Monday, August 30, 2010

Gym regimen - August 2010

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30 August, 2010
Ur-Workout: 50-60 mins
89kg, BMI 25

0. Warmup: Stretching

1. Bench press: 12, 10, 8 @ 50-60kg
[Felt a little soreness in my left pec but I think it's safe again to do the bench press. I'll just have to keep my weight low for a week or two to "get some strength back under the injury," as it were.]

1a. Elbows-out dumbbell tricep extension (total weight): ø

2. Pullups: 12, 13, 13/-1/-1 @ bodyweight
[On my last set I did 13 in a row, then, after a brief pause, two negatives--hence the -1 and -1.]

2a. Lever bench row: ø

3. Barbell military press: 10, 8, 6 @ 35–48kg

4. Barbell curl: 10, 8, 6 @ 35–42.5kg
[Some sloppy form here on some reps but it's interesting I can do less total weight with the barbell than with the dumbbells. Probably because the barbell locks in my elbows betters and isolates the biceps more.]

5. Supine French press: 10, 8, 6 @ 25–45kg

6. Leg extensions: 18, 15, 12 @ 35-50kg

7. Leg curl: 18, 15, 12 @ 35-45kg

8. Standing calf raise: ø

9. Kneeling rope pulldown (20 + 10 obliques): 20/10, 30, 30 @ ~40kg
[I made sure to contract/curl more deeply into my knees so as to work the abs more.]

10. Wrist curl: ø

Cooldown: ø


I was in a rush again, but, when I got to work, I realized I was off by an hour and could have taken my time. I tried to keep my sets tight but I felt very sluggish today, for two reasons, I think. First, I worked out perhaps too soon after lunch, so my circulation was still "a house divided" between my muscles and my digestive tract. Second, it was just so hot and sunny. Draining. And maybe the weekend away, at the Qing Jing farm resort area, drained me a bit. I got a decent little sunburn and we walked and drove many hours both days. Tourism is actually very exhausting for me. My eyes start to ache after too much window shopping and I prefer to just go some place nice and relax. I guess that's the doughy scholar in me. Or to recall a scene in Wayne's World, maybe I've got mono. :p I'm still perplexed that I haven't seemed to gain any weight, according to the scale, but I appear to have gained weight, according to the fit of my clothes and the mirror. Onward!

Benedict XVI on Bl. Duns Scotus…

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I picked up the following, naturally enough, from The Smithy, and thought it, along with Mr. Faber's subsequent comments, worth reading and sharing. Pope Benedict XVI's audience on Blessed Duns Scotus occurred Wednesday, July 7, 2010 (translation by Zenit), and in it, he says of Scotus that:

In the Reportata Parisiensia he affirms: "To think that God would have given up such work if Adam had not sinned would be altogether irrational! I say, therefore, that the fall was not the cause of the predestination of Christ, and that -- even if no one had fallen, not angels or man -- in this hypothesis Christ would still have been predestined in the same way" (in III Sent., d. 7, 4).

This, perhaps, rather surprising thought is born because for Duns Scotus the incarnation of the Son of God, projected from all eternity by God the Father in his plan of love, is the fulfillment of creation, and makes it possible for every creature, in Christ and through him, to be filled with grace and give praise and glory to God in eternity. Duns Scotus, though aware that, in reality, because of original sin, Christ has redeemed us with his passion, death and resurrection, confirms that the incarnation is the greatest and most beautiful work of the whole history of salvation, and that it is not conditioned by any contingent fact, but is the original idea of God to finally unite the whole of creation with himself in the person and flesh of the Son.

Duns Scotus, faithful disciple of St. Francis, loved to contemplate and preach the mystery of the salvific passion of Christ, expression of the immense love of God, who communicates with enormous generosity outside of himself the rays of his goodness and his love (cf. Tractatus de primo principio, c. 4). And this love is not only revealed on Calvary, but also in the Most Blessed Eucharist, to which Duns Scotus was most devoted and which he saw as the sacrament of the real presence of Jesus and as the sacrament of the unity and community that induces us to love one another and to love God as the supreme common good (cf. Reportata Parisiensia, in IV Sent., d. 8, q. 1, n. 3).

Not only the role of Christ in the history of salvation, but also Mary's [role] is the object of the reflection of the doctor subtilis. In Duns Scotus' times, the majority of theologians offered an objection that seemed insurmountable to the doctrine that Most Holy Mary was free from original sin from the first instant of her conception… [namely, that] the universality of the redemption wrought by Christ … [seems to compromise Mary's exemption from original sin,] as if Mary had no need of Christ and of his redemption. Because of this theologians were opposed to this thesis.

To make this preservation from original sin understood, Duns Scotus then developed an argument which later would also be adopted by Blessed Pope Pius IX in 1854 [cf. Ineffabilis Deus], when he defined solemnly the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. And this argument is that of the "preventive redemption," according to which the Immaculate Conception represents the masterpiece of the redemption wrought by Christ, because in fact the power of his love and of his mediation obtained that the Mother be preserved from original sin. Hence Mary is totally redeemed by Christ, but already before her conception.

… Valuable theologians, such as Duns Scotus with the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, enriched with their specific thought what the People of God already believed spontaneously about the Blessed Virgin, manifested in acts of piety, in the expressions of art and, in general, in Christian living. Thus faith in the Immaculate Conception or in the bodily assumption of the Virgin was already present in the People of God, while theology had not yet found the key to interpret it in the totality of the doctrine of the faith. Thus the People of God precede theologians and all this thanks to that supernatural sensus fidei, namely, that capacity infused by the Holy Spirit….

Finally, Duns Scotus developed a point to which modernity is very sensitive. It is the topic of liberty and its relation with the will and with the intellect. Our author stresses liberty as a fundamental quality of the will, initiating an approach of a voluntaristic tendency, which developed in contrast with the so-called Augustinian and Thomistic intellectualism. For St. Thomas Aquinas, who follows St. Augustine, liberty cannot be considered an innate quality of the will, but the fruit of the collaboration of the will and of the intellect.

An idea of innate and absolute liberty placed in the will and preceding the intellect, whether in God or in man, risks, in fact, leading to the idea of a God who would not even be linked to the truth and to the good. …

If it is detached from truth, liberty becomes, tragically, a principle of destruction of the interior harmony of the human person, source of malversation of the strongest and the violent, and cause of suffering and mourning. Liberty, as all the faculties with which man is gifted, grows and is perfected, affirms Duns Scotus, when man opens himself to God, valuing that disposition of listening to his voice, which he calls potentia oboedientialis: When we listen to divine Revelation, to the Word of God, to accept it, then we have been reached by a message that fills our life with light and hope and we are truly free.

By and large, Mr. Faber, a proud Scotist, is pleased with Benedict's audience. As he says in his response thereto, Benedict XVI:

praised both the doctrine of the immaculate conception and that of the primacy of Christ; on this latter topic, apparently, … he has even changed his mind in endorsing Scotus' opinion. So there is much to be thankful for. We have moved away from the purely negative … portrayal found in the Regensburg address [Zenit LINK] to a more nuanced approach.

The passage to which I believe Mr. Faber refers is the following (emphasis added):

…in the late Middle Ages we find trends in theology which would sunder this synthesis between the Greek spirit and the Christian spirit. In contrast with the so-called intellectualism of Augustine and Thomas, there arose with Duns Scotus a voluntarism which, in its later developments, led to the claim that we can only know God's voluntas ordinata. Beyond this is the realm of God's freedom, in virtue of which he could have done the opposite of everything he has actually done. This gives rise to positions which clearly approach those of Ibn Hazm and might even lead to the image of a capricious God, who is not even bound to truth and goodness. God's transcendence and otherness are so exalted that our reason, our sense of the true and good, are no longer an authentic mirror of God, whose deepest possibilities remain eternally unattainable and hidden behind his actual decisions. As opposed to this, the faith of the Church has always insisted that between God and us, between his eternal Creator Spirit and our created reason there exists a real analogy, in which - as the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 stated - unlikeness remains infinitely greater than likeness, yet not to the point of abolishing analogy and its language. God does not become more divine when we push him away from us in a sheer, impenetrable voluntarism; rather, the truly divine God is the God who has revealed himself as logos and, as logos, has acted and continues to act lovingly on our behalf.

Mr. Faber continues:

I was personally impressed by the fact that he cited actual works of Scotus, an unusual departure from the usual pomo/thomist line, and even appears to know the difference between the Ordinatio, Reportatio, etc. All in all, quite impressive.

But he is still dead wrong on the will, I'm sad to say.

Faber explains:

Here we still have Scotus initiating some bad stuff, beginning a "tendency" to voluntarism. The actual tendency is locating freedom as a quality of the will. But Scotus doesn't do this; if freedom were a quality, it would have to be a habit (the only qualities that inhere in the will, after all), and habits are generally generated by repeated acts. Obviously, freedom isn't like this at all. According to Scotus, freedom actually consists in the affectio iustitiae, affection for justice, which is not a habit or an accident, but the ability to will something for its own sake, against the advantage of the willer. And ironically, the position that Benedict attributes to Aquinas, that liberty is the fruit of both the will and the intellect, is actually similar to that of Scotus; not as far as liberty is concerned, but as far as what actually generates acts of volitions.

Faber then cites Scotus's Lectura II d. 25 q. un n.69-70 (ed. vat. 19, 253-55) to explain his rejoinder to the Pope's address. Doctor subtilis dicit:

…I hold the middle way, that both the will and the object concur for causing the act of willing, so that the act of willing is from the will and from the object known as from an effective cause. But how can this be from the object? For the object has abstractive being in the intellect, and it is necessary that the agent is this-something and in act. Therefore [I] say that the intelle[c]t concurrs [sic] with the will under the aspect of effective cause – understanding the object in act – for causing the act of willing, and so, briefly, 'natura actu intelligens obiectum et libera' is the cause of willing and not-willing and in this consists free choice, whether this be said of us or of the angels.

Faber explains:

Yes, the will is free in that it can will against the suggestion of the intellect, and is the metaphysically "superior" power, but volition always follows intellection. The operation of the intellect is what supplies the objects for the will to will. Basically, as Scotus puts it, the intellect is an apprehensive power, apprehending, understanding, grasping, and so on, the object outside the knower in reality. The will is not such a power, but is only able to act on the basis of objects supplied to it by the intellect.

Faber concludes by saying,

A further issue is how Scotus can both be initiating troubling new voluntaristic tendencies but also following the standard tendencies found in the Franciscan tradition. The Franciscans were voluntarists long before Scotus, and as far as voluntarism is concerned, he's quite a moderate. … So to sum up, Benedict is showing increasing interest in Scotus, even changing some of his previous views under Scotus' influence; perhaps he just might canonize him next. He is quite happy to praise Scotus' views on the immaculate conception and the primacy of Christ, but remains critical, and uninformed, as to Scotus' actual doctrine on the will.

I think "the lightbulb went on" for me with Scotus when I read Fr. Keefe's Covenantal Theology, about which I have written many times before. I find it interesting also that Keefe's theology of the Incarnation, as intrinsically Eucharistic, also draw heavily on the writings of St. Francis de Sales (1567–1622), my patron saint. I addressed the Scotistic nature of St Francis's theologia incarnatione in a post about the doctrine of sola Scriptura. St. Francis is interesting to me in this respect, because, while his magnum opus, Treatise on the Love of God, draws extensively and deferentially on St Thomas Aquinatis, yet his theology of the Incarnation is more Scotistic. He embodies, therefore, a truly catholic theological method very appealing to me. I take to be less than mere coincidence that both Duns Scotus and I took a "St. Francis" as our spiritual fathers. Where that resonance of providence leads, we shall see.

