William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Category: SAMT (page 30 of 31)

A tour through Saint Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Contra Gentiles.

Summary Against Modern Thought: First Steps In The Scientific Proof Of God

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.

Previous post.

We have reached at long last the happiest part of our journey. A proof for the existence of God. Aquinas starts and ends with the best, an argument which, once it is understood, grasped at its full, is fully convincing. It is a scientific proof. It is based on the indisputable evidence of our long observation of Nature. It first saw print, as so much foundational knowledge has does, with Aristotle. So strongly does Aquinas feel about this argument that he offers no other in this work. It is an argument, or rather two arguments which share much in common, which he, and which I think you will agree, is best suited for those of a scientific mind. Read all three (short) paragraphs from Aquinas before reading the footnotes.

Chapter 13: Arguments in proof of God’s existence

1 HAVING shown then that it is not futile to endeavour to prove the existence of God, we may proceed to set forth the reasons whereby both philosophers and Catholic doctors have proved that there is a God.

2 In the first place we shall give the arguments by which Aristotle sets out to prove God’s existence: and he aims at proving this from the point of view of movement, in two ways.i

3 The first way is as follows.[1] Whatever is in motion is moved by another: and it is clear to the sense that something, the sun for instance, is in motion.ii Therefore it is set in motion by something else moving it. Now that which moves it is itself either moved or not. If it be not moved, then the point is proved that we must needs postulate an immovable mover: and this we call God. If, however, it be moved, it is moved by another mover. Either, therefore, we must proceed to infinity, or we must come to an immovable mover. But it is not possible to proceed to infinity. Therefore it is necessary to postulate an immovable mover.iii

4 This argument contains two propositions that need to be proved: namely that whatever is in motion is moved by another, and that it is not possible to proceed to infinity in movers and things moved.iv


iThere are various kinds of movement, change, or evolution that first must be understood. There is movement in space, where an object is first here then there, or a change in orientation. There can be change in mass, where an object excretes or accretes. There can be change in energy, such as when a field offers up a newly created particle from a “quantum fluctuation,” or when mass is converted to energy. There can be change in qualitative characteristics, such as in color. In short, any differentiation whatsoever in an object can be considered change or motion. There need not be, of course, any person to witness or measure this differentiation, nor do we need to understand all of the (secondary efficient) causes that bring this differentiation about. Somebody with no knowledge of internal combustion engines is surely aware that a car moves from one place to another.

iiFor bookkeeping, and for commenting, label the first argument “W1”, for “Way 1”, etc.

We begin with the observation that things move, that they change. There can be no doubt about this. Even those who profess complete philosophical skepticism know that their minds change (about objects moving). (I say “profess” because however much somebody might claim to be a skeptic, nobody except possibly the genuinely insane actually believes it. If you argue with me, you necessarily agree with me. But this point is not in the least necessary for us to continue. Feel free to pretend your computer is not really there.)

And what around us does not change? All of Nature, i.e. the physical, does. Trees rot, even protons decay, babies are born, the universe expands. What remains motionless? Well, truth. Mathematical truths are not subject to movement, neither can logical truths shift from place to place or grow hair. Our knowledge of such truths, individually and collectively, surely evolves, or devolves, as the case may be. But the truths themselves are incorruptible. Again, if you disagree, you agree. If you say, “All truths are inventions”, you have either stated a truth or an invention. If it is a truth, your proposition is self-defeating. If it is an invention, there is no reason to trust it. There is no way to speak coherently except by admitting truth exists and is unchangeable.

Anyway, that much is background. Aquinas is not claiming nothing is unchangeable. His first simple indubitable plain commonsensical premise is only that some things move, and that we all see this to be the case, as for example the relative motion of the sun or your finger on the scroll bar. This is all you must advert to now. Do you?

iiiNow W1 will be proved bit by bit. Aquinas will give examples and clarifications of each of the propositions and premises which comprise the argument and when he is finished no loose ends will remain. However, it is well here to ensure you grasp the intention or meaning of this argument before continuing. Here is a sketch.

