Damian Thompson asks “Can anything stop Catholic infighting?” in the Catholic Herald. A call to both sides to wake up and smell the incense.
Says things like, “First, liberal Catholics must accept that they’re not going to get women priests or gay marriage. Ever.” And that “traditionalists must stop fantasising that one day the whole Catholic world will return to the ‘timeless’ Latin rituals of the pre-conciliar Church.”
Whatever you think of those, it was his last point that is of general interest.
Finally, the Church needs to face up honestly to people’s fundamental objection to the Catholic faith. It has very little to do with sexual scandals or styles of worship. The problem is that doctrines such as transubstantiation and the Virgin Birth are hard to believe. These teachings are not negotiable — but, at the same time, they are less plausible to modern people than they were to our ancestors, whose imaginations were formed by societies that were naturally receptive to miracles and metaphysics.
It’s my impression non-Christian readers have little trouble believing in the Virgin Birth; or, rather, in believing that a woman who has not had sexual intercourse can give birth. With today’s daily reports of medical marvels and prodigies, human parthenogenesis can’t seem especially amazing.
Of course, that Jesus was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and not from some crude First Century form of IVF, atheists don’t believe by definition. Atheists and agnostics would, or should, acknowledge that if God existed He could very well impregnate whomever He chose; so that saying “I don’t believe in the Virgin Birth” is little different than saying “I don’t believe in God.”
Although I’m sure many scoff (weakly) at the Virgin Birth, my guess is the real sticking point is and always was transubstantiation. From John, Chapter 6:
[Jesus said, “]I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats* my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him…”
Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”…
As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.
That asterisk led to this fun footnote: “Eats: the verb used in these verses is not the classical Greek verb used of human eating, but that of animal eating: ‘munch,’ ‘gnaw.’ This may be part of John’s emphasis on the reality of the flesh and blood of Jesus, but the same verb eventually became the ordinary verb in Greek meaning ‘eat.'”
That a chunk of unleavened, non-gluten-free bread is held up by a priest, some hocus pocus (hoc est corpus meum) is uttered, and God miraculously transforms that bread into the actual flesh of Jesus, and the same for some wine into blood, is what strikes most as preposterous.
Yes, a hard saying. Who can believe it?
When confronted by it the three choices are: leave, like the would-be apostles did; pretend Jesus was kidding and was speaking in a symbolic way, as we moderns do. But if what Jesus said was meant to be symbolic, why did so many run off? Why didn’t Jesus say, “Come on back, guys! I didn’t mean it literally!”?
Of you can believe that the substance of the bread is changed at the level most fundamental, at the level below the quantum, below strings, below every physical thing. It is no longer bread substantially, but the quite literal body of the living God, with only some “accidents” like color and so forth remaining.
Well, substances must exist, as we proved in this series. And since substances must exist, they must be brought about somehow, and that somehow, given these are universals, can only be God.
Again, I don’t think any atheist would object that if God existed, He could certainly change whatever substance He wanted. So we’re really back to the more basic question. Which means I’m not positive Thompson is right. But I’ll let the atheists tell us.
Incidentally, I can hear the jokes already. I answer with another joke. It’s only cannibalism if you’re eating a member of your own species.
If God existed, and if He’s sufficiently powerful, then He could do such a thing.
Cannot see the logical need to all the way to the Planck level, though.
For instance, a Pantheist believes the God is the Universe, so eating anything at all is eating a part of God.
True, true. But Christianity most certainly isn’t pantheism. When you chomp down on a Butterfinger, you’re eating nothing but candy.
Let me reiterate one thing Thompson says: beware the example of the Anglican Communion. Anglicans lived with a sort of uneasy truce for a long time. Big tent style. However those days are gone. At the risk of over simplifying the Church contained 3 main factions: high church Anglo- Catholics, low church evangelicals, and moderates. Insofar as I thought about it growing up I suppose I considered myself a moderate, however now these thirty odd years later I can see I was, and am an Anglo- Catholic. If the Church was in the hands of either ourselves or the evangelicals I believe things would be manageable. However, in Canada and the U.S. It has passed to the moderates. Who are moderate no more but have morphed into progressives. It is, in many ways, little more than a slightly spiritual mirror of secular society in Canada. I grew up believing that one of our ultimate aims was to reunite with Rome…I see very little likelihood of that now…I doubt th leaders of the Church in Canada give it much thought at all, or are actively hostile to it. Anyway my Catholic friends there comes a point where division passes a line beyond which there can be no reconciliation. I fear Anglicanism is there….do not make the same mistakes et bon chance.
“But if what Jesus said was meant to be symbolic, why did so many run off?”
Reformed Christians would say that they were offended by Christ’s teaching of election.
“All that the Father gives to me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37)
Here is a Reformed presentation on John 6 that responds to the Roman Catholic interpretation:
‘Atheists and agnostics would, or should, acknowledge that if God existed He could very well impregnate whomever He chose; so that saying “I don’t believe in the Virgin Birth” is little different than saying “I don’t believe in God.”’
Anyone who knows how to think can see that the above doesn’t make any sense. There is a difference between “could” and “did”. Most of the world’s believers (Jews, Muslims, many non-Catholic Christians, etc.) who believe in an omnipotent God simply see no reason to believe in the virgin birth. Of course they know that God could have done it; there is just no reason to believe that He did.
‘Just no reason to believe’……………Actually, the reasons are all called miracles. And enough of them occurred that people believed. But not all, obviously. Which fulfills another of the prophesies. And explains the need for Hell’s existence.
@ Mr. Briggs: “And since substances must exist, they must be brought about somehow, and that somehow, given these are universals, can only be God.”
False. There is no reason why the universe can’t always have existed and no reason why it can’t be self-contained. Even if it were true, it could only prove the previous existence of something starting the universe, not the existence of the Catholic God or any other god.
As to the main point of this article, what puts me off the Catholic Church in particular is it’s history of child abuse.
“Anyone who knows how to think can see that the above doesn’t make any sense.”
Your objection, while not nonsensical, is pure cavilling. Obviously the virgin birth is a contingent fact (if a fact at all) and does not follow logically from God’s existence, but in the *context of the OP*, the quoted objection to it amounts to disbelieving in God or His power.
John 6:25-58 is not a direct reference to the Lord’s Supper. It actually refers to faith in Jesus as the Bread of Life. Verses 51 and 54 make this clear, since it is only through faith in Christ that we have eternal life.
Damian Thompson sold out to the Novus Ordo worldview (key word: world) a long time ago. He prefers Masses that are entertaining, comforting, welcoming, something he can “relate to” – in short, he prefers to worship himself.
He is also wrong about the sticking point. There are no sticking points in Catholic dogma or doctrine to someone who has the gift of faith, but there seems to be a lot of Catholics these days – including Thompson – who have abandoned or rejected the supernatural prerequisite.
I am reasonably certain that the last supper was symbolic; Jesus gave bread to his disciples, not his fingers. But then, I am not bound to your belief so there is no dishonor in my belief system.
Parthenogenesis produces daughters only. There is no “Y” chromosome present. You can get a woman out of a man’s DNA, but not a man out of a woman’s DNA.
Jesus is the Son of God. If one is going to be literal about his flesh, then I suggest it is obligatory to be literal about his parentage which I find a lot easier to believe than bread turning into meat.
SFT writes “Even if it were true, it could only prove the previous existence of something starting the universe, not the existence of the Catholic God or any other god.”
A semantic quibble. It is just as easy to decide to label that which started the universe “God” and who are you to say that this cannot be so?
Lee Phillips, presuming to speak for the world, writes “Most of the world’s believers who believe in an omnipotent God simply see no reason to believe in the virgin birth. Of course they know that God could have done it; there is just no reason to believe that He did.”
Of course there is a reason: It is what the book says, more or less. What you are less free to do is invent other reasons and expect anyone to believe your invention.
As I remember the story, Mary claimed to have not known a man, she did not disavow knowing a God.
Surely God has the power to transubstantiate. The reason it is difficult to believe that transubstantiation occurs is because when you consume the body and blood, they still taste like bread and wine.
This is already guessed before reading this article, it is why Aquinas, the sunday suppliment, is so necessary to Catholicism.
Invisible ‘quantum magic’ to excuse the nature of the claim. A switching of words and insistence on substance meaning something else rather more special.
An insistence on an ignorance of reality and therefore sanity.
Your own eyes, touch, taste and smell are fooling you!
Everybody knows precisely the nature of what they’re consuming during communion.
“This is my body”
“This is my blood”
“Do this in remembrance of me”
Is what Jesus said.
His sacrifice was once, for all time, on the cross.
The sacrifice of the flesh is not something which must be redone various times a week.
There is no such thing as a mechanical route to heaven which is what this suggests, a quantum mechanical route.
What is interesting is to contemplate just why it matters so much to the Catholic church that this particular part is held to be true…I have many thoughts about that. It is also interesting to consider why it matters to people who don’t believe this. However the reasons will be the same justification, I think.
In class, when our Maths teacher who also taught RE told us about this Catholic belief during a very plain and rather bland explanation of the differences between all the various churches. I could not believe that they did so but also really didn’t think it mattered a jot, so trivial was the moment. In History contemporaneously we were (supposed to be) learning all about medieval fighting and trouble with Catholics and Protestants and other metal clad people.
It never looked, and still does not, look like anything other than worldly politics. Only now I have some ideas about the grappling over divine power that is at the true heart of the split between Catholics and Protestants. Most of it is just tribal and family allegiance and a whole lot of pride with an enormous P.
This description does not do justice to how I think or what I experience about holy communion.
‘slightly off red wine which has been out for a little while, sometimes corked, thin, with a metallic taste or smell from the cup. Goodness…anybody else? Just me.
I know that if I’m wrong God forgives me because I am incapable of believing any different. Furthermore, this comment is no excuse to assume that I do not take the communion seriously. Just the stuff and my mind is elsewhere because otherwise the stuff is too distracting as just described.
Dr. Briggs, in case you were not aware of it, human parthenogenesis happens by accident on very rare occasions. it just doesn’t develop into a fully functional organism, since this form lacks something necessary for full development. Unlike ants, bees and wasps, where the hive is a queen, a drone, and her parthenogenetic sisters, whose sexuality is suppressed by chemical ‘birth control ;p’, for humans, parthenogenetic reproduction isn’t essential. Note that the ant, bee and wasp hives must, by nature, have both forms.
Au contraire, Lee. We most certainly do believe in the virgin birth. It is a miracle that is proof of God. If the virgin birth didn’t happen, then Jesus isn’t who he said he was. If that is true, then the Christian faith is vain.
Human parthenogenesis happens. The miracle is that God made a Second Adam by making the usually accidental and non-viable product of parthenogenesis to be fully functional *and* the willing payment of the First Adam’s sin. Remember, it wasn’t Eve’s sin that was propagated to us. It was Adam’s sin and by lacking the ‘male human’ part, and providing the ‘male God’ part, Jesus fulfilled the prophecy.
I can understand how people hundreds of years ago would have a hard time believing the virgin birth, but in today’s world of in vitro fertilization and other modern medical advances, we could theoretically make ALL births “virgin births” and the deepest atheist skeptic wouldn’t have a problem with it.
As for why Protestant Christians object to Catholicism, it has more to do with the tremendous corruption of the Catholic Church as a corporate organization than anything else. I mean you have a Marxist Pope … you can’t be Marxist and a Christian, let alone head of the whole darn thing. And your Marxist Pope isn’t the most corrupt of all your popes (although to be fair, most of us Protestants liked the previous two Popes).
Oh, and if I am remembering this correctly, transubstantiation is the process of changing the (fundamental) substance of a thing, while transformation is the process of changing the (not fundamental) form of a thing.
What we should note that all multicellular biological life forms undergo transformation. That’s also called growth and development. For the single celled forms, they too undergo transformation, but not nearly to the same extent as the multicellular forms do.
The sacrifice of the flesh is not something which must be redone various times a week. There is no such thing as a mechanical route to heaven which is what this suggests, a quantum mechanical route.
Joy rightly identifies the objection of evangelical Protestants who believe what the Bible says about the sacrifice being done once for all time and that recapitulation is both unnecessary and wrong.
Parthenogenesis produces daughters only. There is no “Y” chromosome present. You can get a woman out of a man’s DNA, but not a man out of a woman’s DNA.
Michael 2 overlooks the fact that the “Y” chromosome is an altered “X.” As long as rare parthenogenesis is happening it’s not so strange to think a single chromosome could be modified at the same time.
Seems like the Eastern Orthodox had much less trouble with this, largely because they did not couch their doctrine in Aristotle’s pseudo-scientific terms.
Trying to explain too much has always been a problem too. It is mystery; if you spend all this time trying to explain mystery, well, you explain mystery away.
You can tell from talking to people that even believers tend to assume that God is bound by space and time, like a person. This is due in part to poor teaching, but also a side effect of just being human- our subjective experience colors our thinking. People even view past and future almost as existent places, and unconsciously further reduce God’s scope. These assumptions are often unexamined, and they make believing in the Eucharist largely impossible. I think even most who purport to believe are really just running off of an emotional attachment rather than actual belief or understanding.
swordfishtrombone: “what puts me off the Catholic Church in particular is it’s history of child abuse”
Interesting. I feel the exact same way about public schools.
But (nearly) everyone believes in transgender! Transgender is an obvious fact. As usual, Matt is wrong, wrong, wrong. Transgender is everywhere. We see it all over the animal and vegetable kingdoms – as Matt could learn if he read any actual scientific research. It’s just a few crazy people who don’t believe in transgender, because they refuse to see it, although it is literally everywhere. Important work in the New Geology is even starting to reveal evidence of transgendered minerals, too. So (as usual) Matt has everything exactly backwards.
Oh, wait. Trans-substantiation. Never mind.
Except that transubstantiation is perhaps THE weakest spot in the entire tottering classic Thomistic edifice. For even Thomists admit that all their premises and their entire logical scaffolding lead (only superficially, they then claim) to the conclusion that transubstantiation is impossible.
Innocent readers need to absorb this: All good Thomists actually admit that, according to their entire philosophical system and premises, the central Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation is impossible.
As one Thomist put it, “After the priest consecrates the bread and wine, their accidents alone remain, without inhering in any substance. They can’t inhere in the bread and wine, for these no longer exist; nor do they inhere in Christ’s body and blood, for they are not his accidents.”
But according to the very foundations of the Thomistic-Aristotelian system, it is impossible for accidents to remain, without inhering in any substance, as every good Thomist will attest.
Now, if I were building a model, and that model absolutely and blatantly contradicted something very, very important that I absolutely knew to be true, I would think twice about retaining that model.
