Friday, May 29, 2015

The Nature of God and Eternity

(A selection of quotes from Thomas Aquinas on God & eternity, with links to online sources for additional reading.)

● “God is pure act without any admixture of potentiality.”

(Compendium Theologiae, 11)

 “Since God is infinite, comprehending in Himself all the plenitude of perfection of all being, He cannot acquire anything new, nor extend Himself to anything whereto He was not extended previously.” (S.T. I, Q. 9, Art. 1)

 "God alone is altogether immutable; whereas every creature is in some way mutable. Be it known therefore that a mutable thing can be called so in two ways: by a power in itself; and by a power possessed by another. For all creatures before they existed, were possible, not by any created power, since no creature is eternal, but by the divine power alone, inasmuch as God could produce them into existence. Thus, as the production of a thing into existence depends on the will of God, so likewise it depends on His will that things should be preserved; for He does not preserve them otherwise than by ever giving them existence; hence if He took away His action from them, all things would be reduced to nothing, as appears from Augustine (Gen. ad lit. iv, 12)." (S.T. I, Q. 9, Art. 2)

 "No succession occurs in God. His entire existence is simultaneous. Succession is not found except in things that are in some way subject to motion; for prior and posterior in motion cause the succession of time. God, however, is in no sense subject to motion, as has been shown. Accordingly there is no succession in God. His existence is simultaneously whole." (Compendium Theologiae, 8)

 “We can mark three general levels of reality: first, above eternity, proper to the first cause; second, with eternity, proper to intelligences; third, under eternity but above timer, proper to souls.” (De causis Prolci, lect. 6)

 "As we attain to the knowledge of simple things by way of compound things, so must we reach to the knowledge of eternity by means of time, which is nothing but the numbering of movement by "before" and "after." For since succession occurs in every movement, and one part comes after another, the fact that we reckon before and after in movement, makes us apprehend time, which is nothing else but the measure of before and after in movement. Now in a thing bereft of movement, which is always the same, there is no before or after. As therefore the idea of time consists in the numbering of before and after in movement; so likewise in the apprehension of the uniformity of what is outside of movement, consists the idea of eternity.

"Further, those things are said to be measured by time which have a beginning and an end in time, because in everything which is moved there is a beginning, and there is an end. But as whatever is wholly immutable can have no succession, so it has no beginning, and no end.

"Thus eternity is known from two sources: first, because what is eternal is interminable—that is, has no beginning nor end (that is, no term either way); secondly, because eternity has no succession, being simultaneously whole."
(S.T. I, Q. 10, Art. 1)

 "It is manifest that time and eternity are not the same. Some have founded this difference on the fact that eternity has neither beginning nor an end; whereas time has a beginning and an end. This, however, makes a merely accidental, and not an absolute difference because, granted that time always was and always will be, according to the idea of those who think the movement of the heavens goes on for ever, there would yet remain a difference between eternity and time, as Boethius says (De Consol. v), arising from the fact that eternity is simultaneously whole; which cannot be applied to time: for eternity is the measure of a permanent being; while time is a measure of movement." (S.T. I, Q. 10, Art. 4)

 "Motion follows upon time by reason of “before and after.” For it has been shown that the reason why time follows motion is that we recognize both simultaneously. Therefore time follows motion according to that which, when it is perceived in motion, time is perceived. But it is then that we perceive time, when we distinguish a “before” and “after” in motion; and it is then that we say time is passing when we have a sense of the “before” and “after” in motion. Consequently time follows motion according to “before and after.” (Commentary, IV Physics, lect. 17)

 "Two things are to be considered in time: time itself, which is successive; and the "now" of time, which is imperfect. Hence the expression "simultaneously-whole" is used to remove the idea of time, and the word "perfect" is used to exclude the "now" of time." (S.T. I, Q. 10, Art. 1, ad. 5)

