Letters

Forgiveness

The Prodigal SonWhere has my summer gone? It seems every single one flies by faster than the one before it.

I began preparing my fall semester classes the same week spring semester ended, and I’ve been focused on that planning for all of May, June, and July. Then, about ten days ago, I realized that school was again upon us, and that instead of feeling refreshed after a nice, long summer break, I felt totally burned out. I realized that if I wanted to survive until Christmas—not always and easy feat for me—I would need to at least take a few days off to recharge my “batteries” before the start of the new school year.

I had a lot of options as to how to spend my “vacation” time, because I have a to-do list that I know will still be twelve miles long by the time I die, but since I was trying to relax a bit, I wanted to do something slightly less productive. Thus, I chose to take a few days off in order to travel about the state visiting people who’ve been important parts of my life over the last few decades but who I rarely see anymore. My list was extremely long, and I could only hit a few places, but it ended up being some of the most meaningful days of my entire year.

Of course I had to see the usual suspects. First I spent some time with my parents. Later I visited my grandparents for dinner. Then I dropped in on some of my old landscaping coworkers and spent a little time catching up with them. After that I visited another coworker who retired years ago and who now lives alone. He and I drank some beer and swapped some old stories. It was all very enjoyable and refreshing.

I wished that I’d been able to see more people, but the visits that I did make were great. The most important one though stood out above the rest, not because the company was better, but because the circumstances were initially so difficult. I made the decision to visit someone who was once a very close friend, but with whom I’d had a falling out over the course of the past year or so. This sort of negative parting doesn’t happen to me very often, so the reasons for it were fairly significant.

I didn’t realize until shortly beforehand just how much bitterness toward this friend I’d been harboring in my heart. Our conversation was difficult at times, but as we chatted and shared our own perspectives on everything that had happened, my anger softened and began melting away.

Looking back on the whole affair, I am struck by the wisdom of Our Lord’s words in Matthew 5:23-24. “If therefore thou offer thy gift at the altar, and there thou remember that thy brother hath any thing against thee; Leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled to thy brother: and then coming thou shalt offer thy gift.”

I think the point Our Lord was making here is that we can’t truly love God while at the same time harboring resentment toward our neighbor.

With our fallen human nature, it’s all too easy for us to become bitter and jaded when we feel wronged or hurt, but we must not allow for that to happen. Animosity is a heavy burden to carry, and the longer we go on carrying it, the more it bends us down and deforms us.

It’s never easy to forgive—or to ask to be forgiven—but it’s far easier than the alternative.

In my personal situation, while I know that things will never be the same as they once were, there is a great sense of peace in the knowledge that I won’t spend the rest of my life holding a grudge against someone who once meant so much to me. By sitting down and discussing the matter honestly, openly, and charitably, we’ve been able to avoid a lifetime of bitterness, and for that I am truly thankful.

Good friendships are some of God’s greatest gifts to us in the valley of tears that is this present life, and we ought to always recognize them, treasure them, and protect them, and—whenever possible—preserve them.

 

Nicholas Kaminsky

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Apologetics, Culture, Holy Scripture, Theology

Against the Errors of Charismatic Pentecostals

Against the Errors of the Charismatic PentecostalsPentecostalism is being reported as the fasted growing religious denomination in the world. While many other denominations are in decline, the charismatic movement is gaining momentum, and can even boast of having influences within the Catholic Church.

The speed at which a false religious sect is growing can be a cause for concern, but it is the influence this false religious sect is having on the one, true, Catholic Church that is alarming.

I first encountered Pentecostalism in the Catholic Church when I shared with a priest my transition out of the charismatic movement during my days as a Protestant. When he heard that I used to be a Pentecostal, he asked with noticeable excitement, “Can you speak in tongues!?!?” Another instance is when I was speaking to a girl in my parish about her recent trip to the youth conference at Steubenville. She said it was great, and at one point everyone started speaking in tongues. These two brief occasions were not the only times I encountered Pentecostal sympathies in the Church. I have now met people who actively promote this movement arguing that the charismatic “revival” has always been recognized as legitimate within the Church, and have even been told by a Catholic that it would be beneficial to have a very “pentecostally” prayer session with this sect of Protestantism.

These interactions are truly perplexing.

How could the Catholic Church unite herself to a movement that not only began outside of the Church, but is also intimately associated with the flamboyantly heretical health, wealth, and prosperity gospel of the word of faith movement? How could a uniquely Protestant theology, invented in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, promoted by charlatans such as Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Gloria Copeland, Jesse Duplantis, Creflo Dollar, Joyce Meyer, Paula White, Joel Osteen, Victoria Osteen etc., make its way into the Mystical Body of Christ?

One word provides the answer – ecumenism.

The promoters of Pentecostalism and the prosperity “gospel” would vociferously rebuke the mendicant orders of the Scholastic era started by Saint Dominic and Saint Francis. According to the heretical doctrines of this false gospel, God wants you to be healthy, wealthy, and have a great career. If you do not have these things – health, wealth, and a prosperous career outlook – then you not only lack true faith but also do not have the blessings of God on your life. How does this teaching square with the evangelical poverty of the mendicants? How does the teaching of true faith being united to bodily health work out in light of the ailments Saint Francis of Assisi was afflicted with, such as blindness late in his life? The mystically received stigmata Saint Francis carried on his body would most certainly be rebuked by any one of these false prosperity peddlers named above, and yet, their theology is being welcomed with open arms into the Mystical Body of Christ, the true Church.

It is also worth noting that there are Protestants exercising more wisdom on this matter than Catholic clerics. Protestants are sounding the alarm against these false teachers while the true shepherds of Christ willingly allow wolves into the fold.

The wrecking ball of modernism truly knows no bounds.

Instead of swallowing the lie, it is our duty as faithful Catholics to expose this error so that others might see the truth; not only so that Catholics might guard their souls against these heresies, but also, that Pentecostals might be rescued from damnable error and enter into the Church where Christ is truly encountered in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass.

There are multiple errors within the Pentecostal sect, but two of them are quite prominent. The most popular false doctrines of Pentecostalism are second baptism (baptism of the Holy Ghost), and glossolalia (speaking in tongues). To be sure, these errors stem from foundational errors such as the rejection of the magisterial authority of the Catholic Church, the adherence of ‘Bible alone’ theology, and private judgment. And to justify their autonomous private judgment (as St. Augustine cringes looking down from heaven), the oft-repeated phrase “the Holy Spirit has laid it upon my heart” is quickly utilized when cautious minds inquire into these teachings. When I started asking questions about the credibility of Benny Hinn’s theology, for example, I was allegedly being informed by the “spirit of doubt” and not really concerned with finding truth on this matter.

In order to reveal the destructive nature of Pentecostalism, let’s focus on the errors of second baptism and speaking in tongues, and how they are derived from incorrect scriptural exegesis resulting in a man-made doctrine.

Part I: Second Baptism

St. Paul the Apostle says,

“Therefore, a prisoner of the Lord, beseech you, that you walk worthy of the vocation in which you are called. With all humility, and mildness, with patience, supporting one another in charity, careful to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. One body, and one spirit: as you are called in one hope of your vocation. One Lord, one faith, one baptism. One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all.”[1]

Despite the fact that St. Paul refutes second baptism in the above passage, this error rises and falls on a single verse, which is most often taken from the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible:

“He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.”[2]

The word “since” is used in two different ways – “because” or “from”. The verses that use “since” as “because” are 1 Corinthians 15:21, 2 Corinthians 13:3, and Colossians 1:4. An example of using “since” as “because” can be demonstrated in this sentence, “Can you pay for me this time since/because I paid for you last time.” The verses that use “since” as “from” are Matthew 24:21, Mark 9:21, Luke 1:70, Luke 7:45, Luke 16:16, Luke 24:21, John 9:32, Acts 3:21, Acts 24:11, Colossians 1:6 and 9, Hebrew 9:26, and 2 Peter 3:4. An example of using “since” as “from” can be demonstrated in this sentence, “I’ve been sick since/from last week.”[3]

The charismatic Pentecostals are attempting to divide the above passage through the introduction of separately distinct periods of time in the life of the believer by changing the interpretation of a single word. The correct way to read this passage is by its interconnectedness from the aspect of when a person believed because they have received the Holy Ghost.[4]

Pentecostals use the KJV to support the false doctrine of second baptism, sometimes referred to as second blessings, by using this verse in an incorrect way. This is accomplished by using the wrong definition of “since”. The error persists because “since” is used as “from” rather than “because” as demonstrated above.[5]

The correct way to read this passage would be, “He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since/because ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.”

The Douay-Rheims commentary on Acts 19:2 affords further clarification,

“S. Paul first inquires of them, if they have received the Holy Ghost by confirmation. There answer is probably not to be interpreted with rigor; since they must have heard something of the Holy Spirit, so often mentioned in the Old Testament, by whom the prophets are said to speak of. They meant, they did not know there was in the Church, any means of communicating this Spirit to the faithful.”

The incorrect way to read this passage, that is, the Pentecostal way of reading this passage would be, “He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since/from when ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.” This reading, when compared to the correct interpretation above, is being used to justify the Pentecostal idea that a person can believe without receiving the Holy Spirit, and then later be baptized in the spirit by way of spiritual “slaying.” Being “slayed” in the Spirit means to have a Pentecostal minister lay their hands on you or pray over you so that the Holy Spirit will baptize you into receiving the gift of tongues. When this gift is allegedly received, the person will usually crumble to the ground in a dramatic manner and remain paralyzed by the experience. This of course usually takes place after a couple of hours of emotional prompting through “musical worship” in order to muster the appropriate level of emotional expectation.