Take an analogy—an analogy, I say—from Fulton Sheen. You see a boxcar of a train pass by. It moves. Something caused it to move. What? Well, the boxcar in front of it pulls it. But what caused that boxcar to move? The one in front of it. But this cannot go on forever. We cannot have an infinity of boxcars, each pulled by the one in front. At the start of the line there must exist an engine which pulls all along, or there can be no movement.

The same analogy holds for cogs in a machine. This one moves by the one before it, and so on, a series which must terminate at an axle hooked to a motor. There must be a start.

These are only analogies because we left off short. Something is causing the engine to move, and something is causing the motor to spin. These causes are operating now, in this moment. And this what we’re talking about. Movement or change occurring the here in the right now, at this instant.

The classic example is a stick pushing a stone. Imagine yourself holding the stick and applying steady pressure to it, nudging the stone. The stone moves because of the stick. The stone moves now, in this moment because of the stick’s pressure. The stick is also in motion: it has force now, in this moment applied to it via your arm. Your arm is also in motion: its muscles contract or extend now, in this moment. This is happening all at once, at the same instant. Do not let this slip from your mind.

The muscles are also in motion: individual cells contract or extend now, in this moment. The materials in the cell are also in motion: chemicals are moving or reacting now, in this moment. The chemicals are also in motion: the chemicals subcomponents are moving or reacting now, in this moment; and if the chemicals are simple, the electrons in its shell and the neutrons and protons in its nucleus are moving now, in this moment. And the electrons themselves, and the quarks inside the nucleus are moving now, in this moment.

Again, all this is happening at once. Not in the distant past, but right now.

The quarks are also in motion: the strings, or whatever, inside the quarks now, in this moment are also “vibrating”.

Are there things “bellow” strings, or whatever? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. What does is that if there is, whatever these objects are, have to be in motion now, in this moment too. The chain of all these objects pushes along, as it were, pushed from “below,” all at the same time. This series cannot, however, continue to infinity. There cannot an infinite number of things smaller, or rather more base, than strings and which must first move before any movement is possible.

There must be a base. There must be a thing which moves, which is itself not moved, and is indeed immovable. There must be a start to everything, a first unmoving mover. If there were not, nothing would ever happen. And we have already agreed things happen.

Now two happy things follow from this. The first (and the proof of this is coming: this is not here a proof, but a claim: do not say it was not proved when it is not claimed as being proved) is that this unmoved mover is and must be the same everywhere and for all changes. That is why the unmoved mover is God.

The second is that to be truly scientific, to honestly understand physics, to speak properly of causation and how the universe is run, one must understand God. Because He is there, at base, in everything. He is the root cause of every single thing that happens. This should be cheering, not the least because of the good news we have received some two thousand years ago, but because our task of contemplating the world is proven finite. There must come a point below which physics ends and God begins, to speak loosely. It is not clear if we will ever figure out the whole of mechanics, though. All we have proved is that the causal movement-chain must be finite. We haven’t any idea, through arguments of this kind, how long it is. Finite does not imply short.

ivCall these P1 and P2, or properly W1P1, etc. Next time we start with these same premises. They are given here for the sole reason of noting that there was only one thing proved in this post. That we see some things move. Everything else was a clarification, a heads up. The argument for God being the unmoved Mover was merely sketched. There is thus no point whatsoever in claiming that the main argument was found wanting because it hasn’t yet been fully given.

Clever readers will also have recognized that at no point was scripture invoked. No divine revelation, other than the ordinary kind, i.e. the revelations of our senses, is assumed. Like I said up top, this proof is purely scientific.

Next installment.

[1] 7 Phys. i.

Summary Against Modern Thought: How Through Reason We’ll Prove God’s Existence

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.