But Thomists, of course, do not do this. They love their model soooo much, it just has to be the best one! So, you want to hear the Thomistic ‘explanation’ at this point? Here it is: “Then, a miracle occurs!”
Yep, that’s really what they say. They say, in effect, “Despite the fact that transubstantiation, the linchpin of the Eucharist, which Eucharist is the source and summit of the Catholic faith, obviously contradicts our entire philosophical premises and logical scaffolding, God can do anything, so He can do this.”
Matt just said the same thing too, though he hid it just a little: “And since substances must exist, they must be brought about somehow, and that somehow, given these are universals, can only be God.”
And I say: fine. Do whatever you want, say whatever you want, ‘prove’ whatever you want. Run through the whole Summa contra gentiles every Sunday, it’s a free country. And you can call it metaphysics, you can call it sublime philosophy, you can call it the greatest thing since sliced bread, you can call it whatever you want.
Just don’t call it fantastic Catholic theology.
Help! This is way off topic but I just had a rather disturbing experience in my, Shanghai, apartment. As I was washing my hands in the kitchen sink, a really long snake slithered along the splashboard, dropped to the floor and disapeared under the cabinet. Payback for mentioning Tyresias in my latest post? In any event, this is a little terrifying. Any herpitoligists out there? This is true, I’m not joking! Still, sorry for introducing a serpent…
@ Michael 2:
“A semantic quibble. It is just as easy to decide to label that which started the universe “God” and who are you to say that this cannot be so?”
The Catholic God has all manner of qualities not necessary for an abstract cause of existence, such as: being all good, having a son, being a ‘being’, being able to intervene in the world, etc.
“Except that transubstantiation is perhaps THE weakest spot in the entire tottering classic Thomistic edifice”.
It may or may not be the “weakest spot in the entire tottering classic Thomistic edifice” but why you are calling out Thomists specifically, as if they are to be carry all the blame, is completely baffling since it is a de fide teaching of the Catholic Church binding on all Catholics. From the Cathecism, part II, section 2, chapter 1, article 3 “The Sacrament of the Eucharist”, among other things:
‘1376 The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: “Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.”204’
“But according to the very foundations of the Thomistic-Aristotelian system, it is impossible for accidents to remain, without inhering in any substance, as every good Thomist will attest.”
This is false, and no Thomist will attest to that (for whatever faults they may have, either individually or collectively, they are not *that* dumb). For example, David Oderberg *explicitly* addresses this objection in his “Real Essentialism”, chapter 7, section 1. Here is the standard Thomistic party-line as told by Oderberg (pgs. 155-156):
“Yet this logical independence – hence metaphysical independence – not only does not contradict real essentialism, but is required by it. For, as I have argued, there is a real distinction between a substance and its accidents, including its properties. A substance is not a bundle of accidents, or identical with any particular privileged accident. Similarly, no accident is identical with any substance – they are really and metaphysically distinct. So it must be possible for them to come apart – not according to the order of nature, however. Natures are essences in operation. By its nature, a substance must have accidents, and accidents require a substance in which to inhere. Not even God could change this, given what substance and accident are. But were He to suspend the operation of nature by miraculous intervention, He could prevent a substance from having any of its accidents, and accidents from having a substance in which to inhere. What He could not change, short of annihilating a substance or an accident, is the very essence of these beings – that a substance has a quiddity by which it is constituted according to genus and species, and that accidents are those forms that require a substance in which they naturally inhere. Transubstantiation violates neither of these metaphysical truths. The accidents of bread and wine are still genuine accidents; they still have a natural requirement for inherence; that is, in the course of nature they exist by being possessed by a substance fitted for them. By their essence, accidents are distinct from substances and have their own reality. But a suspension of the laws of nature (and so of the laws of natures) allows them to exist without their natural correlate, viz. an appropriate substance.
Note, first, that since everything requires a principle of individuation, what God could not do, in my view, is create accidents that never were and
never will be possessed by any substance, because accidents are individuated precisely by the substances that have them. Hence the individuality of the accidents of bread and wine during and after transubstantiation is secured cross-temporally by the substance of the bread and wine that used to exist and in which they used to inhere. (I will say more about cross-temporal individuation in Chapter 10.) Secondly, the real essentialist view of the matter does not involve bare particularism. Bare particularists hold that particulars have nothing intrinsic that constitutes them as belonging to one kind or another. By contrast, were a miracle to deprive a substance of its natural accidents, the substance would still have an intrinsic essence – it would still belong intrinsically, by virtue of its constitution, to one kind or another. So, too, during and after transubstantiation, Christ remains God and is distinguished from all His creatures by His very essence. No bare particularist would allow that. I conclude that although God could not create a grin that never belonged and never will belong to any cat, still, by direct intervention in nature and suspension of its operation, He could deprive a grin of its cat. Prejudice against the very possibility of a miracle aside, scientific essentialists such as Ellis have to demonstrate exactly what ontological principle is violated by such a thought.”
“They love their model soooo much, it just has to be the best one! So, you want to hear the Thomistic ‘explanation’ at this point? Here it is: “Then, a miracle occurs!””
Once again there is nothing specifically Thomistic about saying this; it is standard Catholic doctrine that says, rightly or wrongly, that “Then, a miracle occurs!”. The above extended quote from Oderberg explains why it is, and must be, a miracle. Why exactly any Catholic should be bothered by this is anyone’s guess.
Two articles on the preparation of bread and wine for the Eucharist. Both very recent.
What, as an (defacto) atheist (de jure agnostic) am I being asked? What part of Catholic doctrine do I find the most difficult to believe?
Is it virgin births, transubstantiation, or something else?
For me the issues are far deeper – the idea that humans are important in this universe; that our actions are worthy of divine notice and record and punishment; that we are in anything’s “image”; that after death we do anything other than rot; that in order to have a mind you have to have some magic external essence imbued into you.
The idea of heaven; and its “hosts” (Prof Briggs will you be doing a series on Thomist Angel analysis once you have finished with Summa Contra the Gentiles?); and eternal life; the idea that there is some evil Devil doing bad works in contrast to God’s good – is he doing God’s will and if not why is our Omnipotency adding in this diabolic addition to our fallibility?
The idea of purgatory and intercession; and being lined up at the end of time and judged, with the only way to get into the right line being to apologise to God for what we have done and bow down to him, the timeless omniscient being external to time who knew everything we would do from before he created a single atom – our fate, position in that line settled not just eons before our birth but supposedly before even the existence of time.
When it comes to the myths of Christ’s life, I’m not sure what I find more unbelievable – virgin births, water to wine, healing the sick, driving out demons, transmutation, the resurrections of Lazarus, Christ, Holy People/saints in Jerusalem, the appearing and disappearing apparition post resurrection described in contradictory fashion by the different gospels and letters.
All of this rests on Biblical authority, something I find bizarre. If there is a God he can do what he wants, but how do we know this old book tells us anything useful about that?
When it comes to Prof. Briggs’ two prime suspects, I have to say transubstantiation dissolves into definitional arguments far beyond evidence – hidden in the atoms of a piece of bread there is the ineffable essence of God, shrugs.
If someone swapped the sacraments with their mundane equivalents is there anyway to find out which is which? Is anyone going to claim eating them provides any hint?
Virgin births – oh goodness? Really? Why would a God need to go through that mucal process? I’m sorry but I can’t take it seriously, but neither can I the idea of angels, devils, heaven, or Mohammed riding a flying horse.
The Catholics seem to try to transmute all this superstition into some pure philosophical essence, ignore its mundane implausibility and pretend the debate can be held on some other plane. I’m afraid I cannot suspend my disbelief.
My understanding is that transubstantiation has been safely removed to the higher plane guaranteed to be away from anything as useful as evidence, while virgin births remain firmly mundane – no penis penetrated, but what happened to Christ’s DNA and Mary’s egg – did he have any, or only half a set with God helpfully intervening to keep the foetus viable, or was there a magically added full set which never touched a Marian egg, or did they divinely merge in utero and hence Christ was only half divine?
This can be debated just like Angels on a pin and is a total waste of time.
There must be a factual answer but it is impossible to know – and hence religions’ reliance on faith.
I am unable to see any of this as being important enough to influence my behaviour or help me find a way to a moral life, but it is interesting to read what others think as I could be wrong, so Prof Briggs: thank you.
“John 6:25-58 is not a direct reference to the Lord’s Supper. It actually refers to faith in Jesus as the Bread of Life. Verses 51 and 54 make this clear, since it is only through faith in Christ that we have eternal life.”
Exactly. What hurts the Church is when these sorts of errors cannot be corrected because of ideas about “tradition” and “authority.”
Referring to grodriguez and “Then: A miracle occurs!”
My problem with this is that the boundary is slippery. You invoke
Miracle only when logic fails, but until then, you invoke logic, or something that looks logical but is hopelessly obfuscated.
I suspect that some objections are of the form “why all this complexity” when the miracle could just as easily have been skip Go, don’t collect $200 and go straight to eternal life.
Another way of puttting it is “swallowing camels while straining at gnats” or is it the other way round?
There’s ample room for intelligent discussion & debate from this posting…
On two basic points made, and one implied:
Implied: Atheists don’t believe the other points, as if atheists are somehow an issue. The entire references to atheists are beyond flimsy arguments, inexcusably ignorant is putting it nicely — many very dedicated Protestants/Protestant denominations also don’t believe the same things, and remain “non-atheist.”
RE: “…Jesus was incarnate of the Holy Spirit … if God existed He could very well impregnate whomever He chose; so that saying “I don’t believe in the Virgin Birth” is little different than saying “I don’t believe in God.”
BAH HUMBUG. There are MANY Protestant faiths that consider and accept the possibility that Mary was not a virgin, but a maiden (unmarried, or, married with all that goes with that but not yet having conceived, etc.) — and still devoid of Original Sin. Yet, they still believe Jesus was divine — so the assertion, “..saying “I don’t believe in the Virgin Birth” is little different than saying “I don’t believe in God.”” is wholly unsupported in actual practice. Denying the virginal status of Mary at Jesus’ conception might violate Catholic doctrine, but not “Christian” belief. There’s a lot of different versions of “Christianity” out there — what is heresy in one “Christianity” isn’t in another.
One reason atheists find the virgin conception so easy to dismiss is that element of the story is just like so many other plot elements of the pagan myths (see Justin Martyr’s First Apology where he documents this in the 1st century; that all the elements of Christianity are fundamentally no different than the plot elements of the pagan myths). The Greek & Roman gods were notorious for cavorting with human women, and generating offspring; nothing at all unusual about that. Hercules, and Remus & Romulus (founders of Rome & sons of a Vestal Virgin and the God Mercury, or maybe Hercules, depending on the version of the story) are example of such unions. Not believing Hercules was divine (or existed), etc. for so so many others is accepted universally now, and rejecting the virgin birth is just the rejection of only one more such example. Arguing the virgin birth was real, in broad historical context, boils down to a case of special pleading.
BTW – Romulus is also an example of a pagan ascension — some versions of the myth say he rose to heaven and became the God Quirinus (others say he was killed by his brother Remus) … that ascension is not much different than Mary ascending bodily to heaven [but she, apparently, stayed human…or maybe not given how the Catholic Church supports prayer directly to her–suggesting she, too, may have acquired divine powers!] (and the betrayal is not much different than Judas v Jesus). Considering that in ancient times people believed one could fly to heaven if one had wings (recall the story of Icarus & Daedalus, which illustrates the belief in what reality was), bodily ascension to a [layered] heaven seemed perfectly plausible. Now we know better and to retain the ancient belief in a bodily ascension one has to contrive an entirely new alternative reality (based on science!!) consisting of a parallel spiritual dimension or whatever because the heaven the ancients believed they could see (stars, etc.) simply wasn’t real.
RE: “…my guess is the real sticking point is and always was transubstantiation.”
Most Protestants reject transubstantiation. And they do so for a variety of reasons — significant among them is that there’s no really compelling Biblical, or apocryphal support for the belief:
The Didache, which the early Church fathers accepted, is considered the earliest known writing. It does mention the Eucharist, but the manner presented is consistent with a blessed meal, not a magically transformed cannibalistic meal.
Paul in Corinthians describes the meetings and church community meals, complaining in this early church that early arrivals were eating all the food, and, some of the poor latecomers were literally starving to death (he says “sleep” in modern translations). These meals were part of the fellowship. The idea to share food to help the poor among them from starving [literally] to death is not consistent with the spiritual significance associated with transubstantiation.
Consider Paul’s remarks in 1 Corinthians 15:
“There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another”
“The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; … it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.”
“If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.”
“I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, … Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed…”
Paul made very clear that the physical body cannot and will not enter heaven…but a changed person will — a spiritual person and spiritual body. (presumably, Mary & her son Jesus are now in heaven in spiritual form)
Luke 22 is considered to have the transubstantiation added by later scribes — the earliest copies exclude the phrase, “that is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 20 Likewise after supper he took the cup, saying, “this cup is the new covenant in my blood that is shed for you.” and it read:
“17 And he took a cup and gave thanks, and he said: “Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18 for I say to you that from now on I will not drink from the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God comes.” 19 And taking bread he gave thanks and broke it and gave it to them saying, “This is my body. 21 But see, the hand of the one who turns me over is with me at the table….””
In the older form, “this is my body” in reference to the bread is easily taken to be a symbolic rather than literal meaning.
If you’re one of those non-Catholic Christians you can easily believe that the bread & wine Jesus shared at the Last Supper was literally His body, or only symbolically His body, but the mass rituals held for the past 2000 yrs are not, literally, His body & blood.
IF Paul is right, that only spiritual beings can enter heaven, and Jesus is there, how can the wine & bread become his “body”? — as a spiritual being he has no body (and his physical Earthly body was transformed)!
As a benchmark, consider the assumption of Mary doctrine; the Church is cryptic about whether she died and her spirit and body, as separate, rose to heaven, or what exactly happened; a death, burial, and presumed transformation & assumption a possibility based on an empty tomb. There’s enough wiggle room there to have accommodated the ancient view that if one could fly one could fly into heaven, bodily, OR, Paul’s view of only a spiritual being being capable of access to heaven.
“My problem with this is that the boundary is slippery. You invoke Miracle only when logic fails, but until then, you invoke logic, or something that looks logical but is hopelessly obfuscated.”
My problem with this is that it is fails to engage with anything I actually said. For example, I never said “logic fails”, much less invoked “Miracle only when logic fails”. The whole point of Oderberg’s quote is to show that there is no contradiction, and thus no “logic fails” anywhere. The second point of the quote is to show that while possible, it is not “according to the order of nature”, the very definition of miraculous — which to repeat myself, is standard Catholic doctrine.
