William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

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Summary Against Modern Thought: Speaking Of God Equivocally And Analogically

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. All posts are under the category SAMT.

Previous post.

Equivocation is a danger, but it surely cannot be ever-present. If you disagree with that, you necessarily agree. Perhaps an argument by analogy would convince you?

Chapter 33: That not all terms applied to God and creatures are purely equivocal

4 Further. The use of equivocal terms breaks the continuity of an argument. Therefore if nothing were said of God and creatures except by pure equivocation, no argument could be made by proceeding to God from creatures, whereas the contrary is evidenced by all who speak of divine things…i

iWords have to mean something or nothing means anything. (Get it? Get it?)

Chapter 34: That terms applied to God and creatures are employed analogically

1 IT follows, then, from what has been said[1] that those things which are said of God and other things are predicated neither univocally nor equivocally, but analogically, that is according to an order or relation to some one thing.ii

iiWords, in other words, fail us at a certain point. We can only broach God, come at Him from a point of vast inequality and ignorance. Flaubert’s famous quote seems to fit here: “Human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars.”

2 This happens in two ways. First, according as many things have a relation to some one thing: thus in relation to the one health, an animal is said to be healthy as its subject, medicine as effective thereof, food as preserving it, and urine as its sign.

Secondly, according as order or relation of two things may be observed, not to some other thing, but to one of them: thus being is said of substance and accident, in so far as accident bears a relation to substance, and not as though substance and accident were referred to a third thing.iii

3 Accordingly such names are not said of God and other things analogically in the first way, for it would be necessary to suppose something previous to God; but in the second way.

4 [You may want to first consult the footnote before reading this argument.] Now in this analogical predication the relationship is sometimes found to be the same both as to the name and as to the thing, and sometimes it is not the same. For the relationship of the name is consequent upon the relationship of knowledge, since the name is the sign of intellectual conception. Accordingly when that which comes first in reality is found to be first also in knowledge, the same thing is found to be first both as to the meaning of the name and as to the nature of the thing: thus substance is prior to accident both in nature, in as much as substance is the cause of accident, and in knowledge, in as much as substance is placed in the definition of accident.

Wherefore being is said of substance previously to being said of accident, both in reality and according to the meaning of the word.

On the other hand, when that which comes first according to nature, comes afterwards according to knowledge, then, in analogical terms, there is not the same order according to the reality and according to the meaning of the name: thus the healing power in health-giving (medicines) is naturally prior to health in the animal, as cause is prior to effect; yet as we know this power through its effect, we name it from that effect. Hence it is that health-giving is first in the order of reality, and yet healthy is predicated of animal first according to the meaning of the term.

5 Accordingly, since we arrive at the knowledge of God from other things, the reality of the names predicated of God and other things is first in God according to His mode, but the meaning of the name is in Him afterwards. Wherefore He is said to be named from His effects.iv

iiiSubstance? Accident? Here’s the Catholic Encyclopedia:

Substance, the first of Aristotle’s categories, signifies being as existing in and by itself, and serving as a subject or basis for accidents and accidental changes.

…Nothing is more evident than that things change. It is impossible for anything to be twice in absolutely the same state; on the other hand all the changes are not equally profound. Some appear to be purely external: a piece of wood may be hot or cold, lying flat or upright, yet it is still wood; but if it be completely burnt so as to be transformed into ashes and gases, it is no longer wood; the specific, radical characteristics by which we describe wood have totally disappeared. Thus there are two kinds of changes: one affects the radical characteristics of things, and consequently determines the existence or non-existence of these things; the other in no way destroys these characteristics, and so, while modifying the thing, does not affect it fundamentally. It is necessary, therefore, to recognize in each thing certain secondary realities (see ACCIDENT) and also a permanent fundamentum which continues to exist notwithstanding the superficial changes, which serves as a basis or support for the secondary realities — what, in a word, we term the substance. Its fundamental characteristic is to be in itself and by itself, and not in another subject as accidents are.

You are still the same you as yesterday even though you have changed by, for example, ingestion and excretion. You persist. The form into which the stuff which makes you is poured stays, but the stuff is rearranged or swapped out.

ivThis is much clearer (and briefer!) ni Summa Theologica (paragraphs added):

…Thus, for instance, “healthy” applied to animals comes into the definition of “healthy” applied to medicine, which is called healthy as being the cause of health in the animal; and also into the definition of “healthy” which is applied to urine, which is called healthy in so far as it is the sign of the animal’s health. Thus all names applied metaphorically to God, are applied to creatures primarily rather than to God, because when said of God they mean only similitudes to such creatures.

