William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

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Summary Against Modern Thought: On God’s Omniscience

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.

We sped up last week, but this time slow down a bit. There are some fundamental metaphysical theorems we need before pressing on. These are not wholly difficult as presented by St Thomas, but they are somewhat incomplete. He expects some tacit knowledge. Thus I point you to an excellent resource.

Chapter 51 Reasons for inquiring how there is a multitude of things understood in the divine intellect (alternate translation)

[1] LEST, however, from the fact that God understands many things we be led to conclude that there is composition in the divine intellect, we must examine in what way the things He understands are many.

[2] Now they cannot be understood to be many, as though the many things God understands had a distinct being in Him. For these understood things would either be the same as the divine essence, and thus we should have multitude in the essence of God, which has been disproved above in many ways[1], or else they would be added to the divine essence, and thus there would be something accidental in God, and this again we have proved above to be impossible.[2]

[3] Nor again can it be admitted that these intelligible forms exist per se: as Plato, in order to avoid the above impossibilities, seems to have maintained by holding the existence of ideas.[3] Because the forms of natural things cannot exist apart from matter, since neither are they understood without matter.

Notes Metaphysics 101 again. Things exist as compositions of form and matter. You don’t have to be religious to believe this obvious truth. Plato held that forms actually existed in some, well, Platonic realm. Chair-forms, apple-forms, even iPhone-forms were somewhere, nobody knows where, in their perfection. Aristotle corrected this mistake. Best book on forms and such: Ed Feser’s Scholastic Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction.

[4] And even if the above supposition were admissible, it would not suffice to explain how God understands many things. For since the aforesaid forms are outside the essence of God, if God were unable without them to understand the multitude of things, as is requisite for the perfection of His intellect, it would follow that the perfection of His understanding depends on something else: and consequently the perfection also of His being, since His being is His act of intelligence: the contrary of which has been shown above.[4]

Notes Perhaps the short way to say this is that God is not a computer with infinite storage space. He is also not the universe; the universe itself is not alive, not a computer. If God needed hard drives to remember everything, then He would have to rely on that which is not His essence. And we have already shown that God’s existence and essence are identical.

[5] Again. Since all that is beside His essence is caused by Him, as we shall prove further on,[5] it must needs be that if the aforesaid forms are outside God, they are caused by Him. Now He is the cause of things by His intellect, as we shall show further on.[6] Therefore in order that these intelligible forms may exist, it is required that previously in the order of nature God should understand them. And consequently God does not understand multitude through the fact that many intelligible things exist per se outside Him.

Notes And here is another step toward Omnipotence! We have already proved (last two posts) Omniscience. What we’re doing here, if it isn’t obvious, is seeing what the implications of omniscience are.

[6] Again. The intelligible in act is the intellect in act, even as the sensible in act is the sense in act.[7] But so far as the intelligible is distinct from the intellect, both are in potentiality, as appears in the senses: for neither is the sight actually seeing, nor the visible actually seen, except when the sight is informed by the species of the visible object, so that one thing results from sight and visible. Accordingly if the intelligible objects of God are outside His intellect, it will follow that His intellect is in potentiality, and likewise His intelligible objects: and thus He will need something to reduce Him to actuality. But this is impossible, since this thing would be previous to Him.

Notes Recall to be in act differs from being in potential. The ability to see is different from that which is visible; they are not the same thing. If you haven’t yet seen the car, your sight is in potentiality, and so is the car being seen in potentiality. They only “collapse” to actuality when the car presents itself to your senses. And the same thing for the intellect and that which is intelligible. Finally, if God doesn’t yet know everything, then He is in potential to those things not yet known. And therefore there has to be something besides God to bring this potentiality to actuality. And that thing would have to be before or above God, which is impossible, as we have already proved nothing is or can be.

[7] Further. The object understood must be in the intellect. Therefore in order to explain how God understands the multitude of things it is not enough to suppose that the forms of things exist per se outside the divine intellect; but it is necessary that they be in the divine intellect itself.

[8] From[8] these very same reasons it appears that it cannot be admitted that the multitude of the aforesaid intelligibles is in some other beside the divine intellect, either that of the soul, or that of an angel or intelligence. For in that case the divine intellect, in respect of one of its operations, would depend on some secondary intellect: which also is impossible.

