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Category: Philosophy

The philosophy of science, empiricism, a priori reasoning, epistemology, and so on.

February 17, 2019 | No comments

Summary Against Modern Thought: God Is The Grease Of All Movement

Previous post.

These past few chapters, including this one in particular, are the start of all science.


1 It is evident, next, that God is the cause enabling all operating agents to operate. In fact, every operating agent is a cause of being in some way, either of substantial or of accidental being. Now, nothing is a cause of being unless by virtue of its acting through the power of God, as we showed. Therefore, every operating agent acts through God’s power.

2 Again, every operation that results from a certain power is attributed causally to the thing which has given the power. For instance, the natural motion of heavy and light things results from their form, depending on whether they are heavy or light, and so the cause of their motion is said to be the generating agent that has given them the form. Now, every power in any agent is from God, as from a first principle of all perfection. Therefore, since every operation results from a power, the cause of every operation must be God.

Notes The cause of every operation at its base, at its first movement or change, he means.

3 Besides, it is obvious that every action which cannot continue after the influence of a certain agent has ceased results from that agent. For instance, the manifestation of colors could not continue if the sun’s action of illuminating the air were to cease, so there is no doubt that the sun is the cause of the manifestation of colors.

And the same thing appears in connection with violent motion, for it stops with the cessation of violence on the part of the impelling agent. But just as God has not only given being to things when they first began to exist, and also causes being in them as long as they exist, conserving things in being, as we have shown, so also has He not merely granted operative powers to them when they were originally created, but He always causes these powers in things. Hence, if this divine influence were to cease, every operation would cease. Therefore, every operation of a thing is traced back to Him as to its cause.

Notes This doesn’t account for inertia, obviously, but you get the idea.

4 Moreover, whatever agent applies active power to the doing of something, it is said to be the cause of that action. Thus, an artisan who applies the power of a natural thing to some action is said to be the cause of the action; for instance, a cook of the cooking which is done by means of fire. But every application of power to operation is originally and primarily made by God. For operative powers are applied to their proper operations by some movement of body or of soul.

Now, the first principle of both types of movement is God. Indeed, He is the first mover and is altogether incapable of being moved, as we shown above. Similarly, also, every movement of a will whereby Powers are applied to operation is reduced to God, as a first object of appetite and a first agent of willing. Therefore; every operation should be attributed to God, as to a first and principal agent.

5 Furthermore, in all agent causes arranged in an orderly way the subsequent causes must act through the power of the first cause. For instance, in the natural order of things, lower bodies act through the power of the celestial bodies; and, again, in the order of voluntary things, all lower artisans work in accord with the direction of the top craftsman.

Now, in the order of agent causes, God the first cause, as we showed in Book One [64]. And so, all lower agent causes act through His power. But the cause of an action is the one by whose power the action is done rather than the one who acts: the principal agent, for instance, rather than the instrument. Therefore, God is more especially the cause of every action than are the secondary agent causes.

Notes This argument may strike moderns as “unfair”, especially in its first part. Which shows how far we have fallen.

6 Again, every agent is ordered through his operation to an ultimate end, for either the operation itself is the end, or the thing that is made, that is, the product of the operation. Now, to order things to their end is the prerogative of God Himself, as we showed above. So, we have to say that every agent acts by the divine power. Therefore, He is the One Who is the cause of action for all things.

7 Hence it is said: “Lord, Thou hast wrought all our works in us” (Is. 26:12); and: “Without Me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5); and: “It is God Who works in us both to will and to accomplish according to His good will” (Phil. 2: 13). And for this reason, the products of nature are often attributed, in Scripture, to divine working, because it is He Who works in every agent operating naturally or voluntarily, as the text has it: “Have you not milked me as milk, and curdled me like cheese? You have clothed me with skin; You have put me together with bones and sinews” (Job 10:10-11); and in the Psalm (17:14): “The Lord thundered from heaven, and the Highest gave His voice: hail and coals of fire.”

February 12, 2019 | 16 Comments

You Cannot Be An Illusion

“Increasingly, however, scientists are finding that the self is a kind of necessary illusion manufactured by the brain and often more fragile than we’d like to imagine.”

So says an illusion at Quartz, in the fawning and deeply confused article “Feeling anxious? It’s not just you, it’s our philosophical era of neuroexistentialism.