For as “smiling” applied to a field means only that the field in the beauty of its flowering is like the beauty of the human smile by proportionate likeness, so the name of “lion” applied to God means only that God manifests strength in His works, as a lion in his. Thus it is clear that applied to God the signification of names can be defined only from what is said of creatures.

But to other names not applied to God in a metaphorical sense, the same rule would apply if they were spoken of God as the cause only, as some have supposed. For when it is said, “God is good,” it would then only mean “God is the cause of the creature’s goodness”; thus the term good applied to God would included in its meaning the creature’s goodness. Hence “good” would apply primarily to creatures rather than to God. But as was shown above (Article 2), these names are applied to God not as the cause only, but also essentially. For the words, “God is good,” or “wise,” signify not only that He is the cause of wisdom or goodness, but that these exist in Him in a more excellent way. Hence as regards what the name signifies, these names are applied primarily to God rather than to creatures, because these perfections flow from God to creatures; but as regards the imposition of the names, they are primarily applied by us to creatures which we know first. Hence they have a mode of signification which belongs to creatures, as said above (Article 3).


[1] Chs. xxxii., xxxiii.

Do people like or not like the new footnotes? They look different in the emailed versus on-screen versions of the posts.

NYC Protesters: ‘What Do We Want? Dead Cops!’ Update: Dead Cops

“Comedy” (or perhaps “farce”) is a good word to describe the human predicament given events like Sony (the hacked company which revealed emails with lame jokes) studio head and noted progressive Amy Pascal having to “run to Al Sharpton next week to beg for forgiveness“.

Run to Al Sharpton next week to beg for forgiveness! AL SHARPTON!

Now if you don’t find that hilarious, then your imagination is stunted, your sense of history and proportion is sadly narrow, and your educational upbringing largely constituted of propaganda. You’re probably also a danger to yourself; at the least your mental well being is suspect, and you might, if you are exceptionally far gone, even be a danger to society.

Incidentally, it’s one thing to pretend to be “shocked”, “sickened”, “horrified”, suicidal or worse by these emails. So much is expected because of the certifiably insane, really quite lunatic, way race relations are in this country. But if you really are “shocked” etc., then baby, you are a — — — — —. I can’t say the word in an open forum. But you know damn well what it is. We’re raising a nation of mollycoddled half-witted hyper-sensitive snivelling weepy perpetual children. Sticks and stones may break their bones, but microaggressive names will plunge them into sickening (to witnesses) despair. Idiots.

Remember when we discussed herd immunity and the waning of Christianity? How plenty of folks, particularly young ones, safely ensconced in the remnants of Christian structures but ignorant of that fact, think everything will be fine, nay superior, once we throw off the final “religious shackles” and judge morality based on enlightened voting? And how, because few have any memory what Western civilization was like without the civilizing influence of Christianity (never being taught any history that wasn’t ideological), everybody is in for a rude surprise in, say, thirty to fifty years?

Same sort of thing applies to the idiot children (some of them fully grown) who marched through my backyard Saturday night chanting, “What do we want? Dead cops?” Dead cops, mark you. They also, further cementing the poop-filled diaper metaphor (or should I say reality?), chanted that they wanted it “now”. (Another contingent of mentally challenged did similar things in Berkeley. It’s unclear whether they received class credit for it.)

Some of them meant that “now.” Some officers were assaulted. The tweet above (linked here if you can’t see it) shows one bag of confiscated hammers, which some homicidal maniac (I speak literally) brought to use on the skulls of police (see this).

See if you can put yourself in the shoes of the cop who has just fingered the collar of the bloodlusting fool with the deadly weapons. The miscreant is probably foaming at the mouth and resisting arrest, probably shouting some standard activist slogan like “Kill! Kill! Kill!”. You get the idea.

If I were that cop and I thought nobody was looking, I’d be severely tempted to show that young man the kind of damage hammers can inflict. I’d call it a science demonstration. Tempted. I don’t think I’d do it unless the contemptible halfwit actually struck me and I felt I was defending myself.

Multiply this temptation across the hundreds to thousands of cops at these many “demonstrations” (demonstrating what? sublime unteachable ignorance?). Are you not as surprised as I that nobody has yet received what was coming to him? If the demonstrations continue, it’s bound to happen, and when it does the media will trumpet it as “brutality.” This will prove beyond any doubt any civilized person might yet cherish that journalists are among the least of us. But skip that.

Suppose these mental mole hills are granted their wish and we have a few dead cops and nobody does anything about it (like our self-styled communist mayor). Further suppose that cops, having had “sensitivity” grilled into them, pull back from black neighborhoods and stop the arrests. What will happen?

For whatever reasons, blacks commit far more crime than any other group (see the FBI stats here and here). This is just the raw statistics talking—and they’re talking an order of magnitude for violent crime, more for lesser crimes. Stop arresting criminals and the crime rate climbs. Where it peaks nobody knows.