The basic problem in assuming Acts 19:2 is speaking of two distinct periods of time (initially believing, and then receiving the Holy Spirit later in the life of the believer) is that in order to do so, two nouns must be used in such a way that believing is not correlated with receiving the Holy Spirit. “You received” and “The Holy Spirit” are syntactically connected; as the Holy Spirit is the direct object of received, so they cannot be two separate events.[6] This leaves “believing” as a stand-alone participle to describe the event of initial belief. In order to interpret these as two events, this would have to be an attendant circumstance participle, which would make these events coordinate.[7] It is not ever intended for the second action to happen sometime eventually, that is to receive the Holy Spirit later in the future or possibly not at all in an attendant circumstance participle, which would be the best hope of supporting this false doctrine.

Part II: Glossolalia

I Corinthians 14 of the KJV provides more ammunition for this false doctrine by adding the word “unknown” in front of “tongue” when in reality this word is not found in the Greek. The context bears this out in verses 6-9 and is epitomized here: “There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.”[8] This doctrine is completely negated by going back to Acts 2, where speaking in tongues initially took place, “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance… every man heard them speak in his own language.”[9] God gave the Apostles the supernatural ability to breach the language barrier in order to preach the Gospel to all nations.

The false doctrine of speaking in tongues as espoused by charismatic Pentecostals is a novelty of the 19th century, as the unanimous testimony of the fathers indicates:

– St. Augustine –

“And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. And when the sound was heard, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed, and marvelled, saying one to another, Are not all these which speak Galilæans? and how heard we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, in Armenia, and in Cappadocia, in Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the regions of Africa about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews, natives, Cretes, and Arabians, they heard them speak in their own tongues the wonderful works of God.”[10]

“If that night began after the Lord’s ascension, how was it that the apostles wrought so much? Was that the night when the Holy Spirit came, and, filling all who were in one place, gave them the power of speaking in the tongues of every nation?”[11]

“But “the Spirit was not yet given;” that is, with that abundance of spiritual grace which enabled those assembled together to speak in every language”[12]

– Clement of Alexandria –

“The apostle thus speaks: “So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue a word easy to be understood, how shall ye know what is spoken? For ye shall speak into the air. There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.” And, “Let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.””[13]

– St. Gregory of Nazianzen –

“XV. They spoke with strange tongues, and not those of their native land; and the wonder was great, a language spoken by those who had not learnt it. And the sign is to them that believe not, and not to them that believe, that it may be an accusation of the unbelievers, as it is written, With other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people, and not even so will they listen to Me saith the Lord. But they heard. Here stop a little and raise a question, how you are to divide the words. For the expression has an ambiguity, which is to be determined by the punctuation. Did they each hear in their own dialect so that if I may so say, one sound was uttered, but many were heard; the air being thus beaten and, so to speak, sounds being produced more clear than the original sound; or are we to put the stop after “they Heard,” and then to add “them speaking in their own languages” to what follows, so that it would be speaking in languages their own to the hearers, which would be foreign to the speakers? I prefer to put it this latter way; for on the other plan the miracle would be rather of the hearers than of the speakers; whereas in this it would be on the speakers’ side; and it was they who were reproached for drunkenness, evidently because they by the Spirit wrought a miracle in the matter of the tongues.”[14]

– St. John Chrysostom –

“Ver. 1. ‘Yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts; but rather that ye may prophesy.’

Ver. 2. ‘For he that speaketh in a tongue, speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth; but in the Spirit he speaketh mysteries.’

Ver. 3. ‘But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men edification, and exhortation, and comfort.’

At this point he [St. Paul] makes a comparison between the gifts, and lowers that of the tongues, showing it to be neither altogether useless, nor very profitable by itself. For in fact they were greatly puffed up on account of this, because the gift was considered to be a great one. And it was thought great because the Apostles received it first, and with so great display; it was not however therefore to be esteemed above all the others. Wherefore then did the Apostles receive it before the rest? Because they were to go abroad everywhere. And as in the time of building the tower the one tongue was divided into many; so then the many tongues frequently met in one man, and the same person used to discourse both in the Persian, and the Roman, and the Indian, and many other tongues, the Spirit sounding within him: and the gift was called the gift of tongues because he could all at once speak divers languages.”[15]

The evidence presented against the two most prominent errors of the charismatic Pentecostals is devastating to their most important positions. In order to justify the heretical doctrine of second baptism they incorrectly interpret the Sacred Page by driving a temporal wedge between a person’s believing and receiving the Holy Spirit. Moreover, the abuse of speaking in tongues is justified only by ignoring the context of Acts 2 and the testimony of the Church Fathers. Instead of babbling incoherently, the Apostles were given the miraculous gift of speaking in the intelligible languages of other nations. Our Lord commissioned the Apostles to baptize the nations, and it makes sense that in order to accomplish this mission, they might need the ability to preach in the native languages of the people they would encounter during their missionary journeys.

Most importantly is the fact that these errors cannot be attributed to a move of the Holy Spirit, that is, a new 20th century Pentecost where God is inflaming the hearts of those outside of the salvific ark of the Church. To the contrary, the Spirit of Truth has nothing to do with heresy.

 

– Lucas G. Westman & Tyson Carter


Appendix

Part I – Extended Exegesis

Once the synonym is used in place of “since” in the verse, this becomes completely obvious, as it becomes an incoherent idea. This is easily demonstrated first by examining the passages where the KJV translates a word or phrase in Greek meaning “from”, always have either a preposition or a pronoun, or both, modifying the noun. It is never understood with the participle as alleged in Acts 19:2. In addition to the absence of a prepositional phrase, the fact that it is a participle is also a problem, since the participle functions as a noun or adjective, despite being a verb. The noun in the syntactical structure preposition + pronoun + verb (from (since) + the time + [I] entered) is the pronoun “the time/which time”. The verb in the example phrase above from Luke 7:45 is aorist indicative active, not a participle. This is because there is a requirement to have a pronoun understood in the verbal phrase in order for it to make sense, which is normally not a problem when the prepositional phrase “from when/since” precedes a noun (Matt 24:21). The syntactic structure of this phrase is not consistent with the use of the prepositional phrase “since”, but rather consistent with the conjunction “since”. In truth neither are present in this passage in the original Greek, but the relationship between the aorist participle, and the act of receiving the Holy Spirit, are conditional upon each other, which is shown by the conditional conjunction εἰ.

“Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints,” (Colossians 1:4, KJV 1900)

Εὐχαριστοῦμεν τῷ θεῷ …. ἀκούσαντες τὴν πίστιν ὑμῶν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ

We give thanks to God … Hearing the faith   our   in Christ Jesus

εἰ πνεῦμα ἅγιον ἐλάβετε πιστεύσαντες

if Holy Spirit you received believing

The semantic relationships between “We give thanks to God” and “hearing of our faith in Christ Jesus” (Col 1:3-4) are identical to “you received the Holy Spirit” and “believing”. The verbal phrase is conditional upon the participle. This means that “We give thanks to God” is conditional upon “hearing of our faith in Christ Jesus”, just as receiving the Holy Spirit is conditional upon believing. In the case of Acts 19:2, the aorist participle of “believe” functions as an adverb and modifies the previous clause “If you received the Holy Spirit”. This will generally answer when, where, how, or why of a proposition. This syntactical structure clearly points to the use of “because” rather than the prepositional phrase “from when”, as this is how these questions are answered. You receive the Holy Spirit when you believe, or more appropriately, because you believe.

“In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,” (Ephesians 1:13, KJV 1900)

“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,” (Ephesians 1:13, NIV)

πιστεύσαντες ἐσφραγίσθητε τῷ πνεύματι τῆς ἐπαγγελίας τῷ ἁγίῳ

The syntactical structure of this phrase is identical to the last two examples, it is a conditional phrase made up of a verb, the direct object of that verb (a nominal phrase), and the adverbial participle that represents the condition of the verbal clause (i.e. You received/were sealed with the Holy Spirit). This participle can actually be characterized as: temporal, manner, conditional, and result. The first two answer the questions: when and how, conditional carries the sense of “if”, and the result shows what the verb accomplishes. At what point are we saved? When we believe. How are we saved? By believing. We are saved if we believe, and the result of believing is being saved.

In addition to this, Pentecostals also try to use the “baptism of John” argument using Acts 18:25, 19:3-4. This is a false dichotomy wrought by poor exegesis, as the same phrase is used in Matt 21:25, Mark 1:4, 11:30, Luke 7:29, 20:4, and Acts 1:22, before the Holy Spirit had even come down on the Apostles. This is another example of reading one’s presuppositions back into the text and coming out with a meaning not intended by the author. This is also made obvious by St Paul in the previously quoted passage in Ephesians 4. This immersion (baptism) of repentance (Mark 1:4, Luke 3:3, Acts 13:24, 19:4) is also found in the Jewish Mishnah (Kippurim 8:9A & I), showing it to merely be a Jewish tradition that was later adopted by the Church as a sacrament.

One receives the Holy Spirit through water baptism (Acts 8:36-38), which saves us (1 Pet 3:21), which is a necessary part of believing in Christ, as we are buried with Him in baptism in which we are also raised together with Him through faith in the working of God (Col 2:12). Unlike what other Protestants will try to claim, believing in Christ requires we believe in everything He taught, and not just a small part of it, as the above-cited passages (and many others) show.


