William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Summary Against Modern Thought: God Has No Passive Potentiality

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 started with a in-depth proofs that there must exist, for anything to change, an Unchanging Changer, an Unmoved Mover. We call this “entity” God. Why? To merely label this Primary Force (to speak physically) “God” felt like cheating. Why does a physical force have to be called God? Isn’t that topping it high? That’s because we don’t yet know that it’s the logical implications of the foregoing proof that insist this force is God. So far, we know the force must be eternal, i.e. outside of time. Today, we see that it must be without potentiality. Still not enough to come to God, as He is usually understood—but we have many chapters to go! Today’s proofs are so succinct and clear they need little annotation.

Chapter 16: That in God there is no passive potentiality

1 NOW if God is eternal, it follows of necessity that He is not in potentiality.i

2 For everything in whose substance there is an admixture of potentiality, is possibly non-existent as regards whatever it has of potentiality, for that which may possibly be may possibly not be. Now God in Himself cannot not be, since He is eternal. Therefore in God there is no potentiality to be.ii

3 Again. Although that which is sometimes potential and sometimes actual, is in point of time potential before being actual, nevertheless actuality is simply before potentiality: because potentiality does not bring itself into actuality, but needs to be brought into actuality by something actual. Therefore whatever is in any way potential has something previous to it. Now God is the first being and the first cause, as stated above.[1] Therefore in Him there is no admixture of potentiality.iii

4 Again. That which of itself must necessarily be, can nowise be possibly, since what of itself must be necessarily, has no cause, whereas whatever can be possibly, has a cause, as proved above.[2]iv Now God, in Himself, must necessarily be. Therefore nowise can He be possibly. Therefore no potentiality is to be found in His essence.

5 Again. Everything acts according as it is actual. Wherefore that which is not wholly actual acts, not by its whole self, but by part of itself. Now that which does not act by its whole self is not the first agent, since it acts by participation of something and not by its essence. Therefore the first agent, which is God, has no admixture of potentiality, but is pure act.v

6 Moreover. Just as it is natural that a thing should act in so far as it is actual, so is it natural for it to be passive in so far as it is in potentiality, for movement is the act of that which is in potentiality.[3] Now God is altogether impassible and immovable, as stated above.[4] Therefore in Him there is no potentiality, namely that which is passive.

7 Further. We notice in the world something that passes from potentiality to actuality. Now it does not reduce itself from potentiality to actuality, because that which is potential is not yet, wherefore neither can it act. Therefore it must be preceded by something else whereby it can be brought from potentiality to actuality. And if this again passes from potentiality to actuality, it must be preceded by something else, whereby it can be brought from potentiality to actuality. But we cannot go on thus to infinity. Therefore we must come to something that is wholly actual and nowise potential. And this we call God.vi

————————————————————————–

iRecall that to be in potentiality means possessing the capability of change, but as was proved over the course of many weeks, God does not changed. He is the Unmoved Mover.

iiThis metaphysical truth is a hammer. Note very carefully that we move from this truth to God. We do not start with belief. Speaking very loosely, God is a theorem. And I only mention this to counter to frequent, and really quite ridiculous charge, that our knowledge of God is entirely “made up” (of beliefs).

iiiAin’t that a lovely point? Remember: it is not the potential of you being in Cleveland that actually moves you there. Something actual must do that. Actualities fulfill potentialities.

ivLinger over this one, dear reader. What is necessary must be.

vThis follows from God being unchanging.

viI adore these kinds of proofs. Once you understand what a infinite regression truly implies, understanding dawns brightly. The “base” of all must be actual and not in potential. Must be. St Thomas calls this “base” God. We still haven’t felt why he does this, but we’re getting closer.

Next installment.

[1] Ch. xiii.
[2] Ch. xv.
[3] 3 Phys. i. 6.
[4] Ch. xiii.

67 Comments

  1. Sander van der Wal

    August 10, 2014 at 10:12 am

    5) because I am not in Cleveland, but somewhere else, I am nor whole (whatever that means)?

    And then, what is so special about time that God is outside it? Why can’t he be outside space and inside time? If you are never, you cannot change, and if you are nowhere, you cannot change either.

  2. “5) because I am not in Cleveland, but somewhere else, I am nor whole (whatever that means)?”

    You said it. I you don’t understand it how are we too?

    “And then, what is so special about time that God is outside it? Why can’t he be outside space and inside time? If you are never, you cannot change, and if you are nowhere, you cannot change either.”

    There is nothing special about time, that is the point. Because being ‘inside’ time would make Him subject to change. Respectively.

  3. This implies that God knew about the Holocaust from the beginning of time, which makes it even more implausible that He is benevolent

  4. Hans used to be a devout catholic

  5. Dover used to be a devout atheist. So? Let’s not muddy this thread with side-issues.

  6. Sander van der Wal

    August 10, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    @dover_beach

    The deal here is that Thomas et al are trying to convince the gentiles. Bouncing back questions isn’t going to work.

    At this point there’s proof that the First Cause God is logically necessary to prevent an infinite chain of causes. And there’s proof that God has some necessary attributes, like being outside of time. But you still need to show how a God outside of time is the First Cause. Because otherwise you have a paradox.

  7. @Sander van der Wal:

    “At this point there’s proof that the First Cause God is logically necessary to prevent an infinite chain of causes. And there’s proof that God has some necessary attributes, like being outside of time. But you still need to show how a God outside of time is the First Cause. Because otherwise you have a paradox.”

    How can there be “paradox” if you start by saying that “there’s proof that the First Cause God is logically necessary”? And First Cause does not mean first in time (obviously), so what is this “paradox” you are talking about?

