The world against me rages, its fury I disdain;
Though bitter war it wages, its work is all in vain.
My heart from care is free, no trouble troubles me.
Misfortune now is play, and night is bright as day.
--Awake, My Heart, with Gladness (Auf, Auf, Mein Herz, mit Freuden), Paul Gerhardt
Though bitter war it wages, its work is all in vain.
My heart from care is free, no trouble troubles me.
Misfortune now is play, and night is bright as day.
--Awake, My Heart, with Gladness (Auf, Auf, Mein Herz, mit Freuden), Paul Gerhardt
Friday, October 2, 2015
Several theses, combined with some factual statements and rhetorical questions, regarding Christian philosophical / epistemological assumptions based on trust and confidence in the Love and Providence of God, in line with the Scriptures, but also largely able to be realized and adopted by reasonable persons of good will
Introduction to this post can be found here.
Please note the text that appears in black below is not meant to be highlighted. Also, apologies regarding the lack of breaks in the text below.
Theses – set 1 (the proper context, per Christianity):
-“God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.” (I John 4:16)*
*This is truly what it means to start on a high note, rightly praising and exalting love, and strongly exhorting and enticing with the highest and most perfect example. If you talk all day about love being the most precious and most perfect virtue, it is as nothing compared to what John says: “God himself is love.” Accordingly, if you wanted to give a fitting depiction of God, you would have to come up with a picture that is sheer love, as if the divine nature is nothing but a fiery furnace and heat of such a love that fills heaven and earth. Conversely, if you could draw and depict love, you would have to come up with such a picture that would not be artful or human, not even angelic or heavenly, but that would be God himself. (Vol. I, Wittenberg ed., on 1 John)
Luther’s Bible Treasures, Lutheran Press, Minneapolis, 2015
-“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (I John 4:10)
-“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (I Cor. 1:18)
-Language – communication with those who address us or whom we address in order to talk to or about one another, the world, the variety of goals therein, etc. – is from God and is a great gift of His love.
-Operating under the assumption that there is a Divine Being who is responsible for the cosmos, it makes perfect sense to think that this Divine Being would take appropriate measures to clearly communicate with His creatures.
-Communication exists primarily for the sake of love between persons, particularly the Creator and the crown of His creatures, man.
-Johann Gerhard’s statement, “God has communicated his entire self to you. Communicate also your entire self to your neighbor”, is well said.
-While we communicate by a variety of largely non-oral means, God chooses to give us certainty of His gracious presence for us through simple and humble things like His words to us (also bread and wine).
-Not only are appointed ministers of the Gospel told that “he who hears you hears me”, but “if anyone speaks, let him speak the oracles of God”, that is, words, which are “at work in you believers”. (I Thes. 2:13)
-In fact, “The word… is a living and life-giving instrument of the Spirit; it is in and of itself light, life, power, as many, many Scripture passages explicitly and implicitly make clear”. (Wenz, Armin)
-At work in us, words shape and change us, either in the direction of maturity, as God desires, or immaturity, as His enemy the devil desires. It is through language that God reveals Himself to us and calls us by name.*
*Some quotes from non-theologians exploring this more from a simple human perspective:
“Out of a thousand cares, impressions, and influences which surround, flow around, and beset it, a child gradually stakes out its borders as an independent entity. Its first discovery on its own, therefore, is that it is neither world, nor mother or father, nor God, but something else. The first thing that happens to the child--to every person--is that it is spoken to. It is smiled at, entreated, rocked, comforted, punished, given presents, or nourished. It is first a "you" to a powerful being outside itself--above all to its parents. ...Hearing others say that we exist and mean something to them, and that they want something from us, precedes our articulating that we ourselves exist and our articulating what we ourselves are. We develop self-consciousness by receiving commands and by being judged from outside.” (Rosenstock-Huessy 1988: Practical Knowledge of the Soul. Norwich, Vermont: Argo Books, p. 16)
The linguist David Bade comments: “[in] Rosenstock-Huessy's insistence that language is in its origin and [sic?] always the call of one to another, then rather than referring to language as a thing out there he is always referring to a community of speakers teaching us their language that we might make it our own, voices not within our brain but from the world around us who guide us into the world we make together "towards an unknown future." It is the speaking community, not a linguistic system, that teaches us and guides us…
For Rosenstock-Huessy, our language is always a response to a prior call from another: we listen to the past and speak now towards the future. His understanding is also in marked contrast with the "scientific" linguistics of Max Müller who argued that "Languages can be analysed and classified on their own evidence ... without any reference to the individuals, families, clans, tribes, nations or races by whom they are or have been spoken" (Müller 1861: 76; quoted in Harris 2005: 86).” (p. 16, Bade R-H paper)
Rosenstock-Huessy again: "Nature" is an abstraction from the saturated-with-language-world, the world minus speech. "Nature" is the result of a subtraction. It is a misleading word, because it seems innocent, a primordial sound, an "a priori." Yet this is to get everything upside-down for in our actual experience voices call us into life first of all, and water, earth, and windmay concern us only after membership in society and participation in language securely lash us above the abyss of nature. (Rosenstock-Huessy 1962: 43-44)
-More specifically, the key purpose of communication, specifically but not limited to oral language, is that it enables us to share, intelligently navigate, pursue goals in, and enjoy the world and with other persons, present as well as past (i.e. remembering).
-Such is God’s design: all things were created first and foremost for us human beings to inhabit and share together in communion with Him.
-This is not to say that truth in language is unimportant – it is always important, even as technical accuracy is not always needed nor even desirable. To say “the sun rises” today still, post-Galileo, still does not strike us as wrong or in need of adjustment. This holds true for both oral and written communication, for example.
-What is more important – the basis for beneficial communication – is that persons be true, hence acting truly.*
*“true” can also mean good things like being genuine, authentic, sincere, caring, firm in allegiance, loyal, steadfast as well. For example, we speak of true feelings, having a true interest in another’s welfare, or being a true friend. Here, in this sense, it seems to me that “real” could serve as a synonym of true. See http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/true
-Providentially, speech and the written word are especially critical for making clear to human beings what may be known about God, humanity, and God’s creation – as well as knowledge of our salvation: what it means to be justified before God and to live as His people.
-Usually – and sadly – when one hears about how we must articulate the “living reality” of Christian faith and an “organic-historical view” of the same, the real and substantial core of historic Christian proclamation is in the process of being removed.
-As regards the matter of proper interpretation of God’s word, man cannot avoid being an interpreter of what he hears, and yet, by the Spirit, he gladly acknowledges that the criterion of God’s word is not himself but God’s self.*
*For example, these statements from Fowl, in his book “Engaging Scripture”, are problematic: “…theological convictions, ecclesial practices, and communal and social concerns should shape and be shaped by biblical interpretation” and “Biblical interpretation will be the occasion of a complex interaction between the biblical text and the varieties of theological, moral, material, political, and ecclesial concerns that are part of the contexts in which they find themselves.” (60).
