William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

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Summary Against Modern Thought: The Agent & Potential Intellect Exist Together

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.

Two Chapters in one this week. More arguments from our good saint refuting arguments which are no longer in much play. Next week: Proof of the immortality of the soul!

Chapter 77 That it is not impossible for the possible and agent intellect to exist together in the one substance of the soul (alternate translation) We’re still using the alternate translation.

1 Perhaps someone will think it impossible for one and the same substance, namely, that of our soul, to be in potentiality to all intelligibles, as becomes the possible intellect, and to actualize them, as becomes the agent intellect. For nothing acts so far as it is in potentiality, but so far as it is in act. That is why it will seem impossible for the agent and possible intellect to exist concurrently in the one substance of the soul.

2 Upon close examination, however, it is seen that this concurrence entails nothing incongruous or difficult. For nothing prevents one thing from being in one respect potential in relation to some other thing, and actual in another respect, as we observe in things of nature; air is actually damp and potentially dry, and the reverse is true of earth.

Now, this same interrelationship obtains between the intellective soul and the phantasms. For the intellective soul has something actual to which the phantasm is potential, and is potential to something present actually in the phantasm; since the substance of the human soul is possessed of immateriality, and, as is clear from what has been said, it therefore has an intellectual nature—every immaterial substance being of this kind.

But this does not mean that the soul is now likened to this or that determinate thing, as it must be in order to know this or that thing determinately; for all knowledge is brought about by the likeness of the thing known being present in the knower. Thus, the intellectual soul itself remains potential with respect to the determinate likenesses of things that can be known by us, namely, the natures of sensible things.

It is the phantasms which present these determinate sensible natures to us. But these phantasms have not yet acquired intelligible actuality, since they are likenesses of sensible things even as to material conditions, which are the individual properties, and, moreover, the phantasms exist in material organs. Consequently, they are not actually intelligible.

They are, however, potentially intelligible, since in the individual man whose likeness the phantasms reflect it is possible to receive the universal nature stripped of all individuating conditions. And so, the phantasms have intelligibility potentially, while being actually determinate as likenesses of things. In the intellective soul the opposite was the case. Hence, there is in that soul an active power vis-à-vis the phantasms, making them actually intelligible; and this power is called the agent intellect; while there is also in the soul a power that is in potentiality to the determinate likenesses of sensible things; and this power is the possible intellect.

3 That which exists in the soul, however, differs from what is found in natural agents. For in the latter, one thing is in potentiality to something according to the same manner of being as that of its actual presence in something else; the matter of air is in potentiality to the form of water in the same way as it is in water.

That is why natural bodies, which have matter in common, are mutually active and passive in the same order.

On the other hand, the intellective soul is not in potentiality to the likenesses of things in the phantasms, according to the mode of their presence therein, but according as they are raised to a higher level by abstraction from material individuating conditions, thus being made actually intelligible. The action of the agent intellect on the phantasm, therefore, precedes the reception by the possible intellect, so that operational primacy here is ascribed not to the phantasms, but to the agent intellect. And for this reason Aristotle says that the agent intellect is related to the possible intellect as art to its matter.

Notes It may help to think that nothing is static in the interface between passive and active intellect. There is constant turmoil.

4 A quite similar case would be that of the eye, if, being transparent and receptive of colors, it were endowed with sufficient light to make colors actually visible; even as certain animals are said to illuminate objects for themselves by the light of their own eyes, and so they see more at night and less by day, for their eyes are weak, being activated by a dim light and confused by a strong one. There is something comparable to this in our intellect, which, “as regards things which are most evident of all, is as the eyes of the owl to the blaze of day”; so that the little intelligible light which is connatural to us suffices for our act of understanding…

Notes I kept this for the word “connatural.”

Chapter 78 That Aristotle held not that the agent intellect is a separate substance, but that it is a part of the soul (alternate translation) We’re still using the alternate translation.

1 Now, since a number of persons agree with the Avicennian theory dealt with above, in the belief that it is the position of Aristotle, we must show from his own words that in his judgment the agent intellect is not a separate substance.

2 For Aristotle says [De anima III, 5] that in “every nature we find two factors, the one material, which, like the matter in every genus, is in potentiality to all the things contained under it, the other causal, which, like the efficient cause, produces all the things of a given genus, the latter factor standing to the former as art to its matter”; and therefore, Aristotle concludes, “these two factors must likewise be found within the soul.”

The quasi-material principle in the soul is “the (possible) intellect wherein all things become intelligible”; the other principle, having the role of efficient cause in the soul, “is the intellect by which all things are made” (namely, actually intelligible), and this is the agent intellect, “which is like a habit,” and not a power.

