Divine Inspiration of Scripture (i.e., that the human authors wrote all and only what God willed) with what we find in Scripture and with what we know through other sources. For example, the Bible (hence allegedly God) teaching a young earth and a relatively recent date of Adam and Eve and a worldwide flood. One can try to make the science fit with this or one can try to interpret the Bible (and Catholic Tradition in light of God's guidance of the Church) as NOT teaching this, but neither approach is very satisfactory.
      Another difficulty is Jesus prophesying that His Second Coming would be soon. It seems implausible on various grounds, as I've discussed in previous comments on other posts here.
      Another one would be Matthew mentioning how the dead raised and came out of their tombs and went through Jerusalem (Matthew 27:52-53). If it did happen it seems implausible that though there are no other records of this as far as I know (not even in the Bible). If it didn't actually happen and is merely a literary device or something then what else about the Resurrection is?
      Other difficulties have to do with Church teaching itself. For example, reconciling the Church's teaching on EENS (extra ecclesiam nulla salus) and thus God wanting all to be Catholic with the sincerity of many intelligent non-Catholics. It's implausible whether you doubt their good-will or doubt their knowledge. Saying that God is just withholding his grace until the last moment is also, in the final analysis, not a convincing response.
      Another difficulty has to do with the reversal of Church teaching over time. EENS is a great example. Also capital punishment. Perhaps also usury (I haven't done enough research on the matter). Even if these changes don't rise to the level of "infallibility" they are still arguments against the credibility and authority of the Church and also ultimately infallibility itself because belief in infallibility rests on the credibility and authority of the Church.
      Other difficulties concern the lack of convincing evidence of real miracles. And the possibility of non-divine supernatural action being the source of many of these miracles besides the possibility of fraud, misunderstanding, legend, hallucinations etc.
      Other difficulties have to do with the Problem of Evil and God's lack of intervention. For example, the implausibility of the Catholic God (i.e., one who loves us and has all the hairs of our head counted) allowing a child (I apologize for the image, it's horrifying) to be slowly cooked to death after being accidentally left in a hot car by his parents. Where was the child's guardian angel? Where were the parents' guardian angels? Did God hear the guardian angels' prayers and say, "No, sorry, you can't intervene, I have a greater good in mind here". Again, highly implausible. This is not to say that it absolutely disproves the possibility of an infinitely good, omnipotent, omniscient God who deeply loves us and can work miracles, but just that we need some *absurdly strong* evidence to offset it.
      These types of considerations lead me to think that something along the lines of arguments #2 and #3 in my original comment is much more likely true than #1.

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    4. Talmid,

      Yes, of course, use "several methods". That is precisely in line with my original comment. One cannot be intellectually honest and believe #1 (for example) without showing why #1 is more reasonable than #2 and #3.

      To do that, it seems, one must compare the strength of the motives of credibility with the force of the difficulties and come up with what is the most reasonable reconciliation. Perhaps it is to reject the motives of credibility (#2). Or perhaps it is to deny the force of the difficulties (#1). Or perhaps it is to admit the force of both and attempt a synthesis (#3).

      I guess what I was looking for is for commenters here to give their reasons for why one should choose 1 or 2 or 3 (or maybe some other option). If one chooses, say, #1 I would be interested in hearing *why* one thinks it is a better argument than #2 and #3.

      You give a reason for rejecting #3 (and thank you) but it doesn't seem to directly address the argument of #3. In fact it seems like a motive of credibility for Catholicism that a proponent of #3 could actually agree with.

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  32. Hi Ed,

    I just thought I should let you know that I've written an article over at The Skeptical Zone, titled, "Window dressing, or: Is the God of Thomistic classical theism as dumb as a rock?" in response to Dr. Gaven Kerr. Here's the address:

    http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/window-dressing-or-is-the-god-of-thomistic-classical-theism-as-dumb-as-a-rock/

    To help readers navigate their way around my article and select the part that interest them, I've included a main menu, here:

    http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/window-dressing-or-is-the-god-of-thomistic-classical-theism-as-dumb-as-a-rock/#X

    The article also defends "theistic personalism" and critiques some of the traditional proofs of classical theism, including the Aristotelian argument for an Unmoved Mover (or Unactualized Actualizer) and the Argument from Essence and Existence. Cheers.

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    1. The author seems to make the mistake of thinking that divine simplicity is incompatible with omniscience. If that's his argument, then Feser's rebutted it before.

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    2. Rather, the aim of the article is to show that the Thomistic account of knowledge (and in particular, Divine knowledge) simply doesn't stack up. See here (parts F and G) for more:

      http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/window-dressing-or-is-the-god-of-thomistic-classical-theism-as-dumb-as-a-rock/#f

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    3. Vincent,

      The Skeptical Zone's arguments are lacking. Many of them are based on the author's unargued, metaphysical presuppositions and some of them are based on a strawman view of essentialism. For example, the third objection both presupposes an empiricist anti-essentialism and assumes that Aristotelian position is that finding the essences of things is easy. It's inept, to say the least.