The “demonstrators” don’t know now how good they have it. Herd immunity. The police have done these past few decades a marvelous albeit imperfect job (name one profession which is perfect). Remove police, lower their moral, let crime increase, and what happens? Nothing good.

One day these silly children are going to go too far and some authority is going to, as C Northcote Parkinson colorfully put it, “have the moral courage” to fire into the crowd. It’s at that point the “demonstrators” will get the exact opposite of their “demands.”

Update The fellow behind the hammers is—are you ready?—a CUNY professor and “poet”. What rhymes with (his words) “F*** the police”?

Update Although the points made here have nothing to do with it, let’s acknowledge racism does exist in America, and it sure is ugly. For instance this and this from a NYC official who said “Racist NYPD *******”.


Update This last week, the Police Benevolent Association “banned” the far left Mayor de Blasio from their funerals “if any”. I predict de Blasio, perhaps linking arms with Cardinal Dolan, will show at the service for the two “allegedly” (to use a favorite phrase of de Blasio) murdered men.

Update Not good. Cops turn their backs on de Blasio. Video.

Update People Take To Twitter To Celebrate NYPD Murders.

Update Make your projections. Will this finally be the incident that dooms Al Sharpton? I say no. Others think yes.

Update “Sharpton to have say over how Sony makes movies”. No civilization lasts forever.

Top 10 Health Scares Of 2014 From The American Council On Science & Health

Ahhhh! It's azodicarbonamide!

Ahhhh! It’s azodicarbonamide!

The American Council On Science & Health, longtime exposer of shoddy science, has released their 2014 list of the top scares. Below is a short summary and my comments.

10 Subway’s use of azodicarbonamide in their bread.

Some blogger named Vani Hari—and this is the good news: bloggers can be influential—a.k.a. The Food Babe, took against Subway, even though nobody was forcing her to eat there. She freaked out over the chemical (boo!) the chain uses in their bread.

“Even more ridiculous is Hari’s guidance that ‘if you can’t spell it or pronounce it, you probably shouldn’t eat it.’ It is unclear when spelling became a parameter for toxicological evaluation.” Relying on her own advice, Hari would starve in China. How do you spell “duck tongue” (yum!)?

Anyway, mice fed diets of azodicarbonamide in bulk developed cancer at higher rates than mice not so cruelly treated, which is all the evidence activists (and the ever-present “State of California”) need to conclude it must cause cancer in humans. It’s Science!

9 “Formaldehyde found in baby shampoo”.

Johnson and Johnson put Quaternium-15 in shampoo, which sounds like the maguffin from a science fiction movie, which breaks down into formaldehyde and which keeps shampoo from going bad.

But what about the children!

All of us are exposed to formaldehyde on a regular basis. It exists in a wide variety of food, especially fruits and vegetables, as well as ubiquitous products such as plywood, insulation, carpeting, and cosmetics.

And even if we were able to accomplish the impossible—remove all external exposure to formaldehyde—we would still be exposed to it, since it is made in the human body.

Even children human bodies.

8 Gluten! Gluten! Gluten! This post is certified 100% gluten free.

The dietary fads of rich Americans never fail to provide comedy.

7 Pesticides “linked to” Autism.

Got to love “linked to”. It has no definite meaning and given the low bar of “statistical significance”, almost anything can be “linked to” anything else. Prediction: once every child is routinely checked for autism, it will cease increasing. Think about it.

6 “Hydraulic fracturing (Fracking) pollutes drinking water”

It also causes bad breath, acne, an increase in UFO sightings, and a tendency to vote for Democrats. Increasing UFO sightings? Sure. The two series are statistical correlated. What more proof do you need?

The real concern is one of the fracking fissures caused by an greedy oil company will spread to the earth’s core, cracking it. We could literally split apart!

If that fear gains any traction, I want credit for thinking it up.

5 “Liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes poisoning children”.

But what about the children!

Well, you can’t blame anti-smoking zealots. There is no “second hand” smoke with e-cigs; no, nor any “third hand” smoke, neither. Activists are so habituated to banning that they can’t stop themselves. And, dammit, those smokers look to be enjoying themselves. Thus the e-cigs must be dangerous. Dangerous to whom? How about the children? Yes!

But what about the children!

4 “Cancer epidemic from medical scans”.

See, this the exact reason metal leaf (thicknesses less than 0.2 mm) sheet-rolled aluminium was invented. It blocks all sorts of electromagnetic cancer causing rays, even those rays which come from outer space! Indeed, it is particularly apt prophylactically for rays which impinge on one’s cranium at direct vertical angles. Medical experts recommend fashioning a snug-fitting cranial-protection garment to avoid prob-scan cancer.

