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Category: Philosophy

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

September 24, 2018 | 21 Comments

I Am About To Destroy The Government — And You Can Be A Witness!

Younger readers may wish to the leave the room. Older ones will want to check that their wills are in order. For I’m about to astonish and amaze with a demonstration of pure political power that will be shocking in its extent. There is a serious risk of damage to your health.

You have been warned.

Ready? Here it comes. This is your last chance to turn back!

I hereby remove my consent to be governed by government of the United States of America.

There! I did it! I have just broke irreparably the entire government!

The reverberations will take some time to filter through the system, it’s true, but it’s a mega Richter Scale 10-point-oh political earthquake that’ll take out everything in its path. And it’s coming your way. Some of you may not be able to avoid the wave. For those “innocents” who are taken out, well, you have my pity. But you should have seen it coming.

“Briggs! What did you do! More importantly, how did you do it?”

What I did was to remove the foundational support of our liberal government. Without that foundation it, of course, cannot stand. It must fall. And it was easy.

“Yes, but how?”

Well, you understand our government derives its legitimacy—this is something they themselves claim, now; they tout it—they derive their legitimacy from the consent of those governed. Isn’t that so? Isn’t that what they claim?

“I suppose so, but I’m not sure what you mean.”

What I mean is easy. If the government bases its legitimacy on the consent of those that it governs, then if that consent is removed, so is the legitimacy of the government. You can’t find a flaw in that argument.

“Don’t be so silly. What they mean by consent is that you live here, so you give your tacit consent. Besides, there’s voting. You can vote for or against what you don’t like, or for or against the people who you think will best represent you. If the vote doesn’t go your way, that’s tough cookies for you. But the vote process remains.”

You’re not following me. Let me try this. First, I have removed any tacit consent overtly. Besides, so-called tacit consent can be used to justify anything. Plus, that we vote on anything is a rule, or law, imposed by those that govern us, yes?

“I suppose so.”

And in order to create legitimate rules or laws the government itself must be legitimate, yes?

“Of course.”

So what makes our government legitimate so that it can create these voting rules and laws? Our consent. That is the definition of the liberalism that the government says it swears to. But I have removed that consent. Therefore, I have removed the government’s legitimacy. Votes don’t count because they are not constituted legitimately.

“Don’t vote, then.”

I won’t do anything, then. At least, I won’t do anything I don’t want to do. That includes forking over my money to an illegitimate government.

“Ha ha. Stop paying taxes and they’ll come after you. You’ll be lucky if all they do is take your money. You could easily end up in the hoosegow.”

You’re saying they would rob me of what’s mine and take away my liberty?

“You know they would.”

Even though I have removed their legitimate authority for doing so?

“You can say you did that. But I don’t think they’ll listen. They certainly won’t believe it. They’re in charge. They’re they ones with the cops and guns. Do you think you’d be able to stop them?”

Now that you mention it, no. Not really. I’m only one guy. I don’t know how I could hold out against their onslaught if they refused to honor their commitment and confess that their only logical justification for punishing me has been removed.

“Face it, Briggs. They have the power and you don’t.”

So my consent has nothing to do with who holds power?

“Not hardly.”

There you have it, friend. You have made the point I really wanted to make. Liberalism is based on a lie.

This post is in honor of Zippy Catholic’s memory. I pray that he is now looking down on it with favor. To all critics: yes, I meant these 680 words to be a complete, exhaustive theory of government, including all possible nuances, shades, and exceptions.

September 23, 2018 | No comments

Summary Against Modern Thought: How Angels See God

Previous post.

Back into some technicalities this week. But with some insight into cause and effect.


1 Moreover, we must inquire whether this knowledge whereby the separate substances and the soul after death know God, through their own essences, suffices for their ultimate felicity.

2 The first thing to be done, in investigating the truth of this question, is to show that the divine essence is not known through such a type of knowledge.