Interestingly enough, here is a video of an English portion of Pope Benedict's address:

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Often obscure and unintelligible…

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…but eminently orthodox!

The following is an excerpt from the Catholic Encyclopedia article about Blessed John Duns Scotus, the "Subtle Doctor," a doctor whose influence grows upon me by the month.

Scotus is a genuine Scholastic philosopher who works out ideas taken from Aristotle, St. Augustine, and the preceding Scholastics. He is universally recognized as a deep thinker, an original mind, and a sharp critic; a thoroughly scientific man, who without personal bias proceeds objectively, stating his own doctrines with modesty and with a certain reserve. It has been asserted that he did more harm than good to the Church, and that by his destructive criticism, his subtleties, and his barbarous terminology he prepared the ruin of Scholasticism, indeed that its downfall begins with him. These accusations originated to a great extent in the insufficient understanding or the false interpretation of his doctrines. No doubt his diction lacks elegance; it is often obscure and unintelligible; but the same must be said of many earlier Scholastics. Then too, subtle discussions and distinctions which to this age are meaningless, abound in his works; yet his researches were occasioned for the most part, by the remarks of other Scholastic philosophers, especially by Henry of Ghent, whom he attacks perhaps even more than he does St. Thomas. But the real spirit of scholasticism is perhaps in no other Scholastic so pronounced as in Scotus. In depth of thoughts which after all is the important thing, Scotus is not surpassed by any of his contemporaries. He was a child of his time; a thorough Aristotelean, even more so than St. Thomas; but he criticizes sharply even the Stagirite and his commentators. He tries always to explain them favourably, but does not hesitate to differ from them. Duns Sootus's teaching is orthodox. Catholics and Protestants have charged him with sundry errors and heresies, but the Church has not condemned a single proposition of his; on the contrary, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception which he so strongly advocated, has been declared a dogma.

You can learn a great deal more about the Doctor Subtilis by following The Smithy, an excellent but quirky blog (if you're not seriously into Scholasticism!) that I have been remiss in following the past few months.

Know thy… Know thy…

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The Christian doctrine of original sin amounts to equating two ancient maxims: "Know thyself" and "Know your enemy."

For, in the Christian faith, your own greatest enemy is ultimately yourself.

The dogma is not a transference or dissolution of personal responsibility onto Adam and Eve's slate. Nor is it a draconian condemnation for each of us personally based on them.

Rather, it is an admission that each of us is of the same moral constitution in action than Adam and Eve were in fact. Being of the same nature, we are of no better substance than they were.

Like it or not, laying claim to "being a human being" includes laying claim to the radical humanness of Adam and Eve and the radical Adam-and-Eve-ness of our human nature.

The sad truth is that we find ourselves immediately, and in fragments, in the icons of Adam and Eve. The good news––the Gospel––is that we find ourselves ultimately, and in a transcendent unity, in the icon of God, Jesus Christ.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Gym regimen – August 2010

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27 August, 2010
Ur-Workout: 50+ mins
89kg, BMI 25

0. Warmup: Stretching

1. Bench press: ø

1a. Elbows-out dumbbell tricep extension (total weight): 10, 8, 6 @ 32–44kg

2. Pullup: ø

2a. Lever bench row: 10, 8, 6 @ 100-110kg

3. Dumbbell military press (total weight): 10, 8, 6 @ 36–54kg

4. Dumbbell curl (per hand): 10, 8, 6 @ 17–22kg
[Same off-center grip as last time. I let my form get away from me on my last set––hunching the shoulder a bit to get the weight up––but I had a good pump with the full supination.]

5. Decline leg press: 18, 16, 12 @ 150-170kg
[Felt great.]

6. Supine French press: 10, 8, 6 @ 25–45kg
[Nice form on these, though on my last set it tended to sink into a pullover. Felt very good.]

7. Leg curl: 18, 15, 12 @ 35-45kg
[Hams remain strong. Good groaning my last set. Heh.]

8. Standing calf raise: ø

9. Kneeling rope pulldown (20 + 10 obliques): 20/10, 20/10, 30 @ 40kg
[These really work the serratus anterior if you pull inward, the elbows converging as you curl under. They also work the forearms somethin' fierce!]

10. Wrist curl: ø

Cooldown: ø


I decided to work out after work tonight, so I could get some things done in the afternoon. This meant I was under the gun to keep my time down and my intensity up. I got to Central just about 9PM and they close at 10PM. I did it all in under an hour, hooray! It dawned on me that part of the reason I haven't been able to keep my Ur-Workout under an hour, is because I tend to throw in a fourth set of some exercises, like leg press, leg curls, pullups, and pulldowns. When I stuck to three sets for everything, voilà, I made my goal.

I was actually tempted to forego my workout today, since I really do need to focus on some last-minute work projects, but I'll be going out of town this weekend, so I knew if I didn't work out today, I wouldn't get a chance again until Monday. (As for what a trip out of town will do for my uncompleted projects…!) I was driving and an urge suddenly crooned, "Don't go to the gym, let your body rest," and I replied, "Ahh, but that's the best sign: if my body doesn't 'want' to hit the weights but I do, I'm on the right path. Why do a routine that coddles your body?" Now if I could just be as disciplined about my prayer life!

Friday, August 27, 2010

What is a man?

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A Man: Tell me, what is a man?

Real Science: He is but a small complex… of complex molecular and subatomic interactions dispersed over a nominalistically recognized field which we call "man".

AM: Okay…. Tell me about America.

RS: It is but a large complex of molecular and subatomic interactions dispersed over a nominalistically recognized field of mountains and rivers and civic libraries all of which are known as "America".

AM: Okay…. Tell me about "small" fields.

RS: They are like humans.

AM: Tell me again about large fields.

RS: They are like America.

AM: So… tell me anything about anything.

RS: Not my department.

AM: Tell me, who are "we" in all this?

RS: Again, not my department. But that man over there might know.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Friends shooting the bull…

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Men at a round table in a Taiwanese stir fry restaurant. A full basket of beer bottles and a graveyard of cigarette butts perch under the table. Da Ming says to Bei Ge that the other day he saw a cloud evaporate in an instant as it passed over the sun and then reformed on the other side. Bei Ge and everybody else are totally skeptical. Da Ming must have been seeing things. Clouds don't just evaporate and reform like that. But Da Ming insists that is what he saw.

Fortunately an astute cognitive scientist, Xiao Xie, and a physicist, Zhi Hui, are eating at the adjacent table. They hear the dispute and feel obliged to shed some light. Zhi Hui informs them that, it's true, the laws of physics proscribe what Da Ming claims he saw. Xiao Xie, sensing Da Ming's indignation, modifies the story by saying that, even if Da Ming had perceived the prestidigitating cloud, what he saw was merely a neurological confabulation, a "sleight of brain." Da Ming's muscles, Xiao Xie continues, may have reacted to the stimulus of a "disappearing-reappearing cloud," but that's just because his brain had reconfigured perfectly normal sensory stimuli into something odder and then confabulated a memory to account for the unusual neuromuscular response. Zhi Hui indulges Xiao Xie's explanation, since he knows the laws of physics couldn't have allowed for such an anomaly.

I happened to be sitting at another table when I heard all this––no, actually, it's fictional––and here's my worry, or worries. First, the scientific method of physics has no way to proscribe any phenomenon, since nothing in physics is a priori or deductive. As soon as the limits of physics become as autocratic as Zhi Hui, they cease to become properly scientific. Exact physical science (EPS) is always and necessarily provisional. As I have discussed before in numerous posts (e.g. here1, here2, and here3), EPS exists on the horns of a dilemma––as does every vital form of human inquiry––between, let us say, empirical falsifiability and theoretic dominance, between basing its claims solely on the facts and basing its authority on accounting for all facts. The point is that Zhi Hui, and his physics, has no a priori means to know that Da Ming could not have seen what he says he saw. Da Ming's report must become a genuine and novel datum which physics must integrate or reject on its own empirical terms. The same frailty besets popular science articles about, for example, the "impossible physics" of Santa or the X-Men. They are only provisionally impossible, since, were Santa or the X-Men actually to achieve their magnalia rationes, physics would thereby have to be revised. And if EPS is not open to that perennially fundamental revisability, it is not EPS. So, if Da Ming did actually witness what he witnessed, and Zhi Hui's EPS cannot account for it, so much the worse for Zhi Hui's EPS. Insofar as Zhi Hui's EPS cannot integrate Da Ming's datum, EPS is not a complete explanation of known reality, which is where Xiao Xie comes in: because EPS has the hardest time accounting for the contents of subjective realities in the myriad loci of human subjectivity, the surest tactic is to delegitimize those contents altogether. I have discussed this topic most recently here1 and here2.

As for Xiao Xie's account of Da Ming's experience, I think it suffers from a similar but even more fatal flaw. Xiao Xie's basic claim is that, whatever Da Ming says he experienced, it wasn't outside of Da Ming's neuromuscular structure. It was, again, a "sleight of brain." This is the problem, however: if Da Ming's perception of the prestidigitating cloud (P:c) is nothing but a neuro-cognitive confabulation (C:n), then it stands to reason that all his perceptions are confabulations of the same nature. Otherwise, unless Xiao Xie had experienced and analyzed Da Ming's P:c on its own terms, for himself, he would have no reason to reduce P:c to C:n. Unless cognitive science decides to become a priori, like Zhi Hui's ESP, it has no a priori grounds on which to reduce P:c to C:n. Now, let's assume Xiao Xie had only a week earlier completed a series of rigorous experiments about confabulated experience (C:E). So, presumably, he knows whereof he speaks when he deflates Da Ming's P:c. But here is a further problem: because it is undeniable that Da Ming experienced something when he says he experience P:c, we have to ask what he actually experienced. And it seems that Xiao Xie's 'superior' explanation is merely that Da Ming experienced the experience of his brain confabulating the experience of a prestidigitating cloud, which I shall formalize as P:C:n::P:c. His memory of P:c is, therefore, nothing but his memory of P:C:n::P:c. This is an erudite reduction, but what has it actually gained us in explanatory terms? For now, instead of Da Ming's phenomenal dogmatism about P:c, we are left with Xiao Xie's phenomenal dogmatism about P:C:n::P:c. The problem is that, in either case, we are still left with an irreducibly phenomenal content of the story trying to be told. For, while Xiao Xie is effectively saying that Da Ming did not really experience P:c, he did really experience P:C:n::P:c. Thus, in the very act of attempting to reduce the silly phenomenological contents of Da Ming's account to the empirically rigorous, scientifically sober contents of a complex of neural activity in Da Ming's neurological system, Xiao Xie has only replaced the irreducibly phenomenal content of P:c with that of P:C:n::P:c. He has not, therefore, done away with the irreducibility of phenomenal experience as a 'scientific' illusion––he has merely located it. Instead of scolding Da Ming for claiming to see P:c, Xiao Xie commends an unspecified complex of Da Ming's neural tissue for perceiving P:C:n::P:c.