As far as hopelessly obfuscated, well for the ignorant (using the word in its etimological sense, not as an insult) everything sounds “obfuscated”. I would likewise sound hopelessly obfuscated if I tried to explain Gowers dichotomy principle to those unacquainted with Banach space theory. The only cure is to sit down, read through it, and then you will be in a position to rightly judge if the obfuscation is just due to ignorance or is rather from the very incoherence of the doctrine.
Thanks for the links.
RE: “…Christianity most certainly isn’t pantheism.”
Consider: ““Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter” (Mark 3), but then He gives one exception: “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin” (also see Matt 12)
One can, today, observe in numerous Catholic church services the entire congregation standing still during the prayer routine … and then … when the “Holy Spirit” is mentioned … the entire congregation bows its head in unison.
If one can blaspheme the Father and be forgiven, or blaspheme the Son and be forgiven, but if the Holy Spirit and NOT be forgiven, AND, the mere mention of that deity prompts special ritual (indicating something like a “first-among-equals”), how can the Holy Spirit not be a distinct separate entity of a pantheon?
Like so much else of the Jesus story that map to pagan myth-themes, this Trinity bit maps quite well to the Capitoline Triad/Archaic Triad.
If anyone can present a cogent explanation for how & why the Trinity isn’t a pantheon — one that can convince a Muslim (and the above arguments are some they apply to convince their members and potential converts that Christians are full of bunk) — I’m eager to read it.
Such an explanation would likely make a dent in alleviating the current global terrorist situation.
I think I would have to disagree with the statement that the doctrine of the Real Presence is what is causing such inner turmoil and abandonment of the Faith. It is a mystery in the strictest sense of the word which requires God-given faith.
The first well-known denier of the Real Presence was Berengarius of Tours. As we all know, Luther accepted “consubstantiation” — so, the Real Presence in some way — but later Protestants have largely rejected it. There is nothing very new in this error, so I don’t think it has “finally” caught up with the Catholic Church so as to cause a crisis of faith.
For an especially good historical treatment of the continuity and coherence of Catholic teaching on the Holy Eucharist, see the 2-volume set “Textos Eucaristicos Primitivos” by Jesús Solano, published by BAC.
I would say that the real sticking point in regard to Catholicism is the Catholic Church’s claim of infallibility in regard to definitive teaching of faith and morals. I am of the opinion that the enormous changes in the Church since the 1960’s have left the average person in the pew wondering what -cannot- be changed. And if doctrine can be changed, then the Church cannot be infallible. The “It’s-all-good” approach that is found among Catholic laity and clergy, even higher up clergy, is in effect a renunciation of the Church’s unique assurance of infallibility.
It’s an illness that will pass, like all the others. La verdad padece pero no perece, St. Teresa of Avila said. The truth suffers but doesn’t perish.
“For me the issues are far deeper – the idea that humans are important in this universe”
Importance exists only in the mind of a perceiver. Things are not important of themselves but important to you, or to me, or to someone else.
“that our actions are worthy of divine notice”
Having been made in part or whole by devine, then yes, at least a few persons are indeed worthy of devine notice just as you notice the things you make with your hands. Some things work out better than other things.
“and record and punishment”
Various techniques have been tried to motivate persons. I am quite certain that neither God, Jesus or any other holy person is going to be involved in either reward or punishment and yet there cannot be escape from natural consequences. The things I might consider punishment you might consider reward, for instance. Another way of putting it is that we make our own beds and probably prefer the ones we make to ones offered to us by someone else whose idea of a perfect bed may not be all that exciting.
“that after death we do anything other than rot”
I suspect that this may actually be more of a hope since if it turns out that Catholics or Mormons or Muslims are correct, then what?
“that in order to have a mind you have to have some magic external essence imbued into you.”
How can you decide this question? If you have such essence, how can you know it, or know that no such thing exists? There is no test case.
“the idea that there is some evil Devil doing bad works in contrast to God’s good – is he doing God’s will and if not why is our Omnipotency adding in this diabolic addition to our fallibility?”
As I have met one or more members of that cohort I assure you they exist but vary considerably in intellect and purpose some are merely selfish like a cat but others seem to have purpose. It is clear from the story of Job that God allows them to exist and incorporates their existence and activities into his own purposes. They are trying NOT to obey God’s will but just as a smart parent manipulates rebellious children into wiser paths, so too it seems these devils achieve God’s will because of their rebellion not despite it.
“The idea of purgatory and intercession”
That starts to get into sect particularities which in my opinion tend to be somewhat speculative.
“and being lined up at the end of time and judged, with the only way to get into the right line being to apologise to God for what we have done and bow down to him, the timeless omniscient being external to time who knew everything we would do from before he created a single atom – our fate, position in that line settled not just eons before our birth but supposedly before even the existence of time.”
It is a test of character and depending on who you ask, either you were or were not doomed or blessed before you were born.
“When it comes to the myths of Christ’s life, I’m not sure what I find more unbelievable”
Thousands of pages and years of speculation don’t help. Just read the stories and decide for yourself. The important bits, in my opinion, are how we treat each other right now.
“how do we know this old book tells us anything useful about that?”
If it is important for you (not collective you, but you personally) to know then God will arrange for you to know. If not then I suppose you are one of the lucky persons whose purpose in life is to exist and do whatever God already knows (or not) that you are going to do and that’s okay.
“I am unable to see any of this as being important enough to influence my behaviour or help me find a way to a moral life”
There exists in Christianity a concept of sheep knowing their shepherds voice, a way to sort communal sheep back into flocks, one per shepherd. The implication is obvious that sheep (humans) exist that are not in this shepherds flock, or that shepherds flock, and so on.
RE: “Then, a miracle occurs!” (that, in so many words, is the approach used to rationalize so much, like the Trinity).
Here again the Catholic Church has a lesson to teach us. Though sometimes, and often quite unnecessarily, its dogmatic system is in conflict with the exact sciences and with scientific discoveries, it is not disposed to sacrifice a syllable of its teachings. It has rightly recognized that its powers of resistance would be weakened by introducing greater or less doctrinal adaptations to meet the temporary conclusions of science, which in reality are always vacillating. And thus it holds fast to its fixed and established dogmas which alone can give to the whole system the character of a faith. And that is the reason why it stands firmer today than ever before. We may prophesy that, as a fixed pole amid fleeting phenomena, it will continue to attract increasing numbers of people who will be blindly attached to it the more rapid the rhythm of changing phenomena around it.
In other words, the real crime today is not to believe the doctrine of Transubstantiation and the Real Presence; the real crime is to be a triumphalist.
grodriguez writes “obfuscated, well for the ignorant everything sounds obfuscated.”
I disagree. I take your meaning but if every word you must use to explain has private meaning only to initites into a mystery then it seems deliberately obfuscated.
Everything about Jesus seems to suggest that true Christianity is simple; a broken heart and a contrite spirit. It is easily explained in plain words and ordinary human experience.
“I would likewise sound hopelessly obfuscated if I tried to explain Gowers dichotomy principle to those unacquainted with Banach space theory.”
Indeed, and unless their personal lives are affected they wont care to know. Yet here we are straining at gnats again.
“The only cure is to sit down, read through it, and then you will be in a position to rightly judge if the obfuscation is just due to ignorance or is rather from the very incoherence of the doctrine.”
That requires a large commitment of time. Some sense that it might go somewhere is probably needed in advance. Despite these wonderful expositions I seem to be no closer to understanding this secret language; an undercurrent suggesting that words have meanings not obvious. Weasel words comes to.mind. Is the Eucharist the flesh of Jesus? Would a DNA scan of it reveal wheat or human flesh? If wheat (or whatever makes the wafers) then it isn’t Jesus. If it actually becomes Jesus flesh that would make the front page of National Geographic and maybe displace transgender as a worthy topic.
“I take your meaning but if every word you must use to explain has private meaning only to initites into a mystery then it seems deliberately obfuscated.”
This is sheer ridiculous nonsense. Metaphysics of the kind Oderberg does is not a secret gnosis only open to the initiated via some occult rituals, but real philosophy that is open to public scrutiny and analysis.
“That requires a large commitment of time. Some sense that it might go somewhere is probably needed in advance.”
This is a perfectly reasonable position, given that we are finite creatures and choices must be made. You made yours. Just let us not pretend that you have anything of relevance to say about the Eucharist besides some witless, ignorant remarks about wheat and DNA.
“Despite these wonderful expositions I seem to be no closer to understanding this secret language; an undercurrent suggesting that words have meanings not obvious. Weasel words comes to.mind.”
If “Weasel words” comes to your mind, “Moron” comes to mine.
Grodriguez wrote: “The only cure is to sit down, read through it”.
There is something quite Protestant about that which I find thought provoking.
I hope I am sufficiently intelligent to be coached through the biology, physics or engineering to understand how our great advances in understanding have come about, but at the same time know it is in some ways unnecessary as the results work. They have relevance to the real world.
Now Aristotlean and Thomist philosophy has been around a long, long time. Some people are convinced it provides a useful understanding of the world, but the simple fact it hasn’t convinced many, many more people, who have not found it to be useful, makes me doubt its utility. Why hasn’t this world view been more successful if it does express useful truths.
If I sit down and really immerse my self in it (and I have to a certain extent) am I really going to be able to add to this analysis some clinching argument? I doubt it and after such a long time I really question why if this philosophical position is useful it hasn’t been more widely adopted.
Christians have literally used arguments about God hardening unbelievers hearts to justify people’s scepticism. When people start using arguments like that you are well past a reasonable basis for debate.
You are left with people claiming some gnosis which convinces the convinced but leave the rest of us flat and which seems to provide little additional leverage on reality. As abstract philosophy yippee but to use mortal sin and judgement to gain some superiority in the debate is very much begging the question.
How do we know these things are important? I see little reason to see Catholicism and Thomism as morally superior to Calvinism or Daoism and the ideas of Zhuangzi.
But somehow others do. Ah the power of faith and the mystery of its absence.
“Why hasn’t this world view been more successful if it does express useful truths.”
The same can be said about atheism, naturalism, political liberalism, the value of freedom of speech and countless other ideas that enthrall people’s hearts, including your own inchoate idea that truth is somehow decided by popularity.
Which I imagine, means that your whole comment does not even rise to the decency of requiring a refutation.
“pure cavilling […] context of the OP”
I don’t see it. Briggs is saying that if you don’t believe in the virgin birth, then you don’t believe in an omnipotent God, because such a God is able to produce a virgin birth. Not only is this logically incompetent, it’s empirically false, because of the billions of believers in an omnipotent God who don’t believe they have any reason to believe in the virgin birth.
I can’t believe they let you with the snake!
If this is a wind up, well.
If there’s no authority to call
You’ve got to take the kitchen apart and find the thing.
If it’a a crate snake it is absolutely lethal so find out what kind it is.
You can’t (don’t know what time it is) go to sleep with the thing !
That’s worse than my giant spider in the bath.
I’m going to worry about you now.
Try playing the flute or whistling.
Call the policeman and tell him it looked like a bower constrictor.
That’s all my suggestions for now.
I don’t think I’ve claimed truth is based on popularity. My point is simpler: If things work people tend to use them.
But it does help reduce arrogance and pride.
I don’t know I’m right: hence the agnosticism, but you’re right truth isn’t based on popularity, but usefulness tends to spread.
You don’t need to refute what I say rather why not try engaging with it.
Brian I didn’t mean to laugh.
krait snake is black with white stripes and if it bites you’ve got minutes.
Apparently they are in Hong Kong.
The black banded krait might what you saw.
Oh Brian, don’t stay in there until you find the thing.
Joy, it is a conundrum isn’t it. I agree if there is a snake in your apartment caution is a reasonable response.
Brian please be careful.
I wouldn’t want the thing harmed but you are more important than it.
I doubt Shanghai has many humane snake catchers and it may be harmless but sadly it’s probably not worth the risk.
Take care and let us know how you get on.
A Prince of thread derails too. Good job.
The snake is quite real. I only saw it for a few seconds but I’d say it’s around 2 meters long, about the diameter of a garden hose, with green-ish and brown stripes running longitudinally. I did not see a cowl, but cobras don’t always unfurl them. This is the first time I’ve seen it but last year I found a shed skin on the kitchen floor.
Frankly, if it’s non venomous, it’s welcome to stay. I just wish I knew… Maybe I’ll make a jaunt over to the SH zoo.
Brian, jaunts to the zoo! Lock him in first and take the plinths off.
2 metre is a serious snake. Good luck.
These might be helpful on the transubstantiation issue – the Bible is to be understood like any other book; one has to know when to take it literally and figuratively – from the point of view of those who wrote it, and what they used as figures of speech, etc. at the time:
I should also add that the book of Hebrews repeats something like 9 times that Christ was offered once for sin; once for all, and there is no more sacrifice – pretty much nullifies any need for a “sacrifice of the Mass”.
The zoo visit would be to see if, in their snake-house, they’ve got something like mine. The reason I wouldn’t mind a non-venomous snake on board is that I also have rats dropping by for tea.
You see, I live in a 1st floor apartment in a rather un glamorous district of SH (the Sanlin area of Pudong). Over the past year, vast tracts of “slums” have been demolished all around me, all sorts of beasties have been driven forth.
Thrufaithalone: I should also add that the book of Hebrews repeats something like 9 times that Christ was offered once for sin; once for all, and there is no more sacrifice – pretty much nullifies any need for a “sacrifice of the Mass”.
That same book also states the following: “We have an altar, whereof they have no power to eat who serve the tabernacle.”
We (Christians) have an altar (and therefore we have a sacrifice, as that’s what altars are for) whereof they have no power to eat (thus, eating is done from the altar) who serve the tabernacle (the Jewish people who refused belief in Christ).
Saint Paul could not be more clear that what is received by Christians at “the Lord’s supper” is the body and blood of Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:29: “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord.”
How utterly bizarre that a Protestant would think someone could “eateth and drinketh judgment to himself” by eating a mere piece of bread.
The Old Testament prophesied a daily New Testament sacrifice, with a sacrificing priesthood. How does Protestantism fulfill the prophecy of Malachi?
“For from the rising of the sun even to the going down, my name is great among the Gentiles, and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to my name a clean oblation: for my name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord of hosts.”
Even the Protestant rendition of that prophecy cannot possibly be fulfilled by Protestants (KJV):
For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts.
“In every place incense shall be offered unto My name” and “a pure offering.” Fundamentalists, Baptists, Calvinists, et al., offering incense?