[1] Ephesians 4:1-6

[2] Acts 19:2, KJV 1900

[3] Here is the fragment in question in Greek, and then word-for-word directly into English underneath:

εἰ   πνεῦμα ἅγιον   ἐλάβετε           πιστεύσαντες

if     Holy Spirit       you received   believing

The εἰ in this context makes the statement interrogative, which in turn changes the translation of the aorist second person singular conjugation of “receive” (you received) to “have you received?”. The nominal phrase “Holy Spirit” is in the accusative case, which means it is the object of the verb. Thus, the phrase “εἰ πνεῦμα ἅγιον ἐλάβετε” should be translated “have you received the Holy Spirit?” which is fairly uncontroversial.

[4] The controversial aspect of this short passage upon which so much doctrinal error is based is the role of the aorist participle of “believe”.

[5] See appendix for further explanation

[6] Aside from this, the Holy Spirit is a noun and does not make sense without the utilization of a verb, which would also not make much sense without a direct object (unless the verb is intransitive, which it is not).

[7] While many of the requirements for an attendant circumstance participle are met, it is not possible for these participles to be read this way. For example, “Rise and take the child” (Matt 2:13), “Go and learn” (Matt 9:13), “came and bowed” (Matt 9:18), “Go quickly and tell his disciples” (Matt 28:7), “They left everything and followed him” (Luke 5:11), Go and show yourself” (Luke 5:14), “Sit down and write fifty” (Luke 16:6), and many more of these types of participles all have one thing in common, you never have the participle occur and not the verb. The angel was not telling Mary and Joseph to rise, and then maybe take the child sometime in the future, or possibly not at all. If it were possible to have one half of the attendant circumstance participle construction to occur and not the other, then the message “Rise Peter, kill and eat” bears no significance to the abandonment of Levitical dietary practices, if “rise” is not without “kill and eat”. Likewise, the Great Commission “Go and make disciples” (Matt 28:19) would merely be a suggestion, if “Go” was not immediately connected to “make disciples”. Were “go” and “tell the disciples” (Matt 28:7) not inextricably connected, one with the other? Like all of the other examples, the participle that is coordinate with the next verb is always in immediate succession. It is not ever intended for the second action to happen sometime eventually, or possibly not at all in an attendant circumstance participle, which would be the best hope of supporting this false doctrine. This is the closest one could get to Acts 19:2 teaching the doctrine of second blessings, to interpret the participle in one of the other ways would either be so absurd as to not make sense, or is not constructed appropriately either morphologically or syntactically. But abusing grammar in this way causes theological problems elsewhere, in addition to being exegetically irresponsible.

[8] 1 Corinthians 14:10, KJV 1900

[9] Acts 2:4, 6, KJV 1900

[10] St Augustine of Hippo, Against the Epistle of Manichæus Called Fundamental

[11] St Augustine of Hippo, Lectures or Tractates on the Gospel according to St. John

[12] St Augustine of Hippo, Lectures or Tractates on the Gospel according to St. John

[13] Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata

[14] Select Orations of Saint Gregory Nazianzen

[15] Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, on the First Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians

 

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Creation, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Theology

Saint Thomas Aquinas on Creation

Saint Thomas Aquinas on Heretical Ideas About Creation

The Connection Between the Following Considerations and the Preceding Ones

“I meditated upon all Thy works: I mediated upon the works of Thy hands” (Ps. 142.5).

[1] Of no thing whatever can a perfect knowledge be obtained unless its operation is known, because the measure and quality of a thing’s power is judged from the manner and type of its operation, and its power, in turn, manifests its nature; for a thing’s natural aptitude for operation follows upon its actual possession of a certain kind of nature.

[2] There are, however, two sorts of operation, as Aristotle teaches in Metaphysics IX: one that remains in the agent and is a perfection of it, as the act of sensing, understanding, and willing; another that passes over into an external thing, and is a perfection of the thing made as a result of that operation, the acts of heating, cutting and building, for example.

[3] Now, both kinds of operation belong to God: the former, in that He understands, wills, rejoices, and loves; the latter, in that He brings things into being, preserves them, and governs them. But, since the former operation is a perfection of the operator, the latter a perfection of the thing made, and since the agent is naturally prior to the thing made and is the cause of it, it follows that the first of these types of operation is the ground of the second, and naturally precedes it, as a cause precedes its effect. Clear evidence of this fact, indeed, is found in human affairs; for in the thought and will of the craftsman lie the principle and plan of the work of building.

[4] Therefore, as a simple perfection of the operator, the first type of operation claims for itself the name of operation, or, again, of action; the second, as being a perfection of the thing made, is called making so that the things which a craftsman produces by action of this kind are said to be his handiwork.

[5] Of the first type of operation in God we have already spoken in the preceding Book of this work, where we treated of the divine knowledge and will. Hence, for a complete study of the divine truth, the second operation, whereby things are made and governed by God, remains to be dealt with.

[6] In fact, this order we can gather from the words quoted above. For the Psalmist first speaks of meditation upon the first type of operation, when he says: ‘I have meditated on all Thy operation’; thus, operation is here referred to the divine act of understanding and will. Then he refers to mediation on God’s work” ‘and I meditated on the works of Thy hands’; so that by ‘the works of Thy hands’ we understand heaven and earth, and all that is brought into being by God, as the handiwork produced by a craftsman.

That the Consideration of Creatures is Useful For Instruction of Faith

[1] This sort of meditation on the divine works is indeed necessary for instruction of faith in God.

[2] First, because meditation on His works enables us in some measure to admire and reflect upon His wisdom. For things made by art are representative of the art itself, being made in likeness to the art. Now, God brought things into being by His wisdom; wherefore the Psalm (103:24) declares: ‘Thou hast made all things in wisdom.’ Hence, from reflection upon God’s works we are able to infer His wisdom, since, by a certain communication of His likeness, it is spread abroad in the things He has made. For it is written: ‘He poured her out,’ namely, wisdom, ‘upon all His works’ (Eccli. 1:10). Therefore, the Psalmist, after saying: ‘Thy knowledge is become wonderful to me: it is high, and I cannot reach it,’ and after referring to the aid of the divine illumination, when he says: ‘Night shall be my light,’ etc., confesses that he was aided in knowing the divine wisdom by reflection upon God’s works, saying: ‘Wonderful are Thy works, and my soul knoweth right well’ (Ps. 138:6, 11, 14).

[3] Secondly, this consideration [of God’s works] leads to admiration of God’s sublime power, and consequently inspires in men’s hearts reverence for God. For the power of the worker is necessarily understood to transcend the things made. And so it is said: ‘If they,’ namely, the philosophers, ‘admired their power and effects,’ namely of the heavens, stars, and elements of the world, ‘let them understand that He that made them is mightier than they’ (Wisd. 13:4). Also it is written: ‘The invisible things of God are made: His eternal power also and divinity’ (Rom. 1:20). Now, the fear and reverence of God result from this admiration. Hence, it is said: ‘Great is Thy name in might. Who shall not fear Thee, O King of Nations?’ (Jer. 10:6-7).

[4] Thirdly, this consideration incites the souls of men to the love of God’s goodness. For whatever goodness and perfection is distributed to the various creatures, in partial or particular measure, is united together in Him universally, as in the source of all goodness, as we proved in Book I. If, therefore, the goodness, beauty, and delightfulness of creatures are so alluring to the minds of men, the fountainhead of God’s own goodness, compared with the rivulets of goodness found in creatures, will draw the enkindled minds of men wholly to Itself. Hence it is said in the Psalm (91:5): ‘Thou has given me, O Lord, a delight in Thy doings, and in the works of Thy hands I shall rejoice.’ And elsewhere it is written concerning the children of men: ‘They shall be inebriated with the plenty of Thy house,’ that is, of all creatures, ‘and Thou shalt make them drink of the torrent of Thy pleasure: for with Thee is the fountain of life’ (Ps. 35:9-10). And, certain men, it is said: ‘By these good things that are seen, ‘ namely, creatures, which are good by a kind of participation, ‘they could not understand Him that is’ (Wis. 13:1), namely, truly good; indeed, is goodness itself, as was shown in Book I.

[5] Fourthly, this consideration endows men with a certain likeness to God’s perfection. For it was shown in Book I that, by knowing Himself, God beholds all other things in Himself. Since, then, the Christian faith teaches man principally about God, and makes him know creatures by the light of divine revelation, there arises in man a certain kind of likeness of God’s wisdom. So it is said: ‘But we all beholding the glory of the Lord with open face, are transformed into the same image’ (II Cor. 3:18).

[6] It is therefore evident that the consideration of creatures has its part to play in building the Christian faith. And for this reason it is said: ‘I will remember the works of the Lord, and I will declare the things I have seen: by the words of the Lord are His works’ (Ecclus. 42:15).

That Knowledge of the Nature of Creatures Serves to Destroy Errors Concerning God

[1] The consideration of creatures is further necessary, not only for the building up of truth, but also for the destruction of errors. For errors about creatures sometimes lead one astray from the truth of faith, so far as the errors are inconsistent with true knowledge of God. Now, this happens in many ways.

[2] First, because through ignorance of the nature of creatures men are sometimes so far perverted as to set up as the first cause and as God that which can only receive its being from something else; for they think that nothing exists beyond the realm of visible creatures. Such were those who identified God with this, that, and the other kind of body; and of these it was said: ‘Who have imagined either the fire, or the wind, or the swift air, or the circle of the stars, or the great water, or the sun and moon to be the gods’ (Wis. 13:2).