 "The "now" that stands still, is said to make eternity according to our apprehension. As the apprehension of time is caused in us by the fact that we apprehend the flow of the "now," so the apprehension of eternity is caused in us by our apprehending the "now" standing still." (S.T. I, Q. 10, Art. 2, ad. 1)

 “The “now” of time is not time, the “now” of eternity is really the same as eternity.” (Commentary, I Sentences, 19, 2, 2)

 "On the part of cognition or knowledge it should be noted that in knowing things that take place according to the order of time, the cognitive power that is contained in any way under the order of time is related to them in another way than the cognitive power that is totally outside of the order of time. The order of place provides a suitable example of this. According to the Philosopher in IV Physicorum [11:219a 14], before and after in movement, and consequently in time, corresponds to before and after in magnitude. Therefore, if there arc many men passing along some road, any one of those in the ranks has knowledge of those preceding and following as preceding and following, which pertains to the order of place. Hence any one of them sees those who are next to him and some of those who precede him; but he cannot see those who follow behind him. If, however, there were someone outside of the whole order of those passing along the road, for instance, stationed in some high tower where he could see the whole road, he would at once see all those who were on the road—not under the formality of preceding and subsequent (i.e., in relation to his view) but all at the same time and how one precedes another.

"Now, our cognition falls under the order of time, either per se or accidentally; whence the soul in composing and dividing necessarily includes time, as is said in III De anima [6: 430a 32]. Consequently, things are subject to our cognition under the aspect of present, past, and future. Hence the soul knows present things as existing in act and perceptible by sense in some way; past things it knows as remembered; future things are not known in themselves because they do not yet exist, but can be known in their causes—with certitude if they are totally determined in their causes so that they will take place of necessity; by conjecture if they are not so determined that they cannot be impeded, as in the case of those things that are for the most part; in no way if in their causes they are wholly in potency, i.e., not more determined to one than to another, as in the case of those that are indeterminate to either of two. The reason for this is that a thing is not knowable according as it is in potency, but only according as it is in act, as the Philosopher shows in IX Metaphysicae [9: 1051a 22].

"God, however, is wholly outside the order of time, stationed as it were at the summit of eternity, which is wholly simultaneous, and to Him the whole course of time is subjected in one simple intuition. For this reason, He sees in one glance everything that is effected in the evolution of time, and each thing as it is in itself, and it is not future to Him in relation to His view as it is in the order of its causes alone (although He also sees the very order of the causes), but each of the things that are in whatever time is seen wholly eternally as the human eye sees Socrates sitting, not in its causes but in itself.

"Now from the fact that man sees Socrates sitting, the contingency of his sitting which concerns the order of cause to effect, is not destroyed; yet the eye of man most certainly and infallibly sees Socrates sitting while he is sitting, since each thing as it is in itself is already determined. Hence it follows that God knows all things that take place in time most certainly and infallibly, and yet the things that happen in time neither are nor take place of necessity, but contingently." (Commentary, I Peri Hermeneias, lect. 14)

 "Eternity is compared to time as something indivisible to what is continuous. Thus in time there is a difference of successive parts according to before and after, but eternity has no before and after, because eternal things are free from any change.

"Thus eternity is totally at once, just as a point lacks parts that are distinct in location. For a point can be compared to a line in two ways: first as included in the line, whether at the beginning, middle or end, secondly as existing outside a line. A point within a line cannot be present to all the parts of the line, but in different parts of the line different points must be designated. But a point outside the line can view all parts of the line equally, as in a circle, whose central point is indivisible and faces all the parts of the circumference and all of them are somehow present to it, although not to one another.