The OT prophesied that there will always be a sacrificial priesthood. Protestants deny that such a thing exists; therefore, they would have to assert that that was a failed prophecy. See Jeremiah 33.
17 For thus saith the LORD; David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel; 18 Neither shall the priests the Levites want a man before me to offer burnt offerings, and to kindle meat offerings, and to do sacrifice continually.
The first part of the prophecy states that there will always be someone to sit on David’s throne (fulfilled in the NT, see Luke 1:32.
How was the second part of the prophecy fulfilled?
Actually, the muslims do believe that Jesus was born of a virgin named Mary. Cf. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_in_Islam
About two-thirds of all Christians are either Catholics or Orthodox, and so believe in the virgin birth. So do the Coptic and Syriac churches. So do the mainstream Protestants like the Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, etc. The oldest Creeds — the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed — refer to “born of the Virgin Mary.”
Who are these “many” non-Catholic Christians?
This is not what is actually supposed to happen. So either the commenter fails to understand the issue or is being deliberately deceptive.
Tell it, brother quarles.
Actually, God is not supposed a being among beings, but to be being itself. That is, he is not a member of a genus. cf. https://thomism.wordpress.com/2017/07/28/an-account-of-why-being-is-not-a-genus/
After death, “we” do not rot. A carcass rots. It’s a good example not of transubstantiation but of desubstantiation. The carcass of Joe Blow is no longer Joe Blow, even though it may strongly resemble Joe in most of his accidents. He may as well be bread and wine, but no longer really bread and wine. You can’t hold a conversation with his carcass as you could with him. Even if he never was a very talkative sort. (In a similar way, evolution is a prefigure of transubstantiation.)
I don’t know what’s so magical about it. Or what’s so “external” about it.
I have always wondered if anyone can provide a source for when and where this was debated.
And Orthodox doctrine. And Coptic doctrine. And Syriac doctrine. And Anglican doctrine. And Lutheran doctrine. And Methodist doctrine. And Presbyterian doctrine. And even muslim doctrine!
I suppose that is because there are MANY Protestant sects to begin with and one may likely find one who will preach whatever one pleases. Perhaps Bill and Ted’s Excellent Bible Shack. Can you name some of these MANY Protestant faiths?
Oh, no! Not that again! It’s so easy to make superficial comparisons that evaporate when looked at more closely. All you need are really broad and vague terms so that two entirely different things can be called the same thing, and hey presto! Even actually reading Justin Martyr’s Apologia gives a very different context for what he was actually trying to say than what moder textual critics would have been trying to say with similar words. One ought to read not only chapters 20-22, but also 23-26.
This is why the Orthodox and Catholic churches do not derive their beliefs from the Bible, but from the Holy Traditions. (Recall that the Church existed before the Bible was finalized.)
This is amazing! When was this earlier document discovered, and where?
Because you simply do not understand what you are reading. The context is that Jesus is denouncing those pharasees who ascribed the work of the Spirit in casting out demons to Satan. He calls this an inherently unforgivable blasphemy. More broadly you might take this to mean that it is more important to feed the hungry and shelter the stranger than it is to assert homoousia vs. homoiousia or to assert the filioque. Pharasees might know all the rules and all the arguments, but it’s more important to walk the walk than it is to talk the talk.
a) Because the Modern revolution was focused exclusively on the domination and mastery of nature, not on understanding it. Given the Baconian project of “bringing nature in chains” to Man’s feet to make useful products, it is no surprise if pride of place went to the more narror methodology that promised more profitable results.
b) Aristotelianism had some undesirable side-effects as far as Modern secular thinkers were concerned, and therefore it was discarded, and a series of stop-gap fill-ins were thrown into the empty spots, none of which survived logical coherence. Modern philosophy in one sense never got started, since every philosopher in turn began by demolishing his predecessor’s system and tried to build up a new system from scratch.
c) When it was introduced to the Chinese mandarins by the Jesuits, along with Euclidean geometry and other Western innovations, it caught on like gangbusters; but it was extinguished when the reactionaries executed the native-born adherents and imprisoned the Europeans.
d) In the post-modern age, it has been making something of a comeback with concepts like attractor basins, emergent properties, dark matter, and the like serving as replacements for final causes, formal causes, aether, and so on. Many folks formally deny Aristotelian principles because they have been taught to do so while at the same time employing them tacitly or unwittingly.
Really? You have to ask that? Is “useful” really the object of philosophy?
Of course, it was extremely widespread for a very long time and was the dominant philosophy of the only society to develop a full blown natural philosophy — which seems to be the only criterion of “useful” being permitted by some. (Useful for moral philosophy seems not to be considered. The more useful for moral philosophy, the more likely to be rejected!)
Sure. Epicycles worked fine. The whole Ptolemaic model of the world was in widespread use in the West and Middle East from pagan days into the Early Modern Age. It was far superior to Chinese datong, which was purely arithmetical. They had never invented Euclidean geometry or logic, and still envisioned the world as a flat blanket with China in the middle. The Ptolemaic model endured in widespread use until the discovery of the phases of Venus, which the model could not account for; at which point astronomers abandoned it for the Tychonic model.
This ought to hint that there may be other criteria than “it works” for judging at least scientific models.
@ Ye Olde Statistician:
Your comment is, as always, an illustration of the incredible mental effort necessary to try and sustain a consistent worldview in which god exists.
Take the clash between these two statements:
(On biblical myths being similar to pagan ones) “It’s so easy to make superficial comparisons that evaporate when looked at more closely. All you need are really broad and vague terms so that two entirely different things can be called the same thing, and hey presto!”
(On Aristotelian metaphysics) “In the post-modern age, it has been making something of a comeback with concepts like attractor basins, emergent properties, dark matter, and the like serving as replacements for final causes, formal causes, aether, and so on.”
So, nearly identical myths have only vague similarities, but ‘attractor basins’ and ‘final causes’ are similar? I feel your pain, brother!
Brian (~~~~~~((:)<, or something.)
Rats dropping by for tea!
Hmm. Perhaps you could explain the exact nature of the rat problem and I can change?
Not B'rats? or even the dreaded nasty G'rat?
Yet, I will be the pattern of all patience.
I’m feeling guilty about corrupting this legitimate thread with my pest control problems. As I mentioned, I have a ground floor apartment, in an old building. These critters have a thousand ways to get in.
One thing I’m noticing about this situation is that a mere 24 hours after first seeing the snake (and freaking out) I’m becoming inured to the idea. Isn’t it funny how easily one can adapt to, what is rationally, an unacceptable condition. Perhaps in part, that explains how western civilization has degenerated so badly and so quickly; ” Don’t compromise with rats and serpents!”
Ye Olde Statistician tried to explain: “cdquarles said: if I am remembering this correctly, transubstantiation is the process of changing the (fundamental) substance of a thing, while transformation is the process of changing the (not fundamental) form of a thing. Tell it, brother quarles.”
So the claim is that wheat becomes meat, a change of substance, not form. That is a thing easily tested. But maybe “fundamental substance” isn’t “substance.”
“The carcass of Joe Blow is no longer Joe Blow, even though it may strongly resemble Joe in most of his accidents.”
Presumably the accident that killed him. You seem to have a special meaning for “accident”.
“Even actually reading Justin Martyr’s Apologia gives a very different context for what he was actually trying to say than what moder textual critics would have been trying to say with similar words.”
That seems to happen frequently: “similar words”.
“d) In the post-modern age, it has been making something of a comeback with concepts like attractor basins, emergent properties, dark matter, and the like serving as replacements for final causes, formal causes, aether, and so on.”
Less confusing at any rate.
B’rat, stop it! Was it a RAT or a Siberian hamster called Basil?
‘attractor basins’ and ‘final causes’ are similar?
Actually, the attractor basin, strictly speaking, is the set of all initial states that tend toward the same equilibrium state. It is actually the potential function that is analogous to the final cause. Every system governed by a potential function tends toward an equilibrium state, which may also be thought of as Aristotle’s “rest” state. Folks often suppose this means “motionlessness,” but that is not was the Stagerite actually said. He considered the planets as being at rest because they were in repetitive motion.
OTOH, to claim that, say, Horus “rose from the dead” “just like Jesus” is not the same thing at all. While it may be a simple thing for a god to rise from the dead, and Egyptian mythology is spread across a great many centuries and one may often pick and choose from many different accounts, the general account is that Horus was reassembled by his mother after being dismembered by Set. Nor was he conceived in the same way. Horus was never supposed as a human, nor was his mother Isis, who was also a god. His father Osiris was a late-comer in the Egyptian mythoi, representing political shifts among the nomes. (Horus was the original main god of southern (Upper) Egypt, and became numero uno when the White House conquered the Red House (which is how Set, the main god of the Delta, became a demon). When power shifted from Memphis to Thebes, Osiris was promoted and his power over Horus was demonstrated by making him the father of Horus.
You will search in vain for anything resembling this in the Traditions or the Gospels. When did Osiris live? In which kingdom?
So the claim is that wheat becomes meat, a change of substance, not form. That is a thing easily tested.
Really? How? Everythnig in modern science focuses on accidental forms, such as color, weight, pH, texture, density, etc.
You seem to have a special meaning for “accident”.
If you have been following Dr. Briggs’ on-going presentation of Contra gentiles, you should be already familiar with the concept of accidents vs. essences, as it has been brought up repeatedly.
From Aquinas the Neoplatonist, p. 9 :
Given a multiplicity of the same kind of element, Aristotle thinks nothing need be posited over and above these particulars to account for their unity. Singulars are sufficient explanations of common identity. Along this same line of reasoning, although we have seen Aquinas stress the necessity of exemplar causality prior to individuation, Aristotle on the other hand, seems to say such exemplar causality is superfluous:
“It is evident, then, that the cause in which consists of the Forms, in the sense in which some are accustomed to speak of them, i.e., supposing that they do exist apart from singular things, is useless so far as processes of generation and substances are concerned. Nor will the forms be, for this reason, substances existing by themselves … Hence there is evidently no need to furnish a Form as an exemplar; for men would have searched for Forms especially in sensible things, since these are substances in the highest degree. But the thing which generates is adequate for producing the thing and for causing the form in the matter.”
It may be objected that Aristotle is only talking here about forms as separate entities, and this is true, yet the charge itself of exemplars being superfluous seems to be unqualified. However we can get further insight from other passages where we would at least expect a mention of divine exemplarity if Aristotle really held to such a notion. For example, while we saw Aquinas say the forms of things are eternal in spite of their individual instances, Aristotle says that forms are eternal
only because of the successive generation of individuals. A certain species can partake of the divine “in the only way possible to it”, to wit, by successive generation of the same kind and “success is possible in varying degrees” insofar as the species remains eternal through reproduction.
Again, in the Generation of Animals, Aristotle says it is impossible that the natures of things be eternal in any way other than generation:
“These, then, are the reasons of the generation of animals. For since it is impossible that such a class of things [the nature of such a kind] as animals should be of an eternal nature, therefore that which comes into being is eternal in the only way possible. Now it is impossible for it to be eternal as an individual (though of course the real essence of things is in the individual)- were it such it would be eternal-but it is possible for it as a species. This is why there is always a class of men and animals and plants.”
These are two places where we would expect a mention of exemplarity in the divine mind, but yet there is none. Instead, we are told “the only way possible” these natures are eternal is by successive generation, in other words, always existing in particulars. But lest one object that these are only inferences from silence, one should be aware of another text where Aristotle comes right out and explicitly denies a need for exemplarity, while taking a swing at participation in the process:
“But further all other things cannot come from the Forms in any of the ways that are usually suggested. And to say that they are patterns and the other things share in them is to use empty words and poetical metaphors . For what is it that works looking to the Ideas? And any thing can both be and come into being without being copied from something else, so that, whether Socrates exists or not, a man like Socrates might come to be.”
Additionally, while we saw Aquinas say that the universal is triplex with the primary instance being the
em idea in the divine mind, Aristotle conversely says the universal is either
posterior to the thing or nothing at all
Now ‘animal’ as a universal is nothing real, or is secondary; and we must say the same of any other general predicate.
To this it could be said that Aristotle has only been denying participation in separately existing exemplars not divine ideas, yet these texts do not make that qualification. Moreover, if we connect these; 1) that the species is only eternal by the successive generation of singulars (implying not in a divine mind), 2) that there is no need on the part of individuals to participate in exemplarity, and 3) that the universal is either posterior to a thing or nothing, we have an cumulative unqualified denial of any exemplar forms whatsoever, separate existence or not
Atheists and agnostics would, or should, acknowledge that if God existed He could very well impregnate whomever He chose; so that saying “I don’t believe in the Virgin Birth” is little different than saying “I don’t believe in God.”
Well, yeah. I don’t even get the point here.
Although I’m sure many scoff (weakly) at the Virgin Birth, my guess is the real sticking point is and always was transubstantiation.
Bizarre. Briggs thinks atheists will come around if some obtuse point about transubstantiation is cleared up?
Always entertaining to see YOS continuing his Don Quixotesque quest to prove Aristotle was right all along. It’s fascinating, like some of the more intelligent flat earthers. Keep at it my boy, they might be giants!
Right. Aristotelian forms are not Platonic forms. There was an instructive essay on this point by Pruss at a link that seems to have expired. I must admit I have never seen Thomas characterized as a Neoplatonist before. Neoplatonism returned to vogue only in the Renaissance.
Briggs thinks atheists will come around if some obtuse point about transubstantiation is cleared up?
No, because their objections are not based on logic but on emotional reaction. He only notes that given the proposition:
“If God exists, the virgin birth is possible”
logically entails that:
“The virgin birth is impossible” must mean that “God does not exist.”
M: If P, then Q
m: Not Q
:. Therefore not-P
QED, mod. tol.
Always entertaining to see YOS continuing his Don Quixotesque quest to prove Aristotle was right all along.
About some things; not everything. In certain matters, he was as wrong as natural scientists generally are. But what we often see is that his critics are usually wrong about what is wrong with him. For example: the atomists claimed that their “atoms” were (as the name implies) “unsplittable.” That is, they did not consist of parts. Aristotle, otoh, and his followers contended that matter could be divided indefinitely into what his Latin followers called minima: the smallest amount of matter that could sustain a given form. At that point, further division would result in another form coming to the matter. This is actually more congruent with current understanding, in which water is divided into hydrogen and oxygen, thence into protons and electron, then protons into quarks, and quarks (because they are distinguishable by kinds) must also have parts in the relevant sense. Even electrons, in their guise of wave forms, are extended and therefore have parts, if (pace Heisenberg) they exist at all in an objective sense.