  8. “The deal here is that Thomas et al are trying to convince the gentiles. Bouncing back questions isn’t going to work.”

    I wasn’t bouncing back a question, I simply said I had no idea what you were talking about when you said “because I am not in Cleveland, but somewhere else, I am nor whole (whatever that means)?” or how you thought that was an attempt to qualify point 5 above.

    Your last point is addressed by GR.

  9. Sander van der Wal

    August 10, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    @ G . Rodrigues

    The first cause as defined must be able to cause everything. You need to show that he can do that. Not just because he’s defined as such, but by showing the actual actions.

    @dover_beach

    I’m not in Cleveland. Why is that me not being whole? Your terminology, you need to explain it.

  10. @Sander van der Wal:

    “The first cause as defined must be able to cause everything. You need to show that he can do that. Not just because he’s defined as such, but by showing the actual actions.”

    I am having a lot of trouble understanding what you mean. First, you seem to have dropped talk about “paradox” and now the complaint seems to be that we, meaning the defenders of Cosmological arguments, still have not discharged our duty of showing that He, the First Cause, “must be able to cause everything. You need to show that he can do that”. But this is a complete muddle; it gets things precisely backwards (always on the assumption that I am understanding you, which in fact I doubt). We do not have to show anything of the sort, because the point of the argument — more precisely the argument leading to the Unmoved Mover — is that without the concurrent action of the First Cause there would be no change, no causality, or anything at all for that matter. But there is change, there are substances with real causal powers, ergo etc. and etc.

  11. “I’m not in Cleveland. Why is that me not being whole? Your terminology, you need to explain it.”

    I have no idea what your point is. Again, maybe you need to express yourself more clearly.

  12. Sander van der Wal ,

    Give it up. You’ll never get anything from this crowd. They are too much into wordplay and ducking questions. What you’ve asked is quite reasonable but you won’t get a reasonable answer here. Aquinas may have been out to convince gentiles but as you can see the usual responders to these posts are not.

  13. dover_beach,

    Dover used to be a devout atheist. So? Let’s not muddy this thread with side-issues.

    Ok, I’ll rephrase Hans’ original question: This implies that God kows about all evil acts from the beginning of time, which makes it even more implausible that He is benevolent.

  14. Briggs, in note (i) your enemies have struck again: “God does not changed.”

  15. DAV,

    Give it up. You’ll never get anything from this crowd. They are too much into wordplay and ducking questions.

    It’s the same on any issue whenever the bulk of active participants aruge from pre-conceived, entrenched positions. Which is true of 99.9999% of online conversations about religion and politics. (The pee is very very wee.)

    As much as I’m motivated to get my interlocutor to conceed that I have the superior argument, I know that it almost never happens. So I try to write mostly for lurkers; who are either undecided and/or by definition don’t have a publicly stated position to defend nor face to lose by altering their own opinion.

  16. Ye Olde Statisician

    August 10, 2014 at 10:29 pm

    1. If you are actually in Cleveland, then you are not potentially in Cleveland. If you are not actually in Cleveland, then you are potentially in Cleveland. OK so far? (This was part if the original argument for a primary actualizer.)

    2. Let’s assume you are in Los Angeles, sec. arg.

    3. Then you are potentially in Cleveland.

    4. But you are also potentially in Chicago, Detroit, Bismark, San Francisco, New Orleans, and numerous other sites. I believe this is what is called “passive potentiality.”

    5. The determination to go to Cleveland will collapse the “wave function” onto the single potential state of being-in-Cleveland. I believe this is called “active potentiality.”

    6. Aristotle sometimes called this “actual potency” and marks the beginning of “kinesis” (a/k/a “motion”).

    7. The potential to-be-in-Cleveland does not actually get you there. For that you will need something already actual, such as putting the pedal to the metal, or boarding an airplane, etc.

    8. Once the vehicle has reached Cleveland, that kinesis (motion) ceases and the potential has been actualized.

    However, the language of movers and mobiles is really directed at things, not doings. But being-in-Cleveland is a doing, not a thing, and so is not the best illustrative example. The classic example is the heap of building materials, which has the potential to-be-a-house or to-be-a-gazebo or … or to-remain-a-heap-of-building-materials. The wave function collapses on to-be-a-house when construction commences and it becomes an actual potency. Kinesis begins and the building materials begin moving toward house. When the house has been completed, that motion ceases. (Unless the house is being built in a weightless vacuum, in which case, inertial will cause the building to keep building. Wait. That makes no sense. So inertia is not an objection. ROFL.) Notice that it is the building materials that have been actualized, not the house.

    Hope this helps.

  17. It’s not so much trying to change opinions as trying to get these Aquinas defenders to state or at least try to explain their position in their own words. Instead we … well, no point in wasting more time. Gotta wonder why they are so defensive, though.

  18. Ye Olde Statisician

    August 10, 2014 at 11:07 pm

    What part did you not understand?

    And it was Aristotle, not Aquinas, who devised the potency-actuality solution to Parmenides problem of physical motion.

  19. DAV,

    

    It’s not so much trying to change opinions as trying to get these Aquinas defenders to state or at least try to explain their position in their own words.

    Aquinas’ argument ultimately rests on appeals to authority, namely that which the Church canonized as scripture. The phrase, “a snowball’s chance in Dante’s Inferno” springs to mind.

    Instead we … well, no point in wasting more time.

    Well I’m having a grand time riffing on your comments. As a bonus, I find it nice to agree with you on something for once. (Well, twice now in recent threads.) On that note ….

    Gotta wonder why they are so defensive, though.

    Speaking for myself, I find it difficult to believe in something for which there is inadequate and/or conflicting evidence.