As an alternative to this way of putting it, I recommend something like the following:
In the midst of the regular human act of listening (or reading), proper interpretation of the Christian Scriptures in man’s imagination in these last days is a gift of God given by the Holy Spirit, has Christ as its focus, and no longer interprets particular books of the Scriptures in, to some degree, the light of the contemporary circumstances of the church within the world, but now interprets contemporary circumstances in the church within the world primarily in light of the whole of the Scriptures, as the Holy Spirit uses Scripture to interpret Scripture, in line with the legitimate oral tradition bound by the rule of faith (i.e. interpretation is conformed to the articles of faith, the loci, or “seats of doctrine”) and attested to by miracles, i.e. those performed among men by the Triune God
-Passages like Rom. 3:19-20 instruct us that when we hear God’s word it is not the time for us to be emphasizing how we are inevitably interpreters of the words of others (perhaps even testing them against other things we know and are confident are true).
-The “validation” of God’s word is never subject to our evaluation of its truthfulness to any degree whatsoever. Nor is the establishment of God’s word in any degree based on our critical evaluation of it.
-Re: most modern theological hermeneutical approaches: “By principally making the interpretation [of the Christian Scriptures] dependent on an existentialist preunderstanding, which is supposedly “universal” to modern man, the result is not communication with the author of the message. Instead the result is nothing but a monologue with the reader.” (Wenz, Armin)*
*And in the context of an scientifically naturalistic understanding of the world, even infused with some kind of pantheism or soft theism, doing theology from an existential framework is simply a stepping stone towards shifting or adapting “universal” understandings – antithetical to God’s eternal law and gospel.
-As God unfolds the Christian message before us, particularly from the Holy Scriptures (not a “dead letter in need of an external light”*), much can be learned about the specific nature of the world He has created, including the crown of His creation, humanity.
*Because of God’s providence and the personal power of the Holy Spirit who is always ready to speak to mankind, we cannot responsibly say otherwise than that God’s Word is like bread, intrinsically possessing nutritious power that does not depend on whether it is eaten or not (Calov) – this means that the Scriptures as well must always be seen as a spiritual, effective and sacramental power (Wenz, Armin)…
-As regards the Christian Scriptures in particular, “Truths that might not be understandable or plausible, when seen in the light of preunderstanding [i.e. something like Plato’s anamnesis], receive their plausibility when seen in the light of their specific, that is, canonical context.” (Wenz, Armin)
-“It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.” (Mark Twain)
-“…when [the Holy Spirit] comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me…” (John 16: 8, 9)
-“[God] has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30)
-“To join the human race is not merely a consequence of our biological birth; to become human is to answer, to become a language-maker ourselves, an activity that presupposes an interlocutor.” (Bade, David, linguist)
-We have no right to assert when that answering begins or has not begun. We should always error on the side of caution, assuming that it begins, in some real sense, when biological life begins.
-We can responsibly speak about the meaning of the words persons speak to us. For example, “what do you mean by that?”
-Related to this, as regards the idea of “dialectic”, Abelard’s teacher Rosylyn was wrong to insist on what some have called “vocalism”: the idea that dialectic deals with words and not things.
-And yet, in addition to saying “…mean by that?” we also say “What do you mean?”, rightly putting the focus on the person and his intended meaning.* And it is even more important to recognize and understand the persons involved – the wider context of the relationship, and, in fact, the meaning of the relationship.
*“When we answer, we neither repeat merely what the first speaker has said nor do we start in our own language. ... To articulate, then, is a highly complicated act that implies both: identity and variation. Without identifying ourselves with the language as it stands, and as we find it, we cannot say our word, and without varying and deflecting this material in a specific direction that is constituting a new situation created by our own choosing, our entering the ring of the speaking folks would be useless. ... the irresponsible way of using ready-made slogans and judgments in mere repetition without making them ourselves here and now, under our own name, is a vilification of language.” (Rosenstock-Huessy 1970a: 49)….
The linguist David Bade comments again: “Barthes, Harris and Rosenstock-Huessy might all have agreed that the unsponsored language of slogans was politically irresponsible and destructive of human relationships, but Rosenstock-Huessy went so far as to insist that in authentic speech there are not only no repetitions but "Es gibt keine Synonyme. [There are no synonyms.]" (Rosenstock-Huessy 1956-1958: II, 77).”
My note: all interesting thoughts worthy of reflection: but to avoid an infinite regress here, we must assume some common ground somewhere – where we can, in a very real sense, begin to understand one another and the things we choose to speak about because we understand the words that are being used.
-To say this is not to say that the world of non-persons – perceptible but uncommunicative or less communicative objects – is unimportant. It, of course, is critical.
(the following theses, which I am arguing are important for reflective Christians to embrace, deal in part with matters of classical philosophy and epistemology and should largely be able to be realized and adopted by reasonable persons of good will)
-“They love the truth when it enlightens them, they hate it when it accuses them” – St. Augustine
Theses – set 2 (the irretractable human urge to state what is true)
-Despite modern viewpoints which might suggest otherwise, all persons are interested in discovering what is real and true to some degree.
-Again, “They love the truth when it enlightens them, they hate it when it accuses them” – St. Augustine
-First and foremost, this means discovering what is real and true about themselves, other living beings, and their relationships. Who am I? Who are you? Where did we come from? Where are we going? Why are we here? How can we live together in peace? Who is responsible for us? What is the meaning of human language?
The words of Leonard Sussking may resonate with some: “There is a philosophy that says that if something is unobservable – unobservable in principle – it is not part of science. If there is no way to falsify or confirm a hypothesis, it belongs to the realm of metaphysical speculation, together with astrology and spiritualism. By that standard, most of the universe has no scientific reality – it’s just a figment of our imaginations.” (in Curtis White, The Science Delusion, p. 151)
-….but I submit the searching words of the late Christian philosopher Arthur Holmes should really resonate: “Unconvinced that we live a value-free universe, that fact and value are ultimately unrelated, or that we have to create all our own values rather than discovering the good, I wanted to explore the fact-value connection in the larger context of metaphysical and theological views.” (vii, Fact, Value, and God)
-Second, this (all persons are interested in discovering what is real and true to some degree) means discovering what is real and true about the world in which we live – not only as regards the truth about particular circumstances but also as regards larger questions about everything that really exists, and what this means for us as human beings in particular.
-Whatever view of the world a person says that they have, in practice they assume, without fail, that there are some certain aspects about the world/cosmos in general and human nature in particular that remain the same.
-“…even Nietzsche and post-structuralist historians involve themselves in ‘totalizing’ discourse and the formation of meta-narratives…” (Becker, Matthew)
-While this may not immediately be obvious to some, it is indeed a fact, for example, that all colleges and universities – not just private or religious ones – are more or less consciously taking deliberate steps to indoctrinate students into a specific and limited range of acceptable ways of understanding the world.
-“Consistent principles” and “permanent axioms” (whether unreflected-on assumptions or reflected-on presuppositions), particularly about what we call human nature*, also make their ways into all their theories of life in one way or another.
