iSoul In the beginning is reality

Tag Archives: Philosophy

philosophy historically and as distinct from other disciplines

Temperament and explanations

The temperament of science exists within the typology of philosophy. Aristotle’s typology of causes (explanatory factors) provides a fourfold typology, which provides the basis for each twofold scientific temperament. The four causes/factors are the final, formal, efficient/mechanism, and material.

Final Cause or Teleology Formal Cause
Efficient Cause or Mechanism Material Cause

The scientific temperaments are:

hylomorphic – material and formal (Aristotle)

dynahylic – efficient/mechanism and material (lower; modern)

dynamorphic –and formal (design)

dynatelic – efficient/mechanism and final (transportation)

teleomorphic – final and formal (upper)

The teleomorphic is the inverse of the dynahylic. Each temperament is a explanatory axis of the full explanation.

These explanatory factors address why and how. There are also other factors to consider: who, when, and where.

General and special knowledge

General knowledge is based on common experience and is available to everyone. No special training or vocabulary are necessary for general knowledge. It is also called ‘general revelation’ and ‘common knowledge’. This is the knowledge that realist philosophy builds on.

General sciences are the areas of general knowledge. In philosophy these are ontology, epistemology, and ethics. Since the existence of God and creation may be demonstrated from general knowledge, there is a general science of theology. General creation is general knowledge of creation.

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Special knowledge is based on uncommon experience that is available only to those who make a special study of them and learn their special vocabulary. The special sciences such as chemistry and physics are forms of special knowledge. They begin with general knowledge but then add special studies of particular aspects of general knowledge. This is the knowledge that anti-realist philosophy builds on.

Special revelation is another form of special knowledge; it requires knowledge of revelatory texts and faith in their message. Special creation is special revelation or knowledge about creation such as the special status of humanity.

Special knowledge in the light of special revelation is different from special revelation in the light of special knowledge. Here is a diagram of their relationship:

General knowledge/revelation ⇒ special knowledge1 ⇒ special revelation2 vs.

General revelation/knowledge ⇒ special revelation1 ⇒ special knowledge2

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Examples of general revelation in the Bible:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Psalm 19:1

Examples of special revelation in the Bible:

Genesis 1:2 – 3:24; Romans 16:25; I Corinthians 14; II Corinthians 5:19; Ephesians 3:3; Revelation 1:1

Methodical Realism

Here are excerpts from Étienne Gilson’s Methodical Realism (Le réalisme méthodique), translated by Philip Trower (Christendom Press, 1990 / Ignatius Press, 2011):

The mathematician always proceeds from thought to being or things. Consequently, critical idealism was born the day Descartes decided that the mathematical method must henceforth be the method for metaphysics. p.11

Indeed, all idealism derives from Descartes, or from Kant, or from both together, and whatever other distinguishing features a system may have, it is idealist to the extent that, either in itself, or as far as we are concerned, it makes knowing the condition of being. p.12

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Handbook for Beginning Realists

From Étienne Gilson’s Methodical Realism (Le réalisme méthodique), Chapter V: A Handbook for Beginning Realists, Translated by Philip Trower (Christendom Press, 1990 / Ignatius Press, 2011). (See also here.)

1. The first step on the realist path is to recognize that one has always been a realist; the second is to recognize that, however hard one tries to think differently, one will never manage to; the third is to realize that those who claim they think differently, think as realists as soon as they forget to act a part. If one then asks oneself why, one’s conversion to realism is all but complete.

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Observers and travelers again

This post continues the ones here and here.

Realism considers what is perceived with full consciousness as reality. Apperception and reality correspond to each other. The role of theory is to clarify this correspondence, not to deny it. So realists understand observation to be correct, not to be altered by theory.

Anti-realism considers what is judged with full consciousness as reality. Judgment and reality correspond to each other. The role of observation is to clarify this correspondence, not to deny it. So anti-realists understand judgment to be correct, not to be altered by perception.

The proper observational frame of reference is at rest. Observers are unable to know the destination of a moving figure (a movement) but can accurately know its relative position or momentum. The proper traveler frame is in motion toward a destination (or away from a contra-destination, such as a workplace). Travelers are unable to know the relative position of any moving body but can accurately interrogate the relative progress toward a destination.

The light of the Sun is transmitted directly to Earth. The light of the Moon is reflected light; it is the light of the Sun re-transmitted. With sunlight the first leg of the trip is seen as instantaneous. With moonlight the second leg of the trip is seen as instantaneous. The observer sees an instantaneous object; the transmitter sees an instantaneous reflection.