Now this illusion who wrote the article would, I’m betting, carp and whine and moan if it didn’t get its fee. All the arguments the illusion used in saying “that we have no soul, no fixed self, and no inherent purpose” would be jettisoned faster than an anti-abortionist at a Democrat party convention if its check did not arrive on time. So this illusion is surely lying when it says it doesn’t exist. But why did this illusion lie?

Let’s clear the brush first. It is impossible that you are an illusion. It requires a rational mind to have an illusion. An illusion requires a mind as a platform for its illusory dance. Therefore, if you were an illusion and did not possess a rational mind, you couldn’t have an illusion. Therefore, it is impossible that you are an illusion. You need to be you before you can imagine you’re somebody or something else.

This is so obvious a deduction that we have to explain why it wasn’t made by the well-credentialed people who were the subject of the Quartz article. Or we can accept these fine people did make the obvious deduction, as we would expect of such eminences, but then we have to ask why is it that they are then trying to sell the fallacy?

The answer to the first question can be one of these two: (1) ignorance, (2) love of theory.

The eminences are Gregg Caruso, a professor of philosophy at some place or other, and Owen Flanagan, a Duke philosopher of philosophy and neurobiology. We have met Caruso before, in “You Don’t Have Free Will, Which Is Why You Make Such Bad Choices” and “Free Will Cannot Be An Illusion“. Caruso’s neuronal sheathes are not the most impermeable. Flanagan is new to us.

Both men—both illusions, that is—could scarcely have reached their positions and be ignorant of basic logic, so the above deduction must have occurred to them. But it was obviously overruled, and that is only possible because of the love of theory.

Their argument, as evidenced by their writing, goes something like this. The brain appears deterministic, ruled by physics, chemistry, biology: there is no soul (which they never define). Yet people report existing, making choices, having qualia and the like. But these acts and experiences do not follow if the theory of determinism (to give it a shorthand name) is true. Thus qualia and thoughts of self must be an illusion.

Determinism must be false, because, of course, we do have these experiences, and it is impossible we are illusions. (Our pair have no theory how these supposed illusions can work, even in principle.) But our authors believe the theory. It must be love.

Our pair are concerned, though, what others believing this false theory might wreak. “Today, there is a third-wave existentialism, neuroexistentialism, which expresses the anxiety that, even as science yields the truth about human nature, it also disenchants.”

The philosophical crisis of the 21st century…has its roots in the changes wrought by scientific discoveries, which, according to Flanagan and Caruso, have dealt the final blow to notions of god, an immaterial soul, spirit, self, agency. They explain, “[N]euroexistentialism is caused by the rise of the scientific authority of the human sciences and a resultant clash between the scientific and humanistic image of persons.”

This contemporary angst arises from the growing body of knowledge that shows the existence we experience is a result of neural processes. The findings suggest that introspection, or self-knowledge, can’t really reveal the mind, and that death is the end for us all. If the brain’s processes give us our experience of life and there is no “immaterial spirit” or soul, then when the brain stops functioning, nothing follows life, and nothing “survives” us. Along with this understanding of ourselves as animals governed by natural laws and physical mechanisms comes another loss—the sense of agency or free will.

We can agree with our mistaken authors that forcing folks to believe what is false and impossible can and will cause them angst. We already know from far superior minds, and all practical experience, what removing religion and tradition does to a people (they even quote the rise in suicide, etc.). Replacing God with science is like swapping food with photographs of food. The only possible result is starvation.

How they missed the hilarity in claiming introspection can’t reveal the mind in a book which purports to prove how introspection reveals the mind is all the proof we need of the destructive nature of “neuroexistentialism.”

Another good joke is an inclusion by our pair of an essay by CIT’s Sean Carroll which

surveys classical mechanics, quantum physics, time, and the nature of emergent phenomena, concluding that there’s no essential meaning in the universe, as evidenced by both its vastness and randomness. Yet he still argues that life matters on a personal and human scale, even if “modern science has thoroughly undermined any hopes for a higher purpose or meaning inherent in the universe itself.”

The joke is that here is a physicist who believes (or says he believes) there there is “no essential universe meaning in the universe” and that it is random yet who still writes papers finding meaning and evading randomness (unpredictability).

Again, it is proof nobody who slings this hash believes what they’re selling. So why are they selling it?

Stay tuned! We have a guest post from The Cranky Professor next week on the subject of why emergentism and so forth are inadequate explanations for intellect and will.

February 10, 2019 | 2 Comments

Summary Against Modern Thought: God Makes Things Makers

Previous post.