[9] [MAY BE SKIPPED] Even as things that subsist in themselves are from God, so are those that exist in a subject. Wherefore the existence of the aforesaid intelligibles in some secondary intellect presupposes God’s act of intelligence whereby He is their cause. It would also follow that God’s intellect is in potentiality: since His intelligibles would not be united to Him. Even as each thing has its proper being so has it its proper operation. Wherefore it is impossible that because one intellect is disposed to operate, therefore another exercises intellectual operation, but only that same intellect where we find the disposition: even as a thing is by its own essence and not by another’s. Hence it does not become possible for the first intellect to understand multitude, through the fact that many intelligibles are in some second intellect.

Notes Aha! Number [7] is the real kicker. The forms must be in God’s intellect. And never forget our souls are our forms; that is, the rational soul is the form of man. The forms of angels souls are also in God’s intellect; they are not there as memory helpers.

You’ll notice that we did not come to the solution of this argument. Neither did St Thomas in this chapter. We have to wait until next week. Then we’ll speed up again until we get to God is Truth.

[1] Chs. xviii., xx., xlii.
[2] Ch. xxiii.
[3] Phoedo xlviii., xlix.: Timaeus (D., p. 204)
[4] Ch. xiii.
[5] Bk. II., xv.
[6] Bk. II., xxiii., xxiv.
[7] 3 De Anima ii. 4; iv. 12; v. 2.
[8] Ch. lii.

“Are You Nice?”

"Yes, but are you nice?"

“Yes, but are you nice?”

The Editor reminds everybody to be nice and asks if you have a minute to notice the author’s name.

New York City is littered with groups with causes, especially since the weather is improving. To paraphrase a pastor that I once knew, you can always tell a good cause if they need money. If you see two people with clipboards twenty paces apart, you better pick up your step or cross the street.

The sidewalk solicitors have an arsenal of banal pick-up lines: “Are you against war?”; “Are you for a women’s health?”; “Do you care about the environment?” Well, peace is preferable to war; everyone likes health (but it is a commodity?); and even the most sharply fanged climate denialist cares about the environment. But as none of these questions demands an answer, it is easy to turn a shoulder and carry on with one’s day.

One opening salvo that I’m hearing more often is: “Are you a nice person?”

Ah, now it’s personal. Most people are going to think to themselves, “I am a nice person” and the hook will be in their mouth and they will be reeled in.

Well, it’s not nice not to respond when someone it talking to you, and I’ll say, “No.” This will either have my assailant drop their shoulders and let me pass, or to laugh, and try to convince me that deep down, I really am a nice person.

This is what one fellow tried yesterday. He was energetic and well dressed (which is pretty rare for a street activist). He wore a suit, one of those slim stylish ones. His only sartorial faux pas was that his belt was a little long and the loose end flapped when he raised his arms to make a point. I can imagine the training where a roomful of bright-eyed recruits were taught how to stand on their toes and raise their arms to make a point about the white rhinos.

I was listening closely for words like “climate change” and “sustainability” in his patter, but he was interested in the animals. He asked me if I liked animals—one of those questions that a shy first-grader might ask the kid next to him.

And I said, “Not at the expense of humans.” After doubling over in laughter, he agreed with me, “Oh, no, not at the expense of humans.”

I liked him. He had a pleasant, mobile face, and he was trying awfully hard. I could see how he could get pedestrians to hand over their credit card on the street to support his cause. I have a little rule borne from experience: I don’t open up my purse on the street. I may be more lenient with my rule if someone comes through the subway with a cheery Spanish song played on a beautiful guitar, or gives me a heartfelt speech about the abysmal treatment of honest, hardworking, and still-patriotic veterans at the hands of the VA.

So, he tried, and told me about the species that have vanished in the last year. He talked to me about the bees, and I said I knew about the bees. The bees are a problem, but I don’t see how giving my credit card number to a complete stranger will inspire the bees not to die.

But it was the “nice person” that got to me. I gave up being nice when I saw it was futile. Being nice didn’t get me more or better friends. Being nice just brought more people into my life who were willing to take advantage of me. Being nice didn’t improve the quality of my life. Being nice did nothing for me spiritually. That said, I strive to be merciful, gracious, grateful, humble, and helpful—which I can do without being nice.