*For example, in both postmodern hermeneutics (“everyday worlds”, “lifeworlds”) and modern hermeneutics (“the existential situation of man”), a “universal human consciousness is presupposed and made normative for interpretation” – the “transcendental subject” (Wenz, Armin). E.g., for Kant, the laws of morality are “freely self-imposed rather than subject to natural causes” because they are founded on the reason of the rational self that
“belongs to a real, supersensible world, rather than the [phenomenal] world of sense and appearance[, which features “natural causality under the laws of nature”]. Freedom of will is thus supersensible, noumenal. On the other hand, we do not know the ground of natural causation; our knowledge of it is merely phenomenal. It is in moral choice and action that the reality of the supersensible world is revealed. For unless such a supersensible world exists, no moral incentive is conceivable; there would be no causal connection between virtue and happiness, and we could not explain pangs of conscience about past actions that could have been avoided.” (Holmes, Arthur, 123)
-Further, to talk about "objective reality" means that at the very least we, being personal subjects, can "subjectively" agree that there are certain aspects of reality (i.e. ideas, things, regularities, etc.) – considered both locally and more broadly, considered both inside and outside our bodies, considered both more particularly and more generally – that neither one of us should try to – and in fact many times cannot – alter by our interpretation and imaginative response to it.*
*And if this is the case, what we debate – based on both the various kinds of evidence that “find us” and that we seek to find – is simply where the lines are on our imperfect “maps” of reality (to use what I think is a good metaphor) – scrupulously created as “objectively” as we feel we can manage – should be drawn and why. We cannot disagree with Plato and insist there are no "joints" to reality whatsoever – that it can be "carved up" in any way we like. In other words, we cannot say that there are no limits to our interpretations of reality or to what our imaginations can construct and build.
-One might embrace the insights and partial truths that were, it seems, arrived at by means of certain philosophical systems without embracing the system as a whole.*
*For example, in order for a person to “[abandon] the old idea that whereas knowledge may make a great deal of difference to the knower, it makes no difference to what is known” or to appreciate/assert with confidence the truths that “[nothing] can be known without involving a knower, and knowledge makes a difference to people’s lives” or that “[Knowledge comes before data and information because] ‘reasoning about the world is based on knowledge of the world, not vice versa’” one need become an adherant of the linguistic school known as integrationism.
-Descartes was simply foolish when he “…declared that all past beliefs, all ideas inherited from family or state, or indoctrinated from infancy onwards by ‘authorities’ (masters, priests) must be cast into doubt, and examined in complete freedom by the individual subject.” (Ferry, Luc)
-In many circumstances, it makes sense to assert, as did Robert McHenry, a former editor of the Encyclopedia Britannnica “What I know if what I have yet to be shown is false”. Or, to say along with Michael Polanyi, “we know more than we can tell”.*
*In other words, some would say that this is contra Aristotle (in his “Posterior Analytics”), who is presumed to say we can only have knowledge of something when we are able to demonstrate it through a valid argument (Prior Analytics)**
**That is, explain why something is the case (and the demonstrative chain explaining the “whys” must, of course, come to an end, with “fundamental principles” laying at the foundation***… and we come to these by sensation****, only after repeated experiences…. then we will grasp the “universal features of things”), where the premises of the argument must mention essential (not accidental) features of the things being explained, and be “eternally necessary” as well (HoP 36)
*** According to Hugh Benson, to get started in using these to assist in further inquiry, these need not, as with Descarte’s “foundationalism” be indubitable (HoP 37)
****According to Hugh Benson, Aristotle thought that we could get started in inquiry by things that were “more knowable in nature” (or sensation?) and things that were “more knowable to us”. Aristotle was not a pure empiricist, akin to someone like Hume. For example, he also believed that we get started in our inquiry with “commonly held or reputable opinions”, and that these should be carefully considered (though it seems to me, in Aristotle’s view, in order for something like reliable historical testimony for example to finally be considered knowledge, that sensation must somehow have a role in confirming it) (HoP 36, 37)
Michael Hanby is helpful here as well:
“As obvious as it may seem, we need to be (continually) reminded that all science is undertaken by human beings from within the world. Because all science is commenced by us from within the world that encompasses us, no science really commences, as our intractable Cartesianism should have it, in “an Archimedean freedom outside nature” (Grant 1969: 32). This is why Aristotle judged that no science established its own subject matter and no science was ultimately self-generating or capable of establishing its own first principles. It receives the former from the world – there could be no biology without living things, for example – and it receives the latter on loan, as it were, from a more fundamental or comprehensive science: with the “laws of biology,” in modern parlance, being irreducible to but dependent upon the laws of physics, and so on.
Precisely because this Archimedean point is an illusion, because there is no outside nature, the entire edifice is groundless in the sense that the first principles (the source) of demonstration – ultimately being itself – are not demonstrable on the basis of anything more basic. This is why Aristotle makes the remarkable “concession” that the indemonstrable first principles of being qua being which are at the ontological root of every science command faith (pistein). This “faith” is understood not as a “decision to believe” this untestable hypothesis rather than another – indeed he claims that in the “interior discourse within the soul,” the truth of axioms (as distinct from hypotheses or postulates) cannot be disbelieved – but in the sense of the “yes” implicit in our reception of the world as it “communicates itself” immediately to our understanding (nous) (Airstole, Topica, I, 100b20; Post. An., I,2, 72a39ff, 76ba21ff, 99b15-100b18). Aristotelian pistis is a kind of trust, a willingness to receive the world on its own terms that is constituitive of cognition as such. It is analogous to the relation between perception and the lebenswelt in phenomenology, prior to the “phenomenological attitude” or to its subsequent objectification by science. To discover a “decisions to believe” is to have arrived too late. It is rather like the faith praised by God in The Portal of the Mystery of Hope, the masterpiece by the French poet Charles Peguy. “Faith” in this sense is “easy,” and disbelieving is hard. It follows naturally from a creation so resplendent that God declares, “in order really not to see these poor people would have to be blind (Peguy 1996:6). (Hanby, No Science, No God?, pp. 14-15)
-Sadly, “the idea that one must accept an opinion because it is maintained by external authority, of whatever kind, became so repugnant to the Modern Spirit as to define Modernity.” (Ferry, Luc)
-While all of this was foolish on Descarte’s part, all of the ills of modernity cannot be laid at his feet.
Theses – set 3 (universals, little u)
-Contra the currents of modern thinking, one cannot but assume the existence of what have been called “universals” – or something akin to universals – that is, things or entities which are or are potentially trans-cultural and trans-historical, i.e. they possess certain forms, characteristics and relations which, as best we can tell from our direct observations* do not essentially change.**
*Or from the direct observations of those we or others we trust have found to be trustworthy authorities, living or dead.
**For the theist, to say that there are universals does not mean to say that universals other than God exist necessarily. It is totally reasonable to believe that God chose to create some universals and not others which could potentially exist, so long as they are in accordance with His character.
-Please note that this definition of universal, while it has things in common with past definitions, has an element of nuance: consideration of one’s empirical experience and the experiences of other human beings is “in the mix”.
-One might also associate something “universal” with a term like “presence” – that is, having some relation to the things that we sense and experience: surrounding us, having their own being and meaning, and exercising influence over us – even as we might try, as regards these or those things, to “demythologize”, “demystify”, and “disenchant them”.
-One can make a distinction between “first order ‘universals’”, or things which can begin to be known, in time, by all – the “human community of practice” – without qualification (things like food, water, sky, mother, arms, ears, food, tears, sadness, running, sitting, etc.) and “second order ‘universals’”, which have the potential, given certain opportunities and circumstances, to be known by all (certain kinds of plants and animals, certain kinds of earth, certain kinds of weather, etc.)
