William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Page 5 of 408

Science? What’s That?

The Scientific Ethicist, PhD

The Scientific Ethicist, PhD


Science is the measurement of quantifiable things. That which is not measurable is not science. Causality and morality and consciousness and so on are not measurable and therefore are not scientific. That which unquantifiable but which is coerced into quantification is pseudoscience. How strongly do you agree with this, on a scale of 1 to 7?


Lady Margret lifted the fan to cover her face, turned to the Duchess, and whispered, “He said what about science?”

“That it couldn’t answer all questions!”

“Ooohhh….!” The sound came out of Lady Margret as she fell to the ground in a dead faint was like the air escaping from a life boat holding a 240 pound woman—coincidentally, the same weight as Lady M—eighty nautical miles from land and any hope of rescue.

Edward Bulwer-Lytton has nothing on me.


To quote from our friend Mike Flynn:

Science!&tm; Makes Astonishing Breakthrough
“Tired All the Time? Maybe You Need More Sleep”–headline, Philly.com, May 29

Scientific Ethicist

Incidentally, the Scientific Ethicist is awaiting more questions before his next column can be produced.

Deadly Sins

Here is an equation:

\frac{\partial u}{\partial t} - \alpha \nabla^2 u=0.

Ain’t it pretty? It seems to say how (in the causal sense) the quantity u changes over time in some coordinate system. That might be 3-D space, or something else. Several groups have made it their own. Some say that u is heat, others that it is information, and still more that it is money.

Who is right? All and none.

The danger is, as always, the Deadly Sin of Reification. The equation becomes the thing it represents because the thing it represents is not ideal. The thing departs from perfection in the way the perfect model does not. The thing, the old, worn, but serviceable and loyal reality, is thrown over for a trophy equation.

Reality is ontological; things exist; equations are immaterial. Equations are epistemological; they express and quantify knowledge. But, of course, not all knowledge can be quantified. The equation can belong to anybody who claims it represents knowledge of any real u, but the equation never becomes any u.

Equations are never indications of reality—reality itself is all the proof we need of reality.


We may as well give the rest of the space over to Stanley Jaki. Quotations from Means to a Message: A Treatise on Truth, the chapter on Science.

Don’t forget that The Consensus—the old one, not our new one; we are too far ahead to be in the grip of fallacy, right?—for “generations of scientists” was that the ether was real, because why? Because equations were confused with reality.

Similar was the case with the mathematics of Maxwell’s equations that certainly worked while nothing could be verified about the ether which those equations seemed to control. Maxwell’s calculations of the coefficients of the rigidity of the ether, and similar data offered by Lord Kelvin do not belong to the proud pages of physics. Hertz himself found that electromagnetic waves spread across space but he did not find the ether, the presumed material substratum which was supposed to undulate if there were waves. The gripping recognition of this failure promoted Hertz to coin what has become the most pithy phrase ever uttered in reference to physics: “Maxwell’s theory is Maxwell’s system of equations.”

The phrase summed up what should have been formulated about all earlier great laws of physics.

Equations are lifeless.

Quite the contrary happens once the construction of a major physical theory is completed. There remains nothing in it with explicit contact with anything material. The edifice becomes a complex of equations. As such it exists in full independence of all the philosophical and quasi-philosophical assumptions and factors that helped its erection in the first place. Even letters, wholly arbitrary signs of course, that stand, say for the electron charge, for mass, and so forth, are, within the theory, merely reference points to quantitative data.

Reality is soon relegated to a closet. But at least equations can be taught—and their learning graded.

Who will quote for us Feynman about the (what was it?) Brazilian students knowing the equations but not the physics? In the meanwhile, Jaki quotes Feyman, that “two theories, although they may have deeply different ideas behind them, may be mathematically identical, and then there is no scientific way to distinguish them.” See the equation for you u above.

Statistics Too

Probability doesn’t escape.

Quantum mechanics is a statistical method, utterly void of philosophical propositions. The expression, the philosophy of quantum mechanics, is a glorified oxymoron.

Philosophy comes before probability and quantum mechanics, not after.