Aristotle explains what he means by calling the agent intellect a habit, when he goes on to speak of it as a kind of light, for “in a certain way light makes potential colors to be colors actually,” that is to say, so far as it makes them actually visible. And this function in regard to intelligibles is attributed to the agent intellect…

Notes This is a key paragraph, so take your time with it. It no way depends on Aristotle’s different understand of color and light. This is backed up in paragraphs 4 and 6.

4 Aristotle’s reasoning also proves the same point. For in every nature containing potentiality and act we find something which, having the character of matter, is in potentiality to the things of that genus, and something in the role of an efficient cause which actualizes the potentiality; similarly, in the products of art there is art and matter.

But the intellective soul is a nature in which we find potentiality and act, since sometimes it is actually understanding, and sometimes potentially.

Consequently, in the nature of the intellective soul there is something having the character of matter, which is in potentiality to all intelligibles—and this is called the possible intellect; and there also is something which, in the capacity of an efficient cause, makes all in act—and this is called the agent intellect….

6 Yet, what this Aristotelian phrase means is not that the effect produced by the agent intellect may be called a habit, as though the sense were that the agent intellect makes man to understand all things, and this effect is like a habit.

“For the essence of habit,” as the Commentator, Averroes, says on this very text, “consists in this, that its possessor understands by means of that which is proper to him—understands by himself and whenever he wills, with no need of anything extrinsic”; since Averroes explicitly likens to a habit, not the effect itself, but “the intellect by which we make all things.”

Notes The remaining paragraphs I leave off, since most will be now convinced the active and passive intellects are together in one soul. If not, St Thomas has half dozen more observations to make.

Stop The Music!

It’s everywhere. It can’t be escaped. It destroys more souls than television and politics combined. And we are powerless to prevent it. Bad music.

Now everybody knows about bad popular music. Examples abound. Just go anywhere out of your own home and it won’t be but mere moments before it washes over you like a bucket of old dishwater. But bad sophisticated takes more searching.

Ever been to one of those antique engine shows? Or maybe heard a factory pressing widgets. Chickatidah-chickatidah-chickatidah or maybe Eree-eee-kurchunk-chunk-chunk-clink, Eree-eee-kurchunk-chunk-chunk-clink. Those of monotonous droning machines is what we’re after.

Keep that sound going in your head and add to it to the output of a soft jazz synthesizer programmed by a community college Computers-For-Dummies student after a long night bingeing on cold General Tso’s chicken and warm beer.

Have it? Let it ooze through your mind a little. Now infect the whole shebang with the ebola virus, let it bleed and fester a while, then kick it down a hill and into traffic on a busy Los Angeles freeway.

It’s now ready.

Can you hear it? Can you? Then you’re listening to the exact sound of the sophisticated murk leeching out speakers in not one, not two, but three world-class hotels I had occasion to be in over the past few months. The music was similar in each place that each hotel must shop for sounds in the same place. It isn’t only hotels, because I later heard the exact same noise nauseating shoppers in several separate gallerias, the sort where you do not ask the price of the merchandise. (I had to be in, and had to pass through these places, because of my labors.)

The music was full of echos, and occasional voices were heard in the distance, but they weren’t plain voices. They were filtered, warbling, ever fading, with indistinguishable words; more like sounds from some voodoo ritual. The key feature was repetition repetition repetition, with bumpa-bumpa-bumpa passages fading into one another like liquid in a fountain in some over-priced spa, all set to a needless beat.

This music is the visual equivalent of the award-winning “art” which adorns the front of with-it (do we still say “with-it”?), hip corporations and prestigious non-profits. Ugly, useless, and so expensive and celebrated that nobody has the guts to admit how awful it is. That the powerless and unwealthy complain of it is, perversely, taken as proof of its quality. That is it incomprehensible and in dire need of interpretation of experts is key to its desirableness.

The “art” has one advantage over the music, though. You can shade your eyes from it; you can look away; you can avoid it. The music—I call it that for convenience—is unstoppable, pervasive, non-ignorable. It is set at levels designated to penetrate the conscious. It can’t be shut off. It can only be escaped. Ask a clerk if the music can be “toned down” and you’ll receive apologies and told whoever is in charge of the volume cannot be consulted and that, anyway, the controls are hidden away or are unknown.

I have a suspicion that scientific “studies” were consulted to create the sounds. If they aren’t created by an algorithm, as suggested above, then it means some poor tortured soul is making it. Pray for this unknown person.

Thoughts On One-Time Pads For Cell Phones

Best short description of one-time pads (OTPs) is from Jason Matthews, who is describing their use in the heyday of the cold war in the book Strangers on a Bridge by James B Donovan.

