iSoul Time has three dimensions

Category Archives: Being

ontology, metaphysics, logic

In the beginning is reality

In the beginning is reality. That is, reality precedes us. We discover reality. We don’t invent reality. “Wonder is the only beginning of philