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[Serious] Thomism: Then & Now
#31
RE: Thomism: Then & Now
They came about because aquinas wanted to synthesize classical pagan philosophy with (then) contemporary christianity. The former had intellectual bona fides, the latter did not.
I am the Infantry. I am my country’s strength in war, her deterrent in peace. I am the heart of the fight… wherever, whenever. I carry America’s faith and honor against her enemies. I am the Queen of Battle. I am what my country expects me to be, the best trained Soldier in the world. In the race for victory, I am swift, determined, and courageous, armed with a fierce will to win. Never will I fail my country’s trust. Always I fight on…through the foe, to the objective, to triumph overall. If necessary, I will fight to my death. By my steadfast courage, I have won more than 200 years of freedom. I yield not to weakness, to hunger, to cowardice, to fatigue, to superior odds, For I am mentally tough, physically strong, and morally straight. I forsake not, my country, my mission, my comrades, my sacred duty. I am relentless. I am always there, now and forever. I AM THE INFANTRY! FOLLOW ME!
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#32
RE: Thomism: Then & Now
(October 12, 2021 at 12:28 pm)The Grand Nudger Wrote: They came about because aquinas wanted to synthesize classical pagan philosophy with (then) contemporary christianity.   The former had intellectual bona fides, the latter did not.

Right, okay. I knew he wanted to square it with philosophy, but hadn't considered your second point.
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#33
RE: Thomism: Then & Now
Yep. You can imagine how it might be a problem for a christian intellectual to feel that there wasn't a solid intellectual footing for christianity. That may have driven him to stretch.
I am the Infantry. I am my country’s strength in war, her deterrent in peace. I am the heart of the fight… wherever, whenever. I carry America’s faith and honor against her enemies. I am the Queen of Battle. I am what my country expects me to be, the best trained Soldier in the world. In the race for victory, I am swift, determined, and courageous, armed with a fierce will to win. Never will I fail my country’s trust. Always I fight on…through the foe, to the objective, to triumph overall. If necessary, I will fight to my death. By my steadfast courage, I have won more than 200 years of freedom. I yield not to weakness, to hunger, to cowardice, to fatigue, to superior odds, For I am mentally tough, physically strong, and morally straight. I forsake not, my country, my mission, my comrades, my sacred duty. I am relentless. I am always there, now and forever. I AM THE INFANTRY! FOLLOW ME!
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#34
RE: Thomism: Then & Now
(October 12, 2021 at 12:12 pm)The Grand Nudger Wrote: ...
All of it fascinating, as a study of a historical character.  We can assume he was a pretty smart cookie, and it's fun to see why he believed the things he did (not about gods, but about these arguments).  It was important to him, he was a student of classical thought and very much wanted the new god to fit the old mold.  It seemed meaningful, at the time, for that to be so.

Yeah, exactly... I think it's fascinating in it's own right if nothing else... and that the actual achievement is very impressive - however right or wrong it is. Just someone's life's work and how it came about.

(October 12, 2021 at 12:38 pm)The Grand Nudger Wrote: Yep.  You can imagine how it might be a problem for a christian intellectual to feel that there wasn't a solid intellectual footing for christianity.  That may have driven him to stretch.

Fair enough. I'm still interested though, and I'm enjoying this newfound interest in classical philosophy. Changing the subject I know but like for instance in my watching I'm up to Aristotle's virtue ethics and find that really appealing, then I looked up your moral realism, and also found that very appealing as an idea... so I'm hoping that in future I might find some sort of synthesis between those two ideas... I don't see why not, they don't seem incompatible. But anyway it's all this that triggered these newfound interests, so I'm happy I went down this line.
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#35
RE: Thomism: Then & Now
(October 11, 2021 at 12:13 pm)HappySkeptic Wrote:
(October 10, 2021 at 12:09 am)Neo-Scholastic Wrote: Isn’t that what order is: being disposed towards a definite end?

Hell no.  There is no definite end.  The universe isn't deterministic.  If started identically 1000 times, it would evolve with subtle difference each time.

Order is simply a set of relationships.  If there is no order, there cannot be structure to existence, as complexity requires relationships to form.  With no relationships, there is no mathematics, no physics, no information, and no intelligence.

I would argue that without relationships, there is no way to even describe existence itself, or distinguish it from non-existence.

@Neo-Scholastic


I think Martha Nussbaum explains very clearly what Aristotle means by his four causes in this interview with Brian Magee. The part where she explains it begins at 27:15 and ends at 30:45... roughly 3 minutes. I think I set the video to start at the moment I'm speaking of, but I suck at that stuff, so you may have to do it manually.