Before the advent of automatic enciphering technology, secure radio communications between an intelligence headquarters and its agents in the field were abetted by use of one-time pages (OTPs, sometimes referred to as “cut numbers”). These cipher pads were individual sheets of printed rows and columns of five-digit numerical groups. The pads were bound with rubberized adhesive on all fours sides, and normally printed small for concealment purposes.

A field agent would receive a shortwave radio broadcast from headquarters via one-way-voice link (OWVL.) These OWVL broadcasts consisted of a monotone female voice reading a series of recited numbers—an enciphered message. The agent would record the recited numbers in five-digit groups and subtract them on the correct OTP page. The resultant values would correspond to the 26 letters of the alphabet and reveal the message. Because each page of the OTP is randomly different and used only once, looking for patterns in cryptanalysis is futile. It is an unbreakable cipher…

Indeed it is unbreakable. Eat your heart of quantum cryptography! Because, in essence, every character in a OTP is separately encrypted, and each pad used only once, the code is impossible to break. I use impossible in its literal sense. No computer no matter how powerful running for any amount of time can decipher the message. That is to say, unless the “key” which generates the OTP can be discovered.

Since random means unknown, the “secret” to key generation is an unknown process. Here, of course, “quantum” events can be used, say, in the form of static of radios tuned to unused stations—as long as that static is atmospheric, or preferably extra-gallactic, in origin and thus unpredictable. Using any kind of “random number algorithm” produces, as all experts know, perfectly predictable, deterministic keys. (This, incidentally, is why in Uncertainty, I recommend against simulation methods.) Also, the device used to capture static must itself be as “noise-free” as possible, since known circuitry could generate predictable signals.

OTPs were used well after the advent of “automatic enciphering technology”. I recall in the early 80s listening on shortwave to “numbers broadcasts”, almost always in Spanish and male voices, in San Antonio. (Not only did I get my start in the Air Force in a cryptographic specialty, I was and am a “ham”; back then I was KA5YHN and am now K2JM.)

Shortwave broadcasts have the added benefit of disguising the intended receiver, which could be anybody with a radio and a length of wire. This is important to discourage “SIGINT“, or signals intelligence, which is the study of where, when, and how signals are sent. A surprising amount of information can be gathered about an encrypted message, even if the cipher is never broken, simply by paying attention to the transmission. SIGINT is called “meta data” with respect to your cell phone and computer messages, and that “secrets” about you can be discovered using it alone and ignoring the actual content of your phone calls and emails is why we don’t want the government, or other sources, evasedropping on our conversations.

Real OTPs must be destroyed immediately after use, or the cipher can be broken. They must be used only one time, or patterns will stick out like a Republican in an Anthropology department.

Now, with our hand-distractions, it is easy to store very large electronic OTPs (which can be used in encrypting text or digitized voice); it is even easy to generate keys, assuming the cautions about unpredictable generation are minded. The problem comes in swapping keys with recipients. You have a cell phone on which is the OTP App. How do you communicate this key to your friend? The key has to migrate from your device to his. It could do this via Bluetooth, but doing so exposes the key to the world. The device itself, unless it is well shielded against electronic emanations, can leak the key (this is called Tempest security). The key may be shifted to something like a thumb drive or SD chip, and then the chip inserted into your friend’s phone. The chip must then be destroyed, as in utterly, or otherwise rendered unreadable (perhaps by rewriting on it new unused keys many times).

This meeting between you and friend must take place. You can’t use an old key to transmit a new one, because with OTPs it’s digit-for-digit: compression of keys is impossible. Transmission of the key over the air or, say, internet exposes it. Anything short of a hand-to-hand swap exposes it. Since a meeting must take place, the usefulness of OTPs is limited. But very useful is absolute, unbreakable security is desired.

There are more problems, besides Tempest leakage. Suppose you are receiving the encrypted message from your friend, and decrypting on your device (ignoring electronic leakage, which is no small consideration). The device will still have the key and the plain-text message! Of course, this is no different a situation than the spy who sits in his room and has on hand the OTP and decrypted message. But a small piece of paper, or two, is easier to destroy and conceal than a cell phone.

This means the key must be self-destroying. As it is used, the places on the storage device must be re-written dynamically, and in such a way that no fine probing will ever reveal what was originally written. No easy task. And the same must happen to the message itself, after it is made use of. For voice communications, this is easy, because they’re (forgive me) in one ear and out the device. But texts (or emails, etc.) must be guarded more zealously.

OTPs are in use still on the internet, with otherwise innocuous web pages and images containing updated version of the five-number groups. Decrypting short messages can, and surely are, still processed by hand using paper OTPs. But long messages or other formats is not different than the two cell-phone case. Key swapping must still take place—as it did with paper OTPs, of course.