[3] Secondly, because they attribute to certain creatures that which belongs only to God. This also results from error concerning creatures. For what is incompatible with a thing’s nature is not ascribed to it except through ignorance of its nature – as if man were said to have three feet. Now, what belongs solely to God is incompatible with the nature of a created thing, just as that which is exclusively man’s is incompatible with another thing’s nature. Thus, it is from ignorance of the creature’s nature that the aforesaid error arises. And against this error it is said: ‘They gave the incommunicable name to stones and wood’ (Wis. 14:21). Into this error fell those who attribute the creation of things, or knowledge of the future, or the working of the miracles to causes other than God.

[4] Thirdly, because through ignorance of the creature’s nature something is subtracted from God’s power in its working upon creatures. This is evidenced in the case of those who set up two principles of reality; in those who assert that things proceed from God, not by the divine will, but by natural necessity; and again, in those who withdraw either all or some things from the divine providence, or who deny that it can work outside the ordinary course of things. For all these notions are derogatory to God’s power. Against such persons it is said: ‘Who looked upon the Almighty as if He could do nothing’ (Job 22:17), and: ‘Thou showest Thy power, when men will not believe Thee to be absolute in power’ (Wis. 12:17).

[5] Fourthly, through ignorance of the nature of things, and, consequently, of his own place in the order of the universe, this rational creature, man, who by faith is led to God as his last end, believes that he is subject to other creatures to which he is in fact superior. Such is evidently the case with those who subject human wills to the stars, and against these it is said: ‘Be not afraid of the sings of heaven, which the heathens fear’ (Jer. 10:2); and this is likewise true of those who think that angels are the creators of souls, that human souls are mortal, and, generally, of persons who hold any similar views derogatory to the dignity of man.

[6] It is, therefore, evident that the opinion is false of those who asserted that it made no difference to the truth of the faith what anyone holds about creatures, so long as one thinks rightly about God, as Augustine tells us in his book On the Origin of the Soul. For error concerning creatures, by subjecting them to causes other than God, spills over into false opinion about God, and takes men’s minds away from Him, to whom faith seeks to lead them.

[7] For this reason Scripture threatens punishment to those who err about creatures, as to unbelievers, in the words of the Psalm (27:5): ‘Because they have not understood the works of the Lord and the operations of His hands, Thou shalt destroy them, and shalt not build them up’; and: ‘These things they thought and were deceived,’ and further on: ‘They esteemed not the honor of holy souls’ (Wis. 2:21-22).

– Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles – 


 

– Lucas G. Westman

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Culture, Politics

A Brief Examination of America’s Two Party Political System

An Examination of American PoliticsWith a majority in Congress and control of the White House, the G.O.P. has failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act. This is quite remarkable given the fact that the promise to repeal the ACA over the last 7 years is the primary reason why they have been able to get to this point of being the majority party at the federal level.

The reality is that the G.O.P. has never wanted to repeal the ACA because they are just as committed to centralizing tyrannical power as their democrat “rivals.”

So let’s take a brief look at what is going on with the major parties in mainstream American politics.

The Democratic Party is fully committed to institutionalizing to the furthest extent possible the tenets of sexual revolution. There is no amount of insanity and depravity that is off the table in this regard. In the area of economics they look to completely implement socialism even if it requires incremental steps in the name of whatever pet social injustice of the day advances the cause.

These are the explicit aims of the Democratic Party.

The implicit aim of the Democratic Party is to pretend that they are against the interventionist, liberal hegemonic foreign policy but do nothing about curtailing it in any meaningful way. This also includes the massive surveillance state spying on American citizens. Progressives will lament the assault on civil rights and civil liberties all day long, but the reality is that they only care about the sexual revolution. If they can get away with trading civil liberties for the advancement of political control via sexual revolution, that is a bargain they are willing to take.

The Republican Party is fully committed to advancing and exponentially increasing our foreign interventions abroad, maintain the steady growth of the surveillance state, instigating conflict with Russia and China, obeying the policy dictates of AIPAC, and selling their souls to their corporate masters in the military industrial complex. Trillion dollar wars and global military hegemony is what defines the G.O.P. Everything else is just rhetorical window-dressing to get votes.

These are the explicit aims of the Republican Party.

The implicit aim of the Republican Party is to pretend that they are against the sexual revolutionaries and centralizing domestic policy. They make a lot of noise about this or that “big government” policy, but they will do absolutely nothing to stop it from becoming a reality. In fact, once a progressive project passes into law it is almost guaranteed that the G.O.P. will not only maintain its central features, but also expand its reach into the country.

So there you have it, the two major political parties in control of governing this country and they are in total agreement in advancing the maliciously repugnant secular tyranny of American greatness.

 

– Lucas G. Westman

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Culture

The Lesson of Diapers & Toys

The Lesson of Diapers & ToysOn two separate evenings this past week, I found myself roped into moving a massive pile of boxes across town. Moving in and of itself wasn’t at all a new experience for me, but moving what was in those boxes was.

The cardboard crates in question contained hundreds of pounds of diapers and blankets and car seats and toys. I and the other volunteers—most of whom I’d never met before—loaded the tender cargo into the backs of trailers, pickup trucks, and mini-vans, and then proceeded across town as part of a caravan to deposit it at its new, larger home.

When a friend had asked me a few days earlier if I might be available to help the local Options for Women clinic move to a new location in town, I’d given my standard reply that I’d check my calendar and get back to him. As I’m sure is true with most people, moving is not one of my all-time favorite things to do, and so I was a little disappointed to see that I had both the evenings wide open.

When my younger brother and I arrived at the appropriate time, we were happy to find that most of the packing had already been done, and that the boxes merely needed to be loaded onto the trucks and then driven across town and unloaded. Clearly someone else had already put in a lot more time and effort than was being asked of us. Better yet, there was a spread of food put out for the volunteers, even for those who had just arrived.

As we were eating, I made my usual jokes about having come there mostly for the free food, but as I looked around at the faces in that room, my mind kept wandering to more serious thoughts. A wide variety of ages was represented there—older people, middle-aged adults, and a large number of college students. Some were professional staffers, but most were volunteers like myself, probably recruited by their friends.

What struck me most of all was the sense of joy that I could see in that room. It wasn’t a namby-pamby, rainbows-and-butterflies sort of glibness, but rather a genuine sense of being involved in something incredibly important. The people I saw around me, while probably as initially hesitant as I had been, were happy with the knowledge that they were working to help disadvantaged mothers keep and raise their babies.

Across town, after what seemed like a thousand trips carrying boxes into the new building, I stopped to get a sip of water and to admire the growing stack of ‘merchandise.’

“How does this work?” I asked one of the women in charge. “Can expectant mothers purchase this stuff at a discounted rate?”

“No,” she replied. “We don’t charge anything. Moms earn points by taking the free classes we offer on topics like nutrition and newborn care and potty training. They can then use those points to ‘purchase’ the items in our store here.”

I stared at the mound of baby paraphernalia, and I thought back to several previous conversations I’d had on the topic of unplanned pregnancies. During those talks, without fail, the advocates of abortion would say something like the following: “Sure, these people claim they’re pro-life, but once the babies are actually born, they stop caring about them.”

I’d heard this statement many times, and I’d never really believed it, but that pile of toys, baby clothes, and car seats helped me recognize just how blatant a lie it really is. I couldn’t help but wonder how many teething rings and boxes of diapers were stockpiled at the local Planned Parenthood branch. To ask the question was to answer it.

By contrast, the people there in that room— the ones working hard all around me as I polished off my bottle of water—were there because they truly did care about babies and their mothers, and not just up to the point of birth, as their detractors love to claim.

They were there because they are really, genuinely, 100% pro-life.

 

Nicholas Kaminsky

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Apologetics, Philosophy

Fides et Ratio & Modern Philosophical Errors

Fides et Ratio on Modern Philosophical Errors1. “The first goes by the name eclecticism, which is meant the approach of those who, in research, teaching and argumentation, even in theology, tend to use individual ideas drawn from different philosophies, without concern for their internal coherence, their place within a system or their historical context. They therefore run the risk of being unable to distinguish the part of truth of a given doctrine from elements of it which may be erroneous or ill-suited to the task at hand. An extreme form of eclecticism appears also in the rhetorical misuse of philosophical terms to which some theologians are given at times. Such manipulation does not help the search for truth and does not train reason – whether theological or philosophical – to formulate arguments seriously and scientifically. The rigorous and far-reaching study of philosophical doctrines, their particular terminology and the context is which they arose, helps to overcome the danger of eclecticism and makes it possible to integrate them into theological discourse in a way appropriate to the task.”

2. “Eclecticism is an error of method, but lying hidden within it can also be the claims of historicism. To understand a doctrine from the past correctly, it is necessary to set it within its proper historical and cultural context. The fundamental claim of historicism, however, is that the truth of a philosophy is determined on the basis of its appropriateness to a certain period and a certain historical purpose. At least implicitly, therefore, the enduring validity of truth is denied. What was true in one period, historicists claim, may not be true in another. Thus for them the history of thought becomes little more than an archeological resource useful for illustrating positions once held, but for the most part outmoded and meaningless now. On the contrary, it should not be forgotten that, even if a formulation is bound in some way by time and culture, the truth or the error which it expresses can invariably be identified and evaluated as such despite the distance of space and time.