I'm very interested in clearing up this fuzziness between physicists and Aristotle, because, as far as the four causes go, I don't think physicists should have a beef with Aristotle. He just uses his own (by now antiquated) nomenclature to describe nature. But it is in no way at odds with modern physics. Maybe I'm wrong there. I'd like to get HappySkeptic's opinion on things after hearing Nussbaum's take on the four causes.

I'd also like to hear if Neo agrees with Nussbaum's assessment.



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#36
RE: Thomism: Then & Now
(October 12, 2021 at 12:07 pm)emjay Wrote:
(October 12, 2021 at 4:53 am)The Grand Nudger Wrote: And this we call god.  Never quite got there, just tacked some jesus on at the end.  No matter where or what his arguments would lead to, god was always the answer.

Philosophy being the art of learning how to ask good questions, aquinas is instructive as a negative case.  He was very explicitly trying to work backward from a desired conclusion.  It was his life's work as he understood it.  We can probably give him a mulligan for not knowing as much as we do now..but even he knew he'd fudged it a bit.  

If there's an unmoved mover..then there's an unmoved mover..but jesus isn't an unmoved mover.  He's a fabled personal demigod who intervenes in human affairs.  

If caused things must have causes, then caused things have a cause..but, again, a demigod from the ane isn't a cause of anything.  It's a story, caused by human beings...who may well have causes themselves, granted.

Things may be contingent, but the sun isn't contingent on a story about a demigod from the ane.  Nor is the universe..you..me, or the housecat.  Meanwhile, stories about personal demigods from the ane are very much contingent on man.

Most-good beings?  Sorry, jesus is out of the running on principle. What with reason requiring an ability to differentiate between degrees of perfection, and me being reasonable..I'm comfortable positing that there are quite a few degrees between jesus and perfection.

Final causes or ends?  The reason that things behave the way they do?  The universe doesn't behave the way it does because someone told a ghost story 2k years ago even if there is such a thing as a final cause or end.

I suppose we could strike jesus out of all of it, just say god...but...all of the same statements would be true.  Our gods aren't prime movers, first causes, necessary beings, most good beings, or final causes.  If that sort of thing, or collection of things, is what we should be calling a god, what we should understand a god to be, none of ours qualify.  Charitably speaking...which is to say assuming that if he had lived today and had access to textual criticism, comp myth, modern synth, contemporary physics, or contemporary philosophy and was diligent in their application..I don't think he'd have offered any of these arguments.  We would probably expect something more like plantingas modal ontological argument.

From my perspective I'm just interested in understanding the arguments (the Five Ways) on their own terms... because I think you can't really expect to even potentially find an argument compelling, let alone reasonably discuss/debate it, unless you truly understand it on it's own terms, including all its axioms/assumptions, which in this case are coming from classical philosophy. Granted I know that's a large undertaking... understanding that foundation... but I'm in no hurry and I'm finding it very interesting so far. Like I've found a very thorough and interesting playlist of university lectures on ancient philosophy on YouTube, covering all of these subjects (eg Parmenides, Heraclitus, Plato, and Aristotle as per Neo's suggested reading above), and am finding it fascinating to work through, in their own right as well as towards this goal.

But this is just about wanting to truly understand the argument and see if it's compelling on it's own terms, or to put it another way, to see if it's internally and logically consistent/coherent within it's own framework of understanding. Next comes whether, if so, it's also relatable to reality. But then, even if accepting that, the last thing is like you say, and I agree, and I don't think even Aquinas claimed otherwise, the Five Ways themselves even if accepted don't prove any particular god and aren't meant to; that's the purpose of the rest of the Summa Theologica to make the case that the God/entity of the Five Ways is the Christian God. But frankly I'm not even slightly interested in that, and would be very hard to convince on any of that, even if I did end up accepting one or more of the conclusions of the Five Ways. But that's never been what my interest has been here, just the Five Ways themselves and what conclusions can be drawn from them alone.

So as regarding this thread, I just want to see where the arguments go, wherever they go... it's all informative. I don't want to be taking sides... I'm glad to see Neo getting a chance to essentially redo that old debate as well as debate/discuss his favourite subject... just as interested as I am in seeing everybody's objections to it. Basically I'm just  Popcorn ing this thread, not taking part myself because as I said, I don't think my understanding of its underlying framework/assumptions is good enough yet to meaningfully contribute... maybe in the future, I don't know... but for now it's just an interesting thread to read long term... or however long it lasts... while I'm learning about classical philosophy.