3 In fact, it is possible to know a cause from its effect, in many ways. One way is to take the effect as a means of finding out, concerning the cause, that it exists and that it is of a certain kind. This occurs in the sciences which demonstrate the cause through the effect.

Another way is to see the cause in the effect itself, according as the likeness of the cause is reflected in the effect; thus a man may be seen in a mirror, by virtue of his likeness. And this way is different from the first.

In fact, in the first way there are two cognitions, one of the effect and one of the cause, and one is the cause of the other; for the knowledge of the effect is the cause of the knowing of its cause.

But in the second way there is one vision of both, since at the same time that the effect is seen the cause is also seen in it. A third way is such that the very likeness of the cause, in its effect, is the form by which the effect knows its own cause. For instance, suppose a box had an intellect, and so knew through its form the skilled mind from which such a form proceeded as a likeness of that mind. Now, it is not possible in any of these ways to know from the effect what the cause is, unless the effect be adequate to the cause, one in which the entire virtuality of the cause is expressed.

Notes The second way is somewhat formally neglected in the sciences. It’s there, all right, and must be. But it’s not so much acknowledged.

4 Now, separate substances know God through their substances, as a cause is known through its effect; not, of course, in the first way, for then their knowledge would be discursive; but in the second way, according as one substance sees God in another; and also in the third way, according as any one of them sees God within itself. Now, none of them is an effect adequately representing the power of God, as we showed in Book Two [22ff]. So, it is impossible for them to see the divine essence itself by this kind of knowledge.

5 Besides, the intelligible likeness through which a thing is understood in its substance must be of the same species or, rather, of an identical species; as the form of the house which exists in the mind of the artisan is of the same species as the form of the house which exists in matter, or, rather, the species are identical; for one is not going to understand what a donkey or a horse is through the species of a man.

But the nature of a separate substance is not the same in species as the divine nature, not even the same in genus, as we showed in Book One [25]. Therefore, it is not possible for a separate substance, through its own nature, to understand the divine substance.

Notes The joke has been resisted.

6 Furthermore, every created thing is limited to some genus or species. But the divine essence is unlimited, comprehending within itself every perfection in the whole of existing being, as we showed in Book One [28, 43]. Therefore, it is impossible for the divine substance to be seen through any created being.

7 Moreover, every intelligible species whereby the quiddity or essence of any thing is understood comprehends that thing while representing it; consequently, we call words signifying what such a thing is terms and definitions. But it is impossible for a created likeness to represent God in this way, since every created likeness belongs to a definite genus, while God does not, as we explained in Book One [25]. Therefore, it is not possible for the divine substance to be understood through a created likeness.

8 Furthermore, divine substance is its own existing being, as we showed in Book One [22]. But the being of separate substance is other than its substance, as we proved in Book Two [52]. Therefore, the essence of a separate substance is not an adequate medium whereby God could be seen essentially.

9 However a separate substance does know through its own substance that God is, and that He is the cause of all things, that He is eminent above all and set apart from all, not only from things which exist, but also from things which can be conceived by the created mind. Even we are able to reach this knowledge of God, in some sense; for we know through His effects, that God is, and that He is the cause of other beings, that He is supereminent over other things and set apart from all.

And this is the ultimate and most perfect limit of our knowledge in this life, as Dionysius says in Mystical Theology. “We are united with God as the Unknown.” Indeed, this is the situation, for, while we know of God what He is not, what He is remains quite unknown. Hence, to manifest his ignorance of this sublime knowledge, it is said of Moses that “he went to the dark cloud wherein God was” (Exod. 20:21).

10 Now, since a lower nature only touches with its highest part the lowest part of the next higher nature, this knowledge must be more eminent in separate substances than in us.

This becomes evident in a detailed consideration. For, the more closely and definitely we know the effect of a cause, the more evident does it become that its cause exists.

Now, separate substances, which know God through themselves, are nearer effects and more definite bearers of the likeness of God than the effects through which we know God. Therefore, the separate substances know more certainly and clearly than we that God is.

