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Category: Philosophy

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

July 29, 2018 | 2 Comments

Summary Against Modern Thought: You Can’t Get To God Through Science

Previous post.

An intellectual substance is an angel. Grab yourself a quiet seat, dear reader; we have a long chapter ahead of us this week.


1 An intellectual substance has still another kind of knowledge of God. Indeed, it has been stated in Book Two [96ff] that a separate substance, in knowing its own essence, knows both what is above and what is below itself, in a manner proper to its substance. This is especially necessary if what is above it is its cause, since the likeness of the cause must be found in the effects. And so, since God is the cause of all created intellectual substances, as is evident from the foregoing, then separate intellectual substances, in knowing their own essence, must know God Himself by way of a vision of some kind.

For a thing whose likeness exists in the intellect is known through the intellect by way of vision, just as the likeness of a thing which is seen corporeally is present in the sense of the viewer. So, whatever intellect understands a separate substance, by knowing what it is, sees God in a higher way than He is known by any of the previously treated types of knowledge.

Notes Regular readers will understand this kind of vision is a certain kind of induction; hence induction can be the highest form of knowledge.

Notes Recall a phantasm is a conglomeration of sense impressions, the stuff offered by your biology to your intellect.

2 Hence, since some men have claimed that man’s ultimate end is in this life, because they know separate substances, we must consider whether man can know separate substances in this life.

Now, on this point there is some dispute. For, our intellect in our present state understands nothing without a phantasm, and the phantasm is related to the possible intellect, whereby we understand, as colors are related to vision, as is evident from what we have treated in Book Two.

Therefore, if any of us could achieve the understanding of separate substances through the intellectual knowledge which is from phantasms, then it would be possible for a person in this life to understand separate substances themselves. Consequently, by seeing these separate substances one will participate in that mode of knowledge whereby the separate substance, while understanding itself, understands God. But, if one cannot in any way attain to the understanding of separate substances through the knowledge which depends on phantasms, then it will not be possible for man in the present state of life to achieve the aforesaid mode of divine knowledge.

Notes Recall quiddity is whatness or essence. Might help to think of quddities of quddities as higher abstractions.

3 Now, various people have claimed in different ways that we could reach an understanding of separate substances from the knowledge which is accomplished through phantasms.

For instance, Avempace claimed that, through the study of the speculative sciences, we can, on the basis of things understood through phantasms, reach an understanding of separate substances. For we can by the action of the intellect abstract the quiddity of anything that has a quiddity, and which is not identical with its quiddity.

Indeed, the intellect is naturally equipped to know any quiddity, in so far as it is quiddity, since the proper object of the intellect is what a thing is. But, if what is primarily understood by the possible intellect is something having a quiddity, we can abstract through the possible intellect the quiddity of that which is primarily understood. Moreover, if that quiddity also has a quiddity, it will in turn be possible to abstract the quiddity of this quiddity.

And since an infinite process is impossible, it must stop somewhere. Therefore, our intellect is able to reach, by way of resolution, the knowledge of a quiddity which has no further quiddity. Now, this is the sort of quiddity proper to a separate substance. So, our intellect can, through the knowledge of those sensible things that is received from phantasms, reach an understanding of separate substances.

4 He proceeds, moreover, to show the same thing in another, similar way. For he maintains that the understanding of one thing, say a horse, is plurally present in me and in you, simply by means of a multiplication of spiritual species which are diversified in me and in you. So, then, it is necessary that an object of understanding, which is not based on any species of this kind, be identical in me and in you.

But the quiddity of an object of understanding, which quiddity our intellect is naturally capable of abstracting, has no spiritual but individual species, as we have proved, because the quiddity of a thing that is understood is not the quiddity of an individual, either spiritual or corporeal, for a thing that is understood, as such, is universal. So, our intellect is by nature capable of understanding a quiddity for which the understanding is one among all men. Now, such is the quiddity of a separate substance. Hence, our understanding is naturally equipped to know separate substance.