This chapter is mop up from the previous; dotted ‘i’s and the like. Review!


1 From this it is manifest that no lower agents give being except in so far as they act by divine power.

2 Indeed, a thing does not give being except in so far as it is an actual being. But God preserves things in being by His providence, as we showed. Therefore, it is as a result of divine power that a thing gives being.

3 Again, when several different agents are subordinated to one agent, the effect that is produced by their common action must be attributed to them as they are united in their participation in the motion and power of this agent. For several agents do not produce one result unless they are as one. It is clear, for example, that all the men in an army work to bring about victory, and they do this by virtue of being subordinated to the leader, whose proper product is victory. Now, we showed in Book One [13] that the first agent is God. So, since being is the common product of all agents, because every agent produces actual being, they must produce this effect because they are subordinated to the first agent and act through His power.

Notes Armies are not, of course, the same as they once were.

4 Besides, in the case of all agent causes that are ordered, that which is last in the process of generation and first in intention is the proper product of the primary agent. For instance, the form of a house, which is the proper product of the builder, appears later than the preparation of the cement, stones, and timbers, which are made by the lower workmen who come under the builder. Now, in every action, actual being is primarily intended, but is last in the process of generation. In fact, as soon as it is achieved, the agent’s action and the patient’s motion come to rest. Therefore, being is the proper product of the primary agent, that is, of God; and all things that give being do so because they act by God’s power.

5 Moreover, the ultimate in goodness and perfection among the things to which the power of a secondary agent extends is that which it can do by the power of the primary agent, for the perfection of the power of the secondary agent is due to the primary agent. Now, that which is most perfect of all effects is the act of being, for every nature or form is perfected by the fact that it is actual, and it is related to actual being as potency is to act. Therefore, the act of being is what secondary agents produce through the power of the primary agent.

6 Besides, the order of the effects follows the order of the causes. But the first among all effects is the act of being, since all other things are certain determinations of it. Therefore, being is the proper effect of the primary agent, and all other things produce being because they act through the power of the primary agent. Now, secondary agents, which are like particularizers and determinants of the primary agent’s action, produce as their proper effects other perfections which determine being.

7 Furthermore, that which is of a certain kind through its essence is the proper cause of what is of such a kind by participation. Thus, fire is the cause of all things that are afire. Now, God alone is actual being through His own essence, while other beings are actual beings through participation, since in God alone is actual being identical with His essence. Therefore, the being of every existing thing is His proper effect. And so, everything that brings something into actual being does so because it acts through God’s power.

8 Hence it is said: “God created, that all things might be” (Wis. 1:14). And in several texts of Scripture it is stated that God makes all things. Moreover, it is said in the Book on Causes that not even an intelligence gives being “unless in so far as it is divine,” that is; in so far as it acts through divine power.

February 3, 2019 | 2 Comments

Summary Against Modern Thought: God Preserves All Things In Being

Previous post.

Being didn’t happen for no reason, and the so-called laws of physics, or whatever is being claimed to be at base, such as quantum “fluctuations”, cannot account for themselves.


1 Now, from the fact that God rules things by His providence it follows that He preserves them in being.

2 Indeed, everything whereby things attain their end pertains to the governance of these things. For things are said to be ruled or governed by virtue of their being ordered to their end. Now, things are ordered to the ultimate end which God intends, that is, divine goodness, not only by the fact that they perform their operations, but also by the fact that they exist, since, to the extent that they exist, they bear the likeness of divine goodness which is the end for things, as we showed above. Therefore, it pertains to divine providence that things are preserved in being.

3 Again, the same principle must be the cause of a thing and of its preservation, for the preservation of a thing is nothing but the continuation of its being. Now, we showed above that God, through His understanding, and will, is the cause of being for all things. Therefore, He preserves all things in being through His intellect and will.

4 Besides, no particular univocal agent can be the unqualified cause of its species; for instance, this individual man cannot be the cause of the human species, for he would then be the cause of every man, and, consequently, of himself—which is impossible. But this individual man is the cause, properly speaking, of that individual man.

Now, this man exists because human nature is present in this matter, which is the principle of individuation. So, this man is not the cause of a man, except in the sense that he is the cause of a human form coming to be in this matter. This is to be the principle of the generation of an individual man. So, it is apparent that neither this man, nor any other univocal agent in nature, is the cause of anything except the generation of this or that individual thing. Now, there must be some proper agent cause of the human species itself; its composition shows this, and also the ordering of its parts, which is uniform in all cases unless it be accidentally impeded. And the same reasoning applies to all the other species of natural things.