Again, since it is possible to come in some way to the proper knowledge of a thing by means of negations, as we said above, the more a person can know that a large number of closely related things are set apart from an object, the more does one approach toward a proper knowledge of it. For instance, one approaches closer to a proper knowledge of man when he knows that he is neither an inanimate, nor an insensitive, being than when one merely knows that he is not inanimate; even though neither of them makes it known what man is.

Now, separate substances know more things than we do, and things that are closer to God; consequently, in their understanding, they set apart from God more things, and more intimately related things, than we do. So, they approach more closely to a proper knowledge of Him than we do, although even these substances do not see the divine substance by means of their understanding of themselves.

Also, the more one knows how a man is placed in authority over people in higher positions, the more does one know the high position of this man. Thus, though a rustic may know that the king occupies the highest office in the kingdom, since he is acquainted only with some of the lowest official positions in the kingdom with which he may have some business, he does not know the eminence of the king in the way that another man does who is acquainted with all the leading dignitaries of the kingdom and knows that the king holds authority over them; even though neither type of lower office comprehends the exalted position appropriate to the dignity of the king.

Of course, we are in ignorance, except in regard to the lowest types of beings. So, although we may know that God is higher than all beings, we do not know the divine eminence as separate substances do, for the highest orders of beings are known to them, and they know that God is superior to all of them.

Finally, it is obvious that the more the large number, and great importance, of the effects of a cause become known, the more does the causality of the cause, and its power, become known. As a result, it becomes manifest that separate substances know the causality of God, and His power, better than we do; even though we know that He is the cause of all beings.

Notes It’s good to be the king.

September 16, 2018 | 1 Comment

Summary Against Modern Thought: Ultimate Happiness Comes After Death

Previous post.

Something to look forward to, but with fear and trembling. Share this Chapter with those who believe paradise can be built.


1 If, then, ultimate human felicity does not consist in the knowledge of God, whereby He is known in general by all, or most, men, by a sort of confused appraisal, and again, if it does not consist in the knowledge of God which is known by way of demonstration in the speculative sciences, nor in the cognition of God whereby He is known through faith, as has been shown in the foregoing; and if it is not possible in this life to reach a higher knowledge of God so as to know Him through His essence, or even in such a way that, when the other separate substances are known, God might be known through the knowledge of them, as if from a closer vantage point, as we showed; and if it is necessary to identify ultimate felicity with some sort of knowledge of God, as we proved above; then it is not possible for man’s ultimate felicity to come in this life.

Notes Even if you’re rich.

2 Again, the ultimate end of man brings to a termination man’s natural appetite, in the sense that, once the end is acquired, nothing else will be sought. For, if he is still moved onward to something else, he does not yet have the end in which he may rest. Now, this termination cannot occur in this life. For, the more a person understands, the more is the desire to understand increased in him, and this is natural to man, unless, perchance, there be someone who understands all things. But in this life this does not happen to anyone who is a mere man, nor could it happen, since we are not able to know in this life the separate substances, and they are most intelligible, as has been shown. Therefore, it is not possible for man’s ultimate felicity to be in this life.

Notes The sin comes from thinking man knows best in all. Or a man.

3 Besides, everything that is moved toward an end naturally desires to be stationed at, and at rest in, that end; consequently, a body does not move away from the place to which it is moved naturally, unless by virtue of a violent movement which runs counter to its appetite. Now, felicity is the ultimate end which man naturally desires. So, there is a natural desire of man to be established in felicity. Therefore, unless along with felicity such an unmoving stability be attained, he is not yet happy, for his natural desire is not yet at rest.

And so, when a person attains felicity he likewise attains stability and rest, and that is why this is the notion of all men concerning felicity, that it requires stability as part of its essential character. For this reason, the Philosopher says, in Ethics I [10: 1100b 5], that “we do not regard the happy man as a sort of chameleon.” Now, in this life there is no certain stability, for to any man, no matter how happy he is reputed to be, illnesses and misfortunes may possibly come, and by them he may be hindered in that operation, whatever it may be, with which felicity is identified. Therefore, it is not possible for man’s ultimate felicity to be in this life.