-Assuming that these “universals” exist, we also can’t not avoid speaking in a way that reflects this – even if there is, at times, strong disagreement over what are, in fact, “universals”.
-Some “universals”, such as of justice*, goodness and love, while being known to be real and true, often seem hopelessly fuzzy and/or multi-faceted.
*Re: justice, for example, it is not necessarily the case that no sense of clarity at all can be obtained: “Moral indignation is evident even among those, who, like robbers, have little active regard for the common good. Gratitude for favors only makes sense because a favor goes beyond what is just, and resentment for injury only because it falls short of justice. All these natural sentiments presuppose the idea of justice. Property rights likewise depend on it.” (arguments and insights from Thomas Reid, per Holmes, Arthur, 117)
-The “universal” of love, for example – genuine concern for, and action on behalf of, the good of another – is not known primarily in an abstract way in the human mind, but rather is known largely by practice in the life of human beings (the Christian notes that things like the Ten Commandments are also not only helpful here, but necessary). It is from here that idealizations of the same arise.
-It is also the case that even if we had the strength of will to fulfill these things in our own lives, they can only be known and enacted in an approximate and imperfect way.
-The description of “universals” above cannot apply to particular words or terms – these, varying here and there, are not trans-cultural and trans-historical – and therefore, contra Ockham, words should not be called universals (he thought words could be universal because they are attached to “concepts”*, which are those things that Aquinas believed are universal**). More on why this is the case and the importance of language here below.
*The endgame of Ockham’s approach where universals are not connected to things, but concepts: “Ontological individualism undermines not only realism but also syllogistic logic and science, for in the absence of real universals, names become no more than signs or signs of signs. Language thus does not reveal being but conceals the truth by fostering a belief in universals. In fact, all universals are merely second or higher-order signs that we, as finite beings, use to aggregate individual entities into categories. These categories, however, do not denote real things. They are only useful fictions that help us make sense out of the radically individualized world. They also, however, distort reality. Thus, the guiding principle of nominalist logic is Ockham's famous razor: do not multiply universals needlessly. Every generalization takes us one more step away from the real, so the fewer we employ, the closer we remain to the truth.” (Michael, Allen Gillespie. "The Theological Origins of Modernity." Critical Review 13.1 (1999): 1-30. ProQuest. 20 Apr. 2015)
**for more see the article “What’s wrong with Ockham…” (Hochschild, here)
-For our purposes, we can say that the idea of form in particular (contained above in the definition of universal) is basically of one cloth with the classical philosophical idea of “nature” (or essence, “what it is” ; form basically makes it possible for substance, often thought to be something that takes up space, to be perceived).
-If Rebecca Goldstein is correct that Spinoza was correct to say that Plato’s mathematical standard of truth made final causes of forms/natures (teleology) superfluous*, than Plato’s unrefined thinking is certainly harmful to humanity in general and Christianity in particular (Plato at the Googleplex, 53)
*Spinoza: “Such a doctrine (teleology) might well have sufficed to conceal the truth from the human race for all eternity, if mathematics had not furnished another standard of truth… without regard to… final causes.”
-But Goldstein and Spinoza are incorrect: the idea of form or nature brings with it the idea of causal powers and teleology – i.e. predetermined conditions which things conform to: “the ends or purposes of things follow from what they are and what is in accord with or capable of fulfilling their natures” (Hochschild)
-Ockham’s insistence, created by his “razor” which says we should not multiply entities more than necessary, that “all that exists is particular acts and particular substances with particular qualities we can be directly aware of” can suggest a radically unstable, or contingent, creation without inherent logical necessities… the same can then hold true for ethics* (Holmes 73, 74, see more below)
*Abelard contended that while intentions could be either good or bad, particular actions could not. Then, Duns Scotus was the first to argue that “As Old Testament moral practice was preparatory, our present moral understanding may also be provisional, and for this reason God’s actual commands to us may differ from the Decalogue” (Holmes, 71). Ockham argued that if the world was not contingent, this would necessarily make God subject to the universal forms that were posited.** Of course, one who is more “Neoplatonic” (or, perhaps, simply Christian?) in their view of God and the world, for example, need not insist that a) there is only one possible way of structuring the world, b) that God could not freely choose to create universal forms (and some and not other potential others) that were in accordance with his nature.***
**The Roman Catholic philosopher Charles Taylor says that nominalism was adopted to safeguard God’s power: so that He would not be limited by overly strict conceptions of nature, particularly human nature. This new focus on “voluntarism” and “nominalism” seems to re-capitulate the Stoic’s reasons for shunning theories of forms while upholding some kind of creator God (though one with the cosmos) and His divine power.
***“It is no accident that Socrates propounds what has come to be called the “Euthyphro argument” on the way to his trial. The pompous Euthyphro confidently tells Socrates that the holy is to be defined as “what the gods love.” Socrates points out that this gets things backward: The gods love the holy because it is already holy, not because they regard it so. In other words, things are not good because a supposed God approves of them; rather, God approves of what is good in itself, quite independently of his will. This Socratic argument undermines the entire idea that theology can provide a basis for morality and opens up a quite secular way of thinking about the nature of virtue. As Ms. Goldstein remarks, this was a seminal moment in the history of moral philosophy and indeed in the development of human civilization; it showed the power of pure rational thought.” (from the WSJ review of Goldstein’s book, Plato at the Googleplex)
-As a related aside, one simply need not – and in fact should not – insist that God created (or especially needed to create) the best of all possible worlds, because one can posit an immature, yet, pure “very good”, as well as a mature and pure “very good” (which would in fact ultimately be more desirable).
-“For Ockham, all talk of nature acting unconsciously for an end is pure metaphor… causal explanations of a mechanist sort alone are possible…. [he] opens the way to the purely empirical approach of Baconian science” (Holmes, 74)
-Teleology is rightly seen as being connected with ethics. For example, the connection between “male”, “female” and “offspring” is clearly more than linguistic. And one does not require formal syllogisms – but only personal exerience perhaps bolstered by historical knowledge – to determine that all children have a mother and a father. Here, what we have learned to call the science of “biology” counters the various kinds of “Gnosticism”, where the material is evil due to its constricting nature.
-In the early days of scientific inquiry, with men such as Roger (not Francis) Bacon, “confidence that there were such causal powers [due to the idea of form or nature] helped to account for the order of nature and the very possibility of successful scientific inquiry” (i.e. “general belief in [the power of forms] was [not] supposed to replace the empirical work of discovering and characterizing how they operated”)* (Hochschild)
*”It is commonly said that modern science neglects formal causes but attends to efficient and material causes; but classically understood, efficient and material causes cannot function or even be conceived without formal causes, for it is form which informs matter, giving concrete objects their power to act on other objects….” (Hochschild)
-“…The loss of formal causality is thus in a sense the loss of efficient and material causality as well—an implication that is not quite fully realized until we see it brilliantly explored in the philosophy of David Hume.” (Hochschild)
-“With forms as causes, there are interconnections between different parts of an intelligible world, indeed there are overlapping matrices of intelligibility in the world, making possible an ascent from the more particular, posterior, and mundane to the more universal, primary, and noble.” (Hochschild)
-“It was only a matter of time before some philosopher exploited, as fully as Descartes did, the new opportunity of skepticism made possible by the nominalist rejection of forms and formal causality.” (Hochschild)
Theses – set 4 (responsible and irresponsible doubt)
-Nevertheless, there are, at times, good reasons for some skepticism, albeit not radical skepticism: in this way of understanding universals and what constitutes them, it is possible that some things considered to be universals might be shown - to a very high degree of confidence - to not actually be universals.