Now, this cause is God, either mediately or immediately. For we have shown that He is the first cause of all things. So, He must stand in regard to the species of things as the individual generating agent in nature does to generation, of which he is the direct cause. But generation ceases as soon as the operation of the generative agent ceases. Therefore, all the species of things would also cease as soon as the divine operation ceased. So, He preserves things in being through His operation.

Notes What this means for evolution, especially of man, is obvious.

5 Moreover, though motion may occur for any existing thing, motion is apart from the being of the thing. Now, nothing corporeal, unless it be moved, is the cause of anything, for no body acts unless by motion, as Aristotle proves. Therefore, no body is the cause of the being of anything, in so far as it is being, but it is the cause of its being moved toward being, that is, of the thing’s becoming.

Now, the being of any thing is participated being, since no thing is its own act of being, except God, as we proved above. And thus, God Himself, Who is His own act of being, must be primarily and essentially the cause of every being. So, divine operation is related to the being of things as the motion of a corporeal mover is to the becoming and passive movement of the things that are made or moved. Now, it is impossible for the becoming and passive movement of a thing to continue if the motion of the mover cease. Therefore, it is impossible for the being of a thing to continue except through divine operation.

6 Furthermore, just as art work presupposes a work of nature, so does a work of nature presuppose the work of God the creator. In fact, the material for art products comes from nature, while that of natural products comes through creation by God. Moreover, art objects are preserved in being by the power of natural things; a home, for instance, by the solidity of its stories. Therefore, all natural things are preserved in being by nothing other than the power of God.

7 Again, the impression of an agent does not continue in the product, if the agent’s action ceases, unless the impression be converted into the nature of the product. Indeed, the forms of things generated, and their properties, remain in them after generation until the end, since they become natural to them. And likewise, habits are difficult to change because they are turned into a nature. But dispositions and passions, whether of the body or soul, endure for a little while after the action of the agent, but not forever, since they are present in a state transitional to nature.

Now, whatever belongs to the nature of a higher type of being does not last at all after the action of the agent; light, for instance, does not continue in a diaphanous body when the source of light has gone away. Now, to be is not the nature or essence of any created thing, but only of God, as we showed in Book One [22]. Therefore, no thing can remain in being if divine operation cease.

8 Furthermore, there are two positions regarding the origin of things: one, from faith, holding that things have been brought into being by God, at the beginning; and the position of certain philosophers, that things have emanated from God eternally. Now, in either position one has to say that things are preserved in being by God. For, if things are brought into being by God, after they were not existing, then the being of things, and similarly their non-being, must result from the divine will; for He has permitted things not to be, when He so willed; and He made things to be, when He so willed. Hence, they exist just as long as He wills them to be. Therefore, His will is the preserver of things.

But, if things have eternally emanated from God, we cannot give a time or instant at which they first flowed forth from God. So, either they never were produced by God, or their being is always flowing forth from God as long as they exist. Therefore, He preserves things in being by His operation.

9 Hence it is said: “Upholding all things by the word of His Power” (Heb. 1:3). And Augustine says: “The power of the Creator, and the strength of the Omnipotent and All-sustaining is the cause of the subsistence of every creature. And, if this power were ever to cease its ruling of the things which have been created, their species would at once come to an end, and all nature would collapse. For the situation is not like that of a man who has built a house and has then gone away, and, while he is not working and is absent, his work stands. For, if God were to withdraw His rule from it, the world could not stand, even for the flick of an eye.”

Notes A sobering thought and a hint, as we believe Peter, in what is to come. And also a proof that a physics which ignores the reason for physics, is a benighted physics.

10 Now, by this conclusion the position of the exponents of the Law of the Moors is refuted, for, in order to be able to maintain that the world needs God’s preservation, they took the view that all forms are accidents, and that no accident endures through two instants.

So that, in this view, the informing of things would be in continuous process, as if a thing would not need an agent cause except while in the process of becoming. Hence, also, some of these people are said to claim that indivisible bodies (out of which, they say, all substances are composed and which alone, according to them, possess stability) could last for about an hour if God were to withdraw His governance from things. Also, some of them say that a thing could not even cease to be unless God caused in it the accident of “cessation.” Now, all these views are clearly absurd.

Notes Amen.