4 Moreover, it appears inappropriate and irrational for the time of generation of a thing to be long, while the time of its maturity is short. For it would follow that a nature would be without its end, most of the time. Consequently, we see that animals which live but a short time also take but a short time to come to perfect maturity.

Now, if felicity consists in perfect operation, in accord with perfect virtue, whether intellectual or moral, it is impossible for it to come to man until a long time has elapsed, And this is especially evident in speculative pursuits, in which man’s ultimate felicity is placed, as is clear from what we have said. For man is barely able to reach perfection in scientific speculation in the last stage of his life. But then, in most cases, only a little part of human life remains. So, it is not possible for man’s ultimate felicity to be in this life.

5 Furthermore, all men admit that felicity is a perfect good; otherwise, it could not satisfy desire. Now, a perfect good is one which lacks any admixture of evil, just as a perfectly white thing is completely unmixed with black. Of course, it is not possible for man in the present state of life to be entirely free from evils, not only from corporeal ones, such as hunger, thirst, heat and cold, and other things of this kind, but also from evils of the soul. For we can find no one who is not disturbed at times by unruly passions, who does not at times overstep the mean in which virtue lies, either by excess or defect, who also is not mistaken in certain matters, or who at least is ignorant of things which he desires to know, or who also conceives with uncertain opinion things about which he would like to be certain. Therefore, no person is happy in this life.

6 Again, man naturally shrinks from death, and is sorrowful at its prospect, not only at the instant when he feels its threat and tries to avoid it, but even when he thinks back upon it. But freedom from death is something man cannot achieve in this life. Therefore, it is not possible for man in this life to be happy.

Notes Amen.

7 Besides, ultimate felicity does not consist in an habitual state, but in an operation, since habits are for the sake of acts. But it is impossible to perform any action continuously in this life. Therefore, it is impossible for man in this life to be entirely happy.

8 Furthermore, the more a thing is desired and loved, the more does its loss bring sorrow and sadness. Now, felicity is what is most desired and loved. Therefore, its loss holds the greatest prospect of sorrow. But, if ultimate felicity were possible in this life, it is certain that it would be lost, at least by death. And it is not certain whether it would last until death, since for any man in this life there is the possibility of sickness, by which he may be completely impeded from the work of virtue: such things as mental illness and the like, by which the use of reason is halted. So, such felicity always will have sorrow naturally associated with it. Therefore, it will not be perfect felicity.

9 However, someone may say that, since felicity is a good of intellectual nature, perfect and true felicity belongs to those beings in whom a perfect intellectual nature is found, that is, to separate substances, but that in man there is found an imperfect happiness, in the manner of some sort of participation. For, in regard to the full understanding of truth, men can attain it only through enquiry, and they are utterly deficient in regard to objects which are most intelligible in their nature, as is clear from what we have said.

And so, felicity in its perfect character cannot be present in men, but they may participate somewhat in it, even in this life. And this seems to have been Aristotle’s view on felicity. Hence, in Ethics I, where he asks whether misfortunes take away happiness, having shown that felicity consists in the works of virtue which seem to be most enduring in this life, he concludes that those men for whom such perfection in this life is possible are happy as men, as if they had not attained felicity absolutely, but merely in human fashion.

10 Now, we have to show that the foregoing reply does not invalidate the arguments which we have given above.

Indeed, though man is by nature inferior to separate substances, he is nonetheless superior to irrational creatures. So, he attains his ultimate end in a more perfect way than they do. They achieve their ultimate end with such perfection because they seek nothing else, for the heavy thing comes to rest when it has occupied its own place; and even in the case of animals, when they enjoy sensual pleasures their natural desire is at rest. So, it is much more necessary for man’s natural desire to come to rest when he has reached his ultimate end. But this cannot come about in this life. Therefore, man does not attain felicity, understood as his proper end, during this life, as we have shown. Therefore, he must attain it after this life.