  20. Ye Olde Statisician

    August 10, 2014 at 11:30 pm

    Aquinas’ argument ultimately rests on appeals to authority, namely that which the Church canonized as scripture.

    So far, none of the argument presented has appealed to authority; so why the non-empirical assertion. Show us such an appeal. Data!

  21. God is the Hugo Boss, Kid Leather Shoes in my closet. Yea, verily.

    He is eternal. I polish him only to showeth thine devotion.

    The bunion he caused is proof that he demands sacrifice of His followers.

    He is the Prime Cause of all that is Good and True. I challenge thy infidels to proveth otherwise!

    Hallow be His name.

  22. Sander van der Wal

    August 11, 2014 at 2:12 am

    @YOS

    That’s a clear example.

    So, if God has no passive potentiality it means that he is, for example, everywhere, right?

    Then, one can be in Cleveland tomorrow, or next year. So, having no passive potentiality means that you are everywhere all the time.

    Which is impossible if you are oitside time. And that is the paradox.

  23. @Sander wan der Val:

    “So, if God has no passive potentiality it means that he is, for example, everywhere, right?”

    The idea seems to be (caveat: as with the rest of the comments, I am doing a lot of guessing as what is the intended meaning):

    (1) God is not potentially here nor there.

    (2) Therefore God is actually here and there, that is, He is everywhere

    (3) But if he is everywhere, He is in space.

    (4) If He is in space, He is in space all the time.

    (5) But God is outside time, etc.

    (3) and (4) could probably be abbreviated to (3a) If He is in space, He is in spacetime, but as far as I can see it does not matter much.

    (3) does not follow from (1) and (2) since to say that God is not potentially here nor there is not the same thing to say that that Sander van der Wal is not potentially here nor there. For Sander wan der Val the implication does follows, because Sander van der Wal indeed does have the potency to be here or to be there as the case may be, in virtue of being changeable, mobile being, *in spacetime*, and that is precisely what Aquinas is denying that God is.

    Or to put in other words, the argument is trading on an equivocation on the different senses of “in”. There is a sense in which God is everywhere at all times (this is the doctrine of omnipresence, for example, see here), but it is not the sense in which chairs, planets or you and me are here or there. This former is used in (1), and maybe in (2) depending on what you mean, and the latter in (3).

  24. “So far, none of the argument presented has appealed to authority; so why the non-empirical assertion.”

    Exactly right.

  25. BTW, YOS and GR have provided clear replies in their own words. Seriously, what more could you want? Diagrams?

  26. In reverse order of appearance:

    7 Divine authority bears witness to this truth: wherefore the Psalm[10] reads: But Thou, O Lord, endurest for ever, and again:[11] But Thou art always the self-same, and Thy years shall not fail.

    4 Wherefore in order to proceed about the knowledge of God by the way of remotion, let us take as principle that which is already made manifest by what we have said above,[1] namely that God is altogether unchangeable.vi This is also confirmed by the authority of Holy Writ. For it is said (Malach. iii. 6): I am God (Vulg., the Lord) and I change not; (James i. 17): With Whom there is no change; and (Num. xxiii. 19): God is not as a man…that He should be changed.vii

    (7) Hence it is written (Eph. iv. 17, 18): That henceforward you walk not as also the Gentiles walk in the vanity of their mind, having their understanding darkened: and (Isa. liv. 13): All thy children shall be taught of the Lord.

    Emphasis added.

  27. So, “divine authority bears witness to this truth”, and this truth “is also confirmed by the authority of Holy Writ”. I still see no evidence that his argument so far depends upon any appeal to authority.

  28. http://www.saintwiki.com/index.php?title=SCG_1.2

    Wherefore, taking heart from God’s lovingkindness to assume the office of a wise man, although it surpasses our own powers, the purpose we have in view is, in our own weak way, to declare the truth which the Catholic faith professes, while weeding out contrary errors; for, in the words of Hilary, I acknowledge that I owe my life’s chief occupation to God, so that every word and every thought of mine may speak of Him. But it is difficult to refute the errors of each individual, for two reasons.

    First, because the sacrilegious assertions of each erring individual are not so well known to us, that we are able from what they say to find arguments to refute their errors. For the Doctors of old used this method in order to confute the errors of the heathens, whose opinions they were able to know, since either they had been heathens themselves, or had lived among heathens and were conversant with their teachings.

    Secondly, because some of them, like the Mohammedans and pagans, do not agree with us as to the authority of any Scripture whereby they may be convinced, in the same way as we are able to dispute with the Jews by means of the Old Testament, and with heretics by means of the New: whereas the former accept neither. Wherefore it is necessary to have recourse to natural reason, to which all are compelled to assent. And yet this is deficient in the things of God.

    And while we are occupied in the inquiry about a particular truth, we shall show what errors are excluded thereby, and how demonstrable truth is in agreement with the faith of the Christian religion.

    Paragraph breaks and emphasis added.

  29. Sander van der Wal

    August 12, 2014 at 12:32 am

    @G. Rodrigues

    I have no reason to assume that my actuality is different from a first movers’s actuality. A first mover is as in Cleveland as I am. The difference is that he’s also in New York, and everywhere else too. In time it is the same. He’s as in Cleveland tomorrow as I am (for the sake of argument of course) but all the time, while I am not, with me being dead almost all the time.

    In the entiere line of reasoning it is not implied that first movers are different from other movers, apart from being the first mover. If their being the first mover makes them different, then you have a paradox.