In theological enquiry, historicism tends to appear for the most part under the guise of ‘modernism.’ Rightly concerned to make theological discourse relevant and understandable to our time, some theologians use only the most recent opinions and philosophical language, ignoring the critical evaluation which ought to be made of them in the light of the tradition. By exchanging relevance for truth, this form of modernism shows itself incapable of satisfying the demands of truth which theology is called to respond.”

3. “Another threat to be reckoned with is scientism. This is the philosophical notion which refuses to admit the validity of forms of knowledge other than those of the positive science; and it relegates religious, theological, ethical and aesthetic knowledge to the realm of mere fantasy. In the past, the same idea emerged in positivism and neo-positivism, which considered metaphysical statements to be meaningless…Regrettably, it must be noted, scientism consigns all that has to do with the question of the meaning of life to the realm of the irrational or imaginary.”

4. “No less dangerous is pragmatism. An attitude of mind which, in making its choices, precludes theoretical considerations or judgments based on ethical principles. The practical consequences of this mode of thinking are significant. In particular there is growing support for a concept of democracy which is not grounded upon any reference to unchanging values: whether or not a line of action is admissible is decided by the vote of a parliamentary majority. The consequences of this are clear: in practice, the great moral decisions of humanity are subordinated to decisions taken one after another by institutional agencies. Moreover, anthropology itself is severely compromised by a one-dimensional vision of the human being, a vision which excludes the great ethical dilemmas and the existential analysis of the meaning of suffering and sacrifice, life and death.”

5. “The positions we have examined lead in turn to a more general conception which appears today as the common framework of many philosophies which have rejected the meaningfulness of being. I am referring to the nihilist interpretation, which is at once the denial of all foundations and the negation of all objective truth. Quite apart from the fact that it conflicts with the demands and the content of the word of God, nihilism is a denial of the humanity and of the very identity of the human being. It should never be forgotten that the neglect of being inevitably leads to losing touch with objective truth and therefore with the very ground of human dignity. This in turn makes it possible to erase from the countenance of man and woman the marks of their likeness to God, and thus to lead them little by little either to a destructive will to power or to a solitude without hope. Once the truth is denied to human beings, it is pure illusion to try and set them free. Truth and freedom either go together hand in hand or together they perish in misery.”

– Pope Saint John Paul II, Fides et Ratio – 


 

– Lucas G. Westman

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Metaphysics, Philosophy, Traditionalism, Wolfgang Smith

Metaphysics as Seeing: The Christic Center of the Metaphysical Journey

Metaphysics as Seeing - The Christic CenterIn the quest to enter metaphysics as ‘seeing’ it is essential to establish the importance and necessity of a metaphysical schematic for understanding reality. Metaphysics is important because it is needed to answer the fundamental questions of life, and it is necessary because we interpret reality through the principles of first philosophy. Now, we are prepared to analyze Wolfgang Smith’s essay, Metaphysics as ‘Seeing’, so that we might find the Christic center of our journey.

Contrary to the modern suggestion, metaphysics isn’t confined to the halls of academia where professors smoking pipes and wearing tweed jackets break down the problem of universals to its linguistic parts in order to reject it as an ancient abuse of language; nor is it a field of thought accessible only to the modernist apologetics intelligentsia utilized only to frustrate the new atheist credo.

Metaphysics is effectively a human endeavor.

Wolfgang Smith reminds us of this perennial truth,

“Since the beginning of modern times, metaphysics has been viewed as an academic discipline, to be pursued at universities; and it is of interest to note that, as such, its standing and prestige in the educated world has steadily declined, to the point where many nowadays deny its philosophic legitimacy. Yet I contend that the metaphysical quest pertains by right, not to the artificial environment of the contemporary university, but to human life, human existence in its untruncated reality. In plain words: it springs from man’s innate thirst for truth, which is none other than the thirst for God…Metaphysics is therefore something that concerns each of us by virtue of the fact that we are human, which is to say, ‘made in the image and likeness of God.’ It is indeed a case of, ‘noblesse oblige’: so far from reducing to a mere academic discipline – to be pursued by ‘professionals,’ notably recipients of a doctorate in philosophy – metaphysics constitutes an activity of the mind and heart to which, in principle, all are not only entitled, but are, in a way, ‘called.’”[1]

It is worth noting that because metaphysics is by its nature a human endeavor, and not a speculative product of academic investigation, that its deepest roots are planted in the theophany of aesthetic wonderment. Humans crave answers to the deepest and most fundamental questions of life because we are made in the imago Dei and participate in a created order that proclaims the glory of the Triune Creator. Our hearts are restless, St. Augustine says in union with St. Paul, because it is “in Him that we live and move and have our being.” To the contrary of modern materialistic and epistemic reductionism, metaphysics springs from aesthetic longing and wonder, rather than doubtful skepticism.[2]

The divergent approaches in the metaphysical quest for truth points toward an important distinction between the perennial tradition and the modernist misconception. It is because the modernist intellectual conviction manifests itself through speculative doubt that it subordinates metaphysics to the confines of critical reason alone. With this in consideration, Smith says that “we tend to think that the means or modus operandi of metaphysics consists of reasoning, that is to say, of rational argument, when in fact it is, again, the very opposite: a question, namely, of ‘seeing,’ of direct perception, of gnosis properly so called.”[3] This is not to deny the rationality metaphysics exemplifies in the human pursuit of truth; it is, however, important to identify the appropriateness of its praeambula-type nature, that is, “reasoning does have a role to play; but its function is inherently negative and preparatory; to be precise, rational argument serves to deconstruct false beliefs, and in so doing, to purify the mind.”[4] Smith’s explanation corresponds to St. Paul’s teaching, “We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”[5] Once these metaphysical “obstacles” are cleared away and the mind is ‘wiped clean’, the ‘seeing’ person will be prepared to perceive God in Christ.[6]

Metaphysics is not only a human endeavor; it is inherently mystical in its ultimate end, which is seeing the Incarnate Christ.

These truths should point us to the realization that the spiritual and intellectual journey of metaphysics as seeing is not merely an external investigation of the fundamental principles undergirding all of reality, but an internal examination as well. God is not only the end to which our initial aesthetic desire is satisfied, but the very subject imminently prompting our soul towards its beatific union with the Creator.[7] Smith says, “It is this inscrutable indwelling of God – as the ‘soul of our soul’ – that enables and indeed powers the quest from its first inception to its ultimate end.”[8]

Metaphysics as seeing is the primordial human endeavor journeying toward mystical union with God through the life, death, and resurrection of the Incarnate Christ.

While this is what metaphysics as seeing is, it is important to recall that a purifying of the mind in order to see reality properly is required. The human pursuit of divine truth has been clouded by a “collective blindness.”[9] Motivated by the illusions of progress, guided by the mantras of the Enlightenment, and fueled by the habituation of concupiscence, modern man has institutionalized the postmodern abyss described by Catholic doctrine as the fall of man. Progress, so-called, is the cultural actualization of nihilistic deterioration. When the demonic deceptions of the serpent echo throughout the halls of modernity the collective blindness inexorably increases in its darkness as the light of God in Jesus Christ is pushed further to the margins. This modern cultural reality indicates that, “the primary task of the true metaphysician is then to undo the collective decline, to reverse it in himself. It is a question of restoring the ‘heart’ from its ‘darkened’ condition, and in so doing, to recover the unimpaired use of our God-given ‘eyes’: such, in brief, is the task of veritable metaphysics.”[10]

In order to prepare the mind to see nature as a theophany created by God the metaphysical evangel must expose the faulty, indeed the diabolical, Cartesian dualist apparatus presupposed by modernity in an effort to wipe the blurred mirror clean. Cartesian dualism sets up an illegitimate bifurcation of reality into the mechanistic and extended material realm and the internal subjective realm of the soul or conscious mind. Dividing the world in this way has disconnected the external and internal, and nobody has figured out how to reunite them. Instead of casting aside the Cartesian project for the disaster that it is, its presuppositions are maintained due to their usefulness for scientific modeling. The ruinous nature of this bifurcation becomes most apparent when the issue of consciousness is addressed.

Smith explains,

“The point is that ‘seeing’ does not reduce to the ‘reception into consciousness’ of something that pre-exists in the external world, but constitutes rather an ‘act of intentionality’ which conditions and in a way ‘defines’ its object. What is more, consciousness is not something which precedes that ‘act,’ but is itself that act, which is to say that it is never without content – like an empty receptacle – but is invariably a ‘consciousness of.’ So too, what antecedes the intentional act ‘externally’ is not in fact the object or ‘extended entity,’ but the phenomenon, conceived (according to the literal sense of that Greek word) as ‘that which shows itself in itself.’”[11]

The participatory nature of the conscious intentional act and the phenomenal showing in itself not only circumnavigates the prioritization of the object and the intentional act of consciousness or the intentional act of consciousness and the object, but effectively breaks down the Cartesian bifurcation with the intrinsically simultaneous relation of being between subject and object.[12] And when the erroneous sophistry of the Cartesian divide has been exposed the insanity of the project, ironically, manifests itself as the demonic trickery of a philosophical nightmare.[13] After cleansing the mind of the bifurcated illusion, we can begin to take steps toward seeing anew in the depths of our heart.