11 Again, it is impossible for natural desire to be unfulfilled, since “nature does nothing in vain.” Now, natural desire would be in vain if it could never be fulfilled. Therefore, man’s natural desire is capable of fulfillment, but not in this life, as we have shown. So, it must be fulfilled after this life. Therefore, man’s ultimate felicity comes after this life.

12 Besides, as long as anything is in motion toward perfection, it is not yet at the ultimate end. But all men, while learning the truth, are always disposed as beings in motion, and as tending toward perfection, because men who come later make other discoveries, over and above those found out by earlier men, as is also stated in Metaphysics II [1: 993a 31]. So, men in the process of learning the truth are not situated as if they were at the ultimate end.

Thus, since man’s ultimate felicity in this life seems mainly to consist in speculation, whereby the knowledge of the truth is sought, as Aristotle himself proves in Ethics X [7: 1177a 18], it is impossible to say that man achieves his ultimate end in this life.

13 Moreover, everything that is in potency tends to proceed into act. So, as long as it is not made wholly actual, it is not at its ultimate end. Now, our intellect is in potency in regard to all the forms of things to be known, and it is reduced to act when it knows any one of them. So, it will not be wholly in act, nor at its ultimate end, until it knows all things, at least all these material things. But man cannot achieve this through the speculative sciences, through which he knows truth in this life. Therefore, it is not possible for man’s ultimate felicity to be in this life.

14 For these and like reasons, Alexander and Averroes claimed that man’s ultimate felicity does not consist in the human knowledge which comes through the speculative sciences, but through a connection with a separate substance, which they believed to be possible for man in this life. But, since Aristotle saw that there is no other knowledge for man in this life than through the speculative sciences, he maintained that man does not achieve perfect felicity, but only a limited kind.

15 On this point there is abundant evidence of how even the brilliant minds of these men suffered from the narrowness of their viewpoint. From which narrow attitudes we shall be freed if we grant in accord with the foregoing proofs that man can reach true felicity after this life, when man’s soul is existing immortally; in which state the soul will understand in the way that separate substances understand, as we showed in Book Two [81] of this work.

Notes This is the point at which all new knowledge will come by revelation. No more cramming!

16 And so, man’s ultimate felicity will lie in the knowledge of God that the human mind has after this life, according to the way in which separate substances know Him. For which reason our Lord promises us “a reward in heaven” and says that the saints “shall be as the angels… who always see God in heaven,” as it is said (Matt 5:12; 22:30; 18:10).

September 9, 2018 | 1 Comment

Summary Against Modern Thought: Knowledge Of God Is Limited

Previous post.

We can, however, know that man is not God.


1 Now, if we are not able to understand other separate substances in this life, because of the natural affinity of our intellect for phantasms, still less are we able in this life to see the divine essence which transcends all separate substances.

2 An indication of this may also be taken from the fact that the higher our mind is elevated to the contemplation of spiritual beings, the more is it withdrawn from sensible things. Now, the final limit to which contemplation can reach is the divine substance. Hence, the mind which sees the divine substance must be completely cut off from the bodily senses, either by death or by ecstasy. Thus, it is said by one who speaks for God: “Man shall not see me and live” (Exod. 33:20).

3 But that some men are spoken of in Sacred Scripture as having seen God must be understood either in reference to an imaginary vision, or even a corporeal one: according as the presence of divine power was manifested through some corporeal species, whether appearing externally, or formed internally in the imagination; or even according as some men have perceived some intelligible knowledge of God through His spiritual effects.

Notes If you are still an atheist (and nobody will be forever), be careful of over-literal interpretations.

4 However, certain words of Augustine do present a difficulty; for it appears from them that we can understand God Himself in this life. He says in Book IX of The Trinity that “we see with the vision of the mind, in the eternal truth, from which all temporal things have been made, the form in accord with which we exist, and in accord with which we perform any action by true and right reason, either within ourselves or in bodies, and as a result of this we have with us a conception and a true knowledge of things.”