“If God exists, the virgin birth is possible”
Well, no. I’m addressing what Briggs said here: With today’s daily reports of medical marvels and prodigies, human parthenogenesis can’t seem especially amazing.
Seems to be implying it’s possible without God. Maybe I’m wrong but re-read what he wrote. I’ll wait.
God (and by that I mean the Triune God that I know exists but I am in emotional rebellion against) bless you, you are always entertaining.
YOS said, “Right. Aristotelian forms are not Platonic forms. There was an instructive essay on this point by Pruss at a link that seems to have expired. I must admit I have never seen Thomas characterized as a Neoplatonist before. Neoplatonism returned to vogue only in the Renaissance.”
I’m truly asking this (not in the least bit being argumentative) but wasn’t most of early Christian Theology at the time shortly after Christ’s death formed by Neoplatonism? Augustine?
No, because their objections are not based on logic but on emotional reaction.
Ah, Ye Olde Dusty Tome of Apologetics
Seems to be implying [virgin birth is] possible without God.
I think parthenogenesis results in birth of females only. Besides, the major premise remains true.
Trinity follows from a rational Godhead — i.e., one possessing the two movements of intellect and volition. Both the Neoplatonist pagans and the Aristotelian Christians reached the same conclusion on this point.
DJR commented on People’s Fundamental Objection to the Catholic Faith.
“Saint Paul could not be more clear that what is received by Christians at the Lord’s supper is the body and blood of Christ.”
I do not read it that way but it is clear that you do.
“How utterly bizarre that a Protestant would think someone could “eateth and drinketh judgment to himself” by eating a mere piece of bread.”
Is it any less odd to think you can obtain salvation doing the same thing?
“The Old Testament prophesied a daily New Testament sacrifice, with a sacrificing priesthood. How does Protestantism fulfill the prophecy of Malachi?”
No one fulfills it. So far as I know this will take place in the yet-to-be rebuilt temple.
“The OT prophesied that there will always be a sacrificial priesthood. Protestants deny that such a thing exists; therefore, they would have to assert that that was a failed prophecy. See Jeremiah 33.”
It is entirely possible that it is either a failed prophecy, or one that is not yet fulfilled, or the transcription of the prophecy is inaccurate, including different meanings of “sacrifice” which I take to mean the sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
“17 For thus saith the LORD; David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel;”
Perhaps he wants a woman?
” 18 Neither shall the priests the Levites want a man before me to offer burnt offerings, and to kindle meat offerings, and to do sacrifice continually.”
“The first part of the prophecy states that there will always be someone to sit on David’s throne (fulfilled in the NT, see Luke 1:32.”
Not quite. It says what it says; the priests won’t want a man to offer burnt offerings.
No doubt you are aware we can do this for the next thousand years as it has already been done for more years than that.
wasn’t most of early Christian Theology at the time shortly after Christ’s death formed by Neoplatonism? Augustine?
Yes. The strategy of the scholastics was concordism: in what way did smart dudes reach conclusions that were in concord with one another. For example: that Einstein was in concord with Newton; or more recently, that relativity is in concord with quantum mechanics, despite requiring cosmological constants that are orders of magnitude different?
Whereistheevidence, discussing “I don’t believe in the Virgin Birth” is little different than saying I don’t believe in God.”
This would be true IF, and perhaps only if, God is defined as always causing exactly one Virgin Birth per creation cycle. Then, if there is no virgin birth then you clearly do not have a virgin-birthing God. You might have some other kind of God of course. If you have many virgin births then none would be particularly special.
“Briggs thinks atheists will come around if some obtuse point about transubstantiation is cleared up?”
I have only his words (and yours) and I will give you some of mine. A “weak” atheist that simply has not formed a belief, will probably form a belief if given some good reasoning combined with some evidence.
A “strong” atheist is simply a religion of its own, a mirror image, and cannot exist without something to reflect and invert. Those active on the internet are thus anti-Catholics, ant-Lutherans or whatever flavor of religion they know and thus oppose.
An “anti” flavored atheist whose mirror image doesn’t consider transubstantiation (or know or care what it is) will instead make opposition on those points of doctrine that he knows. You can beat them down and new points of opposition will usually, but not always, arise.
Ye Olde Statistician commented on People’s Fundamental Objection to the Catholic Faith.
M2: So the claim is that wheat becomes meat, a change of substance (DNA, chemical composition), not form (shape). That is a thing easily tested.
“Really? How? Everything in modern science focuses on accidental forms, such as color, weight, pH, texture, density, etc.”
Restated in non-Catholic language: Everything in modern science uses measurements of physical properties such as color, weight, pH, texture, density, etc.
Precisely so. DNA testing is now used to measure the purity of ground beef and that it is “cow” and not “pig”. So while you can have “textured vegetable protein” look like meat, and taste vaguely like meat, it is not meat. Since humans have 46 chromosomes and the claim is that it becomes human flesh, one simply tests the wafers for DNA and if it doesn’t have 46 chromosomes it didn’t transubstantiate, or more importantly, if it has the same properties of substance (chemical properties). It’s still just whatever it was.
Since the discussion revolves around teaching Catholic principles to non-Catholics you have got to be able to use plain language that is not “overloaded” (layered) with hidden meanings.
When Jesus turned water into wine the bible says the guests perceived it as wine, very good wine, and I have always taken it that no deception is involved, it really was wine, complete with flavonids, polysaccharides and every other “accident” necessary to wine. It would chemically test as “wine”. It became wine.
“If you have been following Dr. Briggs’ on-going presentation of Contra gentiles, you should be already familiar with the concept of accidents vs. essences, as it has been brought up repeatedly.”
And if you have been following my commentary, you’ll note that I still don’t “get it” when essence isn’t essence, accident isn’t accident, form isn’t form — predates George Orwell by a good bit.
I seem to be a “Conceptualist” — concepts (names) exist only in a human mind. Likely also God’s mind but his mind is not my mind and mine is what I have to work with.
Quotes here on are to writing of William Wallace quoted by YOS:
“We can see this from the ways we speak about the natural objects, and not merely the artifacts, that fall under common observation. We are able to identify most of the animals, plants, and minerals with which we come in contact.”
There is no WE. I am perfectly capable of naming everything I see, but whether I name it the same name you name it is unlikely. That’s why thousands of languages, rather than one, exist.
The name isn’t part of the animal. It is a human invention; a convenience, and sometimes incomprehensible. What about a “platypus” gives it that name? I have no idea. What about “Blue footed booby”? Is there anything about its name that you would know it is a BIRD? Is there an ‘essence’ for bird; is there an ‘essence’ for Blue-footed Booby? Beyond human convenience there is not.
“How, then, may be characterize this natural form in a way that differentiates it from an artifact?”
You cannot, I cannot, neither is it necessary or useful. Is a Blue-footed Booby a natural form or an artifact?
“Obviously the shape of a cow or a giraffe, even seen in silhouette, is a help in identifying it.”
But that is only because some human somewhere decided that the word “giraffe”, but only in the English language, is a label that describes any number of properties; but one of the distinguishing properties is an unusually long neck that can reach considerable heights above that of any other mammal, plant eater. You can add many more properties but the “label” does not require all of these properties. It might be that giraffe has unique color patterns that are by themselves sufficient to identify the species IF you are familiar with enough color patterns to make it a reasonable identification and you can ignore the neck.
“In this respect it resembles the form of an artifact. But the shapes of organisms vary over a wide range from one individual to another, and even in one individual throughout time. This is true despite the fact that the natures underlying the shapes remain the same.”
There are no natures underlying the shapes! Unless of course you think there are in which case the privilege of arguing about it is all yours.
“So as to differentiate shapes and other accidental forms from the type of form that gives unity to a nature”
I would scream at this point but you won’t hear it and my computer doesn’t care. But I can see why a priest has to spend a lifetime to make sense out of this. What is “unity to a nature”? That was a rhetorical question. I fear for my sanity if any of this started to make sense.
I also don’t get non-procedural computer languages (LISP, I think) for doubtless the same reason. I want a computer to DO something; but a non-procedural language does not exist do DO things. I’m not sure why they exist, but whatever it is, its non-procedural!
“Accidental forms may vary in degree, or in presence and absence, without affecting the basic character of the substance.”
I ALMOST get it, and if I read it over and over until my eyes glaze over perhaps I will. Protoplasm exists in a great many forms (animals) without affecting the basic character of protoplasm. And yet the protoplasm of a cow is not exactly the same as the protoplasm of a human. Is there a basic character of ANYTHING? I suggest not of itself; but only as a definer-of-words makes it so.
It is like constellations. Constellations don’t actually exist; it is a human convention and if you traveled in space a considerable distance all Earth-viewed constellations would simply vanish. The stars exist, but not “constellations”. If they don’t exist THERE, they also don’t exist HERE. It is a purely human interpretation to decide that this star and that star have some sort of visual relationship and it is useful for determining seasons and for navigation.
“Were this not so, it would be impossible for us to have universal knowledge of the world of nature, and a fortiori any science of nature.”
Bingo! Give that man a star. There is no universal knowledge. There is what you know, there is what I know, there is even what God knows but I don’t know what He knows and neither do you.
Michael 2 said,
“And if you have been following my commentary, you’ll note that I still don’t “get it” when essence isn’t essence, accident isn’t accident, form isn’t form — predates George Orwell by a good bit.”
“There are no natures underlying the shapes! Unless of course you think there are in which case the privilege of arguing about it is all yours.”
“Bingo! Give that man a star. There is no universal knowledge. There is what you know, there is what I know, there is even what God knows but I don’t know what He knows and neither do you.”
This is Neoplatonism (as I mentioned above) sprinkled with a little Aristotle to be in “concord” with a monotheistic religion. Neither Plato nor Aristotle would recognize what was done to their philosophies.
“And if you have been following my commentary, you’ll note that I still don’t “get it” when essence isn’t essence, accident isn’t accident, form isn’t form — predates George Orwell by a good bit.”
It’s theology, the game of “IT IS and IT ISN’T”. God is simple. And composed of three separate beings that are and are not the same. One of those beings, who is not divisible, also took human form. Or more precisely, became 100% human and 100% divine. He was divine and wasn’t. Was human and wasn’t. Someone will inform me that’s not *quite* right. There’s ever so infinitely subtle a shade of meaning different that’s actually right.
There is nothing to get. It’s a shimmering veil of words that change meaning whenever you try to nail them down. No matter what you try to “get”, it will change the second you try to “get it”.
“This is Neoplatonism (as I mentioned above) sprinkled with a little Aristotle to be in “concord” with a monotheistic religion. Neither Plato nor Aristotle would recognize what was done to their philosophies.”
I like to think they would have a hearty laugh when someone like YOS goes through the whole tired Thomist-Aristotleian routine of causes and efficient causes ad nauseum, and then gets around the being (who is not a being) of Pure Act that merely exists outside of space and time keeping existence in existence but can’t cause “accidents” (please note the definition of “accidents” will come later, in much prose) by saying, “The writer of a story can insert whatever impromptou he pleases” or some such.
So much latin and philosophy and ado about nothing to end with, “Magic!”
I have only his words (and yours) and I will give you some of mine. A “weak” atheist that simply has not formed a belief, will probably form a belief if given some good reasoning combined with some evidence.
A “strong” atheist is simply a religion of its own, a mirror image, and cannot exist without something to reflect and invert. Those active on the internet are thus anti-Catholics, ant-Lutherans or whatever flavor of religion they know and thus oppose.
An “anti” flavored atheist whose mirror image doesn’t consider transubstantiation (or know or care what it is) will instead make opposition on those points of doctrine that he knows. You can beat them down and new points of opposition will usually, but not always, arise.
But Briggs leaves out the rest of 70% of the world or so that aren’t atheists or nones or agnostics that are non-believers in what you or Briggs believe. There are very few actual capital A Atheists and Agnostics in the world. But most of the world doesn’t believe in trans or consubstantiation or virgin birth or whatever flavor of nuttery you believe. They have their whole other catalog of miraculous stuff. They believe the same thing that you do, and I don’t, that miracles and gods and such are possible. But their catalog of Muhammed riding a winged horse is believable in that world, and a virgin birth not.
The rest are of different religions. How does a lifelong strongly religious Muslim fit in? Let’s compare:
A “weak” atheist that simply has not formed a belief – Nope, belief as strong as yours
A “strong” atheist is simply a religion of its own, a mirror image. Yes, exactly, Islam is a whole other story.
An “anti” flavored atheist whose mirror image…
Not sure what you mean here? Like an anti-theist? Somebody that’s against the idea of god?
It’s not “Catholic” language. It’s Aristotelian natural philosophy and was perfectly good paganism well before either the Catholics or the muslims took it up, Late Modern fundamentalist/atheist obsessions with the Vatican notwithstanding.
You are confusing a substance (substantia, ?????) with a bundle of forms. And while it is generally true that in the common course of nature many accidentals travel together, that does not make any of them an essence. or example, the DNA for a dog will normally express itself in four-leggedness; but if a dog loses a leg and becomes three-legged, as did a friend’s dog in childhood, it does not thereby cease to be a dog.
Certainly. In Greek terms, it goes back to the ancient era. The difference between an essential form and an accidental form has been explained and we cannot hold a conversation hostage to your unwillingness to understand the terms. A great many technical subjects are conducted in a vocabulary differing from the colloquial. What do you suppose a “simple” curve might be in algebraic topology?
Sounds more like a nominalist; but have fun.
Bist du wirklich do dick? Are the conventions of English writing so opaque that you are thrown for a loop by the impersonal “we,” familiar to any reader of textbooks?
Of course not. It’s simply a convenience; but the fact is that we recognize it as a kind of animal [or whatever] sufficiently so to give it a name in whatver language we do speak. Versteh? The Choctaw Indians had never seen a horse before the Spaniards (re)introduced them to North America, but they immediately recognized them as a different kind of animal and gave it a name combining “large” and “deer”, so it meant something along the lines of “like-a-deer-only-bigger.” (There were no other odd-toed ungulates in North America for comparison, but they quickly recognized a similarity with an even-toed ungulate.)
It better be useful. Otherwise, you might mistake a mousetrap for something that evolved and fall into Michael Behe’s “irreducible complexity” trap.
So call it a twiga, if you like. Why this hang up on the language being used? The book was written in English. What’s the big deal. Perhaps it has been translated into one more to your liking.
Indeed, so. That’s why Wallace wrote “the shape… is a help in identifying” the thing. Get it? For some very simple things, like triangles, the shape may be all that you need; but for a complex thing there is more to its form than the mere shape.