5 However, if a careful consideration be made, these ways of arguing will be discovered to be frivolous. Since a thing that is understood, as such, is universal, the quiddity of the thing understood must be the quiddity of something universal; namely, of a genus or a species. Now, the quiddity of a genus or species pertaining to these sensible things, whose intellectual knowledge we get through phantasms, includes matter and form within itself. So, it is entirely unlike the quiddity of a separate substance, which latter is simple and immaterial. Therefore, it is not possible for the quiddity of a separate substance to be understood, simply because the quiddity of a sensible thing is understood through phantasms.

6 Besides, the form which in actual being cannot be separated from a subject is not of the same rational character as the form which is separated in its being from such a subject, even though both of them can be taken, in an act of consideration, without such a subject. Thus, there is not the same essential character for magnitude and for a separate substance, unless we claim that magnitudes are separate things midway between specific forms and sensible things, as some of the Platonists maintained.

Of course, the quiddity of a genus or species of sensible things cannot be separate in actual being from a given material individual, unless, perhaps, we maintain with the Platonists separate forms of things, but this has been disproved by Aristotle. Therefore, the quiddity of the aforementioned separate substances, which in no way exist in matter, is utterly different. Therefore, separate substances cannot be understood simply by virtue of the fact that these quiddities are understood.

7 Again, if it is granted that the quiddity of a separate substance is of the same rational character as the quiddity of a genus or species of these sensible things, that does not warrant saying that it is of the same rational character specifically, unless we say that the species of sensible things are themselves separate substances, as the Platonists claimed. The conclusion stands, then, that they will not be of the same rational character, except according to the rational character of quiddity as quiddity.

Now, this is a meaning of rational character which is common to genus and to substance. Therefore, nothing except their remote genus could be understood concerning separate substances through these sensible quiddities. Now, the fact that the genus is known does not mean that the species is known, except in potency. So, separate substances could not be understood through an understanding of the quiddities of these sensible things.

8 Moreover, there is a greater difference between separate substances and sensible things than between one sensible thing and another. But to understand the quiddity of one sensible thing is not enough to enable one to understand the quiddity of another sensible thing. For instance, a man who is born blind is not at all enabled to achieve understanding of the quiddity of color simply because he understands the quiddity of sound. Much less, then, is one enabled to understand the quiddity of a separate substance by the fact that he understands the quiddity of a sensible substance.

9 Furthermore, even if we claim that separate substances move the spheres, and that from their motions the forms of these sensible things are produced, this way of knowing separate substance, from sensible things, does not suffice for a knowing of their quiddity.

For a cause is known through an effect, either by reason of a likeness which exists between the effect and the cause or in so far as the effect shows the power of the cause.

Now, it would not be possible to know from the effect, by reason of likeness, what the cause is unless the agent is of one species with the effect. But that is not the way separate substances are related to sensible things. On the other hand, on the basis of power, this cannot be done except when the effect is equal to the power of the cause. For, in that case, the whole power of the cause is known through the effect, and the power of a thing demonstrates its substance. But this cannot be asserted in the present case, for the powers of separate substances exceed all the sensible effects which we may grasp intellectually, as a universal power surpasses a particular effect. Therefore, it is not possible for us to be enabled, through an understanding of sensible things, to come to an understanding of separate substance.

10 Again, all intelligible objects whose knowledge we reach through investigation and study belong to some one of the speculative sciences. So, if we attain the understanding of separate substances as a result of our understanding of the natures and quiddities of these sensible things, then it must be that the understanding of separate substances depends on one of the speculative sciences. Yet we do not observe this; there is no speculative science which teaches what any of the separate substances is, but only that they are. So, it is not possible for us to reach an understanding of separate substances simply because we understand sensible natures.

11 On the other hand, if it be suggested that such a speculative science is possible, even though it has not yet been discovered, this is no argument, because it is not possible to arrive at an understanding of the aforesaid substances through any principles known to us. Indeed, all the proper principles of any science depend on first indemonstrable principles, which are self-evident, and we get our knowledge of these from the senses, as is shown at the end of the Posterior Analytics. However sensible things are not adequate guides to the knowledge of immaterial things, as we have proved by the arguments above. Therefore, it is not possible for there to be any science whereby one might achieve understanding of separate substances.