After clearing the spiritual and intellectual blockade of Cartesian dualism, realizing that we are not confined to the inner sanctuary of our mind and that reality is in fact accessible, we come face to face with another hindrance obstructing the path of metaphysics as seeing – Newtonian mechanism. To properly expunge this stain from the mirror of our mind, Smith proposes the scientific Anschauung of Johann Wolfgang Goethe. The Goethean view of science suggests that the objects under observation cannot be reduced to the sum of their parts, mechanism is rejected for the organic whole of nature, there is no mechanism standing behind the phenomena waiting to be discovered by the scientist, and that which is ‘seeable’ is that which is being theorized (that is, the theory is of the object and not concerning anything ontologically behind the object).[14]

This view of science, according to Smith, has been vindicated by the discovery of quantum mechanics,

“I would like to now point out that the Goethean ‘denial of mechanism’ – which in his day was met with derision, bordering upon contempt, and not only by the scientific establishment, but by the ‘enlightened’ public at large – has in fact been vindicated through the discovery of quantum mechanics, which turns out not to be a mechanics at all. It appears that the physical universe – the universe as conceived by the physicist – cannot actually be separated from the interventions effected by the physicist himself: as John Wheeler has put it, we have been forced to admit that physics deals, finally, with ‘a participatory universe.’ What ‘breaks a physical system into parts,’ it turns out, is the empirical intervention by which the parts in question are specified; and because the measurement of one observable has an uncontrollable effect upon its so-called conjugate, it follows that the system as such can no longer be conceived as a sum of well-defined parts.”[15]

Saint Bonaventure Quote copy

The Goethean view of science, as it has been vindicated by the quantum discovery of a participatory universe, opens the door for the possibility of reconnecting to nature rather than remaining alienated from it according to the inherently reductionist project of ideological scientism. It intuitively follows from this renewed understanding of participation that a qualitatively permeated “kinship” with nature as an organically created whole reflects its analogical correlation to its divine source of being.[16]

It is from this perspective then, after eradicating the modernist presuppositions of Cartesian bifurcation and Newtonian mechanism, that metaphysics as seeing moves from being a mere potentiality to an appropriately situated mystical actuality. Metaphysics as seeing actualizes the potential for discovering the realization of the “primary center in man”[17], that is, man is the pinnacle center of creation having been made in the imago Christi, which is to say imaged after the Christic center of the Trinity. To see is to know Christ, and to know is to see Christ. The metaphysical quest begins and ends with God; indeed it culminates in our union with Christ.[18]

 

– Lucas G. Westman


[1] Science & Myth, Pg. 201

[2] “We are prone, first of all, to imagine that the discipline stems from ‘doubt,’ when in fact it springs from a profound sense of ‘wonder,’ which is actually the very opposite of doubt: for that wonder proves to be in essence a recognition, however dim, of the inscrutable immanence of God in the thins of this world.” Ibid, Pg. 201

[3] Ibid, Pg. 201, 202

[4] Ibid, Pg. 202

[5] 2 Corinthians 10:5

[6] “Admittedly, reasoning does have a role to play; but its function is inherently negative and preparatory; to be precise, rational argument serves to deconstruct false beliefs, and in so doing, to purify the mind. That is all it can do, and indeed all it needs to do; for to the extent that the mind has been purified – the ‘mirror’ wiped clean – the ‘seeing’ takes care of itself. This holds true to the very end: as the Savior assures us: ‘the pure in heart shall see God.’” Ibid, Pg. 202

[7] “We need however to realize that God enters the picture, not only at the end of the metaphysical quest, but from the very outset, and not only as object of the aforesaid ‘wonder,’ but in a way as its subject as well. Indeed, we could in no wise ‘sense’ God outside of ourselves if H were not also present within the depths of our soul as the first ultimate ‘seer.’” Ibid, Pg. 202

[8] Ibid, Pg. 202

[9] “We have maintained, in keeping with sapiential tradition, that metaphysics is inherently a ‘seeing’; it needs also, however, to be noted that every ‘seeing’ – even the humblest act of sense perception – is in a way metaphysical, and can in principle serve to initiate the metaphysical quest. It is a question of following what may be termed ‘the spoor of God’ in visible things. ‘For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood from the things that are made.’ (Rom. 1:20) One may take this to mean that what St. Paul refers to as ‘the invisible things of God’ are in fact what is ‘clearly seen,’ which is to say that they are precisely what would be seen, if indeed we say ‘clearly.’ St. Paul is putting us on notice that in ‘seeing’ we generally ‘see not.’ We are given to understand that a collective blindness has overtaken us, which the Apostle goes on to ascribe to an apostasy, an estrangement from God: ‘Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.’ (Rom. 1:21)” Ibid. Pg, 202, 203

[10] Ibid, Pg. 203

[11] Ibid, Pg. 204

[12] “It is to be noted, moreover, that the phenomenon, by virtue of the fact that it shows itself ‘in itself’ – that is to say, not just in some representation, some private phantasm, but literally ‘in itself’ – does not belong ‘exclusively’ to the external or objective side of the Cartesian divide: it breaks the dichotomy, in other words.” Ibid, Pg. 204

[13] “It should however be noted that in fact – mercifully! – not a single human being accepts this Cartesian stipulation in his or her daily life: to do so would constitute insanity. Instead, we have leaned to oscillate, as it were, between our ‘daily’ Weltanschauung and the Cartesian – we uphold in our scientific convictions – without so much as realizing that these two orientations stand in stark contradiction: that one moment the grass is green and the next it is not!” Ibid, Pg. 205

[14] Ibid, Pg. 208, 209

[15] Ibid, Pg. 210

[16] “But there is more: Goethe’s science is based, not only upon a profound kinship with Nature, but also upon a deep love: a love which cannot but be near to what religion knows as ‘the love of God.’ If Nature be more than a mechanism – more than an inert machine – it must be something noble and beautiful and instinct with power; and that, to be sure, is something worthy to be loved. One senses an almost Franciscan quality in Goethe’s relation to what he termed ‘Nature.Ibid, Pg. 211

[17] Ibid, Pg. 214

[18] “The metaphysical question – which is none other than the task of religion according to its highest conception – reduces thus to a cleansing that rids the soul of its impurities: those intangible and elusive ‘little bits’ that stick to it and impair our vision. We are called to the very ‘purity of heart’ by which we ‘shall see God.’ Nothing less than this will do: such is the perfection Christ has enjoined upon us…” Ibid, Pg. 220

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Metaphysics, Philosophy, Traditionalism, Wolfgang Smith

Metaphysics as Seeing: The Necessity of Metaphysics

Wolfgang Smith - Metaphysics as Seeing The Necessity of MetaphysicsThe journey toward metaphysics as seeing requires preliminary steps to be taken. The first step is to appreciate that when investigating the five most basic questions of life[1] a metaphysical schematic is required, that is, the importance of metaphysics must be recognized. After identifying the importance of metaphysics, another preliminary step is essential in the quest for truth – accepting the intellectual and spiritual necessity of metaphysics.

Comprehending the necessity of metaphysics is imperative because there are many who would deny both of these preliminary steps. However, these metaphysical scoffers do so at their own intellectual and spiritual peril. For it will be seen that those who deny the importance and necessity of metaphysics end up staring at the shadows in the cave rather than gazing upon the light of truth. There is no amount of epistemological trickery, semantic posturing, or scientistic shenanigans that will successfully eliminate the fundamental reality of metaphysical presence. Philosophy and the first principles of wisdom can either be united to a way of life moved by the divine light, or it can be a tool to justify a brutish existence blinded by sensual passion. Indeed, “philosophy always buries its undertakers.”[2]

Throughout the history of philosophy metaphysics has had to overcome challenges. Rather than a comprehensive survey, it would be profitable to focus on the modern confrontations our current era is up against. In his Encyclical, Fides et ratio, Pope St. John Paul II identifies five primary threats against a traditional understanding of Christian philosophy and metaphysics. These threats are eclecticism,[3] historicism,[4] scientism,[5] pragmatism,[6] and nihilism.[7] In addition to Pope St. John Paul II, Thomist philosopher Robert Koons identified a similar catalogue of modern threats to Christian philosophy and metaphysics. He argues “metaphysics faced opposition from five sources in the early twentieth century.”[8] The primary opposition came from subjectivism and phenomenology, positivism, relativism and historicism, pragmatism, and physicalism.[9]

Along with the general identification of philosophical schools of thought that are hostile to traditional metaphysics, there are some common objections routinely made against first philosophy. W. Norris Clarke zeroes in on three basic objections:[10]

  1. No distinctive subject matter.
  2. We, as parts of the Whole, cannot comprehend the Whole.
  3. Objections to metaphysics from modern restrictive theories of knowledge.

The first objection, that metaphysics has no distinctive subject matter, is an attempt to categorically transform metaphysics into something that it cannot be, which is a sort of empirical field of study. The objection amounts to nothing more than a complaint that metaphysics isn’t more like the hard sciences, but this makes no sense because metaphysics is the study of being qua being, and not observable quantifications of concrete reality. Metaphysics is the study of what is fundamental to all the sciences, which is being as such. As Clarke states, “Metaphysics does not have a distinctive subject matter, since it treats of all beings, but it does have a distinctive point of view from which it studies them.”[11] Clarke continues, “It [metaphysics] considers in them only their most fundamental attribute of being and the properties and laws which they have in common with all beings, or all changing and finite beings, as these beings exist in the community of other existent beings, acting and interacting with each other to form the universe in which we are all plunged.”[12][13]

The second objection, that metaphysics is impossible because we, as parts of the Whole, cannot comprehend the Whole, is arguing that in order to comprehend reality in its totality would require a God’s-eye-perspective, which is obviously impossible for creatures like us. It is due to this philosophical impasse that we must, maybe out of polite humility, focus on studying the parts rather than pretending that we can understand the whole.