  30. @Sander wan der Val:

    “I have no reason to assume that my actuality is different from a first movers’s actuality. ”

    Of course you have every reason to “assume” that since it is the conclusion of the argument that the Unmoved Mover is Pure Act. Maybe you mistyped, and meant potency. And once again you would be wrong: the potencies of an electron are radically different from those of a human being (e.g. Sander wan der Val) and these in turn, are radically different from the potencies of the Unmoved Mover.

    And I repeat the reason I gave you; it is just a matter of paying attention to the arguments that Aquinas is laying out. To say that God lacks the potentiality to be riding any bike that exists is *not* to say that God is actually riding every existing bike in the world. And the distinction is neither ad hoc nor arbitrary. A comparison: to say that Fido the dog does not have a tail is not the same thing to say that Sander wan der Val does not have a tail. We are denying different things in the two cases: in the first it is by accident that Fido lacks a tail and in the second, it is by nature that Sander wan der Val lacks a tail.

    The paradox may exist, but it is all in your head.

  31. “Wherefore it is necessary to have recourse to natural reason, to which all are compelled to assent. And yet this is deficient in the things of God.”

    In all the things of God? No, but certainly some.

    “and how demonstrable truth is in agreement with the faith of the Christian religion.”

    So there a two things, arrived at independently of the other, that may agree? I still see no dependency.

  32. Sander van der Wal

    August 12, 2014 at 9:43 am

    @ G. Rodrigues

    No, I meant actuality. If I can be in a place at a certain time, the first mover can be in a place at a certain time and an electron can be in a place at a certain time, then I do expect that for all three being in a place at a certain time means the same. For me (as a thought experiment) being all actual with no potential regarding spacetime would mean that I would be everywhere all the time.

    But suddenly, the first mover is not in spacetime, but outside time and all over space. Why isn’t the first mover all over spacetime too?

    Ok, maybe the first mover has no potential to be in time, so there’s no need to be all actual all over time. But then he cannot be actual in space either, because for everything else being actual in space is being actual in spacetime, there being no such thing as just space after General Relativity.

  33. Ye Olde Statisician

    August 12, 2014 at 10:54 am

    Perhaps it would be well to understand the Questions genre. The method of dialectic consists of:
    1. The Question to be determined.
    2. The Antitheses, the principle arguments against the question, with reference to sources where relevant.
    3. The Thesis, the principle argument in support of the question, again with references.
    4. The Synthesis (a/k/a Respondeo, or Determination), in which the author weighs the arguments and decides one way, the other, a combination of both, or an entirely new take on things. This may also include distinctions or divisions into separate cases, definitions and so forth.
    5. The Responses to the principle arguments, in which each is rebutted based on the determination.

    (BTW, a dialectic led to a derermination, not to a demonstration. Only mathematics could end with a QED.)

    Ask yourself whether your quoted passages are in the antitheses, theses, or the synthesis. IOW, are they used to explain the arguments in a manner similar to the modern use of footnotes and references? Or are they used to settle the argument, an entirely different matter. It is only an “appeal to authority” when it amounts to “this is the conclusion because Darwin (or whoever) said so.” It is not an appeal to authority when it simply means “this is what Darwin (or whoever) said” or “for more details, see what Darwin (or whoever) wrote here.”

    In an era when all books were artisinal, handcrafted books, you could not simply say “cf. Einstein (1910), p. 172.” You would instead quote from Einstein’s argument a single line of his text, secure in the knowledge that a medieval student would know the entire remainder of the argument from one “key sentence.” To the modern eye, this has the appearance of an appeal to authority; but it is no more so than when say Mme. Curie refers to Becquerel on the first page of her Radio-Active Substances.

    In fact, in theological Questions, Thomas often cited scriptural or patristic arguments in the antitheses and decided against them, or against certain readings of them.

  34. Ye Olde Statisician

    August 12, 2014 at 11:09 am

    the first mover is not in spacetime, but outside time and all over space. Why isn’t the first mover all over spacetime too?

    Shakespeare is in every act and scene of Macbeth. Yet he does not appear in any act or scene of Macbeth. The same may be said of DaVinci and the Mona Lisa. It could be that a first mover relates differently to his mobiles than does any thing within the mobile.

    [[Warning: the above is something called an “analogy.” Experience has taught me that virtually no one today understands how to use them. It does not mean that Macbeth is the same as the Mona Lisa in every way.]]

  35. Shakespeare is in every act and scene of Macbeth.

    So a cause is in every effect arising from it? Is this what is meant when it is said God is Omnipresent? Seems a trivial and unimportant observation.

  36. Ye Olde Statisician

    August 12, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    Not half so trivial as the proposition that God is physically in Cleveland.

  37. Well, an understandable confusion perhaps.

    When we go to places like this, we encounter things such as:

    15. Q. Where is God?
    A. God is everywhere.

    while failing to mention “everywhere” is figurative which rather seems to be disingenuous considering how most would interpret the question. God is “everywhere” but not “here and now” because God is outside of “here and now”.

  38. I seem to have dropped the “=” in this

  39. Ye Olde Statisician

    August 12, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    The Second Baltimore Catechism is used to prep children for confirmation, not to prep theologians for metaphysics. A child’s conception is all well and good for a child, but when one matures, he must put away the things of a child. Christoph Cardinal Schoenborn once made a similar remark to a physicist who wrote to him that he did not believe in a white-bearded invisible man in the sky. Neither did the cardinal, and he hoped the writer’s understanding of physics did not also stop in fourth grade.