And then there is the ultimate question of what we should make of Xiao Xie's perceptions themselves. For if his own cognitive theories can so easily dispense with Da Ming's account, why don't they dispense with the contents of his own consciousness as well? Presumably, Xiao Xie would say that his deflation can be replicated in a laboratory. But so what? What if Da Ming's experience can only be replicated in a laboratory coextensive with the phenomelogical field in which he first experienced it? Its rarity would not make it any less true than Halley's comet, the emergence of a black hole, or the Big Bang itself. Indeed, the rarity of Da Ming's P:c would ipso facto make it the crucial datum for a higher law than Zhi Hui and Xiao Xie can account for in the their entire lives––but would not therefore make it a fiction. Hence, it may be the case that the authority of Zhi Hui's and Xiao Xie's science rests more on the contingency and provincialism of their field's experience than on reality itself, a reality which was disclosed to Da Ming like Newton's (apocryphal) apple, or Galileo's (apocryphal) weights off the Tower of Pisa, or St Augustine's (all too real) pear-theft epiphany. Therefore, by the end of the night, it is a very open question as to who was shooting more bullshit: Da Ming, Zhi Hui, or Xiao Xie.

Speaking of Taiwan…

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…but not in such a depressing vein as last night. Here's a jolly little video about some friends touring Taiwan. I like to call it home. Who needs virtual reality? You! Are! There!

Well, that was immensely depressing…

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I saw Formosa Betrayed tonight. And it left me profoundly depressed. I have a feeling the claim that the KMT killed 20,000 people in one day (February 28, 1947) is a bit inflated, but, even so––seeing a movie about how the foundation of Taiwan, the country I've called home for about seven years, was built on a military occupation… and that my own government abetted it all to go on… well, it's just depressing, even if a melodramatic depiction. My only "consolation" is that it just confirms my––our––pilgrim-status on earth. As Hebrews 11 says:

[13]These all died in faith, not having received what was promised, but having seen it and greeted it from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
[14] For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.
[15] If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return.
[16] But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

13 這 些 人 都 是 存 著 信 心 死 的 , 並 沒 有 得 著 所 應 許 的 ; 卻 從 遠 處 望 見 , 且 歡 喜 迎 接 , 又 承 認 自 己 在 世 上 是 客 旅 , 是 寄 居 的 。
14 說 這 樣 話 的 人 是 表 明 自 己 要 找 一 個 家 鄉 。
15 他 們 若 想 念 所 離 開 的 家 鄉 , 還 有 可 以 回 去 的 機 會 。
16 他 們 卻 羨 慕 一 個 更 美 的 家 鄉 , 就 是 在 天 上 的 。 所 以 神 被 稱 為 他 們 的 神 , 並 不 以 為 恥 , 因 為 他 已 經 給 他 們 預 備 了 一 座 城 。

A few other things are weighing on me as well––some translations and essays I have failed to complete for too long, some echoes of a past I said I would not revisit, general existential angst, etc.––so the movie only added to my transient melancholy. All I want to do is serve at St. Coletta's, study, write, and workout.

Part of the problem with "Taiwan and me" is that, while I "know" I "must" support Taiwan's independence––"democracy" is a demanding buzz word––, I don't have a clear idea of what Taiwanese independence would mean, functionally speaking. If it were granted complete diplomatic autonomy tomorrow, would this necessarily mean life here would get better? What if that just led to more machinations by the PRC to sabotage relations between Taiwan and others? Or to outright war? Or what if it led to a regime that expunged all non-Taiwanese elements and thus led to a culturally anemic and xenophobic island? Presumably, the idea of "freedom" is so noble in its own right that the Taiwanese, like all people, deserve to enjoy it, even if it entails pragmatic difficulties and woes. But that just assumes a lot of classic values which I don't think many advocates of Taiwanese independence are willing to grant in a different context. Specifically, and in a typically metaphysical vein, if determinism is true and "freedom" is an illusion for humans, why should I fight for it on behalf of these agents called nations? Divorced from a robust conception of human freedom as an irreducible good, much of the activism for "independence" boils down to politics and hedonism: "We don't like how Those Guys run things, because they run things, so we want to run things. And we don't like not being able to buy what we want, so we want to get what we want."

Maybe I feel like the protagonist in the movie: having never thought of coming to, or caring about, Taiwan, there came a point when he saw things, lived things, loved things, and lost things which he can never forget. Taiwan is a tainted place for him, like a giant haunted house. Maybe I feel the same way about Taiwan sometimes: having seen, lived, loved, lost––now what does going forward mean? At least Agent Kelly could quit the FBI; I can't quit myself. Like Agent Kelly, I find myself devastated by what I've lived, learned, loved, and lost in this country, and I can only wonder what the road ahead holds. Much to ponder.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Gym routine - August 2010

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25 August, 2010
Ur-Workout: 70 mins
89kg, BMI 25

0. Warmup: Exercise bike, ski machine, stretching

1. Bench press:
[Not until my left pec gets better.]

1a. Elbows-out dumbbell tricep extension (total weight): 10, 8, 6 @ 32–40kg

2. Pullup: 12 @ bodyweight

2a. Lever bench row: 10, 8, 6 @ 100-120kg
[I probably need to change this to a 12, 10, 8 rep-scheme and keep the weight from 100–110kg. My form was a little off tonight––I let my chest come off the pad––and, on top of that, I didn't feel as much PUMP as I want to feel when I work my lats! More reps! heheh]

3. Dumbbell military press (total weight): 10, 8, 6 @ 36–54kg

4. Dumbbell curl (total weight): 10, 8, 6 @ 30–45kg
[I tried a new technique with these: grip the handle at the outer head, not in the middle, so there is more space between the blade of your hand and the inner head, and no space between your thumb and the outer head. This accentuates the supinating power of the biceps as opposed to the mere flexing.]

5. Decline leg press: 20, 18, 16, 12 @ 130-180kg
[My foot felt a little achey but otherwise it was great to be able to do the leg press again!]

6. Leg curl: 20, 15, 15, 12 @ 30-45kg
[My hams have definitely gotten stronger. I did 15 reps at 40kg with only socially tolerable grunting on the last few reps. Finishing 12 reps at 45kg, however, was a beautifully raw effort.]

7. Supine French press: 10, 8, 6 @ 25–40kg (?)
[I could really feel the extra challenge I gave my left arm in my last workout. Doubling up on my tris lately has made me sore but I like the challenge.]

8. Standing calf raise: N/A
[Moratorium on calf raises, due to foot injury.]

9. Kneeling rope pulldown (20 + 10 obliques): 30, 30, 32, 32 @ 35-40kg
[I realized today that the reason I have been doing 70kg+ is because the cable machine I was on has lots of pulleys, which inflate the weight. When I went to a straight, single-pulley machine, 40kg felt about the same as my usual 77.5kg, so I'm splitting the difference. This is one of those cases when an "illusion of weight" doesn't annoy me at all: I have felt the soreness in my serrati anterior and abs, and I love the pump during this exercise, so the numbers can take the hindmost.]

10. Wrist curl: N/A
[I'll work wrists on off-days.]

Cooldown: That wacky vibrating machine from the 1950s!
[I read that vibrations actually do help muscle growth (e.g. as claimed here), so it seems like a mini-massage afterwards is a good way to cool down. If nothing else, it's soothing.]


I have to get my intensity up, which means I have to get my time down. Granted, my 70 minutes today included at least 5 minutes of warmup and 5 minutes of cooldown, so that puts me at 60 minutes of actual workout time. I also have to factor in the delay from waiting on other people. Still, I'd like to get my workout to 50 minutes or less, no matter what.

God, Predication, and Ontology

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[I originally posted this 4 July 2004 but felt it was worth bringing "back to the future," not only, I hope, to help some readers (?) with the recent material I've written about necessity, possibility, and so on, but also to show how this topic has been abiding interest of mine for longer than I realized. I have bolded the sections that I think have value for further consideration.

I sent a copy of this essay to a former professor of mine UF, Gene Witmer, and he was nice enough to reply, though I can't find, much less, recall the substance of his comments right now. I know he is a rather staunch atheist and physicalist––he joked drolly once about "Saint Alvin"––so even though my writings did little to convert him, I must thank him for giving me my taste for metaphysics. He was a bit rough around the edges but a very good teacher.]

The classic repudiation, à la Kant (AD 1724-1804), of the ontological argument for the existence of God (OAG), à la Anselm of Canterbury (AD 1033-1109) in his famed Proslogium, is that, since existence is not a predicate, necessary existence cannot be predicated of God. Anselm argued that God is the being than which none greater can be conceived, meaning that God is infinitely greater than every other entity. Part of this “maximal greatness" (to use a term of Alvin Plantinga’s in his modification of OAG) includes existing, since any existent being is greater than any nonexistent being.

A common example is that a perfect, but nonexistent, island is inferior to an even slightly less magnificent, but existent, island by sheer virtue of the fact that the latter actually has its magnificence, while the former does not actually have any magnificence. In lay terms, ten real dollars is greater than a billion imaginary ones. An actual bird in hand is better than two potential ones on the roof.

In reference to God, this fairly straightforward observation about the superiority of actuality over potentiality is that, if God is the greatest possible being, then he must exist. The key is to abstractly “depersonalize” God (as we in the Judeo-Christian tradition are inclined to imagine Him) for the moment, for the sake of argument, and call Him instead simply “the greatest possible being.” If we imagine such a maximally great being (MGB) – a term I’ll discuss below – we should admit that part of MGB's greatness entails its existence, since any other being, even one less great, would be ontologically “superior” to MGB by sheer virtue of actually possessing its iota of greatness. No matter how great MGB might be, it is less great than any actually existent thing because there is no MGB to have that greatness. Hence, if we conceive of God as the greatest possible being – and not even the greatest possible mortally imaginable being – then we should admit such a greatest being would have to exist, or it would not eo ipso be the greatest being. A thing’s nonexistence automatically disqualifies it from being the greatest possible being (a.k.a. God).

This sounds reasonable enough, but where Kant finds fault with it – and, in many people’s opinion, irrefutable fault – is that existence is not a predicate, meaning nothing can “have” existence to any greater degree than anything else. Predication basically means description. For example, you can predicate redness to two apples. One apple might be much redder than the other. By some obscure chemical process, you might be able to remove all redness from one of the apples, thus, no longer being able to predicate redness to it. That’s nice for things – predicates – like color, size, temperature, beauty, wisdom, weight and the like; but what about existence? Does it make any sense to predicate being to a thing? How can one thing be "more existent" than another? Existence is a binary feature of ontology: you either have it or you don’t. Existence is also very egalitarian: each existing thing exists just as greatly as any other existent thing. Hence, speaking of comparative degrees of being seems totally fallacious: a thing either is or it isn’t.

The significance of this point for OAG, according to Kant, is that existence shouldn’t even be brought into the consideration of God’s alleged greatness. Since there is no such thing as maximally existing or minimally existing -- but only existence in se -- we should not bother saying an existent thing is greater than a non-existent thing because it exists. We should restrict our criteria of ontological “greatness” to legitimate, variable predicates.

In his well known example [forgive me if I have this confused], Kant proposed two triangles, one existent, the other non-existent. "Adding" existence to the latter in no way increases its greatness over the former. However, removing one of the former’s sides – thus eradicating its triangularity – would indeed place its ontological "rank" below the nonexistent, whole triangle. The point is that this change – removing a side from one of the triangle – alters the triangles' respective predicates. This change has nothing to do with their existence, since existence is not predicable to them, while triangularity is predicable.