Notes Whew!

July 22, 2018 | 1 Comment

Summary Against Modern Thought: Man’s Knowledge of God Through Faith

Previous post.

Have faith, we’re getting there.

That Human Felicity Does Not Consist In the Knowledge of God Which is Through Faith

1 Now, there is still another knowledge of God, in one sense superior to the aforementioned knowledge, and by this God is known to men through faith. In comparison with the knowledge that we have of God through demonstration, this knowledge through faith surpasses it, for we know some things about God through faith which, because of their sublimity, demonstrative reason cannot attain, as we said at the beginning of this work. Yet, it is not possible for man’s ultimate felicity to consist in even this knowledge of God.

2 Felicity, indeed, is a perfect operation of the intellect as is clear from what we have said. But, in the knowledge of faith, there is found a most imperfect operation of the intellect, having regard to what is on the side of the intellect, though the greatest perfection is discovered on the side of the object. For the intellect does not grasp the object to which it gives assent in the act of believing. Therefore, neither does man’s ultimate felicity lie in this kind of knowledge of God.

3 Again, we showed above, that ultimate felicity does not consist primarily in an act of the will. But in the knowledge of faith the will takes priority; indeed, the intellect assents through faith to things resented to it, because of an act of will and not because it is necessarily moved by the very evidence of the truth. So, man’s ultimate felicity does not lie in this knowledge.

Notes Stand by for a terrific analogy on faith versus reason.

4 Besides, one who believes gives assent to things that are proposed to him by another person, and which he himself does not see. Hence, faith has a knowledge that is more like hearing than vision.

Now, a man would not believe in things that are unseen but proposed to him by another man unless he thought that this other man had more perfect knowledge of these proposed things than he himself who does not see them.

So, either the believer’s judgment is false or else the proposer must have more perfect knowledge of the things proposed. And if the proposer only knows these things by hearing them from another man, this cannot go on indefinitely, for the assent of faith would be foolish and without certitude; indeed, we would discover no first thing certain in itself which would bring certainty to the faith of the believer. Now, it is not possible for the knowledge of faith to be false and empty, as is evident from what we have said in the opening Book [I, 7]. Yet, if it were false and empty, felicity could not consist in such knowledge.

So, there is for man some knowledge of God which is higher than the knowledge of faith: either the man who proposes the faith sees the truth immediately, as is the case when we believe in Christ; or he takes it immediately from one who does see, as when we believe the Apostles and Prophets. So, since man’s felicity consists in the highest knowledge of God, it is impossible for it to consist in the knowledge of faith.

Notes Belief is a step beyond probability, if you will. You can judge a proposition’s truth or falsity, or in-betweenness, and that’s probability. But how you act on the proposition if your belief. Hence the next paragraph.

5 Moreover, through felicity, because it is the ultimate end, natural desire comes to rest. Now, the knowledge of faith does not bring rest to desire but rather sets it aflame, since every man desires to see what he believes. So, man’s ultimate felicity does not lie in the knowledge of faith.

6 Furthermore, the knowledge of God has been called the end because it is joined to the ultimate end of things, that is, to God. But an item of belief is not made perfectly present to the intellect by the knowledge of faith, since faith is of things absent, not of things present. For this reason the Apostle says, in 2 Corinthians (5:6-7), that “while we are in the body we walk by faith and we are absent from the Lord.” Yet God is brought into the presence of love through faith, since the believer assents to God voluntarily, according to what is said in Ephesians (3:17): “that Christ may dwell by faith in our hearts.” Therefore, it is not possible for ultimate human felicity to consist in the knowledge of faith.

July 19, 2018 | 187 Comments

Does Free Will Exist In The Universe? (That Would Be A Yes.)

Embedded in nearly every argument against free will is the Appeal to Effeminacy. Here it is in Alfredo Metere’s new Cosmos article “Does free will exist in the universe? (That would be a no.)

From such a view, one can be tempted to interject that if free will does not exist, why do we punish criminals? It is not their fault, after all. A counter-argument to that is that punishment is the natural response to crime, such that global equilibrium can be sustained, and therefore punishment is just as unavoidable as the commission of wrongdoing.