*For example, platypuses might not cause us to doubt that “mammal” is a universal, but we might, based on more exceptions, more readily ponder whether it is more responsible to say that there are five rather than six animal kingdoms.
-Per Aristotle “Lack of experience diminishes our power of taking a comprehensive view of the admitted facts. Hence those who dwell in intimate association with nature and its phenomena are more able to lay down principles such as to admit of a wide and coherent development; while those whom devotion to abstract discussions has rendered unobservant of facts are too ready to dogmatize on the basis of a few observations”.*
*Opposing the view that the will is free and can by nature perfectly conform to correct precepts, Luther said that “no one can become a theologian unless he becomes one without Aristotle”, but what Aristotle says here in particular is not opposed to biblical wisdom.
-And yet, taking into account the discoveries of modern science, it is not responsible to think of forms or universals as being only things like: redness, squareness, number, the smallest particles of which all things are made, the “laws of nature”, or mathematical truths.*
*Prior to [“theological predecisions] in the order in which we articulate things – are judgments regarding what Aristotle called being qua being or Aquinas called esse commune, the understanding of “being in general” presupposed by and operative within any notion of nature. For example, the decision to regard “being” (esse) as synonymous with brute facticity, which is the metaphysical correlate to an extrinsicist [this is Hanby’s term for philosophical naturalism] understanding of “creation,” exercises a profound influence upon what will be regarded as relevant content in the analysis of “nature” and what inherent feature of our being in the world are to be regarded as nonevidentiary, giving ontological precedence to analytically separated parts, for insane, over formal and integrated wholes. Metaphysical judgments are inherent in what counts as empirical evidence, and these judgments mediate between science and theology proper…. [U]nlike modern science which commences in what Galileo approvingly called the “rape committed on [the] senses” in order to get to the “real world” lurking objectively behind their deceptive deliverances, there is a sense in which ordinary sense experience does serve as a kind of rational criterion for Aristotle. This is why he can claim that the indemonstrable first principles of demonstration are better known that the conclusions (Post. An.,I, 72a25ff)…..Analysis and synthesis are attempts to “unpack” the truth of being impressed upon this immediate understanding. Since truth is not exhausted in appearance it needs to be unpacked, not because the truth lurks obscurely “behind” appearances (where it can never logically be reached), but because it overwhelms appearances, as the light of the sun overwhelms the eye of the owl (Aristotle, Metaph., II 933b10)…. Irreducibly metaphysical judgments as to the nature of being, form, time, space, matter, cause, truth, knowledge, explanation, wholes, parts and the like are the starting point of science, not its conclusions. Because they are apropos of being qua being, these judgments are not merely presupposed at the origin as of scientific inquiry where they may thereafter be bracketed out. Since what is true of the whole is by definition true of every part, they permeate the entire enterprise and are operative inside of every subsequent judgment (Hanby, No Science, No God?, p. 14, 16, 17)
And as regards the usefulness of logic, it should not to be thought of as dealing with our ideas and cognitive faculties, or human psychology (Locke, DesCartes, Hume, etc. ; this was an idea built on by Boole with his “laws of thought”) – or to be thought of as an autonomously existing entity (Frege**, and then most all subsequent analytical philosophers) – but rather as dealing with correctly identifying the natures and actions of the things that exist outside of us.
**Boole believed that a system of algebraic laws governed logic (math > logic), and Frege believed that arithmetic could be reduced to logic*** (logic > math) – this could give secure foundations to mathematics (the system of “logicism”)
***…beginning with creating a logical formula that gives you an understanding of “number” that could purportedly be built on. This is where Bertrand Russell upset Frege’s applecart, involving something like the following question (not an exact parallel to the problem): “if the village barber shaves every man in the village who does not shave himself, does the barber shave himself?” If he does than he doesn’t and if he doesn’t than he does.
-Why is this irresponsible? There is absolutely no reasonable basis for asserting such a thing and it goes against all our better moral judgment. What we have here in this assertion is an irresponsible extrapolation based on a scientifically naturalistic method of inquiry and explanation, which, regarding life’s deeper matters, will always be inadequate.*
*[Determining what is Ultimate], “cannot be, without any further inquiry or justification, a matter of simple correspondence to material conditions (i.e. matter and energy) since the question of whether such conditions themselves are adequately explanatory of all experience that needs to be accounted for is an important part of the problem”. (librarian Thomas Mann)
-This would mean that, for example, even granted the truth of the evolutionary theory (for the sake of argument), that a “human being” cannot really be considered a vague term in the same way that the words “heap” or “bald” can (surely it is ridiculous to think that one hair can make a difference, but at what point can a person can be said to become bald?).*
*That said, I do not think it is realistic to expect persons who place a disproportionate amount of stock and value in philosophical naturalism – or even methodological naturalism – to be able to confidently affirm this without doubt.
-Even if there are problems with modern forms of philosophical realism (see upcoming review of James K.A. Smith), why would we assume that the universals humanity senses and experiences could or would not exist independently of humanity?
-While there is no good reason – especially for Christians! – to not assume a world/cosmos that exists outside of human beings - James K.A. Smith also notes, in regard to radical notions of relativism, “the alternative to anything-goes-ism is not some absolute standpoint” (see 16, 30, 115, 180, Who’s Afraid of Relativism?)
-And yet, this does not mean that we cannot assume, with C.S. Lewis (Abolition of Man) that a waterfall exists in itself and is rightfully said to be “sublime” in itself (exhibiting sublimity) – that is, “intrinsically” (even if such a judgement, of course, cannot be made without a personal being able to make such a judgement).
-Whether any particular human mind realizes or thinks this to be the case, respectively, is not the issue. The waterfall possesses certain qualities that, in general, evoke awe and humility in human persons we know.
-Regarding our senses, unlike the Stoic’s “ideal sage” you cannot always know when you are free from the possibility of error – when you should “assent” to this or that “impression” – but you can certainly know at certain times when you are free from the possibility of error.
-While Bishop Berkeley was clearly radical in suggesting that there was not a material world which formed the perceptions/ideas in our minds, he did say “of these ideas that we perceive their essence is to be perceived” which rightly takes into account and assumes God’s design of the world and His purposes in the world (as opposed to materialistic views of the world that do not presume this*). Other than this, not much good can be said about Berkeley’s thoroughly modern and radical conception of knowledge.
*Surprisingly Berkeley, who never did say “to exist is to be perceived” was not seen as a rationalist but a kind of empiricist [though a radical one] – see more here.
-Regarding this matter of ideas in our minds: we must maintain that while it is the case that universals have some sort of existence independent of our minds (and not just our minds, but our bodies, our whole persons) this does not negate the necessity of talking about ideas or concepts – that is, the fact that we form in our minds – whether these occur for innate reasons or are mostly due to personal experience and education – conceptions of these universals.