The trap is to think that if you’re not nice, then you have to be mean. If the street beggar asked me, “Are you a mean person?” my answer would have been, “No.”

I wouldn’t have given the exchange any thought except that I ran into colleagues of Mr. Are-You-Nice this afternoon. There was a cluster of them, and I thought I dodged them all, but I didn’t. There was a young man at the edge of the group that could have been an office worker waiting to meet his friend after work. He tried to interest me in his cause, and as I was passing him at a fast clip, I told him that I ran into his friends yesterday further downtown.

He yelled after me, “Were they nice?”

This Week In Doom: A Riotously Good Time

These are the men who will be tasked to quell future riots.

These are the men who will be tasked to quell future riots.

Because this week has been especially doom-laden, we’re pushing up our bulletin a full day. Indeed, conditions were so rank these past seven days that they almost qualify to be ensconced as a Curmudgeon’s Holiday. Yet these are rarely awarded because all realists know that things can always get worse.

To the doom!

Free shoes and liquor

Seems a black man was arrested, a non-rare event, and was injured mortally during his incarceration. The public had no other details (except this). But it didn’t matter. Baltimore was set alight and (as of this writing) flames still flicker here and there.

They flicker because the rioters discovered that cut fire hoses were useless in dousing flames. And this scientific discovery was made possible by a supine (mostly black) police force. And that police force, whose members anyway did not need the grief of being called racist, were standoffish because their boss, the mayor, issued a directive allowing rioters “space to destroy.” She might have also told cops to linger behind enemy lines.

Perhaps she was experimenting with a new form of welfare?

This festival had the spectacle of a mom slapping and berating her foolish son for participating in the riot. The world cheered this woman. At first. And then we had this: “Why is America celebrating the beating of a black child?

And then came the admonitions not to call a thug a thug, that the rioters had their reasons, that they might have even had a right or even a duty, that who are we to judge? No sooner had these excuses fell upon fertile media soil than other “protests” broke out in New York City. Others are scheduled elsewhere.

Non-thugs will today, for instance, roam the streets of Oakland and malinger at City Hall in San Francisco. Wherever progressives gather is not found peace. Is it strange that the same people willing to steal and destroy are the same who argue for public disarmament?

Our first affirmatively elected president meanwhile could not discover any rioter that could have been his son. And then this: “New Black Panthers should be looked upon as Founding Fathers who declare war and are ‘willing to die or kill to save our babies and to save a black nation that is dying before our eyes.'”

Save us, Caesar!

The pattern is set. A black man commits a crime, is arrested or hurt, and protests leading to riots begin. The contagion spreads to other cities. So far, these incidents have burned themselves out after a week or two. But they are growing more frequent and longer lived.

All history suggests there must come a breaking point which leads to calls for a man to hold “temporary” office charged with seditionis sedandae et rei gerendae causa, i.e. to restore calm.

Far-fetched? All curmudgeons recall the “lock downs” in Boston and elsewhere when just one man with a gun, or even rumors of the same, were enough for officials to demand citizens “shelter in place.” What if “suddenly” several large cities caught fire simultaneously?

Rejoice if you live in the countryside.

Criminal Islamaphobia

England is still embarrassed for its past crimes (being great, producing white men like Shakespeare, Newton, Nelson, etc.) and will soon have an election in which one of the candidates, Ed Miliband, promises that, if elected, he will make “Islamaphobia” a crime. Rather, an aggravated crime, a state of mortal secular sin. It is already a venal sin.

Now Islam is inimical to Western, in particular British, values. Which effectively means Miliband will make it illegal to uphold those values. No imam could do better.

Suicide is always an ugly thing to watch, no?

Anyway, this is worth noting because what happens in Europe—they’re so enlightened—soon happens in these once United States.

Hell has excess CO2

The Pontifical Academy of Science, lonely at being left out of the global warming juggernaut, had a public kumbaya with the UN, the purpose of which was to tell the world not that it was in danger of losing its soul, but that it might fail to meet “sustainability goals”. So eager was the PAS to have a voice that it decided science was too difficult a criterion and so lapsed instantly into…well, let’s call them “fibs.”