No, a natural and consistent response is that if criminals have no choice then neither do their punishers. The Appeal to Effeminacy is to suppose that it is not the fault of people who do wrong things. It is instead the universe’s fault. Therefore there is no culpability. Except in those who say there is culpability. The moralists among us are the only ones who have free will. They have a choice not to punish or condemn, but they choose to punish or condemn. Even though they have no choice but to do whatever it is they do.

In other words, buried is these silly arguments is the desire to get away with something.

The second major and common flaw is the Delusion of Illusion. Metere has that, too.

This in turn means that free will is an inevitable illusion for us humans, due to our subjective perception of the universe, rather than its innermost nature.

It is, of course, impossible to have the illusion of choice. To say that we only have an illusion of choice is therefore a delusion.

Guy says “Mentally pick one of two doors, A or B.” You pick B. Then the guy says, “Ha! There is no door B. There is only A. You had an illusion of choice. Bwa ha ha.”

Besides taking away this fellow’s internet access in an effort to calm him, we can try and tell him that he has just proven there is free will, because you really did choose one of the options. That one of the options failed does not mean you did not choose.

The Delusion Illusion thus has a subtle connection to the Appeal to Effeminacy. You chose to have the extra beer and you crash the car. But you only had the illusion of making the choice to quaff. And therefore the crash wasn’t your fault.

All right, Metere checks off the standard Flaw boxes. But why does he say there’s no free will? It’s almost because of the Deadly Sin of Reification. That true for him?


Physics is based on the idea that nature is mechanistic, which means that it works like a machine….

…we know from quantum mechanics that energy is transferred between physical bodies in discrete amounts, known as quanta. Hence, either Planck length or energy quanta can be considered as the relative sizes of the “pixels” composing the universe…

Fractals curves are recursive functions that require an initial state. Fractal curves require a continuous world to evolve, especially if we know that the initial condition must be an irrational number. From this, we can deduce that the behaviour of physical objects seem to be ultimately dictated by continuous functions somehow perceived by humans through a grid of these “pixels”…

If so, there is a causal relationship between the Big Bang and us. In other words, free will is not allowed, and all of our actions are just a mere consequence of that first event. Such a view is known as “determinism”, or “super-determinism” (if one finds it productive to reinvent the wheel).

If we believe the initial state of the universe to be quantified by a rational number, we are inferring that it is periodic, non-chaotic and globally predictable in nature. But if the initial state is rather quantified by an irrational number, we are instead inferring that the universe is aperiodic, chaotic and therefore only locally predictable in nature.

Therefore, because chaos, there is no free will.

Metere—like many, many—assumes because he can model some thing with numbers, all things can be modeled with numbers, and therefore reality is numbers. And since reality is numbers, and numbers are slaves to their equations, there is no free will.

This is the Deadly Sin of Reification. Mistaking one’s model or theory for reality. It usually happens because the model or theory is so pretty that one cannot help but fall in love. Metere has. It would therefore be churlish of us to talk him out of it.

July 15, 2018 | 1 Comment

Summary Against Modern Thought: Man’s Knowledge of God Through Demonstration

Previous post.

Ultimate felicity does not come in reading chapters like this. But it’s sure to put you in a good mood.

That Human Felicity Does Not Consist In the Knowledge of God Gained by Demonstration

1 On the other hand, there is another sort of knowledge of God, higher than the foregoing, and we may acquire it through demonstration. A closer approach to a proper knowledge of Him is effected through this kind, for many things are set apart from Him, through demonstration, whose removal enable Him to be understood in distinction from other beings. In fact, demonstration shows that God is immutable, eternal, incorporeal, altogether simple, one, and other such things which we have shown about God in Book One[15-38].

Now, we reach a proper knowledge of a thing not only through affirmations but also through negations; for instance, it is proper to a man to be a rational animal, and so it is proper to him not to be inanimate or irrational. But there is this difference between these two modes of proper knowledge: through affirmations, when we have a proper knowledge of a thing, we know what the thing is, and bow it is separated from others; but through negations, when we have a proper knowledge of a thing, we know that it is distinct from other things, yet what it is remains unknown. Now, such is the proper knowledge that we have of God through demonstrations. Of course, this is not sufficient for the ultimate felicity of man.