SIGINT for cell phones, and even web sites, is still a problem. Even thought the OTP App works as desired, your enemy will still know when you sent the message, where you were when it was sent, where your friend was when he received it, and how long that message was. That last item is perhaps the most revealing. So lucrative, if I can use this word, is this that stations have taken to swapping continuous messages so that outsiders never know when the real one starts and ends and how large the message was.

One last point about spoofing. A concern is that an enemy agent can inject numbers into the “code stream” which might mistakenly be taken to be real by the recipient. But unless the spoofer knows the key, and therefore hasn’t much need of spoofing, injection is immediately detectable. Which is also a boast of quantum-key cryptography. In that, incidentally, key swapping must still take place, though it is of a different form.

Conclusion? For cell phones, anyway, the whole thing is possible, and not even so difficult. The problems are signal leakage, lost phones, SIGINT and of course the key swapping. Just as with paper OTPs, we aren’t limited to only two phones, but an indefinite number in a network.

I always wanted to try this, but I am not a coder (though I code). The ideas are so obvious they must already be in use somewhere, but I’m too lazy to look them up.

Disney’s Pitching Homosexuality To Kids Is Fine If Gay Is Okay

Most have already heard that Disney sees nothing amiss with pitching homosexual activity to you—and to your children. Yet if we accept one simple premise, then what Disney is doing is perfectly okay.

Here is that premise: homosexuality is not wrong.

Society (largely) agrees with this premise. Assuming it is true, then it really is okay for you, for your friends, and, most importantly, for your children to be exposed to homosexual activity.

By “exposed”, I don’t mean anything lurid like graphic sex. Our culture still agrees this material should be kept under ever-loosening wraps. No: I mean “innocent” images, in the same way kids are shown pictures of normal people holding hands, having a smooch, telling each other of their love and affection. Everyday stuff. Pleasant and heartwarming.

It’s obvious Disney buys the premise and understands its implications. In an episode of Disney’s Star vs the Forces of Evil, a cartoon series (which has certain difficulties) targeted to children, there was shown two men clasping hands and kissing one another. In the same episode are shown one woman grabbing another’s face while kissing. These were couples, and meant to be couples, with the message that, as society tells us, “gay” couples are no different than ordinary couples. Cute, loving couples. Homosexuality is desirable, Disney says.

The parent company of Mickey Mouse is also releasing a live-action (as opposed to dead-action?) version of Beauty and the Beast in which the character “LeFou, will experience Disney’s first ever ‘gay moment’ on screen, as he struggles with his feelings for ultra-macho leading man Gaston.” According to the Telegraph:

In an interview with Attitude magazine, director Bill Condon said: “LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston.

“He’s confused about what he wants. It’s somebody who’s just realizing that he has these feelings.

“And Josh [Gad, who plays LeFou] makes something really subtle and delicious out of it.

“And that’s what has its pay-off at the end, which I don’t want to give away. But it is a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie.”

Make that an exclusively gay moment.

And why not? If there is nothing wrong with homosexual acts, then there is certainly nothing wrong with having a lovable male character express his desire for the male hero.

Though it isn’t reported that this will happen in the film, there would also have been nothing wrong with having the pair have one of those romantic kisses Disney is so good at. Gaston and LeFou could have been eating a baguette (this being France) and discover they are munching the same buttered crust! Sort of like the spaghetti scene in Lady and the Tramp. Awww.

There just cannot be any objection to scenes like this—if the premise is true. Tom Gilson says Disney’s actions are part of “a strategy centered in positive imagery” about homosexuality. He’s surely right about that, but he need not be. That is, there could be no strategy or plan to inculcate our youth in “alternative” sexualities. What is happening could simply be folks employed in the entertainment industry acting as if they accept the premise.

If the movie succeeds, why would Disney stop at Beauty and the Beast? Why not have Winnie the Pooh take a gay lover? I’m just spitballing here, but let’s say we reveal Eeyore to be a dog who thinks he’s a mule. After all, he does have that pin-on tail.

The lovable chipmunks Chimp and Dale turn out to be more than just roommates. Imagine the possibilities with Goofy! Goofy, for crying out loud!

But that’s enough: you get the idea. Contribute your ideas below.

The point should be blazingly obvious by now. If homosexual acts are okay, there is nothing in the world wrong with depicting them in popular culture, in sex “education” classes, in preschools to high schools, in everything and everywhere.

In 2003, our (so-called) Supreme Court in Lawrence vs. Texas in effect ruled that homosexual acts were a “fundamental right.

Our legal system and therefore government has thus decided the premise is true. Even some “conservatives” say it is. Even some priests. Even you?

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