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    4. While there are any number of places one could take issue with the arguments Vincent makes, I will pick just one point: his objection going from the point that the mind (i.e. God's mind) is a "storehouse" of thoughts, to the implied assumption that God has thoughts "IN" his mind (stored there). Vincent's response is both inadequate and unnecessary.

      First, whether or not a mind must "store" thoughts when they are not currently being used, "in" the mind, it is surely unobjectionable to describe thoughts that the mind IS CURRENTLY thinking as being "in" the mind. Forget the naive silliness (that some might raise) that "in" is an idea about materials and extendedness, and has no place in immaterial things like the mind - that's mere semantic gamesmanship. Of course "in" has more meanings than just those that arise by extension and physical place. The mind, WHEN it is thinking X, has X. "Thinking X" then characterizes that mind - it "said of" the mind. It is nonsensical to assert the mind is thinking X but that X does not in any sense belong to the mind. In speech that is only a bit more careful than everyday speech, we might say, if we are thinking of the 3-sided-ness of a triangle, that 3-sided-ness FORMS the triangle, but it INforms us. Even if you don't want to use the Aristotelian model of "forms", that kind of language is quite natural and bears meaning. We don't become 3-sided when we think of the triangle's 3-sided-ness, but we DO take on "3-sided-ness" in some respect by thinking it. Somehow or other 3-sided-ness inhabits the mind, and not only does the mind "have" the idea, the idea in a certain sense "has" the mind in that it has the mind's attention or receptivity or something.

      Now, God is (as Vincent says over and over) timeless, outside of time. So, regardless of whatever else we want to say of God's being able to hold many ideas "in storage" being "unnecessary" because God is outside of time, we can set the "location" of those stored ideas aside for the moment and ask instead, what about the (many) ideas God is thinking at a single moment. If God is thinking of loving me, he is thinking at a minimum two thoughts at a single time, love and me. Either these are in God's mind in a way that is complex, or in a way that is simple. STORING things for later retrieval is an irrelevancy for this question. If God has these two ideas in the mind in a complex way, then God's mind is complex. That's all there is to it. Vincent doesn't need to go into memory storage at all to elicit the issue of complex or simple. And whether memories are "stored" in the mind or elsewhere is also an irrelevancy, given that God must be able to think two things at once. All that is necessary for the question of complexity is whether God can think two ideas at the same time, and if so we must settle the complex / simple on a basis other than where ideas are stored. And on a basis other than the MERE FACT that it is two ideas rather than one, for it is well understood that one can think of many things under a single aspect. Vincent hasn't really addressed the underlying issue at all.

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    5. Hi Tony,

      Thank you for your reply. I see you've at least taken the time and trouble to read my article, and I respect you for doing that.

      Re the mind: I don't deny that thoughts are of or from the mind, or that the mind has thoughts. What I DO deny is that thoughts are in the mind. They just can't be. Accidents cannot be in a substance, any more than contingent beings can be in a necessary Being. The idea makes no sense.

      I also deny that the mind receives thoughts or ideas. Here, we must be careful of language misleading us. Sometimes we speak of "getting" a joke or a difficult concept (e.g. quantum physics). That doesn't mean we receive these ideas; it just means that our mind is able to reach out and form new connections that it hadn't thought of forming previously. So even when understanding new ideas, the mind is active.

      You ask whether God can think multiple thoughts at the same time. "At the same time" is of course meaningless when applied to God, but my short answer to your question is "yes." But it doesn't follow that the thoughts are "in" God's Mind. Rather, God's Mind reaches out to multiple realities - namely, the things that He has made. God's acts of understanding are operations that belong to His energies rather than His essence. (The essence-energies distinction has never been condemned by the Catholic Church.) I hope that clears matters up a little.

      Mister Geocon,

      I critiqued the arguments for a distinction between essence and existence here:

      http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/window-dressing-or-is-the-god-of-thomistic-classical-theism-as-dumb-as-a-rock/#m3

      However, I gave a much longer and more detailed critique of the argument in an earlier post, here:

      http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/fesers-fourth-proof-and-the-mystery-of-existence/

      Nothing in my arguments against a real distinction between essence and existence assumes that essences can be easily defined. Nor do I assume anti-essentialism: on the contrary, I affirm essences, at least in the realm of physics and chemistry. Consequently, I'm not sure what you're getting at. Cheers.

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    6. Vincent,

      Your third critique in Part F clearly strawmans Aristotelian essentialism. You write: "In other words, knowledge, in the ideal case, is not of individuals, but of universals. What the account overlooks is that knowledge of natural kinds is extremely rare, difficult to come by and continually liable to revision, despite the fact that natural kinds themselves are considered to be fixed." The Aristotelian response is simply "So what?" Nothing about what's said there cuts against Aristotelian essentialism.