This is the last of the necessary but, it must be admitted, less-than-riveting introductory posts. It must be kept in mind that Summa Contra Gentiles is primarily a Teacher’s Guide and not per se a text for students. We’re adapting it as we go. Next week we launch into the good stuff, the first proofs for the existence of God. We’ve sped up to get here, but next week we reduce pace dramatically since to progress we need material Aquinas assumes but which we Moderns have largely forgotten.

Chapter 8: In what relation human reason stands to the truth of faith

(1) IT would also seem well to observe that sensible things from which human reason derives the source of its knowledge, retain a certain trace of likeness to God, but so imperfect that it proves altogether inadequate to manifest the substance itself of God. For effects resemble their causes according to their own mode, since like action proceeds from like agent; and yet the effect does not always reach to a perfect likeness to the agent…i

Chapter 9: Of the order and mode of procedure in this work

(2) Wherefore in order to deduce the first kind of truth we must proceed by demonstrative arguments whereby we can convince our adversaries. But since such arguments are not available in support of the second kind of truth, our intention must be not to convince our opponent by our arguments, but to solve the arguments which he brings against the truth, because, as shown above,[1] natural reason cannot be opposed to the truth of faith.ii

In a special way may the opponent of this kind of truth be convinced by the authority of Scripture confirmed by God with miracles: since we believe not what is above human reason save because God has revealed it. In support, however, of this kind of truth, certain probable arguments must be adduced for the practice and help of the faithful, but not for the conviction of our opponents, because the very insufficiency of these arguments would rather confirm them in their error, if they thought that we assented to the truth of faith on account of such weak reasonings.iii

(3) …we shall first of all endeavour to declare that truth which is the object of faith’s confession and of reason’s researches, by adducing arguments both demonstrative and probable, some of which we have gathered from the writings of the philosophers and of holy men, so as thereby to confirm the truth and convince our opponents…

(4) Seeing then that we intend by the way of reason to pursue those things about God which human reason is able to investigate, the first object that offers itself to our consideration consists in those things which pertain to God in Himself…Of those things which we need to consider about God in Himself, we must give the first place (this being the necessary foundation of the whole of this work), to the question of demonstrating that there is a God: for unless this be established, all questions about divine things are out of court.iv

Chapter 10: Of the opinion of those who aver that it cannot be demonstrated that there is a God, since this is self-evident

(1) POSSIBLY it will seem to some that it is useless to endeavour to show that there is a God: they say that it is self-evident that God is, so that it is impossible to think the contrary, and thus it cannot be demonstrated that there is a Godv

(2) Those things are said to be self-evident which are known as soon as the terms are known: thus as soon as it is known what is a whole, and what is a part, it is known that the whole is greater than its part…

Chapter 11: Refutation of the foregoing opinion and solution of the aforesaid arguments

(5)…For just as it is self-evident to us that a whole is greater than its part, so is it most evident to those who see the very essence of God that God exists, since His essence is His existence. But because we are unable to see His essence, we come to know His existence not in Himself but in His effectsvi

Chapter 12: Of the opinion of those who say that the existence of God cannot be proved, and that it is held by faith alone

(1) THE position that we have taken is also assailed by the opinion of certain others, whereby the efforts of those who endeavour to prove that there is a God would again be rendered futile. For they say that it is impossible by means of the reason to discover that God exists, and that this knowledge is acquired solely by means of faith and revelationvii

(5) [Another potential counterargument.] If the principles of demonstration become known to us originally through the senses, as is proved in the Posterior Analytics,[3] those things which transcend all sense and sensible objects are seemingly indemonstrable. Now such is the existence of God. Therefore [opponents say] it cannot be demonstrated…

(9) It is also evident from the fact that, although God transcends all sensibles and senses, His effects from which we take the proof that God exists, are sensible objects. Hence our knowledge, even of things which transcend the senses, originates from the senses.viii


iWe made this point before, but you watching a man crush an aluminum can would not allow you to infer his complete strength, neither would following him solve “2 + 7” allow you to plumb his intellectual depths. Neither can we look out into the world and learn all about God. However, that you see a man crush a man indicates that there is a man crushing the can, and that you see a man solve an equation proves there is an existing intellect.