As a consequence, God’s putative greatness can be maximalized only in terms of His predicates – goodness, wisdom, power, etc. – but not in terms of His existence. Hence, even if He were conceived of as some “greatest being” – the most perfectly predicated being – that still would not entail His actual existence. A perfect and benevolent God may be better than a wicked Deity in terms of their predicates, but since you couldn’t predicate existence to either, perhaps neither exists. God may be perfect, but He nevertheless may not be. Basically, Kant imprisoned God in the realm of pure abstract possibility, granting even His Maximal Greatness only the possibility of existence.

Now, I am far from an expert on these matters, but I do know there has been some very advanced analytic work on Anselm’s little argument in the past fifty or sixty years. His humble thought experiment, which was conceived in Anselm's mind more as a prayer than a real argument, has died so hard -– or, perhaps more accurately, not died at all -– for some good reason. I understand that Alvin Plantinga’s most important contribution to OAG has been to cast it in terms of possible worlds (PWs).

For the sake of technical clarity, I should mention that Plantinga defines PWs as “maximal states of affairs,” meaning they can possess every possible attribute except being our world, the actual world (AW). Our world, AW, is the only actual state of affairs; everything else is possible. AW exists actually; all PWs exist possibly. There are other states of affairs that could exist, and could be very different from AW. For example, there could be a PW, say, PW’, that is exactly like AW except that in PW’ I have brown eyes instead of blue. Or there could be another PW, say PW’’, that is totally unlike AW, except that PW’’ also has oxygen (and only oxygen) in it. A PW’s relative similarity to AW is not really important. What is important is that, no matter how similar or dissimilar a PW is to AW, none of them actually exists, whereas AW does actually exist. Notice that this stipulation is not a violation of the non-predicability of existence, of which Kant made so much. It’s simply a statement about whether a state of affairs is or is not actual. Both PW’ and PW’’ are merely possible worlds, not the actual (i.e., this) world.

Now, basically – very basically! – Plantinga argues that if there is a possible PW in which some being necessarily exists, then that being necessarily exists in all PWs, including our world, AW. Hence, this alleged necessary being (a.k.a. God), posited in PW1, necessarily exists in this, our actual world. I admit that when I first encountered this idea, it struck me as utterly absurd. So what if some great being exists in some other possible world? Its “possible” existence in some other “possible” world doesn’t make it the case that it really exists in this, the real world. I was baffled, but I also knew Plantinga – and Anselm, and Hartshorne, and many other philosophers sympathetic to OAG – was not a complete idiot. He had to have some good reason for defending the seemingly trivial idea of a possible necessary being.

I have come to realize that Plantinga's good reason is that the nature of a necessary being (NB) is crucial for a fair assessment of OAG. In my very dim understanding, when Plantinga speaks of NB, he means a being that can’t fail to be, a being the essence – or “non-negotiable” attribute – of which is to exist. In purely abstract terms, it simply can’t be the case that NB does not exist. Now, such a being is certainly conceivable. Take a minute and imagine such a being, using only the terms of the definition I just gave; don’t get hung up on how foreign such a being is to our everyday, contingent existence. If you can imagine such a being without immediately recognizing an absolute contradiction in terms – on the order of a round square or 2 + 2 = 5 – then such a being might very well exist in some other, possible state of affairs.

In addition to the necessity of God in OAG, Plantinga discusses the "greatness" of this alleged NB. Plantinga begins by imagining a being that is "maximally excellent," which is to say a being that is totally loving, kind, wise, powerful, just, good, etc. As Graham Oppy says, "an entity possesses 'maximal excellence' iff [if and only if -- EBB] it is omnipotent, omnscient [sic], and morally perfect." A maximally excellent being (MEB) is certainly possible.

Next, MEB can be said to possess “maximal greatness” iff it is maximally excellent in every PW, which is to say it exists necessarily and is necessarily maximally excellent. In other words, MEB is MGB iff it is NB and necessarily MEB. Such a being, too, is certainly possible. We’ve already noted the possibility of NB, the possibility of MEB, and, now the possibility of MGB, so we should now see the consequent necessity of MGB. Since it is possible that MGB exists in some PW, it is necessary that MGB exists in every PW, including AW.

Maybe this seems like a lot of smoke and mirrors. To help clear the air, let’s consider the general nature of logical necessity and possibility. Consider the following proposition (q): 2 + 2 = 4. We immediately, intuitively and undeniably recognize that q is true, and necessarily true, in AW. But how about in some other world, say, non-AW? It should be obvious that q is also just as necessarily true in non-AW as in AW. q is a necessarily true proposition in every possible world. It can’t fail to be the case that 2 + 2 = 4; it’s a sure bet, in AW and in all PWs. By the very terms of the definition, it’s meaningless to rub your chin and say, “Well, perhaps 2 + 2 doesn’t equal 4 in some other world. Anything's possible, right?” Sorry, nope. Whatever is necessary in one state of affairs is the case in every PW; and whatever is the case in every PW is necessary in any state of affairs.

Now let’s consider a second proposition (qq): 2 + 2 = 1. It should be as plainly obvious – and necessarily obvious – that this is nonsense, both in AW and in all PWs. qq is necessarily false, which means it is – or "exists as" – false in every PW. It's as absurd to rub your chin and say, "Well, maybe 2 + 2 really does equal 1 in some other world. Anything's possible, right?" Well, no. You'll lose that bet every time, in every world.

With all this in mind, the important question is this: is God, construed as an NB, possible like q or impossible like qq? If God is like q, then He exists in PW1 just as necessarily as in AW. If, on the other hand, God is like qq, then He cannot exist in PW1 just as necessarily as He can't exist in any other world, including AW. But as we’ve already seen, God, as an NB, is not necessarily impossible; in fact, an NB’s possible existence ensures its existence in every world just as necessarily as q’s necessity ensures its validity in every world.

What is possible is possible in every world. What is possibly necessary in one PW is just as totally necessary as in every PW. More poetically, what is possibly necessary is necessarily possible; and what is necessarily possible is simply necessary. As with q, the very terms of the definition of an NB make it meaningless to rub your chin and say, “Well, perhaps a 'necessary being' could fail to exist in some other sate of affairs.” You might as well say 2 + 2 could equal 1, or that a square could be round. Since God, as an NB, is possible in at least one PW, then He necessarily exists in every PW, including AW. Hence, God necessarily exists in AW.

It should be clear that, in light of PWs, I don’t find Kant’s critique of OAG compelling. I agree that existence is not a predicate; but I disagree that OAG is simply about God’s predicates. OAG, more properly understood, is about various PWs’ predicates. As Kant argued, we shouldn't try to weigh one Being's greatness over another's based on their existence or non-existence. And now, with OAG formulated in terms of PWs, we’re not trying to establish one PW’s greatness over another PW based on either’s existence or non-existence. We’re simply discussing what might “populate” PWs.

Hence, I think Kant’s disregard for God’s predicates misses the point and actually backfires on him. He’s right that we should not judge God’s greatness based on His existence or non-existence. Yet, the predicate under question is not God’s existence, but his necessity or contingency. We’re not debating whether God’s be-ing is more truly existent than any other things’ be-ing. We’re simply discussing his mode, or way, of existing in comparison with other things’ modes of being. And, as I’ve discussed, God’s (conceptualized) status as an NB gives Him the same kind of omni-PW necessity as q or the triangularity of three conjoined sides.

The OAG, then, is not about God’s predicates, but about God’s predicability to various PWs. That difference, I think, dodges Kant’s predication objection to OAG. I could care less whether a possible God is greater than an actual one. What I’m concerned with – and what I think the OAG presses upon us – is whether it’s possible to predicate to a PW the attribute of “having an NB.” Insofar as such PW-predicability is possible, I think OAG provides a powerful defense of God’s existence, in PW and in AW.


P.S. I would appreciate suggestions, critiques, encouragement and any credit card information you might have to offer. Thankee.

P.P.S. I’m suspicious of calling location a predicate. Hence, insofar as I can see God’s possibility in PWs as a reference to His location, I think OAG has even less to do with God’s predicates.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Unrolled dice and eternal stars…

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The point of this post is to differentiate between different kinds of causation and possibility as they figure in debates about God's existence.

Imagine a world that consists entirely of a die-cast mold and some plaster filling that mold. Call this world Wmp. Could such a combination (have) exist(ed) independently for all time? I suppose so. An immediate impulse is to say that a die-cast mold must have been crafted by someone, so this austere scenario seems to require a prior cause. But I'll suppress that impulse for the moment and grant this mold-plaster scenario, for argument's sake.

To make the suppression easier, consider a different world, Wd, which consists entirely of a pair of die in a small bowl. Our impulse once more is to imagine the dice had been rolled, or at least placed, in the bowl, or, at the very least pressed in a machine to make their divots and dimensions. But I don't think it's inconceivable for Wd to exist, so I'll grant it.

Now, both Wmp and Wb would be only dimly causal worlds. In Wmp the shape of the mold gives the plaster its shape, but, then again, the plaster is also what gives the mold its shape qua mold. So there's only a very weak form of mutual causation between them. Further, lacking any other entities, nothing could bring about their separation, which means, once again, causation is basically vacuous in Wmp. The same holds for Wd.

I am pondering these ponderables because of thoughts I had about Doug's presentation of the Scotist modal argument for God's existence (SMA). Here is how Doug presents the argument:

1. A First Cause possibly exists. (Premise)

2. Whatever is possible is either contingent or necessary. (Definition)

3. Whatever is contingent can be actualized. (Premise)

4. A First Cause cannot be actualized. (Premise)

5. Therefore, a First Cause is necessary. (From 1 - 4).

Doug then adds that

…atheistic philosopher William Rowe doesn't dispute any of the premises of Duns Scotus' argument. Rather, what Rowe attempts to do is demonstrate that if this argument were correct, it would lead to all kinds of absurdities:
Surely it is possible for an everlasting star to exist. The stars that exist are presumably not everlasting--for each star, let us suppose, there was a time before which it did not exist and there will be a time at which it ceases to exist. But this seems to be an empirical fact and not a matter of conceptual or logical necessity. The idea of an everlasting star does seem to be a non-contradictory idea, even if no star is in fact everlasting. Let us grant, then, that

i. it is possible for an everlasting star to exist.

Now clearly we must grant that

ii. it is impossible for an everlasting star to come into existence. (If x comes into existence then by definition x is not everlasting.)

Moreover, since if something is produced by something else then there was a time before which it did not exist, we have

iii. it is impossible for an everlasting star to be produced by something else.

[The Cosmological Argument, Fordham University Press, 1998, pp. 52-53.]

Doug responds by saying:

The problem with Rowe's counter-argument is that it assumes a type of modality not necessarily entailed by Scotus. Even a star that is everlasting is being actualized by the matter that composes it. The analogy, then, of a non-actualized everlasting star seems to be incoherent and disanalogous to the SCA. For, the First Cause that Scotus envisages is simply not actualized at all.

I agree, but also added what I think is a subtly different and perhaps even more basic rejoinder. Namely, the problem with conceiving of an everlasting star is that the definition of a star is a) that it is a collapsed planet and b) that it therefore has a finite amount of mass to expend before expiring. A star's definitional parameters for being require not only that it 'descended' or 'emerged' from a prior state of affairs, namely, a planet in collapse, but also that it have a finite amount of energy. Positing an eternal star, therefore, is as incoherent as positing an unborn son or an eternal two-week vacation. So Rowe's objection is––I can't help myself––a non-starter.