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    7. Vincent says (in part):

      Accidents cannot be in a substance, any more than contingent beings can be in a necessary Being. The idea makes no sense.

      Well, I see that you disagree with Aristotle on the issue of accidents. I don't see that you have made any sort of argument for the position, much less actually proven it. Aristotle's whole theory of forms - and bifurcating "being" into substantial and accidental being - allows for accidents to inhere in substances. So, if we take it that you dispute Aristotle on this, are we confident that either (a) you are even using the terms the way Aristotle used them (or must we do a quick mental conversion of meanings to go from A's to your arguments), or (b) that your position actually doesn't knock the entirety of the two form-matter and substance-accident distinctions into completely different concepts (or useless jargon)? Dunno.

      I know my experiences (of color, heat, heavy, sweet, etc, and various comings-to-know truths are OF me, and yet they change over time while I remain "me". I know my arm used to be paler and now is tanner. It's my arm, which "IS me" in part. It's not merely "belonging" to me like my book or my gym membership. And yet I remain unitary - one single me before and after the change.

      If you intend to dispute the entirety of the Aristotelian doctrine on accidents, then naturally you are going to come to wildly different results on all the downstream conclusions. But it would have been more enlightening to shine a light on THAT distinction (and its "problem") than to point to the downstream conclusions as being the locus of problems. And this isn't a mere side-note of a dispute, it's right at the heart of A's philosophy.

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  33. One tenet of Christian doctrine I've never understood (in fact, I think it's immoral) is "turning the other cheek".

    If I have violence done to me (and presumably also to anyone I care for), why should I meekly submit to it? I'm not necessarily talking about revenge for the sake of it, but to not even defend yourself? I don't get it.

    Sure, non-resistance can be the best policy in some situations, but as a blanket rule, turning the other cheek is insane, if only because sometimes those doing the slapping need to be slapped back (yes Hitler, I'm looking at you).

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    1. Median Joe
      The Catholic Church has long recognized the right of self-defense, and the right to defend others.
      See the Catholic Catechism No.2264 and 2265

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    2. Ok, so maybe the Catholic church does, but that seems to contradict the Sermon on the Mount:

      "But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well."

      The meaning seems clear enough. But no reason is given that I know of why this is the right thing to do. Are there any reasons? and if so where can I find them?

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    3. Median Joe,

      Redressing wrongs is a demand of justice. Even so, you may forfeit your rights, but you may not forfeit your obligations. If you commit a wrong against me, I may forgive you (and it may build virtue for me to do so), but if I see you beating up my neighbor, I have a demand in justice to stop you.

      The Sermon on the Mount just shows where real strength lies: not in petty revenge, but in forgiveness. Why? Because virtue is stronger than vice. It shows that you can turn from vice and become virtuous. If you persistently refuse, I can force you in justice, but it is preferable that you choose virtue of your own choice.

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    4. Right, IN THAT INSTANCE, Christ was stating the rule as a blanket rule. But in other places he (or his disciples) stated other rules, and TAKEN TOGETHER they constitute a nuanced rule. What nuances?

      Here's one: those who are responsible for the care and safety of others are not only permitted but REQUIRED to use force on occasion. That's what Paul says in Romans 13:1-4. (And not only in self-defense.)

      Taken with many other rules, St. Augustine elaborates the rule "turn the other cheek" into a complex teaching, roughly: whether you respond with force or not, the FIRST AND PRIMARY requirement is to respond with charity. In some cases, charity will imply turning the other cheek. In other cases, it will mean responding with force. In still other situations, it may require some OTHER response, like Christ's turning to the soldier's who struck his cheek, "If I have spoken the truth, why strike me?" In that case, he did not merely turn the other cheek, nor fight back physically.

      Even the "right of self-defense" is qualified, as both St. Augustine and St. Thomas clarified. If in a given situation, it would be more charitable to let the unjust aggressor kill you, (than for you to kill him - which may be the only available defense) then you should permit it without trying to overcome him. However, (as St. Thomas says) all other things being equal, you have a greater claim to safety than the unjust aggressor has to your not killing him, because (again, all other things being equal) your own survival is better for the good of all than his survival is - in that he is an unjust killer and you are not. But it is NOT ALWAYS the case that your survival is better for everyone, and in those situations where your death would actually better all told, you should not kill the unjust aggressor to defend yourself. In decent societies these would be quite rare conditions.

