Sunday, April 6, 2014

Twenty-four Thomistic theses: Thesis Two

Act, because it is perfection, is not limited except by Potency, which is capacity for perfection. Therefore, in the order in which the Act is pure, it is unlimited and unique; but in that in which it is finite and manifold, it comes into a true composition with Potency.
Perfection, in Thomism, means completeness. A perfect thing lacks potentiality-- it is totally what its nature is to be. Potency is the capacity for completeness, without being actually complete. A thing that is in the natural world that is limited (each thing, that is) is a composition of act and potency. Act makes the thing what it is; potency makes it limited, imperfect, and changeable (i.e. natural).

Pure Act is unlimited perfection-- absolute completeness. There can be no distinctions or multiplicity in Pure Act.

The only Pure Act is God. God is metaphysically simple, without multiplicity (there is One God) and without distinction, which is metaphysical simplicity.

How can one square Divine simplicity with the Trinity? The Persons of God are not 'parts' or essential differences within God, but are manifestations of His Personal existence. His Creative Power, His Knowledge and His Love (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) are understood by finite creatures (us) as Persons, but they are on one Simple Nature. God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit together just as He is Truth, Beauty, Goodness and Love at the same time.

The most profound truths about God cannot be known to us by direct knowledge (in this life). This kind of knowledge was called "univocal" by Aquinas, and it cannot be applied to God by us, because God's nature cannot be known or described by finite minds as He truly is. We can only describe God's Nature "analogically" (Aquinas), using finite categories to cast a dim and inadequate light on Divine Truth.

Recognition of the actual metaphysical doctrines of the Church obviates nonsense arguments about God's existence which ask "who made God" or "God must be more complex than creation and thus himself in need of a creator" (Dawkins). Such assertions aren't arguments as such, but mere admissions of ignorance about the actual metaphysical issues. 


  1. I've changed my mind. Separation of church and state should be abolished in America. Religion should be taught in American public schools - in particular Thomism in its pure form. Compulsory, from K-12, one period a day during the school year, with graduation from high school dependent on passing all the examinations in Thomism.

    I would expect that America would rapidly become an atheist country.

    1. Basically you're here to troll, is that it?

    2. Michael,

      No, I enjoy reading opposing views. Even if they're idiotic ones, such as Egnor's. I'm interested in trying to understand how religion can cause some adherents to go ga-ga (that said, most Christians are perfectly rational).

    3. Bach is the real deal, and has been fairer in his remarks than many readers. I used to think the interactions between Boggs and Bach were mean spirited, but now see them as endearing.

      One of my (Catholic) friends was taking the piss out of Thomism last night, as the Brits say. The object of his derision was Aristotle's definition of motion

      "The actuality of what exists in potency, as such".

      He insisted, jokingly, that the definition concluded with "and such", meaning "and so on", and then proceeded to lavish the definition with sarcastic praise. "Oh right, motion makes so much more sense now... potency, actuality...and such"

      These terms have perfectly clear meanings, and the concepts are often so obvious that most people implicitly hold them, but I'll admit that some Scholastic philosophers sound, at first blush, like they're off in Continental Philosophy la-la land. But the same could be said about any specialized field. Neuroscience is a prime example.


  2. Egnor: "The most profound truths about God cannot be known to us by direct knowledge (in this life)."

    If one ever needs an explanation why creationism is a science stopper, this sentence sums it up perfectly. We just can't know stuff, period, full stop.


  3. Commissar Boggs, Ministry of TruthApril 6, 2014 at 6:47 AM

    "The most profound truths about God cannot be known to us" = "We just can't know stuff"?


    Now there's a gem for the file. Tnx, Toots.

    If it wasn't just a troll, you should demand your money back from your ESL tutor.

  4. Commissar Boggs, Ministry of TruthApril 6, 2014 at 6:59 AM

    St John Duns Scotus was the first major Christian theologian to make a serious argument for the univocity of being as applied to God, thus opening the ontological door to Flying Spaghetti Monster speculations and the 3rd grade theology of Dawkinism and its Weasels.