"An instant, which is a limit of time, is comparable to the point included in a line. It is not present to all parts of time, but in different parts of time different instances are designated. Eternity is something like the point outside a line, like the centre of a circle. Since it is simple and indivisible, it comprehends the whole passage of time and each part of time is equally present to it, although one part of time follows another." (de Rationibus Fidei ad cantorem Antiochenum, 10)

 "Delight, of itself indeed, is not in time: for it regards good already gained, which is, as it were, the term of the movement. But if this good gained be subject to change, the delight therein will be in time accidentally: whereas if it be altogether unchangeable, the delight therein will not be in time, either by reason of itself or accidentally." (S.T. I-II, Q. 31, Art. 2)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Maritain—The Eternal Plan

A brief excerpt from Jacques Maritain’s reflections on God’s eternal plan and the free existents:

“GOD'S PLAN is eternal, as is the creative act itself, though it has its effect in time. God’s plan is established from all eternity. But eternity is not a kind of divine time which precedes time. It is a limitless instant which indivisibly embraces the whole succession of time. All the moments of that succession are physically present on it. If all things are naked and open to the eyes of God it is because they are seen by His divine “science of vision” in their presentness. “To foresee” is an improper word to use when speaking of God. We employ it because we project into His eternity the anteriority (in relation to future events) of the knowledge which we would have of those events if we knew them before they happened. They are known to Him “already,” which is to say, always. He sees them as actually taking place at a given temporal instant which is present in His eternity. All things and all events in nature are known to Him at their first coming forth and in the eternal morning of His vision, because they are willed by Him, beyond all time, in the eternal instant with which their whole succession coexists.

“But when we deal with the world of freedom, and not only with that of nature, when we deal with free existents, creatures endowed with freedom of choice (a freedom inevitably fallible), we must go still farther. We must say that in a certain fashion those creatures have their part in the very establishment of the eternal plan, not, indeed, by virtue of their power to act (here all they have they hold of God) but by virtue of their power to nihilate* to make the thing that is nothing, where they themselves are first causes. Free existents have their part in the establishment of God’s plan, because in establishing that plan, He takes account of their initiatives of nihilating.”

—from Existence and the Existent, Ch. IV. “The Free Existent and the Free Eternal Purposes.”

* The coinages “nihilate” and “nihilation” [are used] to render the French words (also coined) nĂ©anter and nĂ©antement. To “nihilate” does not mean “to give non-being,” which would rather be expressed by the word “negate,” nor does it mean “to deprive of being” or “annihilate.” It signifies simply to abstain from giving being. (from the Translator’s Note)

   ■ at Amazon

Sermon for the Feast of Pentecost

WE should speak about Him without whom no one can speak rightly, about Him who gives speech and gives the power to speak copiously. And indeed, it is impossible to speak rightly without Him. Nor should one marvel at what is said: "Who can know the sense [sensum]" of the truth of God "unless he shall send His Spirit from the Most High?" (Wis. 9:17). Without a feeling [sensu] for the truth, no one speaks what is true. In like manner, the Holy Spirit makes all the saints speak copiously, and for this reason Gregory says: "Those whom He fills, He makes wise." The same thing is manifest today [on Pentecost], when "the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in various tongues" (Acts 2:4). Therefore, even though we are mute, we shall ask that He who gives abundant speech shall give me words to speak.

"Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created." Today Holy Mother Church solemnly celebrates the sending of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles—a sending which the Prophet besought, when moved by the Spirit of prophecy he said: "Send forth Thy spirit and they shall be created, and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth."

—Excerpt from Sermon and Collation of St. Thomas Aquinas for the Feast of Pentecost.

● Read the complete sermon here.

Maritain—"If our humanism has failed..."

"IF our humanism has failed, it is perhaps because it was centered in man alone, and was utilitarian, not heroic; because it tried to relegate death and evil to oblivion, instead of facing them and overcoming them by an ascent of the soul into eternal life; because it trusted in techniques instead of in love, I mean in Gospel love."

~Jacques Maritain: in The Range of Reason.

The rational soul

St. Thomas on the rational soul:

● “God is the life of the soul—as the efficient cause, not the formal cause.”

Disputations Concerning Charity, I.