      The secondary teaching (which follows from the primary response being that of charity) is that responding with anger as the controlling motive is wrong. When anger is just and upright (as Christ was angry with the money-changers in the Temple), it is good to act WITH anger, but not under the control of anger: reason and charity should be in control. Knowing human nature, Christ knows full well that UNLESS we learn to apply restraints like his dictum "turn the other cheek", when someone strikes us, anger normally will be topmost in any response. Given human propensity, nobody is going to LEARN how to put charity first and only employ anger in careful measure, unless they FIRST learn to quell the instinctive response of anger and bend toward the opposite end of the spectrum of simply NOT striking back. That is, we USE the simple, unnuanced, general dictum as a tool to learn to move away from the extreme of angry response toward the (opposite) of extreme of never being angry at all, in order to ARRIVE at a mean point that ALLOWS anger, in the service of charity. For a person who has that charity and has anger in control, he should sometimes be angry in a fight, but would not fight merely because being struck made him angry.

      And as St. John Damascene (I think) said: in real life, anger is ALMOST NEVER actually beneficial to the situation. Not truly never, but very rarely. So rarely, that men should start out acting as if it's practically never - they will get far closer to the right amount that way.

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  34. I think one very important argument for the Purely Actual Actualizer being God does not work, and I'd like to see responses from anyone here.

    The argument is used to prove different things such as the First Cause's omnipotence, goodness, and perfection. Feser defends a version of it in his book, and Aquinas appeals to it multiple times.

    Briefly, the argument is that "because the first cause is purely actual, that means it must be absolutely perfect/have all perfection (and hence be perfectly good, omnipotent, etc)".

    The problem I have with this argument is that it jumps from "relative perfection" (which is neat, but not godlike) to absolute perfection (which would be divine). Just because a thing does not have any potential to be actualized, that does not entail that it has every actuality/perfection, only that it is perfect relative to itself.

    The First Cause concluded at the end of Aristotelian arguments is a being that doesn't have any passive potencies. It isn't just a case of an actualized potential, it just is purely actual. But note that "having no potentiality" DOES NOT entail "having *all* actualities/perfections". A rock doesn't have any potential for reason or consciousness, but that doesn't make it more perfect than a man; on the contrary, it is *less* perfect. Just because something lacks potentiality does not mean it is more perfect. To be more perfect involves having more actuality, not simply not having potentiality.

    Imagine a "perfect squirrel" (if such were possible). It couldn't be improved upon; there's no way that it could have any more actuality in terms of being healthy, climbing trees, gathering nuts, etc. This squirrel is perfect relative to itself, but that still doesn't make it a very impressive thing in itself.

    So, just because the First Cause is purely actual, that does not mean that it is absolutely perfect, has all power, etc. It just means that it is perfect *relative to itself*. But if what it is isn't itself omnipotent, free, intelligent, etc., then Pure Actuality won't be godlike. And we can't just beg the question and assert that pure actuality, by virtue of its being pure actuality (again, which just means it has no potential), has all these perfections.

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    1. The reason the Unmoved Mover is omnipotent is that he actualizes absolutely every cause at every time and every place. That is, ALL power that anything has to affect anything else is entirely derivative from his power and is actualized by him. And nothing has any power to do anything apart from his actualizing it, in the same way that a train car only has the power to pull the train car behind it by virtue of the train engine giving it that power by pulling it. So all power is actually God's power exercised by proxy, much as the train car's power is justcthe train engine's power exercised by proxy. Since all power is actually his, he is all-powerful, aka omnipotent.

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    2. I find your question interesting and hope that somebody more expert than I replies.

      But let's take your perfect squirrel example. Is it really possible for something to be a *squirrel* and have no potentialities at all? I'm not just trying to nit-pick -- I'm wondering if the solution of your problem might lie in this direction.

      Your perfect squirrel would presumably have the potential to find one more nut (at least). Then it would have more perfect knowledge, and be an even more perfect squirrel, since knowledge (of the location of nuts) is proper to squirrels. Wouldn't your squirrel therefore have to be omniscient at least with respect to nut-location?

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    3. A squirrel (or any contingent being) is not the source of actuality. The source of actuality must possess the fullness of perfection, otherwise it would have potential for more.

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    4. "But note that "having no potentiality" DOES NOT entail "having *all* actualities / perfections"." Actually, the principle of proportionate causality does entail this. Specifically that of eminent proportionate causality. It is mentioned in Ed's Aquinas intro, Scholastic Metaphysics (last couple of pages of the book if I remember rightly) and in Aristotle's Revenge (I'm a bit more fuzzy on that recollection though).

      In a nutshell, proportionate causality requires that whatever is in the effect be in the cause in some way, either formally, virtually, or eminently.

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    5. All of you (with the exception of SMack) have mentioned the principle of proportionate causality. That's neat, but that's a different argument. I think an argument from the First Cause as source of all things and hence having all perfections is plausible and interesting, but it's a *different* argument. I am talking about showing the First Cause's absolute perfection and omnipotence from the fact that it is purely actual, not from its being the cause of any things.

      Feser makes this distinction numerous times in his book, along the lines of "as with omnipotence, (...) we can show it either by working backward from God's effects, or by working forward from God's nature". I am not discussing the PPC argument, but the "First Cause is purely actual, hence it must be omnipotent etc."