-“Concepts formed by the mind, insofar as they are causally connected to things which are the foundation of those concepts, necessarily retain some intrinsic connection to those things. While we can be mistaken in particular judgments, we can be assured of the basic soundness of the mind’s power, thanks to the intrinsic connection between concept and object.”* (Hochschild)
*Quote goes on: “The kind of radical skepticism Descartes proposed, even if only methodologically, was simply never entertained through most of the middle ages. More classical versions of skepticism, usually having to do with the fallibility of the senses, were commonplace, but the possibility of a complete incongruity between the mind and reality—such that even mathematical concepts could be the product of some deceptive manipulation and have no connection to the mathematical “realities” they seem to represent—this was not available in a realist framework for which concepts are formally and so essentially related to their objects.” (Hochschild)
-We use and rely on concepts from memory either when we are identifying things present to us to others, e.g. “that, son, is a pig”, or when we are using language to talk with other about things that are not immediately present to us: “Giraffes have long necks” ; “That’s just human nature”.
Theses – set 5 (the role of language)
-Despite the variety of languages on this earth, we all learn some concepts derived from universals, that, for all practical purposes, should always be assumed to be shared (for example, "thirsty", "clouds", "tears", "sad", "food", "mother", "father", “child”, etc.).
-Of course, this is not the case with all concepts though – here we think of "hammer" and "bottle" (made famous by the movie "The Gods must be Crazy"). The currency of these concepts varies in the world due to their geographical reach – or today, because of modern technology, telecommunicational reach – through other human beings.
-This further means that things like hammers and bottles – which many of us, familiar with these items, certainly have concepts of – cannot be thought of as universals, but are rather artifacts that are formed from universals, the more fundamental elements.
-Furthermore, this does not mean that these things, by virtue of their being man-made, are not able to be considered as being “good” in themselves (that is, exhibiting goodness, and not merely because of what they do for us), that is, intrinsically.
-Other man-made concepts are even more complex – things such as models, theorms, strategies, forms of government, works of literature, etc., and are based on a great deal of human creativity, imagination, and activity.
-As this relates to language: regarding the terms or words used to label all concepts, it is responsible to talk about attributing meaning to the particular words being used – attempting, rightly, to match our meaning with the meaning of the speaker.
-This is because the meanings attributed to particular words does in fact vary, because of context or otherwise* (deliberate attempts, whether conscious or unconscious, performed overtly or covertly, to shift the way that words are used)
*The meaning of various words in this or that culture will sometimes unintendedly change or drift due to inventions, a shifting “social imaginary” (Charles Taylor), and/or all manner of contextual factors.
And yet, the fact that we can, with some effort, begin to understand the earliest written documents that we are aware of, should cause anyone to second-guess the abandonment of essences and forms some of those promoting the evolutionary theory urge is necessary.
-Therefore, it seems that the comment from Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht that “The presence culture… [as opposed to the “meaning culture”] resembles the Aristotelian sign-definition, according to which ‘a sign is coupling between a substance… and a form…. Consequently, there is no side in this sign-concept that will vanish once a meaning is secured”, needs to be nuanced (italics mine).
-On the other hand, when it comes to the concepts themselves – particularly when they are pinpointed with the help of context in the give and take of two-way verbal communication – we do not rightly speak about attributing meaning to the concepts, but rather identifying meaning in the concepts, due to the fact that the “universals” lying behind them possess forms or natures which have meaning.
-The meaning of some concepts can be fuzzy or more concrete – fuzzy in the sense of certain man-made abstractions and extrapolations and more concrete as regards particular objects and things (physical or not), particularly those objects and things we have identified with “universals”.
-While this is not always the case, we can observe in the world certain utterances/words can often quite effectively function as classifications, or labels, of tacitly or explicitly recognized agreement between persons about the common things, actions, characteristics, etc. of which they are familiar (and to say this is not to bar more metaphorical or creative usages, but to uphold them).*
*For example, if I utter a single word that can have more than one meaning (or homonyms), in most cases there is a meaning – connected with a concept – that is more commonly associated with that term.
-This does not mean, as regards our theories of language, that we can therefore endlessly abstract, extrapolate, reify, etc.* We also must be careful of the distinctions that we make between this or that thing, making sure that our distinctions do not become separations: breaking apart what is meant to stay together.
*In like fashion, as regards scientific theories vis a vis general or ordinary experiential knowledge, interpretation can become much more tenuous and “iffy” as one moves up in levels of critical reflection and context while utilizing extraction, generalization, extrapolation and abstraction.
For example, George Hamann wisely noted “…human beings experience a regularity in the world around them, which they then improperly abstract into a concept of ‘natural law’ that excludes from serious discourse, the mystical, and the religious”.
Again, it seems clear that some interpretation is simultaneously based on higher levels of context (including touching on historical and other cross-disciplinary studies) and of critical and abstract thinking than others. In some ways, this may, given a dearth of sufficient background experience and/or propositional knowledge in the case of the uneducated layperson, seem to increasingly remove the interpretation from reality (not to mention the certainty we feel about what is “really real”, i.e. what things are really like). To better understand this consider this case: although it may have sounded particularly strange to non-Western, if not Western ears, in the 1930s to say that a car “is an object which hurls us around the planet” (found here), this puzzling abstraction would likely have been more widely understood later on. After all, for example, at a later date a picture of the earth taken from the moon had in fact spread throughout much of the world, and become well-known. Is it not reasonable to suggest that after sharing with others experiences such as “looking” from “out there” back towards their common home (perhaps after demonstrating how photography worked to some!), what may have before been a puzzling abstraction in the popular mind had the potential to become more widely “concretized”? And is it not reasonable to suggest that experiences such as these may have a great effect on a shared consciousness of what it means to be human? And is it not possible that there could be other interpretations, which though based on high levels of context and abstract thinking, can become more readily concretized in a similar fashion? One thinks of the STM or AFM images representing the “charge density” of atoms for instance, that seem to give a sense of the “shape” of the atoms! It seems to me that sometimes, interpretations that go beyond stating the most elementary, readily observable, every-day, rough-and-ready facts about things can be “concretized” to a greater or lesser extent – and to do this is responsible – and other times they cannot.
-In performing actions similar to these, for example, “Kant, so Hamann claims, with his philosophy divorces what God has joined together: aesthetic and logic, history and reason, the empirical and the rational, a priori and a posteriori….” (Wenz, 17)*
*Interestingly, it seems Hamann himself is not exempt from this Scheidekunst, or “art of divorce”: “He was greatly influenced by David Hume. This is most evident in Hamann’s conviction that faith and belief, rather than knowledge, determine human actions.” (Wikipedia). Biblically, there is an undeniably close connection between faith and knowledge.
-Speaking more philosophically now in regard to language and communication: particular words in particular contextual situations can, at times, be clearly discerned to point to concepts, some universally shared by virtue of their derivation from “universals”, and some (for example, the words “telephone”, “cell phone”, and “smart phone”) shared more or less widely by virtue of their geographical reach through other human beings (but facilitated more widely now by that very same modern communication)
-One need not imagine that a word or sign is a form which, as one linguist put it, “carries its own meaning permanently around with it”. Neither when texts are examined must one rivet on “the clear meaning of the words” at the expense of wider context, including the discernible meaning, or nature of, the personal relationships being attested to and revealed by those words.