    1. Senile old fart,

      The Flying Spaghetti Monster wasn't a matter of speculation. It's a spoof, a parody of fictional gods. Such as Jehovah, God or Allah. Its theology was created whole cloth similar to the Trinity at the Nicene Council almost 300 years after Jesus - because Constantine was distressed that there was no unity amongst Christians concerning the nature of Jesus.

  5. Meanwhile, science has observed the signature of gravitational waves on the cosmic microwave background radiation as predicted by the theory of Eternal Inflation. So while science marches on providing observationally supported theories like Inflation and Evolution that that actually answer existential questions, Egnor and his ilk are still mumbling and hand waving about potency and act.

    This useless mumbo jumbo has one and only one application, to provide an intellectual veneer for the otherwise silly and quite indefensible Christian God. It contributes nothing to our understanding of anything.


    1. Ultimately, atheism is nothing more than a reaction to religion, a rebellion against God; it doesn't exist in spite of it. Here you are, a speck on a speck within the ocean of the universe, thinking you've got it all figured out. That people around you are religious doesn't make you any wiser than they are by *virtue* of your non-theism. So what if an atheist-scientist makes observations about the material universe? Big deal, anyone can do that. (Remind me: who was it that invented science? Oh, that's right -- the Catholic Church.) The suit doesn't make the man any moreso than a white lab coat and a diploma hanging on a wall makes a scientist right. Today, the atheist-scientists imagine themselves experts in fields outside their own field, such as philosophy and theology, writing books on the subject just to stroke their own ego.

      Fact is, you're just as reliant upon the garbage man, the farmer, the doctor and the police doing their job as the person next door to you. In other words, you're not as *enlightened* as you enjoy imagining yourself to be.

    2. Michael,

      Christianity didn't invent science. The Black Death in the 14th century did. For a thousand years, the Catholic Church was the dominant force in Europe. The science it accepted came from long dead authorities.

      Then the Black Death came in 1347, killing 30-50% of the European population! and church-educated physicians using the teachings of long dead authorities and the church failed miserably.

      Then people were forced to start looking for methods that worked, instead of just conforming to past authority. And science started its slow advance, despite continuing opposition from the church.

      Agreed; science doesn't have all the answers concerning the Universe. But then again, it's the only method that ever will.

      Egnor, on the other hand, relies on a long dead theologian who produced sterile gibberish. Authorities, not empirical data.

    3. Ah, I see. According to you, the Church was the enemy of science. Got it. Let's just forget about scientific pioneers such as Roger Bacon and create historically-inaccurate strawmen to beat up. Let's expound upon that and apply the same ill-conceived logic to the here and now. After all, correlation = causation, at least according to your broken logic. You're going to blame the Church for not curing the Black Plague, so I'm going to blame the fraud atheist-scientists for holding back cures for cancer, STDs, tumors and viruses, because they just want the money from the medical expenses and seek to reduce the population. See how that works?

      Science isn't the only method for the acquisition of knowledge. In fact, much of what they say is nonsense. First of all, where did time come from, when did it start; what started it and why? How did existence begin? Where did all the elements come from? Where did all of the laws of the universe come from? How does life naturally arise from non-life (abiogenesis), let alone evolve over billions of beneficial evolutionary steps, and eventually result in speciation? How did the early life decide to split into two seperate sexes for the purpose of procreation, using what fixed, observable process and how, and how did life procreate before that point? If you're going to explain away the universe as the result of a cosmic explosion, be prepared to prove it. Show me an explosion in outer space resulting in the assembly of a star or planet. Yeah, real logical hypothesis.

    4. Michael,

      You need to crack open a few science textbooks. Your questions demonstrate your extreme science ignorance.

      For a start, the Big Bang wasn't an explosion in space. It was an explosion (figuratively speaking) OF space. And the Sun and solar system (including the Earth) were the result of an explosion IN space - of a supernova, which seeded surrounding space with matter, including all the heavy elements up to uranium, which seeded the solar system.

      The Black Death seeded science because it destroyed faith in church-approved authorities, such as Galen. People started looking for methods that worked instead of relying on authority.