      Likewise, Aquinas in the ST Question 4 Article 2 provides two independent arguments for God's having the perfection of all things. The first from PPC, the second from God's nature as subsistent existence, etc.

      I would also like to discuss the PPC argument, but I'm talking about the other one - moving "forward" from God's nature.

      If God is purely actual, that simply means that it is perfect relative to itself, not that it has the perfections of all things.

      SMack,

      The squirrel case is just an illustration. Maybe a perfect squirrel would be omniscient only with respect to where nuts are; maybe that isn't needed because he just needs to know where nuts near him are. Or we could talk of a perfect stone. I could be that there couldn't really be a "perfect squirrel" either, but again, my point here is just an illustration to help people see that pure actuality doesn't immediately entail perfect actuality. Just because a thing is actual with no potentialities, that does not mean it has *all* actualities, or even the actualities of personal beings and the like.

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    6. Squirrels are by definition composite things and thus they cannot be metaphysically or physically simple ergo they cannot be perfect in the same manner of the deity.

      You might as well say "imagine a world where 2+2=5" it is a logically incoherent statement.

      ME thinks yer channeling Hume's tendency to imagine vs conceive. There is a difference.

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    7. I am talking about showing the First Cause's absolute perfection and omnipotence from the fact that it is purely actual, not from its being the cause of any things.

      The Unmoved Mover's perfection and omnipotence aren't drawn directly from the idea that he is purely actual.

      In fact, you've got the order of deduction almost exactly backwards. The idea of a purely actual being (aka an Unmoved Mover) is deduced from the fact that it necessary to account for the reality of change in the world (aka the actualization of potentials) in the first place.

      We don't just come up with the idea of an Unmoved Mover arbitrarily, out of thin air, and then conclude that he must be omnipotent. Rather, we start with the reality of change, and deduce the existence of a purely actual being as the actualizer of all potentials. The very process by which his existence is established also establishes him as the source and actualizer of all power.

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    8. I think one can reason from relative perfection to absolute perfection if the "relative perfection" is perfection relative to existence itself. Something which is pure act relative to existence, therefore, must have everything belonging to existence, just like something which is pure act relative to squirrelness must have everything belonging to a squirrel. Those who reason from "pure act" to "all perfections," therefore, can do this if they believe the "pure act" under consideration is "pure act" relative to existence, which is exactly what many Thomists believe when they reason to a first uncaused cause of existence (be it with a De Ente style argument as Feser does or via the First Way as Feser does, if my memory serves me correctly).

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    9. Unknown,

      My comment didn't have anything to do with PPC. PPC is only relevant to contingent beings. It makes no sense to attribute degrees to God. A contingent being is dependent on God for it's being (PPC), but God just is being. He's not some proportion of being as if being itself can be divided up. Likewise with His other attributes: He just is His knowledge, etc.

      Speaking of the source as if it is contingent is a fallacy.

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    10. If God is purely actual, that simply means that it is perfect relative to itself, not that it has the perfections of all things.

      No, this is incorrect; perfection in this context is always a kind of completeness, and therefore can be only had relatively with respect to a change of completion, which does not apply to anything purely actual. Your notion of 'relative perfection' is incoherent.

      With respect to the argument in ST 1.4.2, I don't think you are characterizing it correctly; Aquinas has already argued that God being pure act, combined with the doctrine of the composition of essence and esse, establishes that God is subsistent being itself. But other beings are related to subsistent being itself as limited to unlimited.

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  35. Ed, I guess it would be nice if someday you could say a little bit more about your thoughts on metaphysics (I know you already made a lot of posts about it, just like the natural philosophy back then and about Hume's fork). But the point is, I say, what do you think is the strongest argument for the possibility of metaphysics and why do you think it is ultimately unavoidable, and why we should accept that it is truth-apt?

    I am making this question not because I am skeptical about it - and I am in no way saying that you should make a post about that if you're not into it -, but because I think it could be made more explicit these implications to laypeople like me. I think it is useful for people to understand and to know why it is so important.

    Also, thank you for your work and dedication - and of course the space for me to say that!

    May God bless you and your family!

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  36. Tom Woods has put together a Covid test for that brother-in-law (you know the one) who buys into all that his masters tell him like Tom Parson's on steroids.

    https://www.covidchartsquiz.com/

    ReplyDelete
  37. What exactly is meant by forgiveness and is there any reasonable explanation for hell? The New Testament says turn the other cheek if somebody does wrong to you and why would God be less forgiving than people should be? Also isn't forgiveness meaningless when you still want the person to be punished as in purgatory? And isn't the argument that is sometimes made that it is people who choose hell for themselves disingenuous as nobody would knowingly and rationally choose eternal punishment over anything else?