Actually, a one-semester course in natural philosophy is sufficient. Nothing priestly or theological is required. Pagan Greeks made perfectly good sense of it, even if they didn’t have as good data as we do today. One reason why Wallace’s book is so useful is that he not only held a degree in physics but also in philosophy and in the history of science. So he could look at Aristotelian philosophy of nature from a modern perspective using modern examples.
A moustrap is an artifact. It has no natural unity. Its unity is imposed on it from the outside.
A sand pile is natural, but its parts have no natural unity, in that they do not relate one to the other. Technically, it is a “heap” rather than a “thing.”
A giraffe otoh while composed of a great many cells and particles maintains its integrity as a singular being even though these cells are constantly being shed and new ones being grown and divided. Even limbs or organs may be amputated or lost and the giraffe, though damaged continues to be itself. It has a unity that Behe’s mousetrap and the sand pile lack.
Here’s an example that will illustrate it. The essence (or essential form) of a human being is that of a rational animal; that is, an animal possessing intellect and volition. He may also possess a great many variable accidental forms: height, weight, color, number of fingers and toes, and so on, which “vary in degree, or in presence and absence” from person to person “without affecting the basic essence of the human substance.” This is why no medieval scholastic would ever have made the wretched error of supposing someone with a black skin was not fully a human being.
Oh dear. Well, you may be prepared to chuck natural science onto the ashheap, but I am not. I say that it is possible to know “dog” and not just “Fido” and “Rover” and “Spot.”
bizbab writes “But Briggs leaves out the rest of 70% of the world or so that aren’t atheists or nones or agnostics”
He also leaves out ponies and unicorns and a nearly infinite number of other things. So do I.
“There are very few actual capital A Atheists and Agnostics in the world.”
Maybe, but they are the ones that stand up and are counted. Very likely even fewer have actual personal reason to believe in some sort of God.
“But most of the world doesn’t believe in trans or consubstantiation or virgin birth or whatever flavor of nuttery you believe.”
Most of the world also does not use my brand of digital camera or speak English. Considerably fewer speak Icelandic and yet you might be surprised how important it is in Iceland.
“They believe the same thing that you do, and I don’t, that miracles and gods and such are possible.”
Well of course it is possible. My grandmother brought home some gods from Fiji. the problem is when you start to *define* gods or God, especially if you do so in a way that practically guarantees that your definition cannot exist, while failing to address the one (or many) that exist.
A “straw god” in other words, usually the product of an atheist.
“But their catalog of Muhammed riding a winged horse is believable in that world, and a virgin birth not.”
If you inquire carefully and privately maybe not so many actually believe in winged horses but then again, what does it matter? Just don’t be the only kid on your block to say there is no such thing.
“A weak atheist that simply has not formed a belief – Nope, belief as strong as yours”
Incorrect, but then I’m a humpty dumpty; words mean exactly what I wish them to mean. A weak atheist has no belief regarding the existence of gods; does not deny such things, might not even know about it, probably doesn’t care, doesn’t believe such things either.
An “anti” flavored atheist whose mirror image…
“Not sure what you mean here? Like an anti-theist? Somebody that’s against the idea of god?”
Basically, yes. Someone sure there is no God and is willing to declare it. For instance, a Google search on “there is no god” or “god does not exist” will produce a large number of hits (use the quotes to ensure that you search on the phrase).
This is silly, illogical, irrational to declare the nonexistence of a thing just because you have no experience with something that could be on Alpha Centauri.
That is why “strong” atheists are as religious as anyone, because they are sure of a thing for which no surety can exist *except* in the case of a “straw god” defined in a way that such a thing cannot exist (and yet, there are people that believe in such a thing, and others that believe such a thing does not exist).
A wiser man, in my opinion, is cautious in his declarations of what does and does not exist. The only way to know a thing does not exist is to have searched the entire universe, all hiding places, and only then not finding it can proclaim it does not exist.
However, you can easily declare the non-existence of a God that will on command put a million dollar platinum coin in your hand. Issue the command, check your hand, well that kind of a God does not exist. That’s a good start on describing several millions of Gods that don’t exist.
Ye Olde Statistician, wondering about People’s Fundamental Objection to the Catholic Faith, writes:
“You are confusing a substance (substantia, ?????) with a bundle of forms.”
I am never confused. As with Humpty Dumpty, I mean exactly what I say.
I have no word for “a bundle of forms” so if I wanted to express such a thing that is how I would write it.
Lets see what Wiktionary has to say about “substance”.
substance (plural substances)
1.Physical matter; material. (this is how I use the word and its placement suggests it is also the normal or common meaning)
2.The essential part of anything; the most vital part. (substance of a movie or book)
3.Substantiality; solidity; firmness. “Some textile fabrics have little substance.”
4.Material possessions; estate; property; resources. ?”a man of substance”
5.A form of matter that has constant chemical composition and characteristic properties.
6.Drugs (illegal narcotics) “substance abuse”
As I’ve never encountered “hypostasis” maybe that’s how you are using it.
“And while it is generally true that in the common course of nature many accidentals travel together”
What a strange thing to write. But so long as they are happy traveling together I suppose its not really my concern.
“that does not make any of them an essence. or example, the DNA for a dog will normally express itself in four-leggedness; but if a dog loses a leg and becomes three-legged, as did a friend’s dog in childhood, it does not thereby cease to be a dog.”
To you. As you continue removing parts, at some point it ceases to be a “dog”, maybe even to you.
“we cannot hold a conversation hostage to your unwillingness to understand the terms.”
I see. In order for the world to accept Catholicism, the world must adopt YOUR meanings as otherwise there’s basically no hope of making progress on this front.
“A great many technical subjects are conducted in a vocabulary differing from the colloquial.”
Indeed. Fortunately I have no interest in expanding the art of computer programming to those not interested in it. For the most part (IMO) sciences do not “overload” (overlay) special meanings onto ordinary words, but make new words.
“What do you suppose a simple curve might be in algebraic topology?”
As I do not understand “algebraic topology” I have no answer. In spherical geometry a simple curve obtains from pulling a string tight on the surface of a sphere and then cutting the sphere with a plane whose surface contains the string. The plane will then possess a curve.
“Sounds more like a nominalist; but have fun.”
In fact, I was looking up nominalist and it linked to conceptualist which is more accurate to my way of thinking.
“Bist du wirklich do dick? Are the conventions of English writing so opaque that you are thrown for a loop by the impersonal ‘we,’ familiar to any reader of textbooks?”
I am not thrown for a loop; it is an error to assume the existence of an unspecified “we” that knows something. It is prescriptive in a sense that when I tell you what “we” believe, you’d better believe it too or you are outcast.
“The Choctaw Indians had never seen a horse before the Spaniards (re)introduced them to North America, but they immediately recognized them as a different kind of animal and gave it a name combining large and deer, so it meant something along the lines of like-a-deer-only-bigger.”
Well there you go. The Choctaw invented their own label for it; it is not MY label, they and I are not in the same “we”.
“you might mistake a mousetrap for something that evolved and fall into Michael Behe’s irreducible complexity trap.”
Or I might not concern myself with whether it evolved or was built (usually a combination of these, designs evolve but the device is built) but what it DOES.
“So call it a twiga, if you like. Why this hang up on the language being used?”
Because the topic is exploring fundamental objections to the Catholic faith; and the objectors may well not be familiar with your peculiar language. If a concept cannot be explained in modern language maybe it isn’t really essential for salvation.
This is true, a weakness, of many religions in my opinion. To a born-again Christian “rapture” doesn’t just mean exceptional happiness. It becomes a noun, “THE rapture” with a hidden meaning.
Similarly, when that BAC asks me, “When were you saved?” I now give a somewhat random date and it makes them happy. To me the concept is absurd; the judgment has not happened yet, nobody is saved until God says so.
So people born and raised with this odd language probably see nothing odd about it. It would be better if y’all just stuck with Latin words so people don’t mistake that words you use don’t mean what they think they mean.
“Actually, a one-semester course in natural philosophy is sufficient.”
I appreciate the warning. Sociology was bad enough and a required course.
Can you really cover all the competing theories and philosophies in one semester? Who is correct? Which theory is correct?
“A moustrap is an artifact. It has no natural unity. Its unity is imposed on it from the outside.”
See? That makes absolutely no sense. Why not just say it is a made thing in a factory in Shanghai?
“A sand pile is natural, but its parts have no natural unity”
Well, okay, I’ll try to remember that. It’s got to be useful for something.
“Here’s an example that will illustrate it. The essence (or essential form) of a human being is that of a rational animal”
That is a good definition; but it is one you have either created or adopted from someone else who created it (or adopted it from someone else who created it). In someone else’s definition, a Human being might be something else entirely.
As it becomes likely that dolphins may be rational, are they human? Some will say yes (my mother believes cats are human), some will say no.
The Star Trek New Generation explored “human” with the android, eventually deciding he is “human” even though a machine; since you and I are also machines.
A computer is rational but not an animal. So recurse, what is animal? Repeat ad infinitum.
“I say that it is possible to know ‘dog’ and not just ‘Fido’ and ‘Rover’ and ‘Spot.’ “
Universals, in other words, which a conceptualist disavows. Within a group, a “we”, almost-universals can exist; either evolved by consensus or imposed by a magisterium empowered to do exactly that.
Michael 2 said, “Universals, in other words, which a conceptualist disavows.”
You’re in good company. Aristotle disavows them too.
“You’re in good company. Aristotle disavows them too.”
Aristotle definitely does not disavow universals, he is a realist about them. What he disavows is, among other things, a particular conception of them, roughly the Platonic one, that admits of *uninstantianted* universals.
is not an accurate account of what is really the case. I refer to my ebook, “Science versus the Church–‘Truth Cannot Contradict Truth'” and several posts, including
“St John Paul II’s Rapprochement with Science” (see
And with respect to Transubstantiation: 23 years ago, while I while being catechized upon entry into the Church, I had serious doubts about transubstantiation, which I expressed to the wise old priest who was teaching us Catechumens. He asked me, “do you believe in the Resurrection and the Virgin Birth”? I said “Yes, that’s why I’m becoming a Catholic.” He then said “If you believe in those miracles, why not another?” And his answer made a lot of sense to me. (I later found out that, strictly speaking, the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, and Transubstantiation are not considered miracles, since they are articles of faith, dogma.)
When I was myself catechizing prisoners (nothing like a captive audience) in a federal minimum security establishment, I explained transubstantiation as follows. I held up a $20 bill, and said if this bill was a counterfeit, even though it had the same ink, paper, etc. as a genuine $20 bill, would you accept it as real if you knew I had made it? I was trying to teach them the difference between substance and accidents, which I had not found easy to understand myself until I thought of this example. And please, YOS, let me know where my reasoning is faulty in this.
God is simple. And composed of three separate beings
The reason you think this is a problem is you have the second clause wrong. What you suppose are contradictions are your failures to understand the terms and propositions.
If you do not like the Thomistic account of the Trinity, you could always try the Neoplatonist account that Plotinus set forth.
Is that the substance of your argument? Oh, wait. An argument cannot be substantive because it is not comprised of physical matter, right? Of course, the fact that a word has multiple usages implies that it carries different meanings in different contexts, and the meanings employed in chemistry might not be the same as those employed in philosophy. (I have not actually brought up theology as such, but you seem much concerned with it.)
The definition/usage in philosophy goes back at least to your friend Aristotle in The Categories (I.5). (http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/categories.html) As explained by William Wallace:
YOS loves that phrase “predicamental accidents” and plans to use it whenever the opportunity arises, which is disappointingly seldom. But the basic gist is that when we see a big, blue, bouncy ball rolling along, we do not generally say to ourselves, “Self, there goes a bit of blueness rolling along there.”
Blueness is not a thing (not a substance). It only exists in a thing, such as in a wavelength of light or in the aforesaid big, bouncy ball. It is the ball we see rolling along. Blueness is predicated of the ball, but ballness is not predicated of the blue.
Anyway, substance is this equivalent to the Greek ousia and perhaps the English “thing.” A thing has a unity to itself, a compound of matter and form; in Greek: a synolon. (adj, synolisitc; a quo: holisitc). So when we talk about the substance “Michael 2”, we mean not only the matter comprising Michael2 but also that which informs him.
Do you mean to say that to you a three-legged dog is not a dog? What kind of then was that pet my friend had? A new species that poofed into existence by miraculous creation after the car hit him?
Surely. At some point I’m sure the dog will die and it will become a carcass. Or perhaps dinner, depending.
But turn your attention to Dr. Wallace, whose entire material being had turned over physically many times without affecting his unity of being. His parts were constantly being removed through cell loss. As are yours.
As long as you don’t start confusing “blond hair and blue eyes” with “human being” simply because you don’t recognize essences (human being) only (measurable) accidents (blond hair and blue eyes)
a) They’re not “my” meanings, but the meanings used by Aristotelian scholastics for centuries. It’s not too difficult to find out by research, but you may have to read books.
b) I don’t care if you accept Catholicism or not. But if you are going to reject an argument or principle, you really ought to reject the actual argument or principle and not something else to which you have assigned some colloquial usage based on new vocabulary. I am reminded of those who reject evolution by citing bogus versions of natural selection based on colloquial usages of scientific terms.
Perhaps if those not interested in it spent their time distorting and bad-mouthing computer programming you might feel a slight urge to do at least explain what they have misunderstood.
Like “strings”? Or “applications”? Or by taking fine old philosophical terms like “substance,” “species,” “genus,” and so on, and giving them new specialized meanings within science?
@ Ye Olde Statistician:
“Actually, the attractor basin, strictly speaking…”
“OTOH, to claim that, say, Horus “rose from the dead” “just like Jesus” is not the same thing at all.”
Stop cheating by picking an example you can easily defend. Try comparing the Epic of Gilgamesh flood with the Biblical one.
YOS said, “a) They’re not “my” meanings, but the meanings used by Aristotelian scholastics for centuries. It’s not too difficult to find out by research, but you may have to read books.
b) I don’t care if you accept Catholicism or not. But if you are going to reject an argument or principle, you really ought to reject the actual argument or principle and not something else to which you have assigned some colloquial usage based on new vocabulary. ”
Do you predicate being a Christian on the acceptance of Scholasticism?
Try comparing the Epic of Gilgamesh flood with the Biblical one.