Perhaps Rowe, or a Rowe-like objector, would reformulate his position to mean that there is something––call it a star*––which we call "a star" but that is only phenomenally like a star (i.e. bright, hot, large, etc.). This star* would display all the 'behavior' of a star but would not be subject to the prior limitations on what a star actually is. Unfortunately, this only opens the way for further objections. For instance, being like a star entails that a star* pulsates at a specific radiometric frequency and that it recedes from a terrestrial observer at a specific Dopplerized velocity. As such, a star*'s phenomenal constitution intrinsically bears reference to spatiotemporal succession, at least in notion, and therefore includes contingency and change in its own notion.

Thus, while a star* could be posited ad hoc to have just "been there" from/for all time, its stellar specificities as a cosmic sub-entity render it decisively unlike what God is. An infinitely large star coextensive with the cosmos is incoherent, since a star must at least phenomenally shine against some non-star background. If Rowe and Rowesque objectors go for broke by saying the star––now call it Star!––is immobile, unchanging, infinitely powerful, timeless, purely luminiscent, devoid of any interfering or transmitting medium, etc., they will be dangerously to mounting an atheist case for God. The more this Star! takes on divine attributes, the less it enjoys properly stellar attributes, until eventually Rowe's objection just becomes a species of the "flying spaghetti monster" argument. At which point we must invoke St Thomas: "Sapientis enim est non curare de nominibus" (Wisdom does not treat of names).

Rowe's everlasting star and my everlasting Wmp and Wd are all counterintutive but nonetheless conceivable. Now here's the point I want to make about differing kinds of possibility in these arguments.

Let's say something is possible1 iff nothing in the notion of the thing entails an intrinsic contradiciton. A square circle would not be possible1.

Now let's say that something is possible2 iff it is possible1 and possible1 for it to exist with accidental variations. For example, as an American, it is possible1 for me to be a citizen of Idaho but only possible2 for me to be a citizen of Idaho after 1890 (when Idaho was admitted to the Union). It is likewise possible1 for N. and K. (the individuals who became my parents) not to have had me, but it is not possible2 for me not to have had N. and K. as my parents. Who I am intrinsically depends on my being the child of my parents. My proper parameters for being preclude an alternate parentage is possible2.

Lastly, something is possible3 iff it possible1 but not possible2. This means that a state of affairs S:a is conceivable (possible1) but it is inconceivable (~possible1) for S:a to exist in any other way, under any other circumstances, by any different means, in any other sense, with any other parameters for being, and so on.

This notation is totally provisional and may be terribly faulty, but, hey, this is a blog, so let me show how they apply to my larger point. I realize that the more conventional terms are "conceptual possibility" (possible1), "metaphysical possibility" (possible2), and "analycity" (possible3), but for some reason I want to avoid those terms in this train of thought. I would like to say that something possible1 is weakly possible, or enjoys weak possibility; something possible2 is strongly possible, or enjoys strong possibility; and something possible3 is integrally possible, or enjoys integral possibility.

Wmp is possible1 and possible2, but not possible3. Here's why: As I've granted, Wmp is possible1 but it is also possible1 for Wmp to exist in slightly different ways. For instance, imagine there were numerously variable pock marks in the surface of the plaster that allowed for 'air' to exist between the mold and the plaster. Or imagine no such gaps existed, and the interior of the plaster mold was perfectly hermetically smooth. Or imagine the many possible shades of the plaster, or what metal the mold is made of, and so on. The variables are endless, yet they don't compromise what Wmp is as a whole S:a. This is because there is nothing in the definition of a die-cast model and/or of a mass of plaster that either preclude its possible1 existence or exhaust its possible2 features. The same holds for Wd. The size, smoothness, glint, separation, etc. of the dice can vary indefinitely when considered in possible2 terms.

Now contrast this with the SMA, which argues that if an Unactualized Actualizer (UA) is possible1, such an Actualizer is necessary. (The UA is "unactualized" by virtue of not being subject to anything which essentially makes it actual. It is simply actual, not actualized.) The UA is possible1, since it is not intellectually repugnant like a square circle or a married bachelor or an unborn son. But is the UA possible2? I say it is not. For the very definition of the UA is not to be subject to variations in its conditions of existence, such variations being the way a thing is possible2. Unlike Wmp and Wd, the UA could not exist in any other way, could not be subject to any other qualifications, and still remain what it is by definition. Making the UA possible2, therefore, amounts to asserting that the UA is not possible1. By supposing the UA could be actualized based on, or according to, numerous other factors or under numerous other conditions––and could be "de-actualized" by other unsuitable factors/conditions (à la me and Idaho and 1889)––, the suppositions would subject the UA to an existential conditioning precluded by its definition (as a weakly-possible). Unlike Wmp and Wd, and like a circle, there is no way to 'tweak' how the UA exists without denying the possibility that the UA exists altogether. The UA is possible1 only in the way it is presented as being possible1, which means it is possible3. Like Wmp, the definition of the UA entails that it is possible1 but precludes that it is possible2. Insofar, therefore, as the UA is possible1 and not possible2, but is possible3, and its possibility conditions include its necessary existence, then the UA is actually existent (again, by virtue of it remaining a coherent first-order possibility).

Circular circles…

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In some cases, naming a thing necessarily entails asserting a thing's nonexistence. For example, if by W:x~W I name "the factor or set of factors which make the present state of affairs to be other than what they are at present," I am implicitly and necessarily denying the existence of W:x~W. Nothing exists or could possibly exist to make the present state of affairs other than they are at present. That's trivially true but, obviously, metaphysically complex.

Likewise, in some cases, naming a thing necessarily entails asserting a thing's existence. For example, if by W:xW I name "the factor or set of factors which make the present state of affairs to be they are at present," I am implicitly and necessarily asserting the existence of W:xW. That which makes the present state of affairs what they are at present cannot not exist. That is, again, trivially true but also metaphysically complex.

Why not see God's existence in the same way see a circle? Why not see the relationship between "deity" and "existence" in the same way we see the relationship between "circularity" and "roundness" (or "punctual equidistance")? Necessarily, either a circle is round or a circle is not possible; and, necessarily, either a necessary being exists or such a being is not possible. But the very terms involved––circle and round, necessary being and existing being––entail each other. In my view, "a necessarily existent being" is as much of a circumlocution for "God" as "a punctually equidistant set of points" is for "a circle." Something must fulfill what it is to be a circle, otherwise the term itself is incoherent; but it is not incoherent, since 'that which is circular' entails its roundness. Likewise, something must fulfill what it is to be W:xW, otherwise W is impossible; but since W is necessary, W:xW is also necessary. In the same way, something must fulfill what it is to be a necessary being, otherwise the term itself is incoherent; but it is not incoherent, since the term itself entails its own existence.

Perhaps an objector says, "But we can imagine 'deity' not existing. We can't imagine a non-round circle"?

I reply that I can imagine a non-round circle, in at least two ways. First, the circle is a thin rubber hoop. I find it jumbled into a knotted heap in a box. Nothing about it says "round" to my imagination. Yet it is round. Second, every instance of a circle we have experienced is actually not perfectly round and therefore not a circle. The imperfections in the chalk on the board, in the graphite on the paper, in the branch as it carves through the sand, etc.––in every case, a circle as we know it is just an approximation of 'what a circle is' in se. Yet I know such "circles" are circles because I, so to speak, know "what they are getting at." To deny that "the circle" is an impossible shape because we cannot present one devoid of any defects, is to fail to grasp what a circle is, not to disprove how and that circles exist. Likewise, while all arguments for (or presentations of) God may fail to capture wholly and perfectly 'what God is', yet we know "what they are getting at." Hence, to say that "the Deity" is an impossibility because we cannot articulate It devoid of any defects, is to misconceive of what the Godhead is, not to disprove how and that the Deity exists.

The objector continues, "But your conception of the Deity is just an historical accident. Had you been born in a different culture and a different time, you might have thought the Deity was born from an eternal chaos, etc."

I reply that our conception of a circle is also just an historical accident. Had our species evolved only to see straight and diagonal lines, we would have no conception of circularity. To retort that we have evolved to see circles because there really are circles in the world is but to beg the question, since there being circles in the world depends on circularity actually existing in the first place. I can just as reasonably say that we have evolved to detect the Deity in the world because the Deity really is in the world.

But the objector continues: "Ascribing a divine will to or 'behind' the world is just a massive cognitive illusion our species has developed because the illusion has tended to support survival and genetic transmission in the past. There isn't really 'the Deity' in the world; we are just programmed to think there is."

I reply that this only repeats the earlier error, which wanted to deny the existence of circles based on the fact that we don't experience perfect circles in nature. Seeing what is, at close range, a ragged trail of chalk on a board or graphite on paper and yet calling it "a circle" is just as much a cognitive 'illusion' as taking a discrete series of vibrations in air to be a coherent stream of language with a meaning. Fudging non-circles into "circles" must have tended to promote survival and reproduction, otherwise it would not have evolved (e.g. because such fudging drastically reduces computational demands and this reduces metabolic demands, or because Fudging the Forms prevents Platonic Paralysis by forestalling just pondering Circularity while Tigerness devours our Headness, etc.). We may have evolved to see what are not truly circles as circles, but this does not negate the existence of circularity per se.

It is my contention that any conception of God which admits His possible nonexistence is of the same character as a conception of circles which denies their roundness. I am well aware that St Thomas Aquinas, e.g. in SCG I, I, x–xi, admits the conceivability of the nonexistence of God, and thus I seem to be pitting myself against the Universal Doctor. As he says in capitum xi,

"For assuredly that God exists is, absolutely speaking, self-evident, since what God is is His own being. Yet, because we are not able to conceive in our minds that which God is, that God exists remains unknown in relation to us. So, too, that every whole is greater than its part is, absolutely speaking, self-evident; but it would perforce be unknown to one who could not conceive the nature of a whole. … For that He can be thought not to be does not arise either from the imperfection or the uncertainty of His own being, since this is in itself most manifest. It arises, rather, from the weakness of our intellect, which cannot behold God Himself except through His effects and which is thus led to know His existence through reasoning."

Thomas' target in these chapters is the Anselmian ontological argument and I don't think I am mounting an Anselmian ontological argument. St Anselm was arguing that a true grasp of what God is would convert the intellect into believing that God is. But as the quotation above indicates, St Thomas was more aware of the legitimate cognitive weaknesses many people have (à la illusions imbibed by our evolutionary past, as discussed above) and, thus, argued why Anselm's argument could not in itself convert the intellect to faith. I am making what I think is a more modest claim: insofar as God's essence is to exist, any argument against this notion fails to grasp what God is, and so, while this is not a rational fault of the objector, yet it is not a defeater for the notion of God as proclaimed in classical theism. A person may therefore legitimately be 'forgiven' for failing to see God's existence included in His essence and may be aided to faith by way of other (e.g. Thomistic) argumentation. Even so, this does not mean the person's failure to believe in God as necessarily existent is not an argument against God as held by the theist. By saying that St Thomas was perhaps more sensitive to humanity's endemic cognitive frailties, I do not mean to suggest St Anselm was unaware of the problem. This is why in chapter IV of Proslogium he says,

…there is more than one way in which a thing is said in the heart or conceived. For, in one sense, an object is conceived, when the word signifying it is conceived; and in another, when the very entity, which the object is, is understood.