● “The human soul is the actuality of an organism, which is its instrument—not, however, for every activity, for some activities of the soul surpass the range of the body.”

Disputations Concerning the Soul, 2.

● “The mind is a subsisting form, and is consequently immortal. Aristotle agrees that the mind is divine and perpetual (De Anima, I, 5).”

Disputations Concerning the Soul, 14.

● "Therefore, the spirit in us is that by which we are akin to spiritual substances; but the soul is that through which we are akin to the brutes. Consequently, the spirit is the human mind, namely, the intellect and will. This has led some to assert that there are different souls in us: one which perfects and vivifies the body and is called a soul in the proper sense; another is the spirit, having an intellect by which we understand and a will by which we will. Consequently, those two are called substances rather than souls. But this opinion was condemned in the book, The Dogmas of the Church. Therefore, we must say that the essence of the soul is one and the same, and by its essence it vivifies the body, and by its power, which is called the intellect, it is the principle of understanding eternal things. How this is possible will be clear. For the more perfect a form is, the less its activity depends on matter. Thus the forms of the elements, because they are most imperfect, do not extend beyond matter. Therefore, since the soul is the most noble of forms, it should have an action which altogether transcends the power of matter. That action is called understanding, on which follows its natural inclination, namely, willing." 

Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 4, lect. 2.

The Triumph of St. Thomas Aquinas (west wall), by Andrea da Firenze.
Fresco, 1366-67; Cappellone degli Spagnoli, Santa Maria Novella, Florence.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Adler—Intellect: Mind Over Matter

Recommended reading 
Intellect: Mind Over Matter, by Mortimer J. Adler

A most prevalent myth in our time says that we think with our brains. The truth is rather, we do not think with our brains, but we do not think without them.

In Intellect: Mind Over Matter, Dr. Mortimer J. Adler, in his exceptionally clear and easy to read style, clarifies and answers many questions about the mind. He “argues that in conflict between ancient and modern approaches to the study of mind key insights have been lost that bear on contemporary psychology. According to Adler, the intellectual powers of the human have either been denied or neglected, or they have been reduced to the mind’s sensitive powers—sense-perception, memory, and imagination. With that goes a further reduction of all psychological phenomena to the action of sense-organs and the brain.

“Adler’s thoroughgoing critique of both of the above reductions restores the intellect to its primacy in the understanding of the mind. He explains the intellect’s uniqueness, its immateriality, the role it plays both in our sense-experience and in our knowledge of an independent reality, and how it functions as the source of meaning in our use of language.

“In addition to providing an understanding of the intellect’s cognitive and appetitive powers, Adler discusses our intellectual virtues and vices—our use and misuse of the intellect, as well as the consequences we suffer from its total neglect. It is only by our intellectual powers, Adler affirms, that we transcend matter and live in a world of ideas beyond the reach of the senses.”

To give you some idea of the topics discussed in this book, I have reproduced the table of contents:

I. Basic Issues and Question
1. Coming to Terms
2. Is the Mind Observable?
3. Is Our Intellect Unique
4. Is our Intellect Immaterial?
5. Artificial Intelligence and the Human Intellect
6. Extraterrestrial Intelligence

II. Serious Mistakes
7. About Philosophy in Relation to Common Sense.
8. About What Exists Independently of the Mind (Including a Note About Reality in Relation to Quantum Mechanics)
9. About What the Mind Draws from Experience
10. About How One Realm of Meanings Underlies the Diversity of Languages
11. About How the Plurality of Cultures Springs from the Unity of Mind

III. The Powers of the Intellect
12. The Triad of Powers, Habits, and Acts
13. Cognitive Power and Its Acts: Conception, Judgment, Reasoning
14. Appetitive Power and Its Acts: Willing and Choosing

IV. The Use, Misuse, and Nonuse of the Intellect
15. Intellectual Virtue and Vice: Passions
16. The Neglect of the Intellect: Sloth


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