On Your Duty To Dress Well


There was no argument about it. I looked good. Overcoat, scarf, brown fedora, all topping an old-fashioned, close-to-the-body cut suit, tie, pocket square, adult shoes. The rule is: never skimp on shoes or hats, because it always shows. But everything else came from thrift stores.

One of the fellows who sat across from me obviously put just as much effort into his outfit. Doubtless he agreed with me that dressing well is a duty, that looking good makes for a superior and pleasant citizenry, that sloppiness in appearance is a manifestation of sloppiness in morals.

His t-shirt had the exact right shade of irony; the superhero emblazoned on it hadn’t been seen on television in decades. This signaled his lone-wolfiness. His jeans had an artful rip, surely put there by the designer who must have labored hours deciding exactly where to place it. Neon tennis shoes, probably costing more than my entire outfit. His greasy hair, each strand placed to look like it wasn’t placed, and scruffy beard were standard-issue hipster, but maybe that’s because he considered his Google Glasses would cause people to overlook this unoriginality.

He was right. So aware of that geeky carbuncle was I that I couldn’t think of anything but how I wanted to slap it off his face. I don’t like having my picture taken. At least he was the best, or at least most honestly, dressed of the trio that interviewed me.

The outcome was as predetermined as the color of the pocket square I would choose. Which I would have known had I first read the fate of another well dressed gentleman interviewing with the poorly attired:

The cognitive dissonance on display is painful to see. As in: Clothing is totally not a big deal! Because we’re cool like that! But it’s plain that it biased the interviewers. The team’s disappointment upon seeing the suit was immediate and unanimous. If you truly believe that suit equals loser, you can’t help it. Nevertheless, the fiction of objectivity has to be maintained, so he denies it to the candidate’s face, to us, and himself.

Scene Two. Wedding followed immediately by a reception on site. Plenteous good food and drink music and dancing. And well dressed people, their outfits showing an awareness of the occasion. At least until the meal ended, and then a few folks dashed out to disrobe and put on their Standard Summer Ugly, defined as message t-shirt, shorts, and garish shoes (Winter is the same, except the shorts are replaced by jeans). The reason given? Comfort.

Now just you take a look at the picture of Mr Sean Connery above. Perfectly dressed. Does he appear uncomfortable to you? No, sir. He does not.

Here, from the same source, is a man skating while dressed as a gentleman should be. Does he appear uncomfortable? No, sir. He does not.


My late grandfather had a picture of his dad and uncle fishing in the Detroit river from around the turn of the last century. Both men carried stringers, bait, rods, and wore three-piece suits, because why? Because that is what men did. They knew they had a duty to society to look their best, even when at leisure.

My great grandfather and uncle did not look uncomfortable. Indeed, they were, as my grandpa assured me, at ease. I was not uncomfortable in the interview, except when peered at from behind a direct feed to the NSA (motto: We’re spying on you for you own good).

Of course, it goes without saying that Cary Grant had a right to dress like he didn’t give a damn about his onlookers, but he knew that the social contract required he do better.


If you are uncomfortable in your adult clothes, likely as not it is a habitual mental aberration, cured by stopping thinking about it. But it’s also probable that the fit of your garments stinks.

The boxy suits sold nowadays are designed for 1950s barrel-shaped robots, not men. This too is easily fixed. Take your purchases to a tailor and have him alter them to your body. Do not trust the department stores to do this for you. We’ll speak of this more later, but you will find that clothes meant to fit you and not some generic statistical homme moyen are eminently comfortable. Movement will be easy and free. And you will look good—as you should.


Thanks to our friend John Cook for the picture source.

Companies Should NOT Be Forced To Fund Employees’ Birth Control. SCOTUS Update


Update The original post appeared on 26 March 2014. See the second update below for commentary on the Supreme Court decision, which I think is only a small, temporary victory. But do read the original, too. You’d hate to make an argument that’s already been shown to be fallacious, right?

Why should a company be forced to pay for its employees’ contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization services just because its employees are employees?

There is no justifiable answer to that question, though I invite you to provide one. There are several popular irrational answers. (If you are going to comment, and you do not answer this question, we will assume your answer is they should not.) Here are the major ones.

(1) The government mandates that they should. It is true that the government mandates that businesses—such as the Little Sisters of the Poor—provide these services, while also forbidding businesses recompense. But this is not an answer to the question because it is circular: the government mandates because the government mandates.