In the former sense, then, God can be conceived not to exist; but in the latter, not at all. For no one who understands what fire and water are can conceive fire to be water, in accordance with the nature of the facts themselves, although this is possible according to the words. So, then, no one who understands what God is can conceive that God does not exist; although he says these words in his heart, either without any or with some foreign, signification. For, God is that than which a greater cannot be conceived. And he who thoroughly understands this, assuredly understands that this being so truly exists, that not even in concept can it be non-existent. Therefore, he who understands that God so exists, cannot conceive that he does not exist.

+ + +

Rough technical appendix… 

[∆ means possible, Ω means necessary, ~ means negation, : means predication]

1. It is impossible to assert the existence of a square circle (sc).
1a. ~∆P:(x:sc)

2. It is impossible to assert that a circle is not round (c~r) or that a non-circle is round (~cr).
2a. ~∆P:x(x:c•~r)•(x:~r)
2b. By 'round' I mean all points in an objects are equidistant from a single other point.

3. It is necessary to assert the circle is round.
3a. P:(x:c)ΩP:(x:r)

4. It is possible to assert the nonexistence of a square circle.
4a. ∆P:x(x:~sc)

5. It is necessary to be able to assert the nonexistence of a square circle.
5a. Ω∆P:x(x:~sc)

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Scotist-Anselmian argument for God?

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Doug says the following argument is "just for kicks," but I think it has some fertile potential. Quote:

1. There is possibly a sound ontological argument [sOA].
2. Therefore, God exists. (From 1 and S5)

Now, if you don't know, "S5" refers to an axiom in modal logic that, "If possibly p, and p necessarily, then necessarily p."

According to the Wikipedia, "The axiom is given as either

Possibly P implies Necessarily Possibly p \Diamond p \to \Box\Diamond p
Possibly Necessarily P implies Necessarily p \Diamond\Box p \to \Box p

Both of these axioms are properly called axiom 5."

Briefly stated, St. Anselm's "ontological argument" OA for the existence of God is the following:

1. God is that than which none greater can be thought. (Axiom)

1a. The very definition of God is that being which transcends any conception of Him, and therefore God is that 'being' compared to which no other 'thing' can be thought.

2. To exist actually is greater than to exist merely notionally. (Premise)

2a. A real dollar is better than the mere idea of a dollar. (Postulate)

2aa. That which does not exist has no way of enjoying, or having ascribed to it, any value or predicates whatsoever, therefore only that which actually exists can enjoy greatness and predication.

2ab. An imaginary dollar would not be money and therefore would be inferior as money to a real dollar. (From 2a and 2aa)

3. For God to exist actually is greater than for God to exist merely notionally. Insofar as the actual God would possess a greater perfection than a purely notional God, only an actual God would be that than which none greater can be conceived. (From 1 and 2)

4. Therefore God actually exists. His essence (or 'definition') necessarily includes His existence. (From 2 and 4)

I know of two standard objections. First, "existence is not a predicate," i.e. X's existing adds no content to 'what' X is. Therefore 'what God is' is trivially but decisively distinct from the proposition 'that He is'. Since the definition of a thing does not include its existence, the essence of God does not include His existence. Second, while it may be true that God's essence includes/entails His existence, this is a fact unknowable to us and therefore the ontological argument is merely suppositional. Kant is the most famous advocate of the first objection and St Thomas Aquinas is the most notable objector (besides Gaulino himself!) to the OA. It is a truism that, while everybody agrees the OA, no one agrees on why it fails. As such, it remains a tantalizing project for theists and non-theists to perfect and bury, respectively.

In this post I will not present my own thoughts on the OA--aside from saying I think a reasonable case can be made that, in some cases, existence is a predicate--, but rather will stick to considering Doug's argument above. His point is that, if in some world W there is a sound form of the OA (sOA), and since sOA delivers a necessary conclusion (viz. God exists), therefore God necessarily exists, and thus exists in our actual world AW. Here's an expansion of his argument:

1. There is possibly a sound ontological argument [sOA].
1.1 A sOA proves the necessary existence of God.
1.2 The necessary existence of God is possible.
2. Therefore, God exists. (From 1 and S5)

As I read it, this seems very much like Duns Scotus' modal argument (MA) for the existence of God, about which I have written very briefly before. Here's the argument in brief:

1. An Uncaused Producer is logically possible. (Premise)

2. Anything logically possible is either actual or potential. (Axiom)

3. A potential Uncaused Producer can only be caused (i.e. is not 'uncaused'), but a caused Uncaused Causer is a contradiction. (Postulate)

4. Hence, no Uncaused Producer is merely potential. (From 2 and 3)

5. Therefore, an Uncaused Producer is actual. (From 2 and 4)

6. This actual Uncaused Producer we call God. (Premise)

7. Therefore, God actually exists. (From 5 and 6)

Doug has written about the MA before as well, and he adds an objection by William Rowe, which I believe was dispensed with in the combox there. But again, I won't go into great detail on the argument as such, instead preferring to note the strange link between the OA and the MA. For the OA is effectively saying that it's impossible for God to be God and not exist, while the MA is saying that a necessary being is not possible unless it exists, and a necessary being is certainly possible. Hence, I'm inclined to say the OA and the MA mutually entail each other. Consider:

1. There is possibly a sound Scotist modal argument [sMA].
2. Therefore, God exists. (From 1 and S5)

Since it is possible that a necessarily true formulation of the OA exists, and the OA necessarily entails that God exists, then necessarily God exists. Likewise, since it is possible that a necessarily true formulation of the MA exists, and the MA necessarily entails that God exists, then necessarily God exists.

I suppose the rejoinder to all this would be that, since it is possible sound refutations of the OA and the MA exist, therefore God cannot exist. But I don't think that will work, since the necessity of the refutations is notionally parasitic on the arguments themselves. The only way to refute them entirely is to deny the first premise of all philosophical theology, namely, that "it is possible that God exists." I don't see how this denial could ever actually be made, so the OA and MA seem asymmetrically immune to absolute refutation. After all, the very act of mounting a decisive refutation of God admits "God" as a coherent, and therefore possible, subject of debate.

Modality of morality...

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Doug at Fides et Ratio has posted yet another pithy but stimulating entry, this time about the modality of moral commitments. I can't recommend Doug's blog highly enough, by the way. He's a very patient, lucid, devout, and thorough thinker, consistently producing mostly short, no-nonsense arguments on a wide range of topics in philosophical theology.

Anyway, here's his argument:

Suppose someone denies that there are objective moral obligations, e.g. moral obligations that persons everywhere are bound by. Imagine also that our skeptical friend is hesitant to accept the idea that something concrete could be logically necessary, but is willing to concede that propositions may be logically necessary. An example of a logically necessary proposition (one true in all possible worlds) would be this: "there are no square circles." Finally, suppose that objectivity entails logical necessity.

1. There are no objective moral obligations in the actual world. (Premise)

2. There are objective moral obligations in W. (Premise)

3. If there are objective moral obligations in W, then there are objective moral obligations in all possible worlds. (S5)

4. Therefore, there are objective moral obligations in all possible worlds. (From 2 and 3)

If you don't know, "S5" refers to an axiom in modal logic that, "If possibly p, and p necessarily, then necessarily p."

According to the Wikipedia, "The axiom is given as either

Possibly P implies Necessarily Possibly p \Diamond p \to \Box\Diamond p
Possibly Necessarily P implies Necessarily p \Diamond\Box p \to \Box p

Both of these axioms are properly called axiom 5."

The thrust of Doug's argument is that, if a necessarily true moral axiom is possible in some world, then that axiom is necessary in every world. Further, since it is obviously possible for there to be at least one such axiom in some world, it is necessarily the case in our world that there is such an axiom.

I replied to Doug by saying that I'm always a bit shaky on how S5 cashes out. For example, is it legitimate to import transworld necessity into W-indexed objectivity? Consider:

1. There are no objective moral obligations in the actual world (AW). (Premise)

2. In W it is objectively morally wrong to kill Smurfs.

3. It is objectively wrong in all worlds to kill Smurfs. (S5)

4. Therefore it is wrong to kill Smurfs in AW.

The problem is that there are no Smurfs in AW, so the necessary moral validity of 3. is objectively vacuous in AW.

Doug's initial response was:

I think the moral realist (myself included) would say that even if there are no Smurfs in AW, it would still be true that if there were Smurfs in AW it would be wrong to kill (murder) them. It's kind of like saying that even if there are no bachelors in W, then it would still be the case that if bachelors ever did come to exist in W, that they would have to be unmarried.

So, instead of saying that (3) is vacuous in AW, I would prefer to say that it is inapplicable, yet still meaningful in AW.

I replied that was my intuition as well, so going on from here, it seems a key gap to fill in this argument is against the objection that in AW there are no actual correspondents to fill the categories of any moral law. For example, "torturing babies is always wrong" The nihilist could equivocate forever about what "torture" means (noises too loud, nutritiously deficient food, less than angelic handling on a daily basis, etc.). Further, she might object to free will altogether and therefore evacuate the torturer's actions of malignancy. Or if we assert, "it is wrong to commit evil that good may result," she'll just deny good and evil result from anything in the first place. Of course, with an interlocutor like that, her horrid vacuity its own punishment and the quality of her voice in a moral debate would speak for itself--against her standing in nearly all other eyes.

This leaves me with two thoughts:

1. At least this argument forestalls the categorical assertion that moral absolutes are in principle impossible.

2. It might not get us practically farther than standard moral realist arguments, but it least it needn't keep reinventing the wheel about whether moral realism is possible.

It's an interesting argument, so I'm just thrashing it out to see what wheat falls from what chaff. Keep up the good work.

This is the day that the Lord has made...

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...and tomorrow is too often the day that unmakes today.

"God has promised forgiveness to your repentance, but He has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination." - St. Augustine (attribution)

HT to Doug B. at Fides et Ratio.

Reading the Summa contra gentiles

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ST. THOMAS D'AQUINO (1225–1274)

SCG I, I, xx: THAT GOD IS NOT A BODY (Quod Deus non est corpus)

[1] From the preceding remarks [in SCG I, I, xix, i.e. that in God is nothing violent or unnatural] it is also shown that God is not a body.

[2] Every body, being a continuum, is composite and has parts. But, as we have shown, God is not composite, and is, therefore, not a body.

[3] Again, everything possessed of quantity is in a certain manner in potency. For a continuum is potentially divisible to infinity, while numbers can be increased to infinity. But every body has quantity and is therefore in potency. But God is not in potency, being pure act…. Therefore, God is not a body
[Ergo Deus non est corpus].

[4] Furthermore, if God is a body, He must be some natural body, since, as the Philosopher proves, a mathematical body is not something self-existing, since dimensions are accidents. But God is not a natural body, being immobile, as we have shown, whereas every natural body is movable. God is, therefore, not a body.

[5] Again, every body is finite
Omne corpus finitum est],
as is proved in
De caelo I [I, 5]…. Now, we can transcend any given finite body by means of the intellect and the imagination. If, then, God is a body, our intellect and imagination can think of something greater than God. God is thus not greater than our intellect—which is awkward
Quodlibet autem corpus finitum intellectu et imaginatione transcendere possumus. Si igitur Deus est corpus, intellectus et imaginatio nostra aliquid maius Deo cogitare possunt. Et sic Deus non est maior intellectu nostro. Quod est inconveniens].
God is, therefore, not a body.