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    1. Theresa,


      Justice demands the redressing of wrongs. You may forfeit your rights, but you may not forfeit your obligations. If someone commits a wrong against you, you might choose to forgo the demands of justice for yourself. However, if you witness a crime being committed against your neighbor, you may not excuse the offender on the grounds that you are going to “forgive” them; that would just be cowardice.

      Some people do choose hell of their free will because they refuse to accept the suffering of self-renunciation. In giving of yourself you become heaven (even here and now). In refusal to give yourself, you become hell (even here and now). The sin of Satan was not saying “I want to suffer”. The sin of Satan was saying “I will not serve”.

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    2. I think that forgiveness is (normally) a correlative of remorse/apology. When a person (who has wronged us) realized he has done us wrong, has remorse, and apologizes by saying "I am sorry", what he seems to mean is "I regret having done it, if I were (now) placed in the same position I would choose NOT to do the act that hurt you, and I endeavor not to do that act (or its like) again." The forgiving response from us is to will to set aside the guilt of the offense and treat the act as if it had not been an offense. (There are all sorts of qualifiers, but I think that's the guts of it.) It is analogous to releasing a debt someone owes to you: you "write off" the debt as if it doesn't exist anymore. (And yes, we use the "debt" metaphor for apology/forgiveness all the time. It's a good analogy, I think.)

      One reason we should forgive even before the person repents is to (hopefully) merit for the offender the grace to be repentant WANT forgiveness from God. (There are many other reasons.) In general, we may want God to ensure justice is done ultimately (including in respect of this act), but generally forgiving this offense means NOT wanting the person to "pay" any added price in purgatory on your account distinct from on God's account for the sin. I think that continuing to want them to "pay for" the sin just is not fully forgiving them. (But it is possible to partially forgive, too.)

      God's response in judgment is different from ours, because He is responsible for total justice, and we are not. We can forgive someone who isn't sorry and doesn't want to amend, but God's role is different, and (I think) that makes it an oxymoronic thing to imagine God forgiving someone who adheres to the sin and doesn't repudiate it.

      And adhering to sin isn't "rational" in one sense - in the sense that deliberate sin itself is irrational, it is a way for us to BE INSANE in adhering to a lesser good opposed to the greater good - but this kind of insanity JUST IS the "freedom" to do evil. And people who can do evil here and now can continue to do so right up to the moment they die, at which point their will is fixed on evil. Just as people are fully capable of picking up cigarettes for the first time knowing full well that getting addicted to cigarettes is a terrible idea for the long term, and will to BLOCK OUT that truth and act instead for the short-term lesser good that is more apparent.

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  38. Why are some ideologues so obsessed with Heraclitus? Nietzsche, Deleuze, Rancière & co. will often compliment his philosophy, but I'm not well read enough in their exegesis to see if they succeed (as I imagine the goal is) to avoid commitment to an act/potency distinction.

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    1. I think that they mostly just don't like the idea of substance, static as better that the changing, rigid rules and values etc. Since almost all of the western tradition disagree with process-philosophy, Heraclitus was all they had. His writing style is also very non-traditional and cool, so i can see the weeping philosopher as being interesting.

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  39. Did Professor Feser write the words attributed to him in this post?
    "Pasadena City College philosophy professor Edward Feser wrote that under this worldview, it is not aberrant for the Mongol Empire or the nation of Yugoslavia, for example, to expire, but in this view, “there is something abnormal, and contrary to natural law and the supernatural order, that there is no longer a Holy Roman Empire. Indeed, on this view of things, given that the natural and supernatural orders require that there be such an empire, it is not quite correct to say that the Holy Roman Empire no longer exists. It is more accurate to say that it is dormant.”

    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/church-ruled-world-what-happens-when-vatican-gets-involved-lamba?trk=articles_directory

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    1. He did: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2020/12/what-was-holy-roman-empire.html?m=1

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  40. On judaism, what advantages do the jews have besides the guide that the Torah is, the sacrifices and holydays, the this-wordly blessings and rewards we see on the Pentateuch and the Messiah? Do they have more spiritual advantages too?

    I ask this because the ressurection of the dead and the World to Come seems to not fit that well here like they does in christianity and islam. From what i understand, the jews were promissed pretty much only this-word blessings and rewards on the Hebrew Bible, so they getting only that while everybody(even the gentiles) can get eternal life,way better, seems strange.

    Not that God has a obligation of giving more, but it seems weird that the mosaic covenant,being so important, only gave transitory rewards to the choosen people. The covenant look less important, i guess.

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  41. This might sound silly, but how do you deal with the statement that "all of the interesting people are in hell?"

    You could call it stupid or sophistic or contrived or irrelevant -- but is it really?

    As a 20-something young man full of um.. vigor, I've done my best to sublimate my drives towards socially positive ends and quasi Christian ends - with TREMENDOUS difficulty, especially when I was younger.