    Also, do not interpret “figurative” too figuratively. One may open an cupboard and find God curled up inside winking at you. Or perhaps in a piece of what appears to be bread. Or in the “least of these,” passed by on the side of the road. Perhaps even in some character out of history. But yes, what is said of God must be said analogously and not equivalently to what is said of humans. Whatever God is, is not something we can describe directly. When we say that God “is” a rational being, possessing intellect and will, we mean that there is something in God that is like what we call intellect and will in ourselves. And I hate to say this, but even as a child I was taught these things — though in high school, not in the 4th grade.

    And yes, there is always something of the cause in the effect. How else could we learn of causes by studying their effects?

  40. A child’s conception is all well and good for a child, but when one matures, he must put away the things of a child.

    Well, well, now. So the Q/A I quoted was the catechismic equivalent to the Stork? It’s things like this that led to the conclusion a good portion of what has been taught is pure hooey.

    Also, do not interpret “figurative” too figuratively. One may open an cupboard and find God curled up inside winking at you.

    So, the proposition that God is physically in Cleveland isn’t that far out in the outfield after all? Make up your mind: God is within or outside of spacetime? Which is it? If the latter, explain this finding “God curled up inside winking at you.”

  41. prep children for confirmation

    So arming them with nonsensical or disingenuous answers to questions preps them how?

  42. Ye Olde Statisician

    August 12, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    God is within or outside of spacetime? Which is it?

    Yes.

    (Consider that “inside” and “outside” may be misleading and cause one to think that God is in Cleveland. You may be thinking that
    “outside space-time” is a physical place, like “north” of the north pole or “before” the big bang.)

    prep children for confirmation

    So arming them with nonsensical or disingenuous answers to questions preps them how?

    Since when does simplification become “nonsense” or “disingenuous”? Or do we teach chiaroscuro in finger painting? Newtonian mechanics? Euclidean geometry? Don’t be embarrassed. You are not the first atheist to realize he has been railing against grade school lessons.
    Try this for an analogy.

    If the latter, explain this finding “God curled up inside winking at you.”
    Wink

  43. You may be thinking that “outside space-time” is a physical place

    I’m not.

    Consider that “inside” and “outside” may be misleading and cause one to think that God is in Cleveland.

    Why would inside/outside cause anyone to think God is in Cleveland? Is God insane? If so, what does inside/outside spacetime have to do with it? When you responded to the first mover is not in spacetime, but outside time and all over space. were you perpetrating the confusion?

    Since when does simplification become “nonsense” or “disingenuous”?

    Because it is unnecessary. Many (all really) of the answers to the questions were meant to be learned by rote. Saying “God is everywhere” knowing full well that the wrong interpretation is likely is most disingenuous. I can see giving a “go away” answer to some questions at times when a particular question arises but (using the Stork as example) sitting a youngster down then saying “You were brought here by the Stork” before any question comes about is outright malfeasance. It would be better to not even bring up “where is God’ if a 4th grader’s mind can’t handle the concepts. I suppose you would find answering “Who is God?” with “The guy with the flowing beard in front of your book” acceptable.

    Further, if I had not gone to a Catholic high school, the answer to that question would never have been expanded or explained (first admonition: “Forget everything the nuns told you”). I can only assume the “real” answer is only meant for the In Crowd and not the Unwashed Masses and a 4th grader is at the prime age for “simplified” indoctrination . Why wouldn’t a 4th grader not be able to understand “Everywhere in spirit” anyway? Why evade the question by slyly sliding into alternate meanings with a misleading answer?

    Why should knowing a rote answer to that question be necessary at all to prepare one for Confirmation?

  44. You are not the first atheist to realize he has been railing against grade school lessons.

    Pointing out that your arguments for God are insufficient doesn’t make me an atheist. I am definitely no religious though.

    If the latter, explain this finding “God curled up inside winking at you.”
    Wink

    Still a God figuratively winking, yes? What’s your point?

  45. dover_beach,

    In all the things of God? No, but certainly some.

    Many others come from Holy Writ, which Aquinas asserts is authoritative. It’s intuitively obvious that even canon cannot reasonably be considered comprehensive. That noted, I offer that it would be a stretch to characterize scripture as non-foundational or non-definitive even in its necessary incompleteness.

    So there a two things, arrived at independently of the other, that may agree? I still see no dependency.

    A dubious claim given Aquinas’ stature as an eminent Catholic theologian. His inclusion of scripture in Gentiles further weakens this argument. Had the entire work been written by Aristotle instead of being heavily referenced and extended by Aquinas, the characterization of independent parallelism to scripture would be somewhat more compelling.

  46. YOS,

    BTW, a dialectic led to a determination, not to a demonstration. Only mathematics could end with a QED.

    A sensible distinction with which I quite agree, but have not myself been able to articulate. Yet I’m experiencing some dissonance here, which brings us to …

    Ask yourself whether your quoted passages are in the antitheses, theses, or the synthesis. IOW, are they used to explain the arguments in a manner similar to the modern use of footnotes and references? Or are they used to settle the argument, an entirely different matter.

    It’s damnably trying for me to confidently answer those questions in this case. In the latter two sentences above you give me a binary choice, implying a mutual exclusivity which is not supported by my reading of the actual text as quoted.

    Your first sentence gives me three choices, and I again I want to choose all three but feel that I’m being constrained to choose only one. If that is your intent, I choose synthesis as most representative.

    To the modern eye, this has the appearance of an appeal to authority; but it is no more so than when say Mme. Curie refers to Becquerel on the first page of her Radio-Active Substances.

    Which is one reason I quoted roughly half of Chapter II (The Author’s Intent …) in context and provided the link to it in its entirety. It’s certainly possible that my selection is too narrow, or too narrowly interpreted. However, the equivalence you suggest strikes me as fatally superficial; while it’s arguable that theism and empiricism have certain compatibilities, they have significant qualitative differences. I don’t expect science to support or falsify the vast majority of theological arguments, and I especially don’t expect the existential question of the God of Abraham to be positively affirmed in a paper published by Nature any time soon.