iiAs promised, nothing but logical proof for our fundamental claims. No revelations drawn upon. All unbelievers can play. But if somebody makes a claim against Scripture, Aquinas is ready to defend.

iiiWe wouldn’t want our adversaries thinking we believe in flying spaghetti monsters simply because we wanted to believe. Indeed, the pasta sauce will soon be on the other foot. Opponents are going to have to work very hard indeed to counter the arguments which are coming. Be warned that they stood for roughly two-and-a-half millennia. Your task won’t be easy; in fact, it will be impossible.

ivWe are all in agreement here, I hope and pray.

vWhat follows here and in Chapter 11 is St Anselm’s so-called ontological argument and a refutation of the same and two other similar arguments. That God is self-evident and not in need of proof is not a problem for moderns in the least. Consequently, as interesting as Thomas’s arguments are on this matter, we pass on quickly.

viWe cannot know God as He is in himself. Most of us can barely remember what we had for lunch last Tuesday, let alone grasp the Infinite. Aquinas is not trying to slip in an Intelligent Design (as moderns know the term) argument. And he was most certainly not a Creationist in any sense beyond believing that God was—and is, even at this moment—the cause of the universe (for the universe had to and must currently have a cause, as we’ll see).

viiThis has become a slur in our time. Only fools believe by faith. The intelligent know by science. Of course, this sad formula ignores that many things must be taken on faith or reason goes nowhere. We have discussed axioms as a primary instance. But never mind all that. This is our last warning, one I predict which will be forgotten in the weeks to come, that our proofs are fundamental and require the exact same amount of faith that any mathematician or physicist brings to his tasks.

viiiJust as in mathematics we know of infinity, and its various flavors and sizes, but cannot savor these flavors nor comprehend these sizes, so can we prove (and will) certain things about God’s nature. For instance, we can say He is Omnipotent, and even define the broad outlines of this quality, but moving from that to knowing just what’s on God’s mind? You can’t get there from here, not using unaided the weak powers of the human mind.

But enough! We are at this point in the position of children rankling under the forced repetition of scales, anxious to move to our first melody. It is a sweet tune, our starting one. Aristotle started humming it a long time ago and it hasn’t lost any of its vigor or shine by repetition. To continue this silly metaphor, it’s a song that once you hear it you can’t get out of your head. Nor will you want to.

[1] Ch. vii.
[3] 2 Poster. ix. i., xviii. [Aristotle]

Next Installment

Summary Against Modern Thought: Faith, Proof, & The A Priori

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.

Chapter 5: That those things which cannot be investigated by reason are fittingly proposed to man as an object of faith

(4) There results also another advantage from this, namely, the checking of presumption which is the mother of error. For some there are who presume so far on their wits that they think themselves capable of measuring the whole nature of things by their intellect, in that they esteem all things true which they see, and false which they see not. Accordingly, in order that man’s mind might be freed from this presumption, and seek the truth humbly, it was necessary that certain things far surpassing his intellect should be proposed to man by God.i

(5) Yet another advantage is made apparent by the words of the Philosopher (10 Ethic.).[3] For when a certain Simonides maintained that man should neglect the knowledge of God, and apply his mind to human affairs, and declared that a man ought to relish human things, and a mortal, mortal things: the Philosopher contradicted him, saying that a man ought to devote himself to immortal and divine things as much as he can. Hence he says (11 De Animal.)[4] that though it is but little that we perceive of higher substances, yet that little is more loved and desired than all the knowledge we have of lower substances. He says also (2 De Coelo et Mundo)[5] that when questions about the heavenly bodies can be answered by a short and probable solution, it happens that the hearer is very much rejoiced. All this shows that however imperfect the knowledge of the highest things may be, it bestows very great perfection on the soul: and consequently, although human reason is unable to grasp fully things that are above reason, it nevertheless acquires much perfection, if at least it hold things, in any way whatever, by faith…ii