Clarke does a beautiful job of refuting this objection (emphasis added),

“But this is precisely the wonder and paradox of the spiritual intellect we all possess. Because it is by nature ordered to being as such as its proper object, it is open to the entire horizon of being without restriction, and so can think about it as a whole and about our own place in it, can encompass it in a certain sense in its own thought – not in detail, of course, but in its broad outlines – which other non-intelligent beings in the universe cannot do. Hence, by the very fact that we can raise the question about being as a whole, the human person is not just a part of the universe but a whole, within the Whole. Every person endowed with intelligence is thus, at least implicitly, a point of view on the whole universe. This is an essential part of our dignity as images of God.”[14]

The third objection to metaphysics is based on the epistemological restrictions placed on reality by empiricism, Kantianism, and relativism. The empiricism of David Hume is quite restrictive and claims that all knowledge is derived from sense experience. Because of this limited source of knowledge, there can be no justification for claiming to know anything outside the realm of sense data. Kantianism is the view that knowledge of things-in-themselves is impossible, and the intelligibility of the phenomenal world comes from the categories of our mind as they are imposed on the world. Metaphysics, then, is an illusion of reason because each person is “locked without escape within the walls of our own minds.”[15] Finally, relativism, which is directly related to historicism and postmodernism, claims that every person is bound by the historical, cultural linguistic framework in which they live. Due to this constrained situational epoch, there is no such thing as objectivity or universal knowledge that can surpass the limits of historical circumstances.

A primary problem with empiricism is that it destroys experience for the sake of ignoring fundamental questions of reality. Moreover, empiricism as an epistemological theory violates its own criteria of what constitutes knowledge since the theory of empiricism is not subject to validation through the patterns of data collection required of the five senses. For example, in order to articulate a theory of empiricism an argument must be put forth to make the case. This argument will have basic premises to which our reasoning can syllogistically connect in our intellective capacities. The problem with this is that the premises themselves are not connected by way of sense experience because the intellect itself is not a product of the same sensory input. The intellect is extra-sensory, so to speak, and is the prerequisite for the intelligibility of sensory experience.

The Kantian assault on metaphysics, as sophisticated as it might be, is ultimately incoherent for the reason Clarke outlines,

“One of the central flaws in Kant’s theory of knowledge is that he has blown up the bridge of action by which real beings manifest their natures to our cognitive receiving sets. He admits that things in themselves act on us, on our sense; but he insists that such action reveals nothing intelligible about these beings, nothing about their natures in themselves, only an unordered, unstructured sense manifold that we have to order and structure from within ourselves. But action that is completely indeterminate, that reveals nothing meaningful about the agent from which it comes, is incoherent, not really action at all.”[16]

The objection of relativism, as well as the historicism and postmodernism that follow, fails the same way each relativistic theory fails. Every declaration related to a theory of relativism refutes itself because to claim that there are no objective or universal truths is itself an objective and universal truth claim. This becomes transparent when applied to the suggestion that there can be no objective and universal truth transcending the inherited cultural and linguistic frameworks. Due to the nature of the statement, this claim is itself an objective and universal assertion that allegedly transcends each cultural and linguistic framework because it is meant to describe every culture throughout all of history. It is a self-defeating statement.

These are the modern schools of thought and common objections against the necessity of metaphysics. And while there may have been a resurgent relevance in academic metaphysics during the twentieth century, this recovery has not been in any way influential in the culture. In fact, it might have worked to only further solidify what has already been established among these combative theories and arguments just outlined. The fusion of all philosophical heresies continues to jealously grip the soul of every Western cultural institution.

Despite this death grip, it is imperative to confront the errors of these despotic sophists combatting the truths of perennial wisdom. Although the lists provided above should be respected in their entirety, it is the united ideological synthesis of metaphysical naturalism and epistemic scientism that inexorably reduces to postmodern historicism, relativism, and nihilism. Our enemy, in a word – is atheism.

Brandishing the modern discoveries of science, atheists have proclaimed the death of philosophy, and therefore, the ultimate demise of metaphysical speculation.[17] And while philosophy is claimed to be dead according to atheistic champions, the important questions of life remain. The persistence of life’s ultimate questions needs a new guide, so to speak, since the advances of a technocratic scientism have outdone the ancient teacher.

Who wouldn’t argumentatively shrink from the obvious successes of modern science? Who needs theology and metaphysics when we can carry a computer in our pocket? What can religion offer when its mythical tenets are throwbacks to an era prior to the advent of scientific discovery, progress, and technology? How can the Davidic underdog of traditional philosophy dare challenge the Goliath of modern science?

The advance of scientific progress is a powerful narrative. But underneath the rhetoric of a premature declaration of victory lurks a dirty little secret atheists desperately want to keep hidden. The entire atheistic Weltanschauung depends on a metaphysical and epistemological schematic that is utterly incoherent. Moreover, the truth claims made by the atheist requires a metaphysical extrication from their own materialistic imprisonment so they might rob from the perennial wisdom previously spurned in order to feign intellectual superiority.

The atheist must take from what they have proclaimed to be dead.

It is metaphysical naturalism, however, that is ultimately dead on arrival because it epistemically depends on an ideological scientism that fails for the same reasons empiricism collapses into itself. Scientism cannot abide by its own principles without arguing in a circle, and begging the most important metaphysical questions. Without epistemic scientism metaphysical naturalism loses its offensive arsenal. Edward Feser provides the nails for the scientistic coffin:[18]

  1. Scientism is self-defeating, and can avoid being self-defeating only at the cost of becoming trivial and uninteresting.[19]
  2. The scientific method cannot even in principle provide us with a complete description of reality.[20]
  3. The “laws of nature” in terms of which science explains phenomenon cannot in principle provide us with a complete explanation of reality.[21]
  4. What is probably the main argument in favor of scientism – the argument from the predictive and technological successes of modern physics and the other sciences – has no force.[22]

If these four points are the nails sealing the scientistic coffin, this summary is the dirt pushed into the grave and guarantees its anti-metaphysical demise,

“For scientific inquiry rests on a number of philosophical assumptions: the assumption that there is an objective world external to the minds of the scientists; the assumptions that this world is governed by regularities of the sort that might be captured in scientific laws; the assumption that the human intellect and perceptual apparatus can uncover and accurately describe these regularities; and so forth. Since scientific method presupposes these things, it cannot attempt to justify them without arguing in a circle. To break out of this circle requires ‘getting outside’ of science altogether and discovering from that extra-scientific vantage point that science conveys an accurate picture of reality – and, if scientism is to be justified, that only science does so. But then the very existence of that extra-scientific vantage point would falsify the claim that science alone gives us a rational means of investigating objective reality.”[23]

It should be evident that any attempt to avoid, discredit, undermine, or eradicate metaphysics from the human pursuit of truth in the quest to see reality utterly fails. No matter the school of thought or the argument presented attempting to do away with metaphysics through the front door, an instantaneous attempt to smuggle in a schematic of first philosophy in order to maintain rational cogency is ushered in the back. Now that the importance and necessity of metaphysics has been established, the final step toward metaphysics as seeing is possible.

To be completed…

 

– Lucas G. Westman


[1] These questions were referenced in the previous installment, Metaphysics as Seeing: The Importance of Metaphysics. The questions are – Does God exist; Why is there something rather than nothing; Who am I in relation to all that exists; What is the good life; What happens when we die?

[2] “The reality of the fact itself seems to be beyond question. Plato’s idealism comes first; Aristotle warns everybody that Platonism is heading for scepticism; then Greek scepticism arises, more or less redeemed by the moralism of the Stoics and Epicureans, or by the mysticism of Plotinus. St. Thomas Aquinas restores philosophical knowledge, but Ockham cuts its very root, and ushers in the later medieval and Renaissance scepticism, itself redeemed by the moralism of the Humanists or by the pseudo-mysticism of Nicolaus Cusanus and of his successors. Then comes Descartes and Locke, but their philosophies disintegrate into Berkeley and Hume, with the moralism of Rousseau and the visions of Swedenborg as natural reactions. Kant had read Swedenborg, Rousseau and Hume, but his own philosophical restoration ultimately degenerated into the various forms of contemporary agnosticism, with all sorts of moralism and of would-be mysticisms as ready shelters against spiritual despair. The so-called death of philosophy being regularly attended by its revival, some new dogmatism should now be at hand. In short, the first law to be inferred from philosophical experience is: Philosophy always buries its undertakers.