(2) We can’t let businesses control the sex lives of their employees. A non sequitur. The sex lives of employees are their own business, not the business of businesses. Indeed, this answer is backwards. The government is mandating that employers meddle in the sex lives of their employees by providing, at “no cost”, items which make certain sexual activities more desirable and therefore more likely (why worry so much about getting drunk and sleeping with the wrong guy if you know your boss will pay for a morning after pill?). Not giving condoms free is not “meddling” with anybody.

(3) It makes good business sense. Pregnant employees are costly and those raising families are less attentive to their duties. Let this be true: businesses who refuse to pay for contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization services will experience greater expenses and suffer lower incomes than companies which provide them. But it is not within the purview of government to force private businesses to take specified levels of profit. If a man of business feels he would rather forgo 30 pieces of silver than violate his conscience, that is his call and not the government’s. And then the statement is not true, or at least not always. Employees from stable, traditional families are often observed to be good, stable, and productive employees.

(4) Employees who are given these sexual services are healthier, and healthier employees make for better business. Again, let this be true. But employees should make provisions for their own health. Saying that employers must be responsible for the health of their employees, especially in sexual matters, is circular and absurd (except in special and rare cases where the employment activity is dangerous; and even here it is doubtful, because the employee freely enters into a relationship with his employer). If employers were responsible for the health of employees, the burden on employers would be vast (should employers necessarily monitor the food employees eat?). And again, the statement is not generally true.

(5) The government already mandates employers pay for other services. These are just additions. This is circular: that the government has already forced employers to fund other things is not justification that employers should fund still more. If anything, given the burden employers already face, and which causes them to hire fewer employees rather than more, this argues that employers should pay for fewer services.

(6) If we let employers get away without paying, they might be able to get away without paying others in the future. Slippery slope. Governmental control for the last century has been in one direction: increasing. There is no reason in the world to suppose government will allow any diminution in control.

(7) Letting people not pay because of religious beliefs is a clear violation of Church and State. This assumes what it set out to prove: that all employers must pay. It is therefore circular. And even if it were not, there is no “clear violation.” A man’s right to practice his religion, and not just his right to worship, is ensconced in the Constitution, whereas a woman’s “right” to “birth control” pills is found nowhere in that document. And the religious beliefs in question are not minor nor recent: these are long-standing, foundational moral questions, the very guide of life for many religious people.

(8) Even if individuals can have religious rights, corporations cannot. The government can force the mandate on corporations. First, the government is forcing the mandate on corporations and individuals. Second, it’s false to say corporations, like the Little Sisters, cannot be religious. Think of a corporation formed by religious whose purpose is to disseminate materials on the evils of contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization services. (These exist.)

(9) If employees must pay for these expensive services, they will have less money. This is true. But it is equally true that if employers must pay for these services, they will have less money, perhaps so much less that they have to fire (or not hire) other employees. It does not follow that because an item wanted by some employees is expensive, that the employer because he has more money should be mandated to purchase the item for his employee. After all, housing and food costs more than condoms, but we do not require employers to provide them free.

(10) It’s too late. The government already passed its mandate. We’re only talking about the pernicious influence of religion and what the law should be. Circular: assumes that employers must pay because the government mandates they pay. If anything, we’re talking about pernicious effect of secularists who would prohibit free expression of religion.

On the contrary, the question seems never to have been asked, its answer assumed by those who would desire the government mandate employers provide these services. It is enough for many that the government demands it, and that some (vocal) people want to have these services without having to foot their own bills, to conclude that the mandate is valid. But every argument which asserts this is circular, as shown. Attempts to bypass the question via a shift to balancing religious over “women’s” rights are non sequiturs.

I answer that the government’s mandate is a move to ingratiate itself with a portion of the public in an effort to secure its future cooperation. This is done in two ways. The first is by appeal to emotion, e.g. promulgating a “War on women!”, and the second by disguising increased taxation. The mandate just is an indirect tax. How? Those with money, because they are “employers”, are told to surrender the money and give it to others. Only the step of first handing the monies to a bureaucrat who would then redistribute them is missing. Since the mandate is a tax, it will in general lead to a drop in employment and economic activity, as these are the effects of most taxation.