    In fact, in theological Questions, Thomas often cited scriptural or patristic arguments in the antitheses and decided against them, or against certain readings of them.

    Aquinas speaks to this at the very end of the chapter in question:

    Wherefore it is necessary to have recourse to natural reason, to which all are compelled to assent. And yet this is deficient in the things of God.

    And while we are occupied in the inquiry about a particular truth, we shall show what errors are excluded thereby, and how demonstrable truth is in agreement with the faith of the Christian religion.

    I note several ambiguities which Aquinas himself does address as if to preempt obvious objections, yet his own objections are not remotely exhaustive. While there is an appearance of objectivity here, it lacks rigor; so the ambiguities read to me as equivocation. Of course, I have my own evidently skeptical biases and foregone conclusions backed by no small amount of suspicion and animus. Examples of alleged equivocation are wanting which I address in the form of some questions:

    Why must one particular line of natural reasoning compel assent to veracity? More to the point, is it not possible that a different line of natural reason, also being similarly self-consistent, is an equally plausible yet materially alternative description?

    Noting that the bulk of the argument herein is deficient in the things of God, could not also the same arguments apply to some other conception of God?

    Excluding errors is desireable, but whence the errors in the first place? When natural reason finds potential errors in the referenced text OR interpretations thereof, why conclude that the later line of reasoning is necessarily any more representative of truth?

  47. Why wouldn’t a 4th grader not be able to understand “Everywhere in spirit” anyway?

    I’m sure they are; I’ve never known a fourth grader who wouldn’t already take ‘God is everywhere’ and ‘God is everywhere in spirit’ to be equivalent, but no doubt there are differences across the board. It isn’t clear what relevance your animus against methods of early catechesis that are rarely used anymore have to do with anything, though. All TOF’s being doing is pointing out that your ‘understandable confusion’, as you called it, requires taking texts made for children as rigorous accounts, which they obviously are not; and since has been pointing out that his noting this doesn’t itself imply anything that you’ve falsely claimed it implies (like its being ‘hooey’ or ‘nonsense’ etc., etc.). So either it’s already been established that this entire jaunt is irrelevant to anything at all or it’s still unclear what you are claiming the relevance is.

  48. Sorry, that should be YOS; and obviously ‘has’ rather than ‘have’. Long day grading.

  49. I’ve never known a fourth grader who wouldn’t already take ‘God is everywhere’ and ‘God is everywhere in spirit’ to be equivalent

    Wouldn’t or actually does?

    you’ve falsely claimed

    So, if I spit out a steak that I’m biting into and exclaim “Yuk! This tastes awful!” but you don’t think it does then I’ve uttered a falsehood? Interesting. FWIW: I didn’t falsely claim it; I truly claimed it.

    TOF, eh? Careful with that hem. Your Freudian slip is showing.

  50. Ye Olde Statisician

    August 12, 2014 at 11:56 pm

    The contention was that Aquinas was arguing from authority, not that his purpose lay in showing that natural reason would eventually support that authority. If you want to call that something, call it “argument toward authority,” rather than “from” authority.

    But if you examine again the passage previously excerpted, you will note how reductionism loses the holisitic meaning. The text is found here:
    http://dhspriory.org/thomas/ContraGentiles1.htm#2
    where the English translation may be compared to the original. What you see, boiled to its essence is that Thomas proposes to counter the attacks on Christianity (“sacrilegious remarks”) but that he can’t do this by an appeal to the scriptures because: pagans and muslims don’t accept any of the scriptures, and Jews accept only the Old Testament. “We must, therefore, have recourse to the natural reason, to which all men are forced to give their assent.” (Unde necesse est ad naturalem rationem recurrere, cui omnes assentire coguntur.) Even though reason does have its limitations — e.g., the Incarnation(*) — he does not propose to go there and will only argue insofar as reason will go. So there is no argument from authority, only an occasional use of the word authority. Hence, he goes on to say in chapter 3:
    There is a twofold mode of truth in what we profess about God. Some truths about God exceed all the ability of the human reason. Such is the truth that God is triune. But there are some truths which the natural reason also is able to reach. Such are that God exists, that He is one, and the like. In fact, such truths about God have been proved demonstratively by the philosophers, guided by the light of the natural reason.
    which is what he intended when he wrote a couple paragraphs earlier:
    Quae tamen in rebus divinis deficiens est.

    Little did he suspect that seven centuries later there would be post-moderns, who would even reject logic and reason in their eagerness to avoid the conclusions.

    (*) If you jump way ahead to
    http://dhspriory.org/thomas/ContraGentiles4.htm#39
    you will see that he does not try to prove the Incarnation by reason. He sets out what the belief is and then what the rational objections are and it is only these objections that he pursues by reason.

  51. Ye Olde Statisician

    August 12, 2014 at 11:59 pm

    Sorry, that should be YOS
    It’s easy to get us mixed up. BSEG.

  52. YOS,

    The contention was that Aquinas was arguing from authority, not that his purpose lay in showing that natural reason would eventually support that authority. If you want to call that something, call it “argument toward authority,” rather than “from” authority.

    The fallacy argumentum ab auctoritate is commonly translated “argument from authority” or “appeal to authority”. To or toward would be ad. My Latin was and is horrible, and I can’t remember if ad can be used with the ablative, but if so “appeal to authority” would literally translate, appellatio ad auctoritate. It feels weird to use the accusative appellatio ad auctoritatem, implying that authority is the direct object of some verb not present in the phrase itself. One of the niceties of Latin is the nuance of meaning derived from cases, so auctoritate being the ablative case all on its lonesome could be said to mean, “in the manner of authority” or “using authority” or even perhaps the adjective “authoritative”.