    I first read about social boredom in a Catholic blog "The Imaginative Conservative" when I was 16 and summarily realized then that most of my peers were commiting sins not out of malice - but out of boredom. I see people in the comments talking about mixed martial arts and the like and whether they are acceptable. I certainly hope they are; if I couldn't do something dangerous like martial arts or police work I just couldn't function in society.

    To put it simply: what is your answer to the aforementioned objection to a Christian lifestyle (interesting people are in hell) -- and the implication that sin may more easily and thoroughly fulfil the human need to avoid excess stasis or social boredom than righteousness, at least in certain situations and stages in life? I feel like it's my duty to have an at-least halfway decent answer.

    A monastic life may be beautiful and righteous but is it really more interesting then an idiot who gambled away his fortune in Vegas and got chased out of the hotel by security? He might be going to hell but he arguably had a more interesting ride getting there.

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    1. Unknown,

      If fun and being interesting is wrong, I'm not aware of it.

      Let me ask you, are people interesting who pursue "fun" while they don't care who they may harm in the process? why or why not?

      Is Hitler interesting while Mother Teresa is uninteresting? Why or why not?

      Billy Joel sings "I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints". Are people who damage themselves and others "laughing" while people who respect themselves and others "crying"? Take drug addiction for example. Is addiction "fun", while the self-control and discipline required, say, to be an MMA fighter not fun? Why or why not?

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    2. "all of the interesting people are in hell?"

      No one in heaven would say that...

      As someone who is also young and who comes from a non-religious context, i can get what you are saying. Well, we must remember that the human person is normaly in a state of sin and rebelion where the internal order of things is being disrespected and reason is mostly obeying the passions, lower that her, and ignoring the higher ends she can follow. As we say on my country, it is a situation where the post piss on the dog!

      On that crappy situation, of course a life of virtue will be seen as boring. virtue take us away from these mundane pleasures and honors and make reason stop ignorings her responsabilities and start to disciple the concupscive and the irascible passions back to normal in order that the higher ends can be reached, which is very hard.

      Since most persons are not virtuous, they are stuck on a bunch of bad habits and can't reach the higher pleasures, if they can even conceive they. On this inferior state, a life of a beast is full of all the pleasures and prides one can know and has little effort, while a life of a man is a life of almost no fun and of a looot of work. That is why you see our degenerated and materialist west as pushing on the media the image of the virtuous as a bunch of boring puritans and of these that break the rules as happy and cool.

      Of course, the virtuous life is the truly good life and God unconditional love to us impel us to try to give back to Him, so we have no excuse but take the bitter remedy. But if you actually do it with dedication, not using it only as a means to destroy some vices and let others(like pride) grow, you will find that it is not only getting easier but eventually it gets even fun! New habits are formed and the virtuous life gets natural to will. Eventually you will see these things you see now as exciting as just ridiculous and see the things you see now as boring as the way to have fun with the Beloved.

      Just ask the saints, someone like St. Ignacious of Loyola or St. Jerome did live what people usuallu call cool before beciming virtuous, do you think that they wanted(or want, nowdays) to go back the that? I'am not that better that i was when i started and even i can safely say that i do not miss several of the things i saw as cool before. Who wants to go back to slavery because the owner sometimes was generous with the food?

      Did that help?

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    3. You have it backwards. Hell is pain and boredom. Evil is not interesting it is banal.

      All the interesting people are in Heaven all the boors are in Hell.

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  42. If about child molesting, did god see the suffering Kids and thought it was good what he actualized

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    1. Die,

      What standard tells you that suffering kids is morally wrong? Where do you get this standard?

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    2. My conciousness. I cant really get to the point, to see this evil as privation of goodness, because they couldnt really choose. I can only think of it as either evil really exists or i dont understand his ways

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    3. Die,

      The people who commit evil can choose, no?

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    4. Die,

      Please show how you know the ultimate outcome of stopping child molesting would have been better? Of course, you can't. You have no counterfactual to work with.

      This is like asking "Why doesn't the govt just lock every single person in their house forever. That will stop the suffering from Covid-19."

      Of course, doing so might stop people from suffering and dying from Covid-19, but that doesn't mean you won't stop people from suffering and dying in general. You could easily produce vastly more misery and death. I'm just making this point from a consequentialist perspective, too. There is more to good and evil than just pain and death.

      So, while stopping child molesting would stop children from experiencing this particular suffering, you have no basis to argue that this wouldn't bring about a much worse fate.

      Also, if God did stop some of these acts, you wouldn't even know anyway precisely because they didn't happen. He could be stopping some and you just aren't aware of that.

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  43. I installed Linux on my expired Chromebook. Sweet!