Notes Though it sometimes harder to notice the negations.

2 For, the things which pertain to a species extend to the end of that species, in most cases; in fact, things which are of natural origin are so always, or in most cases, though they may fail in a few instances because of some corruption. Now, felicity is the end of the human species, since all men naturally desire it. So, felicity is a definite common good, capable of accruing to all men, unless an impediment occurs by which some may be deprived of it. Now, few men attain the knowledge of God that we have just mentioned, acquired by way of demonstration, because of the obstacles to this knowledge which we touched on in the beginning of this work. Therefore, such knowledge of God is not essentially identical with human felicity.

Notes Especially since these teachings are now verboten in state-sponsored schools.

3 Then, again, to be actual is the end of what is potential, as is clear from the foregoing. So, felicity which is the ultimate end is an act to which no potency for further actuality is attached. But this sort of knowledge of God, acquired by way of demonstration, still remains in potency to something further to be learned about God, or to the same knowledge possessed in a higher way, for later men have endeavored to add something pertinent to divine knowledge to the things which they found in the heritage of their predecessors. Therefore, such knowledge is not identical with ultimate felicity.

4 Moreover, felicity excludes all unhappiness, for no man can be at once unhappy and happy. Now, deception and error constitute a great part of unhappiness; in fact, that is what all men naturally avoid. But manifold error can accompany the aforesaid knowledge that is acquired about God, and this is evident in many men who learned some truths about God by way of demonstration, and who, following their own opinions in cases where demonstration fails them, have fallen into many errors. In fact, if there have been any men who have discovered the truth about divine things in such a way, by means of demonstration, that no falsity attached to their judgment, it is clear that there have been few such. This is not appropriate to felicity, which is a common end. So, man’ ultimate felicity does not lie in this knowledge of God.

5 Besides, felicity consists in a perfect operation. Now, certainty is required for perfect knowledge; for this reason we are not said to know unless we learn something that cannot be otherwise, as is evident in the Posterior Analytics [I, 2: 72a17]. Now, the knowledge we have been talking about includes much uncertainty; the diversity of the sciences of divine matters among those who have tried to find out these things by way of demonstration shows this. Therefore, ultimate felicity is not found in such knowledge.

6 Moreover, the will rests its desire when it has attained the ultimate end. But the ultimate cud of all human knowledge is felicity. So, that knowledge of God which, when acquired, leaves no knowledge of a knowable object to be desired is essentially this felicity. But this is not the kind of knowledge about God that the philosophers were able to get through demonstrations, because, even when we acquire this knowledge, we still desire to know other things that are not known through this knowledge. Therefore, felicity is not found in such knowledge of God.

Notes Thinking only gets you so far. Revelation is therefore necessary. And is even common, if you take, as I do, knowledge of universals (and other sorts of infinities) to be (let us call them) mild revelations.

7 Furthermore, the end of every being which is in potency is to be brought into act, for it tends toward this through the motion by which it is moved to its end. Of course, every being in potency tends to become actual, in so far as that is possible. Now, there is one kind of being in potency whose entire potency can be reduced to act; hence, its end is to be completely reduced to act. Thus, a heavy body in some unusual position is in potency to its proper place. But there is another kind of thing whose entire potency cannot be reduced to act at the same time. This is the case with prime matter, and that is why, through its change, it seeks to be actuated successively under different forms which cannot be simultaneously present in it, because of their diversity.

Now, our intellect is in potency to all intelligible objects, as was explained in Book Two [47]. But two intelligible objects can exist simultaneously in the possible intellect, by way of the first act which is science, though perhaps not by way of the second act which is consideration. It is evident from this that the entire potency of the possible intellect can be reduced to act at one time. So, this is required for its ultimate end which is felicity. But the aforesaid knowledge of God which can be acquired through demonstration does not do this, since, even when we possess it, We still remain ignorant of many things. Therefore, such knowledge of God is not sufficient for ultimate felicity.