We will soon wake up to headlines like this: “Believing Global Warming of Doom Now Official Position of Catholic Church.” Which will be seen as a good reason to cede more power to supranational organizations.

Memorial to the Death of Science: “Journalists’ names on university ‘memorial’ to ‘those who denied’ climate change

I for one welcome our new same-sex attracted overlords

The country edges closer to ceding to government a power it never before had, and never should have. Poor Alexander Hamilton warned us many years ago that the Bill of Rights would eventually create a monster. And did anybody listen to him? No, sir, they did not.

I suggest removing his mug from the sawbuck so that the poor man doesn’t have to witness his prophecy come true. We could replace it with a native American’s, say, Elizabeth Warren’s. How many birds would that stone kill? Never mind.

All that, and much more!

These were only the largest suppliers of grease for the slippery slope. Space does not permit documenting all cheerfully bad news.

Like this mom who was shamed for including cookies in her daughter’s lunch. Government-certified experts know better than parents. Right, Scotland? And did you know social justice warriors have taken over science fiction? See this. Once-Catholic St. Norbert College gave an award to Gloria Steinem. Feminist award? Even Miss Piggy will get one.

Do we recall when an ROTC troop of men was made to wear high heels in recognition of diversity?

Progressives have discovered another way to piddle on culture from a great height: “The New York City Council debates whether to decriminalize public urination and turnstile-jumping.” Under what could go wrong?, this: ACLU launches cellphone app to preserve videos of police

Bruce Jenner? ‘Nuff said.

Ominous update Lenin’s Body Improves with Age. Prefatory to raising from the dead?

Update Green Party “open” to Three-Way “Marriages”. Nobody saw that coming.

What Does Losing Tax Exempt Status Of Churches Mean? Or, The SSM Takedown. Updates

You have the right to do what you're told.

You have the right to do what you’re told.

We’ve been busy with all things sustainability, so it’s only now we can get to the Supreme Court’s oral arguments over whether to abandon marriage and give over to the State power concerning our most foundational human relationships.

Let’s not argue whether two men (or two women or three men, etc.) pretending to be married is right or wrong. Let’s only assume what is likely given the evidence we have: that the State will assume the right to dictate whatever relationships it wants and call them “marriages”. That the State has no moral right to do so is not what we’ll discuss. The State, we assume, right or wrong—and it’s wrong—will use its muscle and force citizens to submit.

We only want to argue over how the State will use its immense powers assuming gmarriages are law. Gmarriage was my brilliant but widely ignored compromise solution that would have called all government-mandated unions “gmarriages”—the “g”, standing for government, is silent. Gmarriages would have been identical to marriages except for the “g”. Would egalitarianism allow that? Alas, mine was a lone voice et cetera.

Suppose gmarriage is the law of the land. What will the State do? Let’s listen in on the orals. The SCOTUS bench you know. General Vermicelli is on the side of gmarriage.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: What about Federal—it’s a Federal question if we make it a matter of constitutional law.

GENERAL VERMICELLI:  But the question of what how States use their enforcement power is up to the States.

Vermicelli is lying or being disingenuous, or possibly both. He earlier says the Feds must enact gmarriage as the law of the entire land. Here he pretends to retreat from what he knows is a damning question by saying states will be allowed to do as they please about implementing this “law”. They do say if you’re going to lie, make it a big one. Roberts doesn’t let him go and says “Well, you have enforcement power, too.”

Then the big reveal:

GENERAL VERMICELLI: Right. And—and—well, that’s certainly true, but there is no Federal law now generally banning discrimination based on sexual orientation, and that’s where those issues are going to have to be worked out.

And I guess the third point I would make, Your Honor, is that these issues are going to arise no matter which way you decide this case, because these questions of accommodation are going to arise in situations in States where there is no same­-sex marriage, where there are—and, in fact, they have arisen many times. There—there are these commitment ceremonies.

For example, in the New Mexico case in which this Court denied cert just a few months back, that did not arise out of a marriage. That arose out of a commitment ceremony, and the—and these, you know, commitment ceremonies are going to need florists and caterers.