-Linguist David Bade: our “’stubborn forgetfulness of the obvious ... that the logic of the sentences of language is based on responses between people’ (Rosenstock-Huessy 1981a: 62) leads linguists to base their analysis on an inadequate appreciation of the temporal and social dimensions of language, a theoretical blindness that [Rosenstock-Huessy] attributes to literacy…”
-"The abstract sentence, we may venture to suggest, is conditioned by its literary character. Speech, in its origins, was unwilling and incapable of formulating sentences into which speaker and listener did not enter" (Rosenstock-Huessy 1981a: 42).*
*Contra Hobbes and Leibniz (who wanted a “universal logical language”), thinking cannot be equated with calculation, as some who have noticed similarities between algebra and logic, for example, have thought. In spite of using the cover of purportedly non-physically/empirically-related-mathematical-truth, this is nevertheless crass reductionism of the worst materialistic kind.
Theses – set 6 (common moral ground)
-What we these days call a person’s worldview – shaped in part by language itself* – may certainly come to color and affect one’s concepts of the universals that exist.
*To some degree, it is true that “the forms of knowledge recognized and valued in any society depend on the forms of communication practiced in that society” (integrationist linguist Roy Harris). Analogously, the theologian Oswald Bayer has a point when he says, speaking of God Himself, “Voices and letters, language and Scripture constitute time and space for us humans” (Bayer than goes on to point to the church’s liturgy, providing not only words, but sacraments).
-It is noteworthy however, that neither all facts nor concepts are hopelessly in dispute due to their being "impregnated by culturally constricting conceptual schemata" born of rivalry / power.*
*Perhaps very young children, when such a disdain for “common-ground-facts” is asserted, disinterested as they are in the power-preserving aspects of conceptual constructions, will be the first to say that the emperor has no clothes.
-The power and divinity of the Divinity, Mind, Logos, etc. responsible for what we experience in the universe can be clearly perceived. “The conscience is sufficiently discerning to deprive us of any excuse of ignorance” (Holmes, 82).
-Generally speaking, a refusal to recognize this results in a refusal to give thanks and increased moral dissolution in man – in some cases, where intellectual justification for this attitude is sought, concepts of “natural law” are no longer seen to be intrinsic to a natural order that features stability and permanence.
-Viewpoints that deny all relativism but flee from all form of philosophical realism as well are essentially more “gnostic” in that they say knowledge of transcendent things comes exclusively or primarily by way of internal and intuitive means.
-Again, this transcendent knowledge cannot be separated from the extrinsic things around us however, which possess their own instrinsic natures and properties. Likewise – and closely related to the above – one must take into account that one’s conscience, while innate, can also be formed rightly or wrongly.
-Again, this sense of “natural teleology” is dulled by Ockham’s denial of forms and the purely mechanistic science made thinkable by it.* “Being is not intrinsically good but is value-free; fact and value are separated.” (Holmes, 100)
*Even as Aristotle’s notion of teleology was largely abandoned by “forward-looking” intellectuals, the desire to hold on to the form of his logic remained (particularly utilized by Kant, who saw it as a “completed science”), which went from being seen as a study of valid forms of deductive reasoning (which Bacon said was uninteresting: it could demonstrate knowledge but did not give us new knowledge) to the idea of logic as a “science of inquiry” (similar to how geometric theorems are logically built up from axioms [Euclid proving there are infinitely many primes, for example], utilizing induction, inference, probability, etc).
-“Kant sums this up when, in objecting to the ontological argument, he declares, seemingly vs. “I AM THAT I AM”, (Ex. 3:14) that being is not a proper predicate.” (Holmes, 100)*
*Holmes goes on to write here: “….The rejection of Scholasticism had striped being of its transcendental attributes, and left only bare facts, purposeless and dead. “Can I take a thing so dead?” asked Tennyson, “embrace it for my mortal good?” (100) Holmes rightly assumes that order in the world implies purpose, and purpose, a mind. Nevertheless, those with more Eastern views of the world do not usually speak of transcendence, but immanence – they tend to see the spiritual and physical as completely intertwined – i.e. the idea of the “supernatural” is nonsensical. Those who practice Eastern religions and inhabit the elite quarters of society also tend to see the “god” behind the universe’s mind as impersonal. This seems to be a “halfway house” between theism and atheism, much like deism. This can be seen in spades in Rebecca Goldstein’s new book “Plato at the Googleplex”, where she thoroughly shows her appreciation for Plato’s ideas.** The “atheist with a soul”, she is also the wife of another famous “reasonable atheist”, Steven Pinker.
** For her, goodness, beauty, and truth (which she thinks of largely as understandability) inevitably must be this way as we know them because of the forms… these all simply have to be… and have to be the best… hence the continued intellectual and moral progress of humanity in particular which her husband has also propounded in his books (i.e. shunning slavery, focusing on individuals and their rights, etc… all fruit not so much of Christianity, but Hellenism). Interestingly, the order and beauty of the world is evidence of an impersonal mind, conjoined with all, which, as it unfolds, makes for all we see and know. It can’t be otherwise.
-On the contrary, because of the intrinsic goodness of creation, Stoics like Cicero are basically correct, “Nature and right reason command us. Right reason means understanding the causes and consequences of human actions in a law-governed (logos-governed) universe.” (Holmes, 81)*
*the quote goes on: “Right reason thereby agrees with nature (jus naturale), and is universally apparent in the laws that are common to all nations (jus gentium), rather than in positive laws enacted in the interests of an individual rule or particular state.”
-Re: natural law, it is not right to set a “God-given inner telos” against “the authority of God-given right reason” (Ockham and all “voluntarists”) – these go together.
-Likewise, Christian Neoplatonists should not set an “inner light that guides to truth” (which can really be seen as being somewhat analogous to the conscience, which God uses to convict us about how to live*) vs “depend[ing] for truth and goodness on sense experience”. (Holmes 101).
*This does not mean that we have the power to do what we know we should do, that is fear, love, and trust the One responsible for our being and our fellows. Nor, again, does it mean that our conscience is incapable of being seared or improperly formed.
-Likewise, Hegel noted that Kant reduced duty to a “rational principle devoid of social or historical context”, but his criticism led “to the contextualizing of duty and in due course to an ethical relativism that denie[d] both teleology and moral law.” (Holmes, 130)
-Natural man does indeed have the innate disposition, to some degree, to seek out that which is intrinsically good, even “higher things” like virtue over “lower things” like pleasure and power – and not even for merely “practical reasons” alone.
-That said, this seeking – and the resultant choice to act in this or that way – is, without fail, always for questionable – less than exemplary – reasons and motivations.*
*The Christian can insist this means not only “questionable”, but flat-out wrong and twisted reasons and motivations. The love of fallen man for neighbor, for example, a) is severely deficient because it is not bolstered and informed by an underlying love for the Triune God, and hence its ultimate hope and expression is not the salvation of the whole world – i.e. people’s rescue and growth in eternal life, that is, knowing God through His Son, Jesus Christ (John 17:3), and b) is severely deficient due to a lack of purity or holiness in fulfilling this love – which of course is supposed to flow through us unhindered from God and for our neighbor.