3 “GMOs not safe for use in foods.”

Frankenfoods. Of course, everything we eat has been genetically modified by farmers over centuries of careful breeding and care of stock. So the only way to avoid ingesting any GMO food is to head to the hills and stalk wild caribou using only an organic knife (particles from non-organic knives might cause cancer). Best way to lure these outsize deer is to pretend to be blades of juicy grass. Wear lots of green and brown. Go in November.

2 “Thimerosal in Vaccines poses threat to public health, says RFK Jr.”

I think most of know that after appear the words “says RFK Jr.” there is no need to say anything more.

1 “Prenatal exposure to phthalates linked to lower IQs in children”.

Boy, most of us can’t pronounce or spell that word, so it must be bad (see 10). Rich American parents have every right to expect their children to be above average, IQ wise. Why, if it weren’t for phthalates, azodicarbonamides, and fracking it follows it is near to certain we’d have a nation of near-to geniuses.

Pascal’s Pensées, A Tour: IV

PascalSince our walk through Summa Contra Gentiles is going so well, why not let’s do the same with Pascal’s sketchbook on what we can now call Thinking Thursdays. We’ll use the Dutton Edition, freely available at Project Gutenberg. (I’m removing that edition’s footnotes.)

Previous post.

9 When we wish to correct with advantage, and to show another that he errs, we must notice from what side he views the matter, for on that side it is usually true, and admit that truth to him, but reveal to him the side on which it is false. He is satisfied with that, for he sees that he was not mistaken, and that he only failed to see all sides. Now, no one is offended at not seeing everything; but one does not like to be mistaken, and that perhaps arises from the fact that man naturally cannot see everything, and that naturally he cannot err in the side he looks at, since the perceptions of our senses are always true.1

1Good advice for perpetual arguers like yours truly, who sometimes forgot it in the joy of battle, because what’s wrong with most everyday arguments are false or incomplete premises. Pascal’s dictum doesn’t work for every argument, of course. Some are so wrong, or the desire to believe a false conclusion so strong, that nothing short of divine grace will free a person from error. Do you really think that, unaided, you’ll bring a chiropractor or, say, an academic feminist to see what’s wrong with her stance? These folks are so far from the promised land that it isn’t even on their maps. This doesn’t make Pascal wrong, but winning people to the Truth is hard, brutal labor.

10 People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the mind of others.2

2This is why we have some sympathy whenever an educator rediscovers the truism that kids better grasp ideas they work out for themselves. Yet any kindly disposition we have is blown away the second the educator insists that all learning follow this regimen. If the child (or adult) isn’t provided with a solid foundation (a memorized one), almost no learning can follow. The student won’t have the tools to work things out and he won’t know when something is right and when it is wrong. And we are back to the first point.

11 All great amusements are dangerous to the Christian life; but among all those which the world has invented there is none more to be feared than the theatre. It is a representation of the passions so natural and so delicate that it excites them and gives birth to them in our hearts, and, above all, to that of love, principally when it is represented as very chaste and virtuous. For the more innocent it appears to innocent souls, the more they are likely to be touched by it. Its violence pleases our self-love, which immediately forms a desire to produce the same effects which are seen so well represented; and, at the same time, we make ourselves a conscience founded on the propriety of the feelings which we see there, by which the fear of pure souls is removed, since they imagine that it cannot hurt their purity to love with a love which seems to them so reasonable.

So we depart from the theatre with our heart so filled with all the beauty and tenderness of love, the soul and the mind so persuaded of its innocence, that we are quite ready to receive its first impressions, or rather to seek an opportunity of awakening them in the heart of another, in order that we may receive the same pleasures and the same sacrifices which we have seen so well represented in the theatre.3

3Initially, Pascal’s complaint reads like those of the nuns who schooled my father and who said the worst things kids did was to chew gum or get out of line in the halls. We are at the point where we long for the good old days where love was “represented as very chaste and virtuous.” So far into the wilderness are we that not one in five hundred could today share his fear of theater. It passes all imagination to see oneself marching down Broadway with a “Down with Tartuffe!” sign.

On the other hand, swap in television and movies for theatre and we see Pascal nails it. Particularly those whose of certain sexual natures who choose to violate natural law are portrayed as extraordinary loving wholly sympathetic creatures, superior to the rest of us (don’t think so? Read this). The situations into which these protagonists are thrust are so ludicrous that it would take an audience with a heart of stone not to root for them. No consequences are ever seen and anything that smacks of reality is expunged. Viewers are discouraged from thinking and tricked, manipulated into feeling, only feeling.

Art has always been recognized as dangerous.

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