The mandate is also responsible for increased servility in the public, already at dangerous levels. People demand a thing, politicians and bureaucrats anxious for power award the thing by forcing “the rich” to provide it. People don’t care where the thing comes from, as long as it arrives. The line between business and Government blurs, and finally fades, both in the minds of the public and in reality. After all, both are the “source” which gives, gives, gives. The part of the business which remains free is seen by the public as not yet regulated and therefore to be suspected (“You didn’t build that”). Why doesn’t the government mandate employers provide meals, housing, clothing, transportation? Aren’t these more important to women’s health (men are curiously left out of these arguments) than condoms and the like?

For the public—especially women: those women will not be responsible for their own bodies and demand to suffer no consequences from being female—the only surviving argument, and a powerful one, is I want it.

Update Another popular argument, encapsulated in this headline: Andrea Mitchell Slams Hobby Lobby: ‘What Right Do They Have to Interfere With Medical Decisions by Women?’. So a woman makes a “medical decision” to engage in, say, unprotected sexual intercourse and it thus becomes somebody else’s responsibility to foot the bill for the consequences of her behavior. Not paying is “interfering.” This is obviously absurd.

SCOTUS Update The SCOTUS decision is in and, for once, it’s good news. Of a sort. Hobby Lobby won on the grounds of religious freedom, which is nice in its way. But they should have won on the grounds the government has no right to force employers to give without requiring any obligation contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization services to their employees just because they are employees.

A certain segment of our population has suffered the conniption fit most glorious over the ruling (e.g. among many here and here). “Today’s decision from five male justices is a direct attack on women and our fundamental rights,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, and echoed by Nancy Pelosi. Elizabeth Warren said, “Can’t believe we live in a world where we’d even consider letting big corps deny women access to basic care based on vague moral objections.”

Heaven forfend any should have moral objection, vague or otherwise. Did we not know that morality is old hat? Rather, we have pride in our immorality.

Forget it. These ladies have somehow derived or discovered the heretofore unknown and preposterous fundamental right possessed of all women to be given whatever they demand merely because they demand it. What’s troubling is that their opponents in power do not deny this sexist absurdity (men are not given the equal “right”). Instead, they sheepishly point to (the true) necessity of religious freedom. “We’d force employers if we could, but First Amendment and all that. Just please don’t say we’re anti-woman!”

Which is precisely what they are saying and will say. The trouble with winning victories on the wrong grounds is that they are all too often fleeting. This SCOTUS decision is like a retreating army feeling a stand of trees to dissuade the advance of its foes. It buys some time and brings some joy, but the enemies’ arms have not been destroyed and they will soon find another path.

Until we attack the idea that the State is God, that it can give us whatever we want, “free” and as if by magic, there will be no end to this culture war. In his concurring opinion the sometime literate Justice Kennedy suggested that since religious people cannot be coerced into footing the bill of women’s proclivities, instead the government should pay. After this suggestion is accepted, thus will Hobby Lobby still foot the bill, albeit indirectly.

And thus will the government seem mightier than before. And thus will the immorality caused by these “free” “women’s health” accoutrement increase.

Do You Believe In Global Warming Because Of The Seriousness Of The Charges?

Otter versus Man: The Final Battle

Otter versus Man: The Final Battle

An activist tells you, “Based on my theory of rampant, out-of-control global warming, otters, driven mad by the heat, will take to the streets and destroy mankind, just like apes do in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.”

Think on it. Crazed insane berserk sharp-toothed otters with murder on their minds! I don’t know about you (and don’t want to), but that’s scary.

Therefore—and this is the point—because his theory has forecasted an appalling bloody ripped-to-shreds otter apocalypse, and there is nothing worse than an appalling bloody ripped-to-shreds otter apocalypse, except perhaps for an appalling bloody ripped-to-shreds zombie apocalypse, the activist’s theory must be true. And if it isn’t 100% certain, then it is mostly certain. It is mostly or completely certain because it predicts the most horrible thing imaginable.

And thus something must be done to protect the children!

What’s that? You doubt? What are you, some kind of denier!? You must be in the secret pay of Mutual of Omaha! (Think about it.)