The relevant tablet is #XI, a translation found here:
The original text is believed to be Sumerian, but the oldest actual surviving texts are much later, the most complete one being from the Assyrian archives. The undoubtedly Sumerian stories in the epic do not mention Gilgamesh at all! There seem to be an admixture of Babylonian and later tales; the whole being smoothed over by an editor. The flood story (Tablet XI) interrupts the flow of the discussion between Gilgamesh and Atrahasis (aka Utnapishtim) and may be a later addition to the text, that possibly came from the Epic of Atrahasis. (It is his story after all, which he tells to Gilgamesh.) The early origin of the stories is indicated by the fact that Enlil and other gods have pride of place rather than the Babylonian Marduq; so even if the text is Babylonian, the Babylonians are re-telling a Sumerian story.
The ancient Khapiru originated archeologically (and Biblically) in the region around Ur, as nomads living in the interstices among the Sumerian and Semitic pueblos. If there was a humongous primeval flood in the Sea Lands — say a meteor strike in the Persian Gulf — that inundated the Valley with both rain and tsunami, it would be no surprise if everyone living there — Sumerian, Akkadian, Khapiru, et al. — came away with an end-of-the-world flood story.
The Khapiru (whom we may as well call Hebrews) moved with the rest of the Amorite Volkerwanderung around the Fertile Crescent carrying the Flood narrative with them to Babylon, Asshur, Niniveh, Mari, and into Syria and Canaan, roughly the route traveled by Abram, and dropping it off in localized versions all along the way in both Eastern and Western Amorite versions. The Akkadian version differs from the Sumerian version, the Babylonian from the Akkadian, and so on.
The existence of so many narratives may be taken as evidence that there really was such a flood. It may not have been the Whole World, but it was near enough too it when the entire known civilized world was in a small pocket at the mouth of the Tigris-Euphrates, an area that remains mostly underwater to this day, and is the home of the “Marsh Arabs.”
When you read the actual text of the standard Gilgamesh Tablet XI, it’s hard to see that it’s the same story as the Biblical narrative of Noah, beyond using the old Flood narrative as a background. In one, the gods decide for no particular reason to wipe out humanity; in the other, God punishes humanity for its violence and murder. In the one, Atrahasis is saved because one of the gods betrays the others by revealing the management decision, but Atrahasis is not singled out for any particular reason cited in the text; in the other Noah is warned because he is a man of moral character. IOW, a narrative of what was otherwise a meaningless catastrophe had been reworked into a moral framework. (It is possible to become too engrossed in the events to miss the story.) Also, Atrahasis and his wife are at the end adopted as gods (which is why he is still around to talk to Gilgamesh) and go off to live beyond the river mouths. Nothing of the sort happens to Noah. When Atrahasis burns a sacrafice to the gods, we read
The gods smelled the savor,
the gods smelled the sweet savor,
and collected like flies over a (sheep) sacrifice.
Which is an interesting way of viewing gods and their relationships to sacrifices. Not one we find in the Noah story.
Likewise, Enlil is outraged when he finds that this one boatload of humans escaped being wiped out and wants to know who tipped him off! This is not how Yahweh reacts to Noah after the Flood.
Other similarities, such as releasing birds to determine the direction to land, was simply standard practice in ancient times for captains out of sight of shore.
So similarities come down to:
a) they are all retellings of the same seminal event, one that made a deep impression on Mesopotamian culture.
b) they are standard practices for the times (releasing birds, sacrifices afterwards)
c) they are literary tropes common to disaster movies down to this day (there is always the one maverick who knows the disaster is coming, tries to warn skeptics, manages to escape with a few friends, etc.)
I didn’t know you were a student of Jacques Derrida!
Now, for an encore, why don’t you deconstruct Confucianism and prove that they are Roman Catholics!
Ye Olde Statistician, commenting on People’s Fundamental Objection to the Catholic Faith, writes:
“Is that the substance of your argument? Oh, wait. An argument cannot be substantive because it is not comprised of physical matter, right?”
Indeed; that is why arguments contain essence, not substance. It is the essence of my argument.
“I have not actually brought up theology as such, but you seem much concerned with it.”
Now THAT was amusing!
“Substance…is the first [Aristotelian] category, and substance is unique in that it exists in itself. The remaining nine categories share in common that they are predicamental accidents and exist in another, that is, not by themselves but in a substance.”
Imagine a world where Jesus obtained the same reverence given to Aristotle.
“Blueness is not a thing (not a substance). It only exists in a thing, such as in a wavelength of light or in the aforesaid big, bouncy ball. It is the ball we see rolling along.”
The reflectance of the ball at various wavelengths is a property of the ball, but “blueness” exists only in a human mind.
“a) They’re not “my” meanings, but the meanings used by Aristotelian scholastics for centuries. It’s not too difficult to find out by research, but you may have to read books.”
It is not clear to me why I should give Aristotle so much as a second glance, or a first.
“b) if you are going to reject an argument or principle, you really ought to reject the actual argument or principle and not something else to which you have assigned some colloquial usage based on new vocabulary.”
To actually reject a claim it must be understood. Where a claim is merely incomprehensible it didn’t go in. “Not accepted” is a more accurate description of the process and “Not understood” is better.
“Perhaps if those not interested in it spent their time distorting and bad-mouthing computer programming you might feel a slight urge to do at least explain what they have misunderstood.”
As it happens, people not interested in computer programming DO spend their time distorting and bad-mouthing computer programming. Labels such as “nerd” are used pejoratively. There’s a bit less of that now that the world’s richest man happens to be one of those nerds.
“Like strings? Or applications? Or by taking fine old philosophical terms like substance, species, genus, and so on, and giving them new specialized meanings within science?”
Bob Kurland writes “I explained transubstantiation as follows. I held up a $20 bill, and said if this bill was a counterfeit, even though it had the same ink, paper, etc. as a genuine $20 bill, would you accept it as real if you knew I had made it? I was trying to teach them the difference between substance and accidents”
As I am beginning to understand, more from Wikipedia than anything written here since y’all cannot seem to leap from ancient languages to modern, “accidents” are what I would call “properties”: What a thing looks like, its chemical properties, weight, color, stuff like that.
Substance is what it *is* and substance, as used in this weird ancient language, cannot itself be detected, seen, measured.
Considerable deception is possible, allowed and maybe encouraged. For instance, the Eucharist *is* a wafer of bread, and its properties correspond with being a wafer of bread. But upon consecration, the *is* becomes the flesh of Jesus, while the properties remain that of a wafer of bread.
Of course, there’s no way to tell what it “is” if the properties are no longer considered a reliable guide. It might actually be a cow but only looks like a wafer of bread.
On another thought I had yesterday; it seems to me that the priest is being given a superior role over that of Jesus Himself if the priest through consecration commands the bread to become the flesh of Jesus and it is so. Jesus did not hand his own body parts to his disciples telling them to eat parts of himself; he could have done that if that was his intention. He gave them bread and it is clear to me that the bread is a metaphor of his imminent sacrifice, they eat in remembrance of Him, they don’t eat HIM.
He is not there. He cannot be commanded by a priest. He *might* be there if He chooses to be there, but that’s not assuredly the case. Fortunately in this shell game there’s no way to tell since the properties (accidents) don’t change.
Now your example of the counterfeit $20 bill is actually a lot closer to Mormonism thinking where authority exists, or not, in the $20 bill. It is indistinguishable from a proper $20 but its provenance, how it came to be, is not proper. The issuing agency has no duty to honor a $20 that it did not issue.
So it is that holy performances appointed by God through men each of whom has an appointment to perform these things is known by God and angels to be proper whereas the exact same performances by someone without that appointment has no virtue.
When Moses lifted up his staff with snakes on it, and the children of Israel needed only to look at it to be healed, it was their obedience that invoked the healing. Had anyone else wrapped snakes on a stick, that would not be obedient to God’s command and it would not have virtue. It isn’t the snakes, or the eucharist wafers, that have virtue; it is obedience and humility that create virtue.
@ Ye Olde Statistician:
Sorry, I didn’t read your reply as it’s far too long, but you didn’t write it for me anyway. See what I mean about the effort needed to sustain a religious worldview?
Michael 2 said, “As I am beginning to understand, more from Wikipedia than anything written here since y’all cannot seem to leap from ancient languages to modern, “accidents” are what I would call “properties”: What a thing looks like, its chemical properties, weight, color, stuff like that.”
Accidents, in this discussion, mean Particulars, as opposed to Universals. An apple orchard has many particular (accident) apple trees, all of them slightly different, and (per Plato) each particular tree corresponds to a pure Form of apple tree which exists in another realm. The idea of that pure Form was embedded into the minds of men prior to birth.
Aristotle rejected the existence of Forms as either exemplars or priors (see the long post of mine above).
Thomas, however, blended both Plato and Aristotle and said that an “apple tree” exists in three places, 1) as a Divine Idea in the mind of God, 2) is a Man’s mind through abstraction and 3) exists in the apple tree itself, through its “participation” with the Divine Idea that exists in God’s mind.
The above is a very rough summary, but it raises the question:
What the heck does any of this Greco-Roman Neoplatonism/Aristotle/Thomas, nonsense have to do with being a Christian? Nowhere in the Bible is there any mention of universals, particulars, forms, substances, efficient and formal causes, exemplars, participation, potential and actual, etc., etc., etc. And how Aristotle’s 47 to 55 “unmoved movers” got ramped to be the all powerful monotheistic Christian God is anyone’s guess.
You don’t have to equate being a Christian with accepting Scholasticism. It’s not one or the other. That they get conflated in the minds of some believers is just sad, and most of the pseudo-scientific attempts to “find God” in supercolliders on this website stems from the failure to separate Religion from Theology. You can not marry such diverse philosophies as listed above without countless contradictions and inconsistencies. Seeing people trying to resolve them makes me better understand why my Puritan ancestors kept chasing the Stuarts off the throne.
Quote from someone called “David Oderberg”:
“Note, first, that since everything requires a principle of individuation, what God could not do, in my view, is create accidents that never were and never will be possessed by any substance, because accidents are individuated precisely by the substances that have them. Hence the individuality of the accidents of bread and wine during and after transubstantiation is secured cross-temporally by the substance of the bread and wine that used to exist and in which they used to inhere.”
Well, that clears that up. Where would we be as a species without this wisdom?
“Well, that clears that up. Where would we be as a species without this wisdom?”
Is there some lesson that should be drawn from the fact that a random internet jackass with a nick lifted from a Tom Wait’s album does not understand a piece of metaphysics?
The topic is “substance,” which is a philosophical term desined by Aristotle. Internet people tend to imagine such things are made up on the spot by the people they are talking to and have not been discussed by fairly smart folks for a great long time. Providing a reference is not the same as giving reverence, although I admit the words sound similar in English. Perhaps that is what misled you.
So does everything else. Kant concluded that the only thing we know is our own thoughts, not the external, objective world, assuming there is one. The great black hole of Modern philosophy sucks us into epistemological idealism.
It was Aristotle and his commentators who made the distinction between the proper and the common sensibles that you are relying on here. He denied perfect objectivity to sensation, holding that the sense object is a mélange of a) a thing in the world and b) the subjective dispositions of the one sensing. That is, proper sensibles (color, sound, etc.) exist in world and are combined with the observer’s subjective disposition. We can say that there’s a difference between the subjective and objective elements of sensation, but we cannot say what the difference between these two elements is. The observer affects the thing observed.
But note that we cannot assign certain wavelengths of light to “blue” without first having had the experience of blue in the senses.
Beside the fact that it provides a more coherent worldview? One reason might be to reduce one’s own ignorance about Aristotelian thought. E.g., regarding the observer effect or the nature of motion. Try reading Heisenberg’s Physics and Philosophy. This article about the epistemic collapse of Modern philosophy is hard work (it’s analytic philosophy) but worth the effort: https://www3.nd.edu/~afreddos/courses/43151/ross-aristotle's-revenge.pdf Then, too, Darwin was quite impressed with the old Stagirite’s work in biology. He didn’t always get things right; but Moderns are often wrong about what he got wrong (relying, e.g. on 19th cent. translations).
Exactly. That requires some work sometimes and cannot always be spoonfed.
But those were perfectly good colloquial terms with perfectly ordinary meanings. Why is it bafflegab for philosophy to retain an original meaning but not for computerists to use a word like “string” for something not made of twine?
W. Edwards Deming once wrote regarding a company that had gone to a computer programmer to solve a statistical problem, “Why ask a computer programmer? Why not ask a dentist?” His point, of course, was that if you want statistical sooth, you ask a statistician, not an amateur. So we might ask the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy rather than Wikipedia; d’ya think? https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/substance/#AriAccSub
That said, not all “properties” are accidents. Some are essential properties and constitute a thing’s substantial form. Of the ten categories, the first is substance and the other are accidents.
This is similar to, but not exactly like the distinction between a noun and its adjectives. (Different languages do not always divide the world into the same categories of thought. In Choctaw, adjectives and verbs are the same parts of speech.) Take the substance Fido. We can predicate “dog” of Fido. (“Fido is a dog.”) “Dog” though it has no material existence is called a secondary substance.
We can also predicate the quality “brown.” (“Fido is brown.”) Even if his fur turned white, he would still remain Fido. It is not essential to his Fido-ness. But “brown” is not a substance, primary or secondary, since brown does not exist except in another. We may see Fido run down the street; but we do not see brown-ness run down the street. It would have to be a brown something.
But we cannot predicate “Fido” of anything else. That is the difference between something that “stands underneath” (sub stans) and what can be predicated about that something.
I never thought of either Latin or Greek as “weird.” Russian, now that was weird. But I understand: a lot of people find that which is outside their immediate circle to be “weird.”
There are all sorts of things that cannot be detected, seen, or measured. Get used to it.
Sorry. Short attention spans and the inability to concentrate is becoming more and more a curse.
Also, that effort was not to sustain a religious worldview but to explain a philosophical system that has become unfamiliar.
Of course not. The Bible is no more a philosophical textbook than it is an astronomy textbook. Why so concerned about what is or is not in the Bible?
Ye Olde Statistician, drifting a bit from People’s Fundamental Objection to the Catholic Faith, writes:
Me: “The reflectance of the ball at various wavelengths is a property of the ball, but blueness exists only in a human mind.”
You: “So does everything else. Kant concluded that the only thing we know is our own thoughts, not the external, objective world, assuming there is one.”
Now you are catching on. Everything exists in a human mind; ergo there is no “substance” existing of itself.
But for practical purposes I accept that “reality” exists and that I am part of it and what seems to be real probably is real, and what seems not to be real probably is not real. Mis-attribution of properties can produce inefficiencies.
“It was Aristotle and his commentators who made the distinction between the proper and the common sensibles that you are relying on here.”
Good for him. Someone has to do it. Other people make other distinctions. But that’s for next week’s discussion.
“The observer affects the thing observed.”
So it seems; a corollary of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle if I remember right.