    Point being that splitting hairs about whether to use “from” or “toward” goes wide of the substantive arguments and questions in my previous post.

    What you see, boiled to its essence is that Thomas proposes to counter the attacks on Christianity (“sacrilegious remarks”) but that he can’t do this by an appeal to the scriptures because: pagans and muslims don’t accept any of the scriptures, and Jews accept only the Old Testament.

    Again, that’s one reason I quoted that entire passage. Thomas gives voice to the conundrum which I’ll roughly paraphrase as: “I accept the Authority of The Church, but nobody else does, so I need a reasoned and compelling argument to convince them otherwise.”

    This particular bit spoke to me; But it is difficult to refute the errors of each individual, for two reasons. First, because the sacrilegious assertions of each erring individual are not so well known to us, that we are able from what they say to find arguments to refute their errors.

    Before I entered the mission field, we were taught the importance of coming to some understanding of a potential convert’s own beliefs; both as a means of establishing commonality and trust, but also as a means for knowing which differences (“errors”) needed to be addressed (“corrected”). Over time, I developed a collection of mental notes, dog-eared scripture pages and chicken scratch in the margins of my teaching materials to handle common objections as they became known to me. Gentiles reads a lot to me like the teaching manuals I used … a framework to guide the argument, with space to fill in, “Hah! The Saved by Grace crowd don’t have an answer to this one and here’s the Biblical support for it, dot dot dot.”

    We made no bones about invoking Priesthood and Scriptural authority. Followed by, “Don’t believe me, pray about it and find out for yourself if it’s true.”

    Back in the day before I knew about informal fallacies, I could say such things with a straight face even though my faith was more like an intense desire to believe, not actual belief. Now, when I see others of faith tap-dancing around appeals to authority, I wonder if they’re lying to themselves as much as I was back then. Then I gnash my teeth. Like I said previously, my own prejudices and animus cannot be discounted here, but darn if I’ll read a few pages of text riddled with fallacious reasoning and not throw a few darts at it with some measure of confidence.

    Much more is known about the Mohammedans and pagans these days. And then there are the Reformists. A more reasonable display of objective evaluation would be to pick up where Thomas punted and line up Gentiles with what’s known about other major extant sects. I’m sure it’s already been done, and that you’ll know exactly where.

    There is a twofold mode of truth in what we profess about God. Some truths about God exceed all the ability of the human reason. Such is the truth that God is triune.

    I understand the distinction and find it a reasonable argument on the face of it. It’s those positive descriptions of the qualities and will of Godnot derived from clean-sheet logical reasoning which often distinguish various sects from each other. And then there are the various interpretations and ancillary commentaries. It’s in those areas where authority, tradition, popularity and straight up ethnocentric “I like this because it’s what I know” are so often invoked.

    

    Little did he suspect that seven centuries later there would be post-moderns, who would even reject logic and reason in their eagerness to avoid the conclusions.

    Ah, the old fallback; pillorying the post-moderns with a broad-sweeping, categorical denial that they have anything of value whatsoever to say. Don’t lump me in with those folk, whoever the heck they are. I want there to be a God, and I would like to believe. I’m not going to abandon logic to get there, nor do I feel I need to use it to get there either. If God, and God has something to say to me, I am ever asking and listening.

  53. @Sander van der Wal:

    “But suddenly, the first mover is not in spacetime, but outside time and all over space. Why isn’t the first mover all over spacetime too?”

    *If* the four-dimensional picture of GR is substantially true (I do not think it is, but assume it for the sake of argument) then God is “in” spacetime, or is “all over space” and time. Once again, this is just the doctrine of omnipresence. And once again, the sense in which God is, or would be, “in” spacetime, is not the same sense in which electrons, chairs, planets, or me and you, are in spacetime, which is what you need to derive the “paradox”. Likewise, to say that God is “outside spacetime” is simply to say that God is a-temporal, immaterial, non-extended, etc. We are not predicating anything positive of Him, but rather denying. In particular, no one here is affirming that there is some place outside spacetime in which God hangs out.

  54. Ye Olde Statisician

    August 13, 2014 at 9:40 am

    This particular bit spoke to me…
    You mean the part where he says he doesn’t know everything about what the pagans and muslims say against Christianity, so what he’ll do is try to think of every conceivable objection, no matter who may say it, and answer those without appeal to revelation.

  55. Sander van der Wal

    August 13, 2014 at 11:08 am

    @G. Rodrigues

    Second causes are in spacetime and can be seen to Cause things. What has been proven so far is that the First cause is no diffrent from Second causes, apart from it being the first. All logical statements leading up to the proposition that there must be a first cause are about the universe. If the first cause needs the ability to be outside of time, then all the logical statements that led to that conclusion must be reexamined with the idea that other things apart from the first mover can be outside time too. Or not.

    For instance, stuff that is outside time doesn’t change, so on first sight it doesn’t need a second cause or a first cause.

  56. Sander, ‘first’ in what sense? And, no, what has been shown, logically, is that the first cause must be different, categorically, from secondary causes.

  57. YOS,

    You mean the part where he says he doesn’t know everything about what the pagans and muslims say against Christianity, so what he’ll do is try to think of every conceivable objection, no matter who may say it, and answer those without appeal to revelation.

    No, this part: But it is difficult to refute the errors of each individual, for two reasons. First, because the sacrilegious assertions of each erring individual are not so well known to us, that we are able from what they say to find arguments to refute their errors.