Now, that situation is asinine—I mean, believing somebody’s theory only because it predicts a gruesome fate. But it is no more asinine than believing in apocalyptic out-of-control rampant killer global warming because some tenured, well-granted professor has said his theory predicts a different kind of doom.

The things our grant-and-publicity-seeking scientist says will happen are, when summed, far worse than any mere otter apocalypse. Why, there are to be shark attacks, spider attacks, wasp attacks, prostitute attacks, pollen attacks, bacterial attacks, grasshopper attacks, even people attacks and on and on and on and on some more.

Surely all these plague predictions must logically imply that the theory which drives them, man-made rampant out-of-control global warming, must be true?


And not only no, but if you are a leader you have to have bat guano behind your ears to claim it.

A theory’s predictions are not evidence in favor of the theory.

What is evidence in favor of a theory? Simple: verifying that the theory’s predictions have come true. This isn’t perfect, because a theory might get lucky, but that it has made successful forecasts is a high mark in its favor. That is says awful things will occur is absolutely completely wholly irrelevant to its veracity.

Yet many, and especially activists, do say that man-made rampant out-of-control global warming’s fell forecasts are a reason “to believe” in it. The seriousness of the charges is not—it is never—evidence. Instead, the accuracy of prognostications are what counts.

Next time a street activist stops you with the question, “Do you have a minute to save the earth?” remind her of this fact. Tell her that global climate models have not made skillful forecasts, that they consistently say it will be hotter than it turns out to be, and that this is evidence that the theory which drives these models is false.

As in not true.

What’s that you say? That the theory might not be true, like I say, but that because of the seriousness of the charges we should still do something just in case?

No, sir. We should not.

Don’t scoff about the possibility of an otter apocalypse. It is contingent, and therefore there is no logical reason why it couldn’t happen. Because it could happen, and because the outcome if it does is incalculably disastrous, we should therefore protect against it, right?

Because a Venusian invasion could happen, and that if it did the world would be destroyed, we should protect against it, right? Because a black hole might meander our way, and that if it did the world would be destroyed, we should protect against it, right? Because nanobots could turn nasty, and that if they did the world would be destroyed, we should protect against them, right?

You could go on endlessly listing potential Judgment Days, but in none of them are the scenarios of destruction evidence in favor of their occurrence.

Prudent precaution in the face of a theory which has a reasonable chance to be true is, of course, sane. But acting for the sake of acting because you like the act of acting rather than because there is good evidence the theory which drives you is true, is not sane. Or, in the case of politicians and bureaucrats, not honest.

If you truly enjoy believing in rampant, out-of-control global warming, first wait for scientists to create skillful predictions before acting.

Summary Against Modern Thought: Potency, Actuality, & Movement

This may be proved in three ways. The first...

This may be proved in three ways. The first…

See the first post in this series for an explanation and guide of our tour of Summa Contra Gentiles.

Previous post.

Last time we only proved one premise, that some things move. Review this first or else you will be lost. This was an observational premise. Of course, some, sensing the coming inescapable conclusion to this argument, suggested with Parmenides that things don’t actually move or change because they only move “relatively”, or whatever. None of these counters are in the least convincing, as we’ll further see. Settle in, we have a lot to do today.

Chapter 13: Arguments in proof of God’s existence

4 This argument contains two propositions that need to be proved: namely that whatever is in motion is moved by another,i and that it is not possible to proceed to infinity in movers and things moved.ii

5 The first of these is proved by the Philosopher in three ways.iii First, thus. If a thing moves itself, it must needs have the principle of its movement in itself, else it would clearly be moved by another.iv Again it must be moved primarily, that is, it must be moved by reason of itself and not by reason of its part, as an animal is moved by the movement of its foot, for in the latter way not the whole but the part would be moved by itself, and one part by another. Again it must be divisible and have parts, since whatever is moved is divisible, as is proved in 6 Phys.[2]v

6 These things being supposed, he argues as follows. That which is stated to be moved by itself is moved primarily. Therefore if one of its parts is at rest, it follows that the whole is at rest. For if, while one part is at rest, another of its parts were in motion, the whole itself would not be moved primarily, but its part which is in motion while another is at rest. Now nothing that is at rest while another is at rest, is moved by itself: for that which is at rest as a result of another thing being at rest must needs be in motion as a result of the other’s motion, and hence it is not moved by itself. Hence that which was stated to be moved by itself, is not moved by itself. Therefore whatever is in motion must needs be moved by another.vi