Chapter 6: That it is not a mark of levity to assent to the things that are of faith, although they are above reason

(4) On the other hand those who introduced the errors of the sects proceeded in contrary fashion, as instanced by Mohammed, who enticed peoples with the promise of carnal pleasures, to the desire of which the concupiscence of the flesh instigates. He also delivered commandments in keeping with his promises, by giving the reins to carnal pleasure, wherein it is easy for carnal men to obey: and the lessons of truth which he inculcated were only such as can be easily known to any man of average wisdom by his natural powers: yea rather the truths which he taught were mingled by him with many fables and most false doctrines. Nor did he add any signs of supernatural agency, which alone are a fitting witness to divine inspiration, since a visible work that can be from God alone, proves the teacher of truth to be invisibly inspired: but he asserted that he was sent in the power of arms, a sign that is not lacking even to robbers and tyrants. Again, those who believed in him from the outset were not wise men practised in things divine and human, but beastlike men who dwelt in the wilds, utterly ignorant of all divine teaching; and it was by a multitude of such men and the force of arms that he compelled others to submit to his law…iii

Chapter 7: That the truth of reason is not in opposition to the truth of the Christian faith

(1) NOW though the aforesaid truth of the Christian faith surpasses the ability of human reason, nevertheless those things which are naturally instilled in human reason cannot be opposed to this truth. For it is clear that those things which are implanted in reason by nature, are most true, so much so that it is impossible to think them to be false.iv

Nor is it lawful to deem false that which is held by faith, since it is so evidently confirmed by God. Seeing then that the false alone is opposed to the true, as evidently appears if we examine their definitions, it is impossible for the aforesaid truth of faith to be contrary to those principles which reason knows naturally.v

(2) Again. The same thing which the disciple’s mind receives from its teacher is contained in the knowledge of the teacher, unless he teach insincerely, which it were wicked to say of God. Now the knowledge of naturally known principles is instilled into us by God, since God Himself is the author of our nature. Therefore the divine Wisdom also contains these principles. Consequently whatever is contrary to these principles, is contrary to the divine Wisdom; wherefore it cannot be from God. Therefore those things which are received by faith from divine revelation cannot be contrary to our natural knowledge.vi

(3) Moreover. Our intellect is stayed by contrary arguments, so that it cannot advance to the knowledge of truth. Wherefore if conflicting knowledges were instilled into us by God, our intellect would thereby be hindered from knowing the truth. And this cannot be ascribed to God.vii

(4) Furthermore. Things that are natural are unchangeable so long as nature remains. Now contrary opinions cannot be together in the same subject. Therefore God does not instill into man any opinion or belief contrary to natural Knowledge…

(7) From this we may evidently conclude that whatever arguments are alleged against the teachings of faith, they do not rightly proceed from the first self-evident principles instilled by nature. Wherefore they lack the force of demonstration, and are either probable or sophistical arguments, and consequently it is possible to solve them.viii


iModern intellectuals particularly avoid learning about or discussing God. The subject embarrasses them. At best, they might eagerly accept a weak counter-argument for God’s existence, glad to be shot of the obligation to investigate further, shoot opinions off the cuff, or quote a supposed witticism by some untutored New Atheist. Shameful behavior, really, on such an important question. Why not let’s examine the best arguments, as we should in all areas? Though St Thomas is right to emphasize that there are some things above us that we must take on faith, just as the common do when confronting most technical claims of Science—not everybody can understand all things. I repeat that we won’t be taking anything on faith, except for those bits of knowledge that come in-built (i.e. a priori knowledge).

ii[I]t happens that the hearer is very much rejoiced“. Isn’t this what the materialist rightly says about the higher truths in Science? That knowing it depths brings joy? Knowledge is good for its own sake. It us why mathematicians call their theorems beautiful. It is why once you hear St Thomas’s arguments in Chapter 13 and beyond, you will be happy.

iiiOf course, nowadays most come to Islam via other paths, but the promised carnality doesn’t hurt. Seventy-two virgins, is it? Not that all Muslims take that belief literally, of course. However, what Thomas says applies, I think, to the current rage for materialism. I can call myself any gender I want? Sign me up. What matters is what I desire and not what is? I’m right there with you. We are running from physics and metaphysics as fast as we can, straight into the arms of ourselves.