The biggest problem with Thomist thinking is that all his arguments necessitate that you start with the proposition "assume the christian god exists". When your whole argument hangs on you first assuming your conclusion is true, then you have no argument.
The great appear great because we are on our knees. Let us rise!
Big James
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#37
RE: Thomism: Then & Now
Did Aquinas start with the conclusion and worked backwards? Sure, maybe he did. Does it matter? Not really. The logical structures of the 5W demonstration are solid so that’s not the issue. The main objection seems to be the typical ending of “…to which everyone gives the name of God.” This doesn’t bother me in the slightest. None of the 5W demonstrations “prove” the fullness of God’s revelation, which would be impossible and unreasonable to expect. Instead, each demonstration deals with a specific divine role such as Creator (1W & 2W), Sustainer (3W for embodiment, 5W for order), or Ultimate Truth (4W for reason and value). With respect to that limited goal, I find the 5W successful.
<insert profound quote here>
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#38
RE: Thomism: Then & Now
Well, it only matters insomuch as we were talking about philosophy being the art of learning how to ask better questions. That's certainly not the way to ask a better question, for reasons that aquinas found out - but should have already known.

Which one of the ways has the power of heart? Wink
I am the Infantry. I am my country’s strength in war, her deterrent in peace. I am the heart of the fight… wherever, whenever. I carry America’s faith and honor against her enemies. I am the Queen of Battle. I am what my country expects me to be, the best trained Soldier in the world. In the race for victory, I am swift, determined, and courageous, armed with a fierce will to win. Never will I fail my country’s trust. Always I fight on…through the foe, to the objective, to triumph overall. If necessary, I will fight to my death. By my steadfast courage, I have won more than 200 years of freedom. I yield not to weakness, to hunger, to cowardice, to fatigue, to superior odds, For I am mentally tough, physically strong, and morally straight. I forsake not, my country, my mission, my comrades, my sacred duty. I am relentless. I am always there, now and forever. I AM THE INFANTRY! FOLLOW ME!
Reply
#39
RE: Thomism: Then & Now
(October 12, 2021 at 2:15 pm)vulcanlogician Wrote: I think Martha Nussbaum explains very clearly what Aristotle means by his four causes in this interview with Brian Magee. The part where she explains it begins at 27:15 and ends at 30:45... roughly 3 minutes. I think I set the video to start at the moment I'm speaking of, but I suck at that stuff, so you may have to do it manually.

I'm very interested in clearing up this fuzziness between physicists and Aristotle, because, as far as the four causes go, I don't think physicists should have a beef with Aristotle. He just uses his own (by now antiquated) nomenclature to describe nature. But it is in no way at odds with modern physics. Maybe I'm wrong there. I'd like to get HappySkeptic's opinion on things after hearing Nussbaum's take on the four causes.

I'd also like to hear if Neo agrees with Nussbaum's assessment.




According to Nussbaum,

Aristotle's 4 types of causes:

material cause - made of a certain material
formal explanation - structure
efficient explanation - environment
final cause - teleological (end).  Purpose and function of living things -- they continue to grow towards their natural condition. 

I'm not sure I find these categories very useful, but I have no problems with them.  As a physicist, the first thing to do is describe the system state.  These include the external forces, and the internal configuration.  In some cases, material properties come into play.

As for final cause - this seems to come about because living things appear to work by different rules.  Of course, Aristotle wouldn't know about DNA, cell differentiation, energy metabolism etc, so describing life as having some built-in purpose or function is a catch-all for his lack of understanding (but it still isn't wrong).
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#40
RE: Thomism: Then & Now
I think teleology is pretty much up in the air in biology, at least as to whether or not it's wrong..it certainly wasn't right as aristotle envisioned. It's not clear that a seed has a purpose, and if it does, that the purpose is to make a tree, rather than another seed.. (or a chair)....or a stinkbug. Similarly, it's not clear that we do things..in order to survive, rather than we survive because we do things. That's the big kicker. Indefinite, ambiguous, and amorphous ends aren't quite what we have in mind when we describe some final purpose or cause. Speaking of, fully understood, there is no final anything for any living structure. We're all a continuation of life, a solid unbroken line.

I still like using the semantics, though, and wouldn't rule it out. It's how I explain plant and animal behavior to kids. Super intuitive and at least workable, if not exactly right.
I am the Infantry. I am my country’s strength in war, her deterrent in peace. I am the heart of the fight… wherever, whenever. I carry America’s faith and honor against her enemies. I am the Queen of Battle. I am what my country expects me to be, the best trained Soldier in the world. In the race for victory, I am swift, determined, and courageous, armed with a fierce will to win. Never will I fail my country’s trust. Always I fight on…through the foe, to the objective, to triumph overall. If necessary, I will fight to my death. By my steadfast courage, I have won more than 200 years of freedom. I yield not to weakness, to hunger, to cowardice, to fatigue, to superior odds, For I am mentally tough, physically strong, and morally straight. I forsake not, my country, my mission, my comrades, my sacred duty. I am relentless. I am always there, now and forever. I AM THE INFANTRY! FOLLOW ME!
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