[6] Intellectual knowledge, moreover, is more certain than sensitive knowledge. In nature we find an object for the sense and therefore for the intellect as well. But the order and distinction of powers is according to the order of objects
Sed secundum ordinem obiectorum est ordo potentiarum, sicut et distinctio].
Therefore, above all sensible things there is something intelligible among things … [and] we can find something nobler above all bodies. Hence, if God is a body, He will not be the first and greatest being.

[That "the order and distinction of [cognitive] powers is according to the order of objects" [
secundum ordinem obiectorum est ordo potentiarum, sicut et distinctio], is a cornerstone of Thomistic epistemology. In Kantianism, by contrast, the order of objects––i.e. the knowable world––is according to the order and distinction of our cognitive structure.]

[7] A living thing, likewise, is nobler than any non-living body, and the life of a living body is nobler than it
Quolibet autem corpore vivente sua vita est nobilior],
since it is this life that gives to the living body its nobility above other bodies. Therefore, that than which nothing is nobler is not a body.

[God is the life of all things––the pure form of the world––and therefore distinct from all things by His very immanence.]

[8] Then, too, there are the arguments of the philosophers to the same effect, based on the eternity of motion
[ostendendum procedentes ex aeternitate motus].
They are as follows. In every everlasting motion, the first mover cannot be moved either through Himself or by accident…. Now, the body of the heavens is moved in a circle with an everlasting motion. Therefore, its first mover is not moved either through Himself or by accident. … Now, that to which the motion of the heavens is ultimately reduced as to its first unmoved mover is God. God is, therefore, not a body.

[This is interesting. Thomas grants
ex hypothesi the eternity of celestial motion––the analogue of which might, say, be "strings" in modern parlance––and argues further that, given the nature of local motion, God could not be a (local) body. So, even allowing for celestial eternity, Thomas notes how it would still depend on God as its First Unmoved Mover.]

[9] Again, no infinite power is a power in a magnitude. But the power of the prime mover is an infinite power. Therefore, it is not in any magnitude
Nulla potentia infinita est potentia in magnitudine. Potentia primi motoris est potentia infinita. Ergo non est in aliqua magnitudine. Et sic Deus, qui est primus motor, neque est corpus neque est virtus in corpore.].
Therefore, God, Who is the prime mover, is neither a body nor a power in a body.

[I love this argument. I have argued at least twice before––
here and here––that an infinite quantity is incoherent, and therefore that a key premise of naturalism (i.e. that the universe, being uncaused, is eternal, and therefore also spatiotemporally infinite), either renders the universe an object outside of scientific knowledge, thus making naturalism ultimately non-scientific; or, given the obvious measurability of the universe, scientifically refutes naturalism. Were the universe in itself of infinite power, and thus not dependent on God's infinite creative power, it would not be a magnitude, and thus would not be a body. But clearly the world is a body of a certain magnitude,ergo….

A further point I take from this argument is that, were the universe in se infinitely powerful, it would have actualized all possibilities within it, since nothing in it would be subject to (finite) potentiality. If that were the case, however, there would be no such thing as possibility per se in the world. But it's clear that this is only possibly the case and therefore possibility exists; ergo….

Additionally––and this is only a dim hunch––I think St Thomas' argument here also sheds light on the famous dispute between him and St Bonaventure (inter alii) on the possibility of the eternity of the world, i.e. on the feasibility of an actual infinitude in nature. (Cf. this page and this page for details.) St Thomas argued that we know the world is not eternal only by Divine Revelation, whereas St Bonaventure argued that it could be demonstrated an eternal world was impossible. St Thomas' De aeternitate mundi is actually (and ironically!) quite short, if you care to read it.

What strikes from this argument in SCG is that, perhaps a premise in Aquinas' argument (cf. articula v and vii, immediately above] is that the possible celestial eternity of the world does not impinge on the actual, empirical finitude of the world, whereas St Bonaventure was focusing on the temporal finitude of the world as a sensible reality. In other words, perhaps the cosmos Thomas granted could be eternal was not of the same order as the cosmos which Bonaventure insisted could only be temporal finite. They may, in other words, have been arguing equivocally about two subtly different conceptions of "the world." Might the aeviternality of the angels as cosmic powers somehow allow for a reconciliation of these views, if the former is linked to St Thomas' hypothetical conception of celestial as opposed to terrestrial eternity? Insofar, in other words, as the celestial world is beyond magnitude, it is not subject to finite (de)composition, and therefore could exist in an idealized timelessness. The terrestrial world, by contrast, is subject to magnitude and quantitative (de)composition, and therefore cannot be eternal. On the latter point I think St Thomas and St Bonaventure would agree.]

[10] The first proposition is proved thus. If the power of some magnitude is infinite, it will be the power either of a finite magnitude or an infinite one. But there is no infinite magnitude, as is proved in Physics III [5] and De caelo I [5]. But a finite magnitude cannot have an infinite power. Therefore, an infinite power cannot reside in any magnitude
[Magnitudo infinita nulla est, ut probatur in III Physic. et in I caeli et mundi. Magnitudinis autem finitae non est possibile esse potentiam infinitam. Et sic in nulla magnitudine potest esse potentia infinita.].

That an infinite power cannot reside in a finite magnitude is proved thus. A greater power produces an equal effect in a shorter time than a lesser power does in a longer time. … Therefore, by moving more swiftly, it should produce its effect in a shorter time than any finite power. Nor can it be in something lesser that still is in time. Therefore, this will be in an indivisible point of time. And thus to move, to be moved, and motion will take place in an instant—of which the contrary has been proved in Physics VI [3]
[Et sic movere et moveri et motus erunt in instanti. Cuius contrarium demonstratum est in VI physicorum.]. …

[Interesting. An infinite power would produce its effect in an infinitely small time, but this would mean motion occurs in literally no time at all, which is impossible. Thus, if the world were produced by a body of some (even, say, 'infinitely large') magnitude, its causing motion would never occur. Consequently, the cause of the motion of the world is not only not a body of any magnitude but also, for that reason, not subject to time, which allows for it to generate an infinitely powerful effect without the limitations of magnitude in time.]

[11] That the power of the first mover is infinite is proved thus. No finite power can move in an infinite time. But the power of the first mover moves in an infinite time because the first motion is endless. Therefore, the power of the prime mover is infinite.

[Now St Thomas addresses the other side of the coin, as it were. Just as no allegedly infinitely powerful finite magnitude can effect anything in a real amount of finite time, so no magnitude can effect an infinite effect in infinite time.]

… If the finite power of some body moves in an infinite time, a part of that body, having a part of the power, will move in a shorter time; for the greater the power of a mover, the more it will be able to keep up its motion in a longer time
[quia quanto aliquid est maioris potentiae, tanto in maiori tempore motum continuare poterit].
… Thus, as we add to the power of the mover, we shall always add to the time according to the same proportion
[Et sic semper, secundum quod addetur ad potentiam motoris, addetur ad tempus secundum eandem proportionem].
But after a certain addition has been made, the addition will reach the quantity of the whole or even exceed it. So, too, an addition of time will reach the quantity of time in which it moves the whole. But the time in which it moved the whole was said to be infinite. Therefore, a finite time will measure an infinite time—which is impossible.
[Ergo tempus finitum metietur tempus infinitum. Quod est impossibile.]

[12] But against this reasoning there are several objections.
[Sed contra hunc processum plures sunt obiectiones.]

[13] One objection is this. It can be assumed that the body that moves the first moved is not divisible, as is the case with a heavenly body. But the preceding proof is based on the division of the first body.

[This objection says that the foregoing argument simply begs the question about the divisibility of a first mover
as a body.]

[14] The reply to this objection is as follows. There can be a true conditional proposition whose antecedent is impossible. If there is something that destroys the truth of this conditional proposition, it is then impossible.
[Sed ad hoc dicendum quod conditionalis potest esse vera cuius antecedens est impossibile. Et si quid est quod destruat veritatem talis conditionalis, est impossibile].
For example, if someone destroys the truth of the conditional proposition, "If man flies, he has wings," it would be impossible. It is in this manner that the above proof is to be understood. For the following conditional proposition is true: "If a heavenly body is divided, a part of it will have less power than the whole." Now, the truth of this conditional proposition is taken away if it be posited that the first mover is a body; and the reason is the impossibilities that follow from it. Therefore, to posit this is impossible. A similar reply can be given if objection is made concerning the increase of finite powers. We cannot assume powers in nature according to all proportions of time to any given time. Nevertheless, the proposition required in the above proof is a true conditional proposition.

[Thomas is here saying that, were the first premise true––i.e. "the first body is indivisible"––, the objection against his argument in this chapter would stand. However, given the impossibilities that follow from such a claim, the first premise is false, and therefore the objection fails. I fear I am misconstruing something here, though.]

[15] The second objection is this. Although a body is divided, it is possible to find in a given body a power that is not divided when the body is divided
[…etsi corpus dividitur, aliqua virtus potest esse alicuius corporis quae non dividitur diviso corpore].
For example, the rational soul is not divided if the body is divided.

[16] The reply is as follows. The above argument does not prove that God is not joined to a body as the rational soul is joined to the human body; it proves that He is not a power in a body in the manner of a material power, which is divided upon the division of the body. So, too, it is said of the human intellect that it is not a body or a power in a body. However, that God is not joined to a body as the soul is, this is another issue
Et ad hoc est dicendum quod per processum praedictum non probatur quod non sit Deus coniunctus corpori sicut anima rationalis corpori humano: sed quod non est virtus in corpore sicut virtus materialis, quae dividitur ad divisionem corporis. Unde etiam dicitur de intellectu humano quod non est corpus neque virtus in corpore. Quod autem Deus, non sit unitus corpori sicut anima, alterius rationis est.].

[This is a very fecund rebutall and, from what I can gather, is the basic shape of Charles Taliaferro's
Consciousness and the Mind of God, a book I have wanted to read for about a decade, and which I finally have in my possession. The key point is that, even if we grant that there is some level of division at which we find a power not subject to the objections against infinite power in (finite) magnitude, this would only show that that power is not a body, which confirms the thrust of this chapter.]

[17] The third objection is this. If some given body has a finite power, as the above argument shows, and if through a finite power nothing can endure through an infinite time, it will follow that no body can endure through an infinite time. Thus, a heavenly body will of necessity be corrupted.

[See what I mean about Thomas' emphasis on celestial incorruptibility vis-à-vis the eternity of the world?]

[18] To this objection some reply that, as far as its own power is concerned, a heavenly body can fail, but it acquires an eternal duration from another being of an infinite power. Plato [Timaeus] seems to speak for this solution when he introduces God addressing the heavenly bodies as follows: “By your natures you are dissoluble, but through my will you are indissoluble; for my will is greater than your bond.”

[19] The Commentator attacks this position in Metaphysics XI. According to him, it is impossible that what can of itself not-be should acquire a perpetuity of being from another. This would mean that something corruptible becomes incorruptible, which according to him is impossible. Hence, Averroes answers the objection as follows. All the potency that is in a heavenly body is finite, but there is no reason why a heavenly body should have every potency. For, according to Aristotle in Metaphysics VIII, there is in a heavenly body potency with respect to place, but not with respect to being. Hence, a heavenly body need not have a potency to non-being.

[20] This reply of the Commentator, however, is not sufficient. Even if we should grant that in a heavenly body there is no sort of a passive potency to being, which is the potency of matter, yet there is in it a potency of an active kind, which is the power of being
Quia, etsi detur quod in corpore caelesti non sit potentia quasi passiva ad esse, quae est potentia materiae, est tamen in eo potentia quasi activa, quae est virtus essendi].
For Aristotle expressly says in De caelo I [I, 3] that "the heavens have the power to be forever.”