Mark Twain thought that the lack of a carnal nature in the afterlife of Christians was an argument against belief. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven bothered him greatly. Yet Plato in his Republic taught us that with age comes the diminishing of carnal thoughts and distractions, he showed us the great freedoms which accompanies this release.

ivNotice that this does work for propositions implanted by evolution. Suppose we were born with the innate knowledge that fire is hot because the unfit among our ancestors were burnt, much in the same way many animals are born with an innate fear of man. In this case, evolution would be creating a built-in belief which was true. But then suppose we were born with the innate idea that that we believe ideas because they make us happy and allow group cohesion, i.e. our ancestors who had happy notions bred more copiously than our ancestors who demanded proof and evidence. How would you ever know if you were a member of the former group? You could be fooling yourself that was actually false you think true because it is comforting. For example, we could be born with a gene for atheism (it can’t be that believing you are of variable “gender” or “sexuality” will help your reproductive chances). There is no reason to trust evolution leads to truth. We’re stuck with metaphysics and the grueling task of proving difficult claims.

On the other hand, there are some truths implanted in us, though not be evolution, that are true and impossible to think other than true. That a thing cannot exist and not exist simultaneously is one. That nothing which is not already actual can be a cause. That if x and y are integers and if x = y, then y = x. I don’t know if anybody has collected these truths. Would make a fascinating monograph.

vBe careful to understand Thomas is claiming a conditional true. If God told you to believe X because it is true, then X cannot be false. You needed yet believe in God to believe, which you must, that statement. See paragraph (3) for clarification.

viAnd now we see the candidate source for our a priori knowledge.

viiGod cannot lie to us (another conditional statement). But we sure can lie to ourselves (true by multiple overwhelming observation).

viiiI skipped over the (conditional) arguments about the veracity of scripture, which you won’t yet believe, and are at this point distracting. Thomas is talking to the teacher in the excised paragraphs, not the student. But here he repeats that we shall test and prove all things. I emphasize that you will not be asked to swallow anything, that all will be given ample demonstration.

Note We’re just getting past the introductory material and into the good stuff! Like I said, the juiciest bits start in Chapter 13, which I think we’ll reach in two or three weeks. Stick around.

[3] vii. 8
[4] De Part. Animal. i. 5.
[5] xii. 1.

Summary Against Modern Thought: Things Which Block Truth

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.

Chapter 4

(1) WHILE then the truth of the intelligible things of God is twofold, one to which the inquiry of reason can attain, the other which surpasses the whole range of human reason, both are fittingly proposed by God to man as an object of belief.i

We must first show this with regard to that truth which is attainable by the inquiry of reason, lest it appears to some, that since it can be attained by reason, it was useless to make it an object of faith by supernatural inspiration.ii

(2) Now three disadvantages would result if this truth were left solely to the inquiry of reason.

(3) One is that few men would have knowledge of God: because very many are hindered from gathering the fruit of diligent inquiry, which is the discovery of truth, for three reasons.

Some indeed on account of an indisposition of temperament, by reason of which many are naturally indisposed to knowledge: so that no efforts of theirs would enable them to reach to the attainment of the highest degree of human knowledge, which consists in knowing God.

Some are hindered by the needs of household affairs. For there must needs be among men some that devote themselves to the conduct of temporal affairs, who would be unable to devote so much time to the leisure of contemplative research as to reach the summit of human inquiry, namely the knowledge of God.