7 Nor is this argument traversed by the statement that might be made, that supposing a thing moves itself, it is impossible for a part thereof to be at rest, or again by the statement that to be at rest or in motion does not belong to a part except accidentally, as Avicenna quibbles.[3] Because the force of the argument lies in this, that if a thing moves itself primarily and of itself, not by reason of its parts, it follows that its being moved does not depend on some thing; whereas with a divisible thing, being moved, like being, depends on its parts, so that it cannot move itself primarily and of itself.vii Therefore the truth of the conclusion drawn does not require that we suppose as an absolute truth that a part of that which moves itself is at rest, but that this conditional statement be true that if a part were at rest, the whole would be at rest. Which statement can be true even if the antecedent be false, even as this conditional proposition is true: If a man is an ass he is irrational.viii

8 Secondly,[4] he proves it by induction, thus. A thing is not moved by itself if it is moved accidentally, since its motion is occasioned by the motion of something else. Nor again if it is moved by force, as is manifest.ix Nor if it is moved by its nature like those things whose movement proceeds from themselves, such as animals, which clearly are moved by their souls.x Nor if it is moved by nature, as heavy and light things are, since these are moved by their generating cause and by that which removes the obstacle to their movement.xi Now whatsoever things are in motion are moved either per sexii or accidentally; and if per se, either by force or by nature: and if the latter, either by something in them, as in the case of animals, or not by something in them, as in the case of heavy and light bodies. Therefore whatever is in motion is moved by another.

9 Thirdly,[5] he proves his point thus. Nothing is at the same time in act and in potentiality in respect of the same thing. Now whatever is in motion, as such, is in potentiality, because motion is the act of that which is in potentiality, as such.[6] Whereas whatever moves, as such, is in act, for nothing acts except in so far as it is in act. Therefore nothing is both mover and moved in respect of the same movement. Hence nothing moves itself.xiii

10 We must observe, however, that Plato,[7] who asserted that every mover is moved, employed the term movement in a more general sense than Aristotle. For Aristotle took movement in its strict sense, for the act of a thing that is in potentiality as such, in which sense it applies only to divisible things and bodies, as is proved in 6 Phys.[8] Whereas according to Plato that which moves itself is not a body; for he took movement for any operation, so that to understand or to think is a kind of movement, to which manner of speaking Aristotle alludes in 3 De Anima.[9] In this sense, then, he said that the first mover moves itself, in as much as it understands, desires and loves itself. This, in a certain respect, is not in contradiction with the arguments of Aristotle; for it makes no difference whether with Plato we come to a first mover that moves itself, or with Aristotle to something first which is altogether immovable.xiv


iYou, dear reader, are potentially in Cleveland. Unless you’re not actually there, you are not actually there, but you potentially could be. Right? Now what could bring you there? Well, many things. A car, your feet, a plane. Unless you are dead, there is no logically necessary reason you couldn’t (sometime) be there. Point is this: if you are now here and later in Cleveland, some actual thing or things caused you to be there. It could not have been the potential of you being in Cleveland that caused you to be there.

In front of us is a blank canvas. It is potentially a painting of a horse. If it becomes such, some actual thing caused it to be. That it was potentially a picture of a horse could not be the cause. That is, the potential is not and cannot be a cause. Some actual thing or things was the cause.

A block of wood that is here may potentially be there, but to get there some actual thing must cause it to move. The potential that is there cannot be a cause. And so on.

We need these observations for background.

iiOnly the first premise today. This premise is handled later. As promised, slow going.

iiiWe only do this first proof today.

ivAn animal can move itself, as the next premise demonstrates. But pay attention to what it means when an animal moves itself. A rock, for instance, or a molecule of oxygen in the atmosphere must be moved by something actual.

vHere is Aristotle on this crucial subject (from Aquinas’s footnote):

Further, everything that changes must be divisible. For since every change is from something to something, and when a thing is at the goal of its change it is no longer changing, and when both it itself and all its parts are at the starting-point of its change it is not changing (for that which is in whole and in part in an unvarying condition is not in a state of change); it follows, therefore, that part of that which is changing must be at the starting-point and part at the goal: for as a whole it cannot be in both or in neither. (Here by ‘goal of change’ I mean that which comes first in the process of change: e.g. in a process of change from white the goal in question will be grey, not black: for it is not necessary that that that which is changing should be at either of the extremes.) It is evident, therefore, that everything that changes must be divisible.