[21] Hence, it is better to reply as follows
[Et ideo melius dicendum est quod,…].

Since potency is said relatively to act, we must judge of potency according to the mode of the act. Now, according to its nature, motion has quantity and extension, and hence its infinite duration requires that the potency moving it be infinite. But being does not have any quantitative extension
[…cum potentia dicatur ad actum, oportet iudicare de potentia secundum modum actus. Motus autem de sui ratione quantitatem habet et extensionem: unde duratio eius infinita requirit quod potentia movens sit infinita. Esse autem non habet aliquam extensionem quantitatis],
especially in the case of a thing, such as the heavens, whose being is without change. Hence, the power of being need not be infinite in a finite body, even though it will endure to infinity. For it is one and the same whether through that power something will endure for an instant or for an infinite time, since its changeless being is not touched by time except by accident.

[22] The fourth objection is this. In those beings that in moving are not themselves altered, it does not seem necessary that what moves in an infinite time should have an infinite power. For such a motion consumes nothing of their power, so that after they have moved for a time they are able to move for no less a time than before. Thus, the power of the sun is finite, and because its active power is not lessened by acting, it is able, according to its nature, to act on the sublunary world during an infinite time.

[23] To this the reply is, as we have proved, that a body does not move unless it be moved. If, then, it should happen that a certain body is not moved, that body will consequently not move. But in everything that is moved there is a potency towards opposites, since the termini of motion are opposites. Therefore, of itself, every body that is moved can also not-be-moved. But what can not-be-moved is not of itself able to be moved through endless time, and hence neither to move through endless time
[Et ideo, quantum est de se, omne corpus quod movetur possibile est non moveri. Et quod possibile est non moveri, non habet de se ut perpetuo tempore moveatur. Et sic nec quod in perpetuo tempore moveat.].

[Being in motion entails being-moved. But since motion is radically subject to potency––i.e. in opposite directions––, any moving object is subject to potency as a moving object and therefore its motion lacks the necessity of an endlessly powerful mover. If it's not clear, the reason motion is radically subject to potency, is that, if a moving object were not possibly able to be moved in any other way, it would not actually be in motion, but would necessarily be in stasis, since, again, it would not be subject to any possible motion from its current (necessary) state of being. Conversely, any moving object cannot have been moving as it is from eternity, and thus cannot be an eternal mover.]

[24] The above demonstration, consequently, holds of the finite power of a finite body, which power of itself cannot move in an infinite time. But a body that of itself can be moved and not-moved, move and not-move, can acquire perpetuity of motion from another. This must be incorporeal. The first mover must, therefore, be incorporeal [Procedit ergo praedicta demonstratio de potentia finita corporis finiti, quae non potest de se movere tempore infinito. Sed corpus quod de se possibile est moveri et non moveri, movere et non movere, acquirere potest perpetuitatem motus ab aliquo. Quod oportet esse incorporeum. Et ideo oportet primum movens esse incorporeum.].

[I take this to be the linch pin of this chapter's argument.]

Thus, according to its nature, nothing prevents a finite body, which acquires from another a perpetuity in being moved, from likewise having a perpetuity in moving. For the first heavenly body itself, according to its nature, can revolve the lower heavenly bodies with a perpetual motion, according as sphere moves sphere.

[And this I take to be the linch pin to the distinction between celestial and terrestrial motion as it figures into the debate about the eternity of the world, discussed above.]

Nor, according to the Commentator, is it impossible (as it was impossible in the of perpetuity of being) that what of itself can be moved and not-moved should acquire perpetuity of motion from another. For motion is a certain flow out of the mover to the thing moved, and hence something moved can acquire from another a perpetuity of motion that it does not have of itself. To be, on the other hand, is something fixed and at rest in being, and, therefore, that which of itself is in potency to non-being cannot, as Averroes himself says [In XII Metaphysicorum], following the course of nature acquire from another a perpetuity of being [Esse autem est aliquid fixum et quietum in ente: et ideo quod de se est in potentia ad non esse, non potest, ut ipse dicit, secundum viam naturae acquirere ab alio perpetuitatem essendi].

[This is a very important point, but I don't have the time right now to exegete it at great length–not the least because it is a bit over my head! The basic point I take to be that, while motion can be granted perpetually from one mover to another, no such perpetuity can be given in the order of being as such, since the potency of a thing's actus essendi precludes it from receiving perpetual being. The heavenly bodies might, therefore, be able to move perpetually, but they can not have existed perpetually in and of themselves, since their perpetual motion depends on their being, and their being, in turn, radically depends on their reception of being from a necessary being.]

[25] The fifth objection is that, following the above reasoning, there does not seem to be a greater reason why an infinite power is not in a magnitude rather than outside a magnitude. For in either case it will follow that it moves in null time.

[26] To this the reply is that, in magnitude, time, and motion, finite and infinite are found according to one and the same notion, as is proved in Physics III [4] and VI [2, 7]. Therefore, the infinite in one of them removes a finite proportion in the others. But in beings without magnitude there is no finite or infinite except equivocally
Et ad hoc dicendum quod finitum et infinitum in magnitudine et tempore et motu inveniuntur secundum unam rationem, sicut probatur in III et in VI Physic.: et ideo infinitum in uno eorum aufert proportionem finitam in aliis. In his autem quae carent magnitudine, non est finitum et infinitum nisi aequivoce.].
Hence, the aforementioned method of demonstration is not applicable among such potencies.

[I understand the objection to be that, if a body cannot possess an infinite power by virtue of its having a magnitude, as was argued above, there is no probative reason to say that an infinite power is outside the order of magnitude either (viz., is not a body), since in either case, the infinite power will act in zero. Yet, the temporal nullity of an infinite effect by a body of some magnitude was argued as a disproof of infinite power being found in any body. Thomas' rejoinder seems to be, however, that insofar as magnitude, time, and motion are all linked under one metaphysical heading, a being without magnitude will not be subject to limitations by the other two categories. There is an inverse proportion between motion, time, and magnitude. An infinitely large body will have 'no where else' to go, and therefore will not move, and thus will not move at any time. By contrast, a being outside the order of magnitude altogether will not face these problems, since its infinite power is not proportionally limited by time. As such, the objection is a category mistake.

I admit this point is not totally clear to me.]

[27] There is, however, another and better answer [Aliter autem respondetur et melius]. The heavens have two movers, a proximate one with a finite power, which is responsible for the fact that they have a finite velocity, and a remote mover with an infinite power, which is responsible for the fact that their motion can be of an infinite duration. And thus it is evident that an infinite power that is not in a magnitude can move a body in time, but not immediately
non immediate in tempore].
But a power that is in a magnitude must move immediately, since no body moves except by being moved. Hence, if it did move, it would follow that it would move in null time
[Sed potentia quae est in magnitudine oportet quod moveat immediate: cum nullum corpus moveat nisi motum. Unde, si moveret, sequeretur quod moveret in non tempore].

[28] An even better reply is this.
[Potest adhuc melius dici quod…].
A power that is not in a magnitude is an intellect, and moves by will
…potentia quae non est in magnitudine est intellectus, et movet per voluntatem].
For we have proved that the intellect is not a corporeal power. Therefore, it moves according to the needs of the movable body and not the proportion of its power; whereas a power that is in a magnitude can move only through the necessity of nature.

[Potentia autem quae est in magnitudine non potest movere nisi per necessitatem naturae: quia probatum est quod intellectus non est virtus corporea.]
Thus, of necessity, it moves according to the proportion of its quantity. Hence, if it moves, it moves in an instant.

[29] Thus, with the removal of the preceding objections, we see that the argumentation of Aristotle stands
[Secundum hoc ergo, remotis praedictis obiectionibus, procedit demonstratio Aristotelis.].

[30] No motion, furthermore, which is from a corporeal mover can be continuous and regular, because in local motion a corporeal mover moves by pulling and pushing. Now, what is pulled or pushed is not uniformly disposed towards its mover from the beginning to the end of the motion, since at times it will be nearer and at other times farther away. Thus, no body can move with a continuous and regular motion. But the first motion is continuous and regular, as is proved in Physics VIII [7]. Therefore, the mover of the first motion is not a body.

[31] Again, no motion to an end that passes from potency to act can be endless, since when it reaches act the motion comes to rest. If, then, the first motion is endless, it must aim at an end that is always and in all ways in act. But such an end is not a body or a power in a body, since all such things are movable either through themselves or by accident. Therefore, the end of the first motion is neither a body nor a power in a body. But the end of the first motion is the first mover, which moves as something desired. This, however, is God. God, therefore, is neither a body nor a power in a body.

[32] However, although according to our faith it is false that the motion of the heavens is perpetual
Quamvis autem falsum sit, secundum fidem nostram, quod motus caeli sit perpetuus],
… yet it is true that it will not fail either through a failure of power in the mover or through the corruption of the substance in the moved; for there is no evidence that the passing of time has slowed down the motion of the heavens. Hence, the above demonstrations do not lose their force.

[33] With this demonstrated truth divine authority stands in agreement. For it is said in John (4:24): “God is a spirit, and they that adore Him must adore Him in spirit and in truth.” It is likewise said: “To the King of ages: immortal, invisible, the only God” (1 Tim. 1:17). Again: “The invisible things of God... are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made” (Rom. 1:20); for what is seen, not by sight, but by the intellect, is incorporeal
quae enim non visu sed intellectu conspiciuntur, incorporea sunt].

[34] Thereby is destroyed the error of the early natural philosophers, who posited only material causes
[Per hoc autem destruitur error primorum philosophorum naturalium, qui non ponebant nisi causas materiales],
such as fire or water or the like, and who thus said that the first principles of things were bodies and called them gods. Among them there were some who further posited friendship and strife as moving causes. (They, too, were refuted through the above arguments.) For since, according to them, strife and friendship are in bodies, it will follow that the first moving principles are bodily powers. They also held that God is composed of the four elements and friendship, which would give us to understand that for them God was a heavenly body. Among the early thinkers, Anaxagoras alone approached the truth by positing that an intellect moved all things
Inter antiquos autem solus Anaxagoras ad veritatem accessit, ponens intellectum moventem omnia].

[35] By this truth, too, are refuted the Gentiles, who, taking their beginning in the errors of the philosophers we have listed, posited that the elements of the world and the powers in them are gods; for example, the sun, the moon, the earth, water, and the like.

[36] By the same arguments, moreover, are set aside the wild fantasies of the simple Jews, Tertullian, the Vodiani or Anthropomorphite heretics, [as well as Mormons,] who endowed God with a bodily figure; and also of the Manicheans, who thought that God was a certain infinite substance of light, stretched out through an infinite space.

[37] The occasion of all these errors was that, in thinking of divine things, men were made the victims of their imagination, through which it is not possible to receive anything except the likeness of a body. This is why, in meditating on what is incorporeal, we must stop following the imagination.
[Quorum omnium errorum fuit occasio quod de divinis cogitantes ad imaginationem deducebantur, per quam non potest accipi nisi corporis similitudo. Et ideo eam in incorporeis meditandis derelinquere oportet.]

[This is a lapidary distillation of proper method in dogmatic theology! Skeptics want a 'model' or a 'picture' or a perfect 'analogy' for God, but to ask for that is to beg the question in favor of a God beneath the incoporeal, immortal, omnipotent God of classical theism.]