And some are hindered by laziness. For in order to acquire the knowledge of God in those things which reason is able to investigate, it is necessary to have a previous knowledge of many things: since almost the entire consideration of philosophy is directed to the knowledge of God: for which reason metaphysics, which is about divine things, is the last of the parts of philosophy to be studied.iii

Wherefore it is not possible to arrive at the inquiry about the aforesaid truth except after a most laborious study: and few are willing to take upon themselves this labour for the love of a knowledge, the natural desire for which has nevertheless been instilled into the mind of man by God.iv

(4) The second disadvantage is that those who would arrive at the discovery of the aforesaid truth would scarcely succeed in doing so after a long time. First, because this truth is so profound, that it is only after long practice that the human intellect is enabled to grasp it by means of reason. Secondly, because many things are required beforehand, as stated above. Thirdly, because at the time of youth, the mind, when tossed about by the various movements of the passions, is not fit for the knowledge of so sublime a truth, whereas calm gives prudence and knowledge, as stated in 7 Phys.[1] Hence mankind would remain in the deepest darkness of ignorance, if the path of reason were the only available way to the knowledge of God: because the knowledge of God which especially makes men perfect and good, would be acquired only by the few, and by these only after a long time.v

(5) The third disadvantage is that much falsehood is mingled with the investigations of human reason, on account of the weakness of our intellect in forming its judgments, and by reason of the admixture of phantasms. Consequently many would remain in doubt about those things even which are most truly demonstrated, through ignoring the force of the demonstration: especially when they perceive that different things are taught by the various men who are called wise. Moreover among the many demonstrated truths, there is sometimes a mixture of falsehood that is not demonstrated, but assumed for some probable or sophistical reason which at times is mistaken for a demonstration. Therefore it was necessary that definite certainty and pure truth about divine things should be offered to man by the way of faith.vi

(6) Accordingly the divine clemency has made this salutary commandment, that even some things which reason is able to investigate must be held by faith: so that all may share in the knowledge of God easily, and without doubt or error.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.


iFrom last time, there are some things we can work out for ourselves, but others which we must take on revelation, i.e. on faith.

iiDon’t panic. We’re starting with that which we can prove by reason. The juiciest arguments will be concrete, scientific, and oh so rational.

iiiTo his great shame, Yours Truly fits into category three. How about you, dear reader? I’ll flatter both of us that, because you regularly stop by here, that you at most suffer as I do, but that you’ll be capable of and have the time to understand the arguments to come.

ivDavid Stove, one of my favorite anti-modern modern philosophers said learning requires two things, libraries and leisure. The library of the internet is practically free, but leisure is harder to come by, particularly as we invent more and more labor-saving devices. Most Westerners now on purpose carry with them everywhere Thinking Suppression Devices so that not even by accident will they philosophize.

vIt is shocking that so many would try to figure out the greatest questions we could possibly ask on their own, without study. Would you try to figure quantum mechanics, the calculus, grammar from scratch on your own without consulting the relevant authorities? No, sir, you would not. So why are you so keen on consulting only your untutored thoughts on, say, whether God exists?

viOnce you are presented with an argument with true premises, a valid conclusion, and which is sound, you have no choice, if you are rational, other than to accept it. Likewise, if an argument you cherish is shown to have false premises, an invalid conclusion, or is shown unsound, you must, if you are rational, you must reject it. Thirdly, many of the arguments on which we rely are not well considered, but carried along habitually or because they are deeply pleasing to us. I used to be an atheist, too, so I know what it’s like. Time for some intense scrutiny.

Update Apropos quotation from Peter Kreeft (start 10:30) on why academics have turned traditionally Catholic colleges and universities away from the Truth. “Smart people are very good at just about everything intellectual, including fooling themselves. Ordinary people aren’t smart enough to fool themselves. They have no place to hide. But academics can create all sorts of excuses and places to hide from themselves.”

viiLike I said, this won’t be our path. We’re going to prove everything.

[1] iii. 7.

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