Again, man seeks out much of what is intrinsically good for his own purposes. But the deepest and highest good – found in in humble, simple, weak and foolish forms in this imperfect and fallen world – is not sought by fallen, or “natural” man, conceived as he is in sin. Quite frankly, no one seeks *the* answer that/who ends up on the bloody cross for the rebirth of the world. They may be curious regarding ideas about Him or that resemble Him, but until He takes a hold of them, they have no desire to take hold of Him. As a whole, I think that human reason apart from such faith may readily acknowledge (if they don’t suppress the truth in “atheism”) “creators” or idols (strictly speaking, not “the Creator”) to its own ends (even something like “Intelligent Design”), but not Jesus Christ to His ends. Further, as indicated in all of our theses here, all of our “what” language is intricately connected with “hows” and “whys” – purpose.
All unbelievers seek truth (for practical reasons, out of curiosity and wonder, sense of duty, as we note) and may also want a Truth (big T), but they also want to be in control. With intellectuals I submit that this is simply ratcheted up a lot higher. If Truth seems to be pointing to Christ – if Truth means Christ – then many will simply redefine the rules in the middle of the game. When they come dangerously close to the truth, truth no longer becomes the goal – victory (over this God who would “rule” them) does. This is not to say that God does not break through sometimes with the power of His Word, C.S. Lewis being a good example of this.
-Nevertheless, this should not preclude the possibility of “activation” of this innate disposition from the outside – particularly through the means of other human being perceived, in part, by our regular sensory experience.*
*Here, one thinks of Leibniz’s and then Hume’s and Kant’s sharp distinction between things we know by definition (that is apart from experience!) and things that we can only know by experience – going out and looking.
This was at the root of the debate between more “rationalist” philosophers and more “empiricist” philosophers. Things we know by definition would be that sisters are female and bachelors are unmarried men. Whereas, we can only know by going out and looking whether or some aunts, for example are younger than their nieces and nephews.
-Just because one might say that something “is true in itself or that it exists in itself” does not mean that we should think we can pass over the question of how the human being comes to know about such things – if we are going to presume to build intellectual systems of thought like the rationalists did, that is.
Theses – set 7 (Universals, big “U” – and the Christian faith)
-Porphyry asked - assuming “universals” exist independently of the mind (I would say the human being) - whether they are incorporeal, and if they are incorporeal, whether their existence depends on corporeal things. Christians in particular need not assume that “universals”, as they have been defined and discussed here, must be incorporeal, but rather simply know that the One Universal, God – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that is, three incorporeal individuals, also “persons”, One of who became corporeal – is responsible for all “universals”.
-Do “universals” exist only insofar as “particular instances” exist? There is no need to dogmatize about this, based on speculations concerning the mind of God, the provider of all universals. After all, for example, before God created the giraffe, need we assert that He necessarily had an “ideal” blueprint? Or was His process more spontaneous and “on the fly”, albeit not apart from “order”?
-In like fashion, just because consistent mathematical and geometrical patterns and regularities can be identified in the living artwork of the creation*, does this mean that God is best thought of as some kind of mathematician and engineer, creating things step by step through the lifeless forms of shapes, colors, numbers, equations and algorithms?
*Does the form of beauty cause things to be beautiful? (Plato) Or does beauty only exist because of things that are beautiful? (Aristotle) A Christian can, literally with the help of God, say both statements are true. Aristotle is right to suggest, for example, that without beautiful things there is no such thing as beauty. But we can call God, in one sense, a “thing” as well, though a Thing above and beyond all created things.
-“Humanity”, or “human”/“being human” is an example of a true and necessary concept which derives from a true universal.*
*It exists in the forms of individual persons, which exemplify this universal. Abelard’s argument that “being a human” is not a thing (i.e. it is something about which we can have knowledge and by which we can explain features of the world) but something he called a “status, i.e. the way that something is (ways of being are not “things”) – arguing that it is like the slave who is beaten because he refuses to go to the forum (his refusing to go to the forum is not a thing [he himself is a thing] in its own right but is a “status”**, which explains why he is beaten) – is a totally irrelevant analogy.
The desires of transgender activists aside (who do not want to “pass” for being their “chosen” gender, but simply be seen as “being” that gender) humans can decide not to go here or there, to get married or not, etc. - but we cannot decide not to be human, male, female, etc., although we may choose to be less than fully human, male, female, etc.
**and the “status” is just a word, like the tense of a verb….
-Likewise with the non-created, Divinity, or the divine: God.
-That said, while we can rightly speak of only one divine will among the three individual persons of Divinity, because of the fall into sin we cannot rightly speak of one human will among the persons of humanity.
-But Christ, through His incarnation, life, death and resurrection, has come to unify all with Him – our disparate wills included – in the Triune God. There is a reason why, as Peter Leithart says, “Humans are the creatures capable of saying ‘we’”.*
*And for the Christian on the ground, individual human beings, for example, are recognized and valued in the world precisely because God provides loving community, primarily in the mystical yet very real body of Christ - not to be seen as a collection of like-minded individuals.**
** For Aristotle, particular beings or substances – individuals – are more primary or fundamental than species (even as regards individuals, the significance of accidental properties is also not primary/fundamental), at least when it comes to speaking about things philosophically.
-Somehow, all creation will be included in this process as well (I Cor. 15).
-“…ever since the days of the Early Church, the presence of God in the word has been understood as a realistic and substantial local presence in the church, when the gospel book was enthroned in the midst of the assembly”. (Wenz, Armin)
-“…the community of communication constituted by the Scriptures* is truly universal in time and space, comprising the past and the future, the living and the dead, heaven and earth, God and mankind”. (Wenz, Armin)**
*Wenz also says: “The clearer we perceive Christ’s divinity, the clearer is his humanity and vice versa.
If Christ is really present in Scripture, and if his Spirit is creatively working through the biblical texts, we might apply the Christological paradoxes also to the Scriptures by saying: The more human the texts, he more divine their truth (and vice versa….); the stranger (and implausible at first glance) the message appears, the more current (and plausible in the long run of faith) is its meaning; the clearer it is in contents and truth, the more effective it is in sound doctrine and faith; the more author-oriented our exegesis are (that is, God-oriented), the more reader-response oriented they will be in a true sense; the more passive and receptive the reader is, the richer, broader, and deeper his understanding will be; and the less important the interpreter sees himself, the more intensely he will take care of the autonomous integrity and truth of the biblical text. True exegesis, therefore, has the task of making itself superfluous in the process that the texts in their liberty and authority can do their work as autonomous and powerful means of the triune God, and in doing so draw us into the eternal communion and fellowship of Christ” (Wenz, Armin, Biblical Hermeneutics in a Postmodern World: Sacramental Hermeneutics versus Spiritualistic Constructivism, LOGIA, 2013)
**This is not to say that we the new creation will not, in some sense, be continuous with the old. Things can be said to remain permanent in a sense. Man will be more fully man. Further, when Paul says there is no longer “male or female” he is talking about how both male and female equally possess the salvation that Jesus Christ brings, not an obliteration in heaven of the difference.
-“There is in everyone a quest for truth and also a rebellion against its demands, and a doubting of the truth when it is discovered….there are many partial truths. Jesus is the truth, the whole truth” – Richard Wurmbrand, founder of the Christian organization, Voice of the Martyrs