He also says in Book VII of the Confessions: “Suppose both of us see that what you say is true, and both of us see that what I say is true: where, I ask, do we see it? Certainly, I do not see it in you, nor you in me, but both in that immutable truth which is above our minds.” Again, he says in the book On the True Religion that “we judge all things according to the divine truth.” And he says in the Soliloquies that “truth must be known first, and through it other things can be known.” And this seems to mean the divine truth. It appears, then, from his words, that we see God Himself, Who is His own truth, and thus we know other things through Him.

5 The same writer’s words seem to tend toward the same view, words which he puts in Book XII of The Trinity, saying the following: “It pertains to reason to judge concerning these bodily things in accord with the incorporeal and sempiternal reasons which, unless they were above the human mind, certainly would not be immutable.” Now, the immutable and sempiternal reasons cannot exist in any other location than in God, since only God, according to the teaching of our faith, is sempiternal. Therefore, it seems to follow that we are able to see God in this life, and because we see the reasons of things in Him we may judge concerning other things.

Notes sempiternal = eternal and unchanging.

6 However, we must not believe that Augustine held this view, in the texts which have been quoted: that we are able in this life to understand God through His essence. So, we have to make a study of how we may see this immutable truth, or these eternal reasons, in this life, and thus judge other things in accord with this vision.

7 As a matter of fact, Augustine himself admits that truth is in the soul, in the Soliloquies, and as a result he proves the immortality of the soul from the eternity of truth. But truth is not in the soul simply in the way that God is said to be in all things by His essence, nor as He is in all things by His likeness, in the sense that each thing is called true to the extent that it approaches the likeness of God; for it is not on this basis that the soul is set above other things.

Therefore, it is present in a special way in the soul, inasmuch as it knows truth. So, just as souls and other things are indeed said to be true in their own natures, because they have a likeness to the highest nature, which is Truth Itself, since it is its own actual being as understood—so also, what is known by the soul is true in so far as some likeness exists in it of that divine truth which God knows. Hence the Gloss on Psalm 11:2: “Truths are decayed from among the children of men,” says that: as from one face there may result many reflections in a mirror, so from one first truth there may result many truths in the minds of men.

Now, although different things are known and believed to be true by different people, certain things are true on which all men agree, such as the first principles of understanding, both speculative and practical, according as an image of divine truth is reflected universally in the minds of all men. So, in so far as any mind knows anything whatever with certitude, the object is intuited in these principles, by means of which judgment is made concerning all things, by resolving them back into these principles; and so the mind is said to see all things in the divine truth, or in the eternal reasons, and is said to judge all things in accord with them.

And this interpretation the words of Augustine confirm, in the Soliloquies, for he says that the principles of the sciences are seen in the divine truth as these visible objects are seen in the light of the sun. Yet it is obvious that they are not seen in the actual body of the sun, but through its light, which is a likeness in the air of solar brilliance, transmitted to suitable bodies.

Notes Recall the distinction between local or conditional and universal or necessary truth. A local truth is one derived from premises which themselves might be false or incomplete, whereas a necessary truth is true no matter what.

8 Therefore, we should not gather from these words of Augustine that God can be seen in His substance in this life, but only as in a mirror. And this is what the Apostle professes concerning the knowledge of this life, for he says: “We see now through a glass in a dark manner” (1 Cor. 13:l2).

Notes King James does this better: as through a glass darkly.

9 Although this mirror, which is the human mind, reflects the likeness of God in a closer way than lower creatures do, the knowledge of God which can be taken in by the human mind does not go beyond the type of knowledge that is derived from sensible things, since even the soul itself knows what it is itself as a result of understanding the natures of sensible things, as we have said. Hence, throughout this life God can be known in no higher way than that whereby a cause is known through its effect.