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  44. One objection to Aquinas that I've heard ad nauseum from Protestants, is this idea that Aquinas elevated reason over faith. Basically, that Aquinas made reason autonomous and independent of faith. This type of thinking has (as far as I know) become mainstream thinking on Aquinas among Protestants (particularly low-church denominations). This idea that Aquinas elevated reason over faith was championed by a Protestant apologist named Francis Schaeffer in the 1970's through the 1990's, and more recently in a book called "The Failure of Natural Theology" by Jeffery D. Johnson. According to Schaeffer, in a number of his books, he argues that Aquinas is inadvertently responsible for bringing about the Enlightenment.

    Are there any resources (books, lectures, podcasts, etc.) which someone here could recommend that explains Aquinas's understanding of how reason and faith relate to each other. Preferably from Thomists (whether they're Catholic or Protestant Thomists is fine with me).

    The reason I'm asking this is because this is a major objection that many Protestants have against Aquinas and his philosophy.

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    1. Michael,

      I recommend "The Dumb Ox" by GK Chesterton.

      Why does it have to be faith or reason? Why not both to the fullest? Mormon missionaries tell me to reject reason, why don't I just believe them if reason doesn't matter?

      Furthermore, congratulations on finding an intellectual Protestant! That's a rare find anymore; most just like the guitar player at the local megachurch. (plenty of dumb Catholics too)

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    2. Yes, go straight to the Summas. Otherwise, Etienne Gilson in The Christian Philosophy of Saint Thomas Aquinas has a great opening chapter (but he’s basically summarizing and presenting what’s in the Summas).

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    3. T N,

      The only Protestant Thomist I know of is Norman Geisler. He's written 2 books on Aquinas called "Thomas Aquinas" and "Should Old Aquinas be Forgotten". I haven't read either of them yet. I have read Chesterton's book on Aquinas (multiple times). I've also read Feser's books "Five Proofs", "Scholastic Metaphysics", and "Aristotle's Revenge".

      Journey 516,

      I'm currently reading through the complete works of GK Chesterton. Once I finish his works I'll start reading through some of the 20th century Thomists (Gilson, Adler, Garrigou-Lagrange, etc.)

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    4. Michael,

      Sounds like you're already capable of the type of discussion you're asking about. Are you beating your head against the wall because you can't convince people against their will?

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    5. TN, Journey 516

      Here's a blog post I've found addressing Schaeffer's criticisms of Aquinas.

      http://vereloqui.blogspot.com/2009/01/where-francis-shaeffer-goes-wrong-is.html

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    6. Michael,

      The people you're talk about, whether they know it or not, come from a tradition called "presuppositional apologetics." On this view, reason presupposes the truth of Christianity (and in particular, Reformed Christianity, since that's where this idea came from). Presuppositional apologists often bash people who believe in natural theology, but there's not much differentiating themselves from apologists that use natural theology.

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    7. TN,

      No, I just didn't know how to address this specific objection.

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    8. As I remember, the fundamental reason why Protestant (Calvinist, usually) presups attack Aquinas is their doctrine of total depravity. Calvinists hold that all nature is fallen, so there is no realm of "nature" left intact. Aquinas, they say, was wrong to think as though at the main problem with "nature" is that it is below the divine and needs to be supplemented by grace. Rather, Calvinists say, all nature is subjected since the Fall to the domination of sin. We have therefore no intact natural faculties that can reason to truths about God unaided by God's grace preceding our reasoning.

      I sat through a whole lecture by Cornelius van Til on this. Van Til inveighed lustily against the saint from Aquino.

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  45. Why exactly are the devil and his angels against God? What is the motive for their sin? WHat's in it for them?

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    Replies
    1. Unknown,

      Non serviam. -- Satan

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    2. Satan is prideful and envious. Prideful because he doesn't want to serve anyone and envious of God's position as the supreme being over all creation. He's in it to try and deny what God wants by taking as many people down with him.

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  46. Hi Ed,
    I would love to have you on my YouTube channel for a short discussion. It seems that this blog is the best point of contact. Let me know! It would be an honor. My channel is: consciousphilosophy
    All the best,
    Eric

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  47. Is an illusion actual or potential? I have the impression that neither answer is totally convincing, and that we need a third category, other than being and non-being, to account for it.

    To take the famous Indian example of the man who, in the middle of the night, mistakes a rope for a snake: his illusion really exists, otherwise he would not perceive it, and yet it does not actually exist, being an illusion and disappearing as soon as the light returns on the rope. I am talking about an illusion and not a simple error of judgment.

    Same question for thoughts. What are they made of in the A-T metaphysics? Actualized immaterial essences, like little angels in the head?

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    Replies
    1. An illusion is a deception or misleading image caused by a privation of the senses or the intellect. In your example, had you full daylight, you wouldn't have perceived the rope for a snake. It's only because your vision is impaired by the lack of light that you made such a mistake.

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  48. If anyone is interested, here's a link to the complete works of GK Chesterton. I don't know if this is actually his complete works but there are many works of his on here. It's categorized as "Nonfiction", "Fiction", "Essays", "Poetry", etc.


    http://www.gkc.org.uk/gkc/books/index.html

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