Thus divisible also means extended in space. Even photons, which haven’t any mass, are extended waves. They are not particles of no, or absolutely zero, size.

viIn other words, in those creatures capable of self-locomotion parts of them are being moved by other parts, as when you walk. Do not forget we are interested in the parts which are moving themselves, and how and why they move. Re-read the example given in the previous post. This is absolutely necessary to understand. We are at stick-moving-the-stone example, where your arm is moved by muscles are moved by cells are moved by chemicals are moved by individual atoms are moved by electrons and protons are moved by quarks are moved by strings (or whatever) are moved, ultimately, by an unmoved (and unmovable) mover all now, at this instant.

viiWhat might “a thing moves itself primarily and of itself, not by reason of its parts” mean? If a thing could move itself not by its parts, but primarily, it would be like—and this is a weak and fictional analogy—a psychic remaining still and concentrating his mental “powers” so that his body flies through the air. But of course, that would still involve the movement many physical things (physical forces must come into play to interact with the body to shift it) and of the mental powers themselves, from a quiescent to active state, so it doesn’t ultimately work (see below). The point Aquinas is saying is that nothing can move primarily. Something must set off (and sustain) every motion or change. And, as above, this something must be something actual and not potential.

viiiZing! Ha ha ha! The great man himself with a hilarious pun.

ixThese are self-evident.

xThomas does not mean to invoke the psychic example, but by soul he means, if you like, by consciousness. Anyway, if the soul moves its object, then another has moved that object.

xiThat this premise is outdated doesn’t change the proof. A light thing is moved by (say) the wind, and not primarily; or it is moved accidentally or by a force, etc.

xiiPer se, i.e. by virtue of itself; accidentally, here by one part pushing another, or the whole being pushed by something exterior, as in you in a TSA groping line at the airport.

xiiiIf you are moving from A to B, it is only because you are potentially in or at B that you can move. If it is impossible—and not just unlikely, however unlikely—then you are not potentially in or at B. And since potentiality cannot be a cause, it must be act, or something actual, which is driving the movement. The key to this argument is “Therefore nothing is both mover and moved in respect of the same movement.” Understand that, and you have it made. All three parts are necessary: the mover, that which is moved, and this here and now movement.

xivIsn’t that pretty? Exciting, too, because our task is not only to prove God’s existence, but, having done so, to show what we can about God’s nature. This is a kind of first step in that direction. Here, don’t forget that Aristotle and Plato do not mean just physical movement from A to B, but change of any kind; Plato includes changes in, if you like, thinking, or willing; Aristotle does not. The psychic analogy might be welcomed by Plato but not Aristotle. Our intellects are not material, and therefore not divisible or extended.

Again, it is an act which must change something in A but which is potentially in B to B. It will turn out that God is, in Aristotle’s and Thomas’s terms, pure act or actuality itself, with no potentiality (this was not proved today). This is another reason to thoroughly grasp the difference between act and potential. We’ve only done a bare outline. For the terrific introduction in modern language, see Ed Feser’s new Scholastic Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction. Note: I’ll be reviewing this book soon.

All that was proved today was whatever is in motion is moved by another. Every scientist accepts this premise. In this sense, today’s arguments were scientific proof. This premise is something upon which all science relies. Its implications are, of course, deeper than science, but it encompasses the motivating force behind science. No scientist says, “This went/changed from A to B for no reason whatsoever.”

Don’t forget we have one more premise in the first way (of proof of God’s existence). Then we have a whole second way.

[2] [Physics] Ch. iv.

[3] 2 Suffic. i.

[4] 8 Phys. iv

[5] 8 Phys. v. 8.

[6] 3 Phys. i. 6.

[7] Phoedrus xxiv. (D.).

[8] L.c.

[9] Ch. vii.

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