“But note that we cannot assign certain wavelengths of light to blue without first having had the experience of blue in the senses.”
Sure you can. I suspect blind persons use the word “blue” and even understand it to mean wavelengths in the vicinity of 400 nanometers.
Think of it like infrared or ultraviolet. Normal human beings cannot see either, yet I easily use the words and know what they mean.
The religious implication is that real things exist that cannot be sensed. I have not argued that point since it is demonstrably true; but such things as infrared must still be sensed by something, which in turn is then sensed by a human.
Dark Matter is presumed to exist, but has not been sensed by man or machine. As such, it cannot be known to exist, only surmised to exist, speculated into existence to explain the behavior of galaxies.
“But those were perfectly good colloquial terms with perfectly ordinary meanings. Why is it bafflegab for philosophy to retain an original meaning but not for computerists to use a word like ‘string’ for something not made of twine?”
If I were to title my blog post People’s Objection to the C Language, “strings” would be in the top 10 percent I think.
“A C-string, which consists of an array of characters terminated by the null character ‘\FF’, and which therefore is different from an ordinary array of characters.”
I have inserted a small error into that bafflegab. If you are not initiated into the mysteries of C, you will probably not spot the error. cs.stmarys.ca/~porter/csc/ref/c_cpp_strings.html
But the ultimate in obfuscation is of course the “Obfuscated C contest”
No language obfuscates as well as “C” but ancient philosophers come pretty close.
Where it matters is if you are trying to explain yourself to NON initiates, you use their language, not yours.
Missionaries going to France learn to speak French. Some concepts may be difficult to convey in the host language.
For instance, the word “create” in English tends to mean “ex nihilo”, from nothing; but in other languages (German if I remember right) the equivalent word is more properly taken to be equivalent to form (verb), or mold (verb); to shape material you already have into some new shape. God created (formed, shaped) the Earth; it was already here but “void”.
When I create a work of art, or a sculpture, or even a photograph; the materials already exist but in abstract I give it a new shape and/or purpose, and in doing so “created” something; which in abstract didn’t exist until I formed the materials into a new shape. It is still the same materials.
This probably plays into transubstantiation so it ought not to be so dang difficult to modernize the language and get rid of the bafflegab, but if not, then you’ll just have to accept the existence of Objections to the Catholic Faith.
That which cannot be detected can only be declared and accepted as a matter of belief. Dark Matter for instance.
Hmm, YOS, I never found Russian to be weird. It seemed to be Greek and Latin combined using a modified Greek alphabet, for modern Russian was heavily influenced by French. Chinese writing, though, would be weird. Just sayin’
Oh, that reminds me. I was thinking about ‘that which underlies as a foundation’ the material universe, and it seems to me that what that thing is, is a ‘tensor field’ called Space-time. No Space-time, no energy, no energy, no matter, no matter, no material universe. Now, is Space-time material? /rhetorical
Ah, I thought Aristotle was aware of ‘Schroedinger’s ‘paradox’; since it should be obvious that a system with an observer in it cannot be exactly the same as a system without one.
I have some thoughts about the “Heavens” and I note the plural form. I may be quite wrong about these, but then, I plan to ask God about them one day,
Since when did the word ‘create’ in English mean anything other than its German roots, which is to give a form to a substance and make it Be, since said thing cannot Be otherwise? It takes a being to make a being from some thing that cannot act to become a being of its own nature.
“It takes a being to make a being from some thing that cannot act to become a being of its own nature.”
Special pleading fallacy.
Actually, it is “ergo, there are no actual properties; only what the human mind imagines.” Kant was an idealist. If there are no substances, there is nothing for natural science to study.
Just thought you’d like to give credit to the origin of your thinking. The main difference is that Aristotle was a realist. He did not insist that “Everything exists in a human mind” as you do, but did note that what we perceive of the real world is affected an modified by human perception. This seems rather more sensible that the mystic woo-woo you’re pitching.
Except proper and common sensibles preceded the concept of subjective and objective properties; and Aristotle and his commentators came long before Heisenberg. Note too that Heisenberg is one of the few Late Modern scientists to acknowledge Aristotelian principles.
Why would they even think to call it “blue,” whether blind or not? It’s just a wavelength of light. If it exists. I recall you said that Everything exists in a human mind. That would include wavelengths and light, right?
This is precisely the strategy employed by Aquinas in the Summa. When you cannot know something directly, you may come to know it by its effects. It’s employed by hunters and trackers, police detectives, and sundry others.
And which German word would that be? Remember: in natural languages, words often have multiple usages clustering around a core meaning. This artists are said to “create” even if all they do is arrange pre-existing tropes and characters into new shapes, such as a pseudo-medieval fantasy or a detective story; or to arrange colored oil pastes into various shapes. So one requires the technical meaning in the particular discourse.
Similarly, there are often multiple words in Language B to translate the same word in Language A. Augustine noted this problem in discussing the translation of Greek texts into Latin. There is also the difficulty that there might not even be a word in B that corresponds to a word in A. (There is no word in English that corresponds to German Gemuetlichkeit, for example.) In German, the word for “fact” is die Tatsache, which you can see means “deed-stuff” (Tat+Sache) which is close to the original English meaning of “something done or accomplished.”
So, erstellen or erschaffen might etymologically evoke placing or shaping; but kreieren, verursachen, or hervorrufen would imply a calling forth, or an evocation. Verursachen, z.B., builds on Ur+Sache, which would mean something like “original stuff.” So I would have to know which term German theologians use in discussing creation. I’m sure, since you brought it up, that you know.
The existence of such things are empirically verifiable and stem from various sources, emotional and otherwise. Your contention that “I just don’t get it!” is one such is unsurprising. The same objection can be made to a variety of subject matters. Not everyone has the time, the skills, or the interest to pursue every subject in depth; so at a certain point they simply have to accept the word of trusted teachers.
I’ve been following the discussion between Michael2 and YOS with much interest, learned a lot, but feel I have to interject some quantum theory after M2’s comment:
If I interpret the context correctly, M2 is saying observer affects the measurement whence the uncertainty. In as sense, that’s quite true, and one can in fact set up a Hamiltonian operator representing the measurement act. (not done in Heisenberg’s day but from VonNeumann) However, the uncertainty principle as derived by Heisenberg is independent of measurement and follows from the commutation properties of two canonical variables V1 and V2 . If
V1 V2 – V2 V1 is not equal to zero (the operators don’t commute) then
delta V1 delta V2 is greater than or equal to h/2pi. (I may have forgotten a factor of 1/2), but that’s the essential story. delta V1 delta V2 are expectation values for mean square deviations of the two variables. See, for example,
Ye Olde Statistician commented in response to Michael 2:
[Where I don’t argue a point agreement may be inferred. That’s not always the case but for brevity and to honor the effort you are making I will stipulate that this will generally be the case.]
“Actually, it is “ergo, there are no actual properties; only what the human mind imagines.” Kant was an idealist. If there are no substances, there is nothing for natural science to study.”
That seems reasonable to me until I remember that “substance” isn’t studyable; unless of course “natural science” is the art of studying the not-studyable (which in retrospect might well be what it is, and if not, there ought to be a word for doing just that).
But in the realm of physics, and as I spoke to it earlier, humans detect things either directly through senses or by sensing the output of instruments that are believed to be sensing something a human cannot sense (or in some cases, sense with measured precision even where a human can sense something directly).
Something that no, or few, humans can sense and cannot be sensed by instruments cannot be shown to exist (even though such things may well exist). People are free to believe or disbelieve in a flying spaghetti monster somewhere, or a teapot, or unicorns on a planet orbiting Alpha Centauri, or any other thing claimed but not shown or showable on demand.
Since it is clear to me that God (by at least one description) exists, but not many people know it, I infer that he hides himself from most people and it must be a choice to do so.
“Just thought you’d like to give credit to the origin of your thinking.”
I am the origin of my thinking; but I’ll admit to undoubtedly being influenced by having read many books, none of which is Aristotle but it is probable that some of the authors I have read (Clifford D Simak for instance) is probably familiar with these philosophies and likely wove them into his stories.
I doubt that logical thinking is confined to Aristotle or Thomas Aquinus. I have a particularly logical mind that fits well in my avocation of assembly language and “C” computer programming. My problem with either is not logic; but the language that is hopelessly confusing — it seems you must choose one environment (where a whole repertoire of words have ancient meaning) or the other (same words, modern meanings) but cannot swim in both at the same time.
“This seems rather more sensible that the mystic woo-woo you’re pitching.”
You have a great and subtle sense of humor! Is there anyone here more mystical than you? If you think I am, thank you, for it is nothing to be shamed about.
“Why would they even think to call it blue, whether blind or not? It’s just a wavelength of light. If it exists. I recall you said that Everything exists in a human mind. That would include wavelengths and light, right?”
Awareness of anything that exists is found in a human mind; including the concept of existence (and awareness!). We both have already agreed on this principle. But the things that actually exist are not in the human mind.
But as I have also explained, blind people use English and know that the word “blue” exists and is used in various connotations and even has emotional value. If he used a suitable light meter it could tell him what color something is. I am well familiar with this topic as I am not perfectly sighted for color and in my youth got into arguments with my siblings regarding the color of something. I see color, but apparently not the same way other people see color. Who is “correct”? Well, there isn’t a correct since the color of an object is whatever you see! But if I see it different, and name it different, I am just as correct as you are.
Consequently by the age of 8 I realized that some properties of an object don’t actually reside in the object itself but in a human mind; where your percent may well differ from mine, and there’s not a thing anyone can do about it — more or less. A thing CANNOT be “blue”; it can only be seen to be blue by certain persons with proper illumination. Of course to argue this in the bicycle shop is sure to turn some heads. The bicycle IS blue. Well, no, actually it isn’t anything of itself. We call it a bicycle as a human convention and the color is also agreed upon by a majority of English speaking persons who have decided where Green ends and Blue begins because it is a continuum and you don’t suddenly go from Green to Blue, unless you are a man who names only 7 colors anyway.
“This is precisely the strategy employed by Aquinas in the Summa. When you cannot know something directly, you may come to know it by its effects.”
I have explained the existence of God rather similarly. One of the recent Star Wars movies also explored this concept in some detail; Master Yoda explained to his students to study the orbits of some stars or planets, and they revolved around a gravity but nothing was there, indicating that whatever was there had been removed by the librarian to keep it a secret.
One of my most common arguments is one fish trying to persuade another fish that a thing called “water” exists. Being immersed in it your entire life you are not equipped to notice it; one notices only in contrast. The fish must be removed from water to appreciate water. Humans must be removed from the presence of God to appreciate God; but this works only when they have at some point in their lives enjoyed the presence of God without knowing it. A contrast must exist and that is true for mundane things as well. Camouflage works by reducing or eliminating contrast; you can look right at something and not “see” it because it does not distinguish from its surrounding.
I have thought for decades on how to reveal a God that seems not to want to be revealed; and while the core is hidden, God will be surrounded by people that know him and his spirit, creating “iron filings” that reveal a hidden magnet, an Attractor, and its force lines. Occasionally there are force lines; places of singular attraction but quite invisible to ordinary senses. To approach one of these places stands the hair on my neck but there is absolutely nothing visually distinctive about the place.
Children can sometimes see what I only feel but that’s a whole ‘nother story. I think I might have encountered something as a child about which I have no memory but implanted something that later became a key to these mysteries.
“Remember: in natural languages, words often have multiple usages clustering around a core meaning.”
Yes! We could and probably will spend more time on this; the core meaning can even have vanished from non-use over the years leaving only a cluster of related words to reveal the core that once existed (like a mushroom ring spreading out in a meadow implies the existence of a First Mushroom).
Etymology. One of my earliest pasttimes in the Navy waiting for patrol aircraft to return from patrols. I had a big encyclopedic dictionary and it was particularly strong on etymology of words.
“Similarly, there are often multiple words in Language B to translate the same word in Language A. Augustine noted this problem in discussing the translation of Greek texts into Latin. There is also the difficulty that there might not even be a word in B that corresponds to a word in A.”
And it can happen that choosing different choices still produces a readable translation; but one of them may be correct, the others almost certainly wrong, with no obvious way to know which of these “threads” is correct.
An example is that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter heaven. That’s almost absurd on the face of it but an argument exists that it isn’t “camel” but “kaml”, apparently a Greek word for knot and encountered by fishermen. They have to untie the knot to get it threaded into a fishhook. So it is with the rich man; he has to unburden. This metaphor makes a LOT more sense.
“Cyril of Alexandria claimed that “camel” is a Greek misspelling; that kamêlos (camel) was a written in place of kamilos, meaning “rope” or “cable”.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eye_of_a_needle
Even when a word translates it may simply lack the character of the source language. In Icelandic a very much beloved bird is “Heithloa” (heath or tundra loa). In English, Golden Plover. Well, the Golden Plover is just a big fat sandpiper thing; marvelous that it migrates from Alaska to Hawaii and back but other than that not so special. But in Iceland it is the harbinger of spring, the bringer of spring, and its call carries across the tundra for a very long distance, half a mile perhaps more. At noon on dark winter days the radio station would announce noon by playing the call of the heithloa and cheer up listeners.
“I’m sure, since you brought it up, that you know.”
It was long ago I encountered this but you have provoked my curiosity so now I need to look it up for myself. Older languages weren’t necessarily always correct in capturing the essence of something but the Icelandic sagas, written in the 1100’s, capture quite a lot. I can mostly read Beowulf in its original form and I marvel at how economical of words, yet how richly meaningful were those words, in ancient (well, not as ancient as all that) languages.
Even then they had colloquialisms and so it is possible to completely mistake the meaning of something in a simple transliteration. In the case of Beowulf, exaggeration was a refined art.
“Not everyone has the time, the skills, or the interest to pursue every subject in depth; so at a certain point they simply have to accept the word of trusted teachers.”
Natural skeptics don’t have trusted teachers and in a sense are learning disabled. Ultimately sorting out which teacher is to be trusted requires invisible assistance from the most trusted source of all; the holy spirit, second comforter. But how do you know to trust that spirit? If it is important, he will certify himself in a way that is keyed to something you were born with (in my opinion). Something only God knows, and by showing that he knows it, is God (or a messenger thereof which is a lot more likely). When that key is presented and unlocks a part of your mind, the result, at least in my case, is/was profound. It can sometimes be the spirit of God, sometimes a human person gifted to be trusted by also knowing one or more of your secrets.
An examination of what it meant to “eat” and “drink” might help. We still use these terms when it comes to reading and learning – just like they did then. Jesus wasn’t talking about transubstantiation. “The flesh profits nothing.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41RngpA0jCs