    How can the unknown be called erroneous? Now that much more is known, how does that stand up against the text in Gentiles which aren’t direct appeals to scripture?

  58. Sander van der Wal

    August 14, 2014 at 7:01 am

    @dover_beach

    First as in First.

    But what has not been shown is that the universe you started with is still the same universe at this point in the proof. If you had said explicitly at the beginning of the Gentiles that all entities in the universe are in time, and then came to the conclusion that the First Mover had to be outside time, you would made the paradox explicit.

  59. First as in First.

    We’re talking about an essentially order causal series here, Sander, not an accidentally ordered casual series. The sense in which this argument means ‘first’ is ontologically, not temporally.

    But what has not been shown is that the universe you started with is still the same universe at this point in the proof. If you had said explicitly at the beginning of the Gentiles that all entities in the universe are in time, and then came to the conclusion that the First Mover had to be outside time, you would made the paradox explicit.

    Firstly, that really doesn’t matter given what is said above. We are not talking about ‘first’ temporally, but ‘first’ ontologically. Secondly, there is no paradox. See GR’s statement above and attend to what he actually says. BTW, saying that all that is proven is that the first cause is the same as secondary causes apart from being first temporally is to evidence gross misunderstanding of the argument so far given that the argument has involved demonstrating that secondary causes require an antecedent cause to actualize potentials, and therefore, that a first cause must be purely actual to avoid requiring, itself, an antecedent cause. And it is out of this simple conclusion that we can further derive attributes like atemporality, omnipotence, and so on.

  60. Sander van der Wal

    August 14, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    @dover_beach

    I am not making a temporal argument, first doesn’t mean first in time.

    The only thing remotely temporal here is the order in which Thomas makes his arguments, one after the other, the next argument drawing back on earlier ones. Before he states his first argument, he has a universe in mind with attributes. Being able to be outside time in that universe is one of those attributes. If the real universe doesn’t allow beings outside of time, even First Movers, then there’s a paradox.

  61. Before he states his first argument, he has a universe in mind with attributes. Being able to be outside time in that universe is one of those attributes. If the real universe doesn’t allow beings outside of time, even First Movers, then there’s a paradox.

    No, he simply has certain axioms/premises in mind like “whatever is moved [changed], is moved [changed] by another”, and the laws of thought. Further, this so-called paradox hinges on is your suggestion that “the real universe doesn’t allow beings outside of time, even First Movers”, but upon what basis you make this claim, and what possible force it has against Aquinas’s argument, remains a mystery.

    BTW, before this moves on or circles around again, do you admit that a First cause is categorically different from secondary causes in virtue of being purely actual and not a composite of actuality and potentiality? Because if you do now hold that view you have the answer to the question you posed earlier: “If the first cause needs the ability to be outside of time, then all the logical statements that led to that conclusion must be reexamined with the idea that other things apart from the first mover can be outside time too.” There can be only one First Cause, logically.

  62. Sander van der Wal

    August 15, 2014 at 7:54 am

    @dover_beach

    The premises need to work in the universe. That is not a given. One of those premises is that you can separate space and time, another one is that it is possible to be outside time.

    If being outside of time is possible, where’s the proof that only the First Mover can be outside time, and nothing else?

  63. The premises need to work in the universe. That is not a given. One of those premises is that you can separate space and time, another one is that it is possible to be outside time.

    Well, yes, but I don’t think his conclusion depends upon being able to “separate space and time” (or not), and you haven’t provided any reason for doubting that it is impossible to be ‘outside’ time.

    If being outside of time is possible, where’s the proof that only the First Mover can be outside time, and nothing else?

    Just follow the argument. The limitation of number has nothing to do with this possibility anyway. I notice that you have trouble conceiving of the First Mover as something other than a being among others. This post by Bill Vallicella might move you in the right direction: http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2014/02/russells-teapot-revisited.html

  64. @Sander wan der Val:

    Sorry for the late reply; just in case it still matters, here goes:

    “If the first cause needs the ability to be outside of time, then all the logical statements that led to that conclusion must be reexamined with the idea that other things apart from the first mover can be outside time too. Or not.”

    Not. No one has claimed that only God is outside time — someone might, but for the purposes of the argument it is irrelevant.

    “For instance, stuff that is outside time doesn’t change, so on first sight it doesn’t need a second cause or a first cause.”

    If the argument is that for any substance at all to undergo any change at all, the concurrent action of a First Cause is necessary, what is the possible relevance of there being “stuff” that doesn’t change? Aquinas will want to say that that “stuff”, if it exists, is also dependent upon God, but such a conclusion will have to be arrived at by different means and anyway, it is irrelevant for the purposes of the current discussion.

    The following directed at dover_beach may be the key to what you have in mind:

    “If being outside of time is possible, where’s the proof that only the First Mover can be outside time, and nothing else?”

    There is no proof, because there is no need to provide such a proof. From the argument that the First Cause is outside spacetime it does not follow that there is nothing else outside spacetime. Compare: it also follows from the arguments that the First Cause is immaterial; but Aquinas certainly believes that there is more immaterial “stuff”, namely angels.

    More guessing on what you can possibly intend here: maybe you think that only the First Cause can be outside time? Maybe it is so, but once again, we do not need that and no one has claimed that. Or maybe you think that *if* there is more “stuff” outside of spacetime then you have a reductio against the unicity of the First Cause? Well, first you have to give us an account of what that “stuff” might be. One plausible candidate is Platonic abstracta. Aquinas would deny that they exist; and it surely would be fun to see you mount an argument for their existence. But either way, it threatens the arguments not one bit, for Platonic abstracta are causally inert in the most common understanding of them.

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