That is the reason why, at the very time when he was denouncing the illusory character of metaphysical knowledge, Kant sought the root of that illusion in the very nature of reason itself. Hume had destroyed both metaphysics and science; in order to save science, Kant decided to sacrifice metaphysics. Now, it is the upshot of the Kantian experiment that, if metaphysics is arbitrary knowledge, science also is arbitrary knowledge; hence it follows that our belief in the objective validity of science itself stands or falls with our belief in the objective validity of metaphysics. The new question, then, is no longer, Why is metaphysics a necessary illusion, but rather, Why is metaphysics necessary, and how is it that it has given rise to so many illusions?” The Unity of Philosophical Experience, Gilson, Pg. 246, 247

[3] “The first goes by the name eclecticism, which is meant the approach of those who, in research, teaching and argumentation, even in theology, tend to use individual ideas drawn from different philosophies, without concern for their internal coherence, their place within a system or their historical context. They therefore run the risk of being unable to distinguish the part of truth of a given doctrine from elements of it which may be erroneous or ill-suited to the task at hand. An extreme form of eclecticism appears also in the rhetorical misuse of philosophical terms to which some theologians are given at times. Such manipulation does not help the search for truth and does not train reason – whether theological or philosophical – to formulate arguments seriously and scientifically. The rigorous and far-reaching study of philosophical doctrines, their particular terminology and the context is which they arose, helps to overcome the danger of eclecticism and makes it possible to integrate them into theological discourse in a way appropriate to the task.” Fides et Ratio, Pope St. John Paul II, Pg. 108, 109

[4] “Eclecticism is an error of method, but lying hidden within it can also be the claims of historicism. To understand a doctrine from the past correctly, it is necessary to set it within its proper historical and cultural context. The fundamental claim of historicism, however, is that the truth of a philosophy is determined on the basis of its appropriateness to a certain period and a certain historical purpose. At least implicitly, therefore, the enduring validity of truth is denied. What was true in one period, historicists claim, may not be true in another. Thus for them the history of thought becomes little more than an archeological resource useful for illustrating positions once held, but for the most part outmoded and meaningless now. On the contrary, it should not be forgotten that, even if a formulation is bound in some way by time and culture, the truth or the error which it expresses can invariably be identified and evaluated as such despite the distance of space and time.

In theological enquiry, historicism tends to appear for the most part under the guise of ‘modernism.’ Rightly concerned to make theological discourse relevant and understandable to our time, some theologians use only the most recent opinions and philosophical language, ignoring the critical evaluation which ought to be made of them in the light of the tradition. By exchanging relevance for truth, this form of modernism shows itself incapable of satisfying the demands of truth which theology is called to respond.” Ibid, Pg. 109

[5] “Another threat to be reckoned with is scientism. This is the philosophical notion which refuses to admit the validity of forms of knowledge other than those of the positive science; and it relegates religious, theological, ethical and aesthetic knowledge to the realm of mere fantasy. In the past, the same idea emerged in positivism and neo-positivism, which considered metaphysical statements to be meaningless…Regrettably, it must be noted, scientism consigns all that has to do with the question of the meaning of life to the realm of the irrational or imaginary.” Ibid, Pg. 109, 110

[6] “No less dangerous is pragmatism. An attitude of mind which, in making its choices, precludes theoretical considerations or judgments based on ethical principles. The practical consequences of this mode of thinking are significant. In particular there is growing support for a concept of democracy which is not grounded upon any reference to unchanging values: whether or not a line of action is admissible is decided by the vote of a parliamentary majority. The consequences of this are clear: in practice, the great moral decisions of humanity are subordinated to decisions taken one after another by institutional agencies. Moreover, anthropology itself is severely compromised by a one-dimensional vision of the human being, a vision which excludes the great ethical dilemmas and the existential analysis of the meaning of suffering and sacrifice, life and death.” Ibid, Pg. 110, 111

[7] The positions we have examined lead in turn to a more general conception which appears today as the common framework of many philosophies which have rejected the meaningfulness of being. I am referring to the nihilist interpretation, which is at once the denial of all foundations and the negation of all objective truth. Quite apart from the fact that it conflicts with the demands and the content of the word of God, nihilism is a denial of the humanity and of the very identity of the human being. It should never be forgotten that the neglect of being inevitably leads to losing touch with objective truth and therefore with the very ground of human dignity. This in turn makes it possible to erase from the countenance of man and woman the marks of their likeness to God, and thus to lead them little by little either to a destructive will to power or to a solitude without hope. Once the truth is denied to human beings, it is pure illusion to try and set them free. Truth and freedom either go together hand in hand or together they perish in misery.” Ibid, Pg. 111

[8] Metaphysics: The Fundamentals, Koons and Pickavance, Pg. 6

[9] Ibid

[10] The One and the Many: A Contemporary Thomistic Metaphysics, Pg. 8-14

[11] Ibid, Pg. 8

[12] Ibid, Pg. 8, 9

[13] “This fundamental dimension of being itself, of the actual existence of what they are studying, is taken for granted by all other branches of knowledge, which then go on to study what it is and how it works. But just because something is taken for granted does not mean that it is unimportant. This is just what metaphysics, and it alone, aims to do: to draw into the explicit light of reflection what all other human inquiry takes for granted and leaves implicit – the foundation of actual existence upon which all else is built and without which all subject matter vanishes into the darkness of nonbeing, of what is not. Martin Heidegger, the great contemporary German metaphysician – not himself a Thomist at all – complained that the whole of Western metaphysics, from Plato on, lapsed into a ‘forgetfulness of being,’ not of what things are, their essences, but of the radical fact that they are at all, standing out from nothingness and shining forth to us.” Ibid, Pg. 9

[14] Ibid, Pg, 10

[15] Ibid, Pg. 11

[16] Ibid, Pg. 12

[17] “We each exist for but a short time, and in that time explore but a small part of the whole universe. But humans are a curious species. We wonder, we seek answers. Living in this vast world that is by turns kind and cruel, and gazing at the immense heavens above, people have always asked a multitude of questions: How can we understand the world in which we find ourselves? How does the universe behave? What is the nature of reality? Where did all this come from? Did the universe need a creator? Most of us do not spend most of our time worrying about these questions, but almost all of us worry about them some of the time.

Traditionally these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead. Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics. Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge.” The Grand Design, Hawking and Mlodinow, Pg. 5

[18] Scholastic Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction, Pg. 10

[19] “First as I have said, scientism faces a dilemma: It is either self-refuting or trivial. Take the first horn of the dilemma. The claim that ‘the methods of science are the only reliable ways to secure knowledge of anything’ (Rosenberg 2011, p. 6) is itself not a scientific claim, not a something that can be established using the scientific method. Indeed, that science is even a rational form of inquiry (let alone the only rational form of inquiry) is not something that can be established scientifically.” Ibid, Pg. 10

[20] “The second main problem facing scientism, I have said, is that science cannot in principle provide a complete description of reality. Indeed, it cannot in principle provide a complete description even of physical reality. The reason, as paradoxical as it sounds, has to do precisely with the method that has made the predictive and technological achievements of modern physics possible. Physics insists upon a purely quantitative description of the world, regarding mathematics as the language in which the ‘Book of Nature’ is written (as Galileo famously put it). Hence it is hardly surprising that physics, more than other disciplines, has discovered those aspects of reality susceptible of the prediction and control characteristic of quantifiable phenomena. Those are the only aspects to which the physicist will allow himself to pay any attention in the first place. Everything else necessarily falls through this methodological net.” Ibid, Pg. 12, 13

[21] “If there are limits to what science can describe, there are also limits to what science can explain. This brings us to the third problem I have claimed faces scientism – the fact that the ‘laws of nature’ in terms of which science explains phenomena cannot in principle provide an ultimate explanation of reality.” Ibid, Pg. 18

[22] “Now if scientism faces such grave difficulties, why are so many intelligent people drawn to it? The answer – to paraphrase a remark made by Wittgenstein in another context – is that ‘a picture holds them captive.’ Hypnotized by the unparalleled predictive technological successes of modern science, they infer that scientism must be true, and that anything that follows from scientism – however fantastic or even seemingly incoherent – must also be true.” Ibid, Pg. 21

[23] Ibid, Pg. 10, 11

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Culture, History

Stuff! And the Greeks

Stuff! And the Greeks“Gosh I’ve got a lot of junk!”

I must have said that line a couple dozen times over the course of the last few weeks. As I know is the case with many people, my recent move to a new place made me realize once more just how many material items I actually own.

I think most of us have been in this situation at one point or another, piling all of our worldly possessions into storage totes, bags, and boxes so we can move them to a new location where they will go mostly unused and collect a new layer of dust. At least until the time comes to move them yet again.

Let’s face it, in our modern, American society, we have a lot of stuff. And I don’t just mean knick-knacks and clutter.

Much like our overabundance of food, our level of material prosperity is unprecedented in history. For example, a hundred years ago, automobiles were still considered luxury items for the wealthy. Today nearly everyone has one, including plenty of kids who are still in high school.

Then there are our electronics. Even those of us who are of rather modest means still tend to have laptops and smart phones. We like to complain that we have no money, yet we can find a way to drop $600 on a new iPhone. Our great-grandparents who lived through the Depression Era would mock us to scorn—and rightfully so—for complaining that we are poor. The vast majority of us have no idea what that word even means.

By way of contrast, I would point to the Athenians of Classical Age Greece. As I explain to my students every year, even wealthy Greeks would have been considered poor by our standards. While we today have so much stuff that we need to hold garage sales or make regular trips to the thrift stores in order to get rid of it, most people in Classical Athens owned their clothing, a few blankets, a little pottery, some metal cooking utensils, and a bit of jewelry. And that was about it.

Keep in mind too that this wasn’t some backwards, stone-age civilization. Athens was the cultural center of the western world during the Classical Age. Its citizens weren’t a bunch of country bumpkins. Many of them were quite wealthy, in fact, and they had a flourishing culture with art, architecture, music, theater, and philosophy.

What they didn’t have though, was a lot of stuff. And they were probably a lot happier for it.

It might not hurt us to take the Greeks as role models in this regard. If nothing else, it would make moving a lot easier.

 

Nicholas Kaminsky

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