JUSTICE ALITO: Well, in the Bob Jones case, the Court held that a college was not entitled to tax-­exempt status if it opposed interracial marriage or interracial dating. So would the same apply to a university or a college if it opposed same-­sex marriage?

GENERAL VERMICELLI: You know, I—I don’t think I can answer that question without knowing more specifics, but it’s certainly going to be an issue. I—I don’t deny that. I don’t deny that, Justice Alito. It is—it is going to be an issue.

Was he embarrassed by this question, or what? I mean, he sure as anything didn’t want to answer it. Anyway, by “it’s going to be an issue” Vermicelli means “it’s going to happen.”

Incidentally, don’t forget that already the State controls all student loans—and can therefore dictate where that money is spent. That takeover was part of Obamacare. Remember that? And “sexual orientation” is a dangerous term: it never specifies who is oriented to what.

There are a still, believe it or not, faithful Christian colleges. They’re not going to accept gmarriages. Meaning, they’re not going to recognize students who claim to be gmarried. Somebody will sue (say) St Pallottiano University citing the Bob Jones precedent, forgetting freedom of association, which is anyway long dead. And they’ll surely win.

St Pallottiano loses its tax exempt status. So what? Accountants are devious and can probably find a way to run the school as a for-profit. They won’t be able to save all schools with paperwork tricks, but surely some.

Next step will be another lawsuit claiming that since St Pallottiano is a for-profit business they have no right to refuse to accommodate gmarried students. Just as pizzerias and bakeries are not now allowed to refuse to participate in gmarriages.

St Pallottiano, being faithful, won’t back down. Only two things can happen. (1) It will face punishing fines and other legal hazards and be forced to close; or (2) Somebody somewhere will regain sanity and discover a way to allow an exception.

A third solution could be some government-proposed “compromise” which is anything but. Something like “Recognize these gmarriages and we’ll give you money (or won’t bar you from receiving it)”. Many colleges calling themselves Christian will put the pinch of incense into the flames of this compromise. But St Pallottiano won’t. Buh-bye St Pallottiano.

That’s colleges. What about churches? I’d bet the farm (I don’t have one) that some sad couple will sue some church and demand that they be allowed to have a gmarriage ceremony inside the church. They probably won’t, in this round, sue the pastors for not performing his theatrical role. The suers (yes, suers) will say that other people have got married in this “public” space therefore they have the “right” to be gmarried there. They will say it is “public” because it is tax exempt, and therefore it is under a special duty to the public.

The suers could win, though it’s shaky. But think what it means if they do. The poor organist who wanted only to be left alone will now be made to participate in the gmarriage. After all, she isn’t the pastor, only an employee. Volunteer organists will presumably be allowed (what’s left of) their freedom.

And some Church, say, the Southwest Corner Baptist Congregation, will refuse to open its venue. Again, fines and legal hazards. Will that Church be the cornerstone of the new Bob Jones-like precedent that Churches which refuse public accommodation lose their tax status?

What is a Church without tax-exempt status? A for-profit business? Some lunatics will suggest this, but I’m guessing their voices carry little weight. And even if you remove the tax exemption and treat it as for-profit you’re right back to Bake The Cake Or Die. Plus somebody is bound to have at least a vague memory of religious freedom. My guess is that the Churches win this one.

But if they do not, then will come the big one, the law suit against a pastor himself for refusing to perform a gmarriage. If this man loses, which now seems highly unlikely, get ready for some old-timey martyrdom. Or perhaps open revolt.

When discussing, do not confuse the law for right and wrong. Written laws mean whatever the person interpreting them wants them to mean. Say what will happen and what won’t happen and why.

Update Great minds think alike.

Update States could force Catholic priests to perform same-sex ‘marriages’ or lose legal status: Justice Scalia. I put the following prediction at near certainty.

If the Supreme Court rules that same-sex “marriage” is a constitutional right, one justice has said that the government could force clergy of all denominations to perform gay “weddings” or lose the ability to officiate any state-sanctioned marriage…

A devout Roman Catholic, Scalia said that no religious exception can be allowed for a constitutional right. A minister “is not given the state’s power, unless he agrees to use that power in accordance with the Constitution. You can’t appoint people who will then go ahead and violate the Constitution.”

Update Green Party “open” to Three-Way “Marriages”. Nobody saw that coming.

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