      The church didn't fail to cure the Black Death. It just failed to react appropriately. It tried to respond in the way it did in the past, trying to find theological justifications for what was an absolute disaster.

    5. First of all, show me an explosion resulting in matter forming stars, planets and moons -- that is to say, solar systems -- all by itself. Just because they wrote it in a book doesn't mean crap. PROVE IT.

      Second, you're moving the goal post by alleging that the Church handled the Black Plaque incompetently. Whether or not it did I can't say, but then that wasn't even the point. The point was that the Church was largely responsible for the scientific revolution. What passes the muster for science these days has either an ideological slant (about, oh, 99% in humanist-atheist) or is politically motivated, e.g. so-called global warming, in order to ensure state funding.

    6. Michael,

      How do you think stars and planets form then?

      Anyway - the most prominent critic of the failure of the Catholic clergy to respond to the Black Death noted in 1351:

      'About what can you preach to the people? If on humility, you yourselves are the proudest of the world, arrogant and given to pomp. If on poverty, you are the most grasping and covetous, ... if on chastity - but we will be silent on that'.

      Pretty strong criticism for the time.

      Anyway. The Catholic Church controlled Western Europe for a thousand years, and science stagnated. The 14th century weakened the church, and it lost its ability stop just impede science. And the Black Death was the greatest event (or rather events) of the 14th century, killing many of the best clergy of the church.

    7. You see, you can't prove that solar systems are self-created. That's a nonsensical assumption, moreso than someone claiming that the Merriam-Webster Dictionary was the result of an explosion at a printing press.

      Some random criticism leveled at the Church in 1351 (by some anonymous source) is no more relevant than the criticism leveled against it today by the self-appointed moral vanguard of this day and age. You can spew all you want about the Church but you'll never be able to dispute its record for helping the poor, the sick, the needy, the downtrodden.

    8. Michael,

      So you don't know how solar systems are created? They're not 'self created'. They're formed by the gravitation induced collapse of clouds of gas. In the case of our solar system , enriched by heavier elements ejected by the force of a supernova explosion.

      Anyway. I forgot to mention that the most prominent critic of the Catholic clergy I quoted above was Pope Clement VI, who managed to be shocked by the clergy despite being worldly in outlook.

    9. Some of the fiercest critics of the Catholic Church that I know personally are devout Catholics.


    10. Again bachfiend, I ask that you prove your assertion that stars and planets are assembled with gases in outer space, without any guiding intelligence.

    11. Michael,

      And your proof that stars and planets are assembled with guiding intelligence, all 10^22 stars in the visible universe alone?

    12. I'm not the one claiming a scientific view for the creation of (incredibly complex) solar systems, positing that gases floating in space are capable of doing so absent intelligent guidance. That's illogical on its face. Again, where did the universe come from? It had to have a beginning, a first cause. What, did the universe just decide to explode itself into being? Is this what you call science?

    13. Michael,

      Make up your mind. First of all, you claim that Christianity invented science. Now you're claiming that science isn't reliable.

      Anyway. A solar system isn't incredibly complex. Our solar system can be easily understood by a primary school student. Its formation just requires gravity, one of the basic forces acting on a gas cloud (or do you believe in 'intelligent falling?). Scientists have already discovered over a thousand extrasolar planets, so the formation of solar systems with planets doesn't appear difficult.

      We know that the Big Bang occurred. We now have physical evidence that Inflation occurred before that. Science doesn't yet have the ability to 'look' at what happened before then. Did God start it? Was it entirely natural? We just don't know.

      Anyway - go back to your conspiracy theory about Freemasons and bankers. Matt Taibbi has a new book out on Tuesday this week ('Divide') in which he has a go at Wall Street bankers and hedge funds. No conspiracy for world power - just greed, greed, greed....

  6. "Perfection, in Thomism, means completeness."

    Not just in Thomism: 'completeness' is the original and basic meaning of the 'perfection' ... which is why the grammatical verb-tense "past perfect" denotes an action completed in the part.