The perfection of motion is to arrive at its destination. That is, a motion has the potential to become actualized at its destination as a movement. The persistence of a movement has the potential to keep moving and become actualized in a motion.

For Aristotle most phenomena have final causes, destinations. Motion is on the way to being at rest. For modern science most phenomena have no final causes, no destinations.

Observers know best where they are, their location. Travelers know best where they’re going, their velocity or momentum. These are like the position of a particle and frequency of a wave. Observers see particles coming at them. Travelers see waves trailing behind them.

Experimenters are like travelers or transmitters. They have a target or goal they are aiming toward. At first they are instigators, not observers, though in the end they observe. Real observers can be like this, too: they often begin with some observation in mind.

Is God immutable or faithful?

Aristotle (Metaphysics) and Aquinas (Summa Theologica) argue for the existence and attributes of God from the observation of motion or change. Aristotle lists four kinds of motion and change: in substance, in quality, in quantity, and in place. These simple changes do not exhaust the kinds of change – even Aristotle implied there were ten kinds, corresponding to his ten categories (Physics 3.1 at 201a8–9).

More significant kinds of change have to do with interpersonal relations. For example, someone says they will do something and then changes their mind. Or someone makes a promise they are unable to fulfill. People change as they mature, which may include character or personality changes. The meaning of an action may change based on the context.

If we focus on simple changes, as Aristotle and Aquinas did, then their argument concludes that God is immutable, that is, incapable of change as if God were like something immobilized, such as a broken limb immobilized by a cast. Does that express the sense in which God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8)? No. The reason is the focus on a narrow range of change.

If we focus on the widest range of change, and God is unable to change in any of these ways, we find that God is always consistent, true to his word, has the same personality, and acts the same way. That is, God is faithful.

Numbers 23:19
God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?

Deuteronomy 32:4
The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He.

Romans 4:21
being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform.

1 Thessalonians 5:24
Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.

From persistence to God

Edward Feser’s book Five Proofs of the Existence of God (2017) includes his version of the Aristotelian proof, which looks at the existence of change. There is a similar proof that looks at the existence of persistence. Aristotle, with a static world-picture, wanted to explain change. Someone with a dynamic world-picture might want an explanation for persistence. As time is required for change, so a place or space is required for persistence. Below I sketch this argument by modifying some words in Feser’s text (with page references to his book):

Persistence happens. Examples are all around us. The coffee in your cup is still warm after you step away for a minute. A leaf on the tree outside your window is in the same place it was yesterday. A puddle is the same size it was ten minutes ago. You swat a fly and miss, so it keeps buzzing around.

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Essentials of Christian Thought, part 4

The previous post in this series is here.

The key to this middle way, if it is truly a middle way between extremes, is divine self-limitation—the idea that the God of the Bible is vulnerable because he makes himself so out of love. p.139

… the personal God of the Bible is revealed there as the one “principle of all things,” “both cause and reason” for everything else’s existence. [Emil] Brunner also rightly emphasized that for the Christian this is no “theory of the world,” no rational, speculative hypothesis, but revealed truth of the “one word of God.” p.142

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Essentials of Christian Thought, part 3

This post continues from part 2, which is here. The following are more excerpts from Roger E. Olson’s The Essentials of Christian Thought.

For [Emil] Brunner, and for me, natural theology means only (1) that the biblical-Christian worldview better answers life’s ultimate questions than its competitors and alternatives, and (2) that eyes of faith for whom the Bible “absorbs the world” see the natural world as God’s good creation—”charged with the grandeur of God”—even if eyes of unbelief cannot see it as such. p.75

For biblical-Christian thought, in contrast with Greek philosophy, souls are created by God, they are not emanations, offshoots, of God’s own substance. p.81

Nearly all extra-biblical philosophies struggle with the [biblical] idea of a personal, related, vulnerable ultimate reality capable of being influences by what creatures do. p.84

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Essentials of Christian Thought, part 2

This post continues from part 1, here.

One characteristic of the book is that the “essentials” or “metaphysics” that Roger E. Olson elucidates are somewhat buried among the text dealing with the competing alternatives. What follows are excerpts that focus on the essentials of Christian/biblical thought itself.

A basic presupposition of this book is that the Bible does contain an implicit metaphysical vision of ultimate reality—the reality that is most important, final, highest, and behind everyday appearances. p.12

Ultimate reality is relational. p.13

Ultimate reality is personal, not impersonal, and humans reflect that ultimate reality in their created constitution—what they are. Here we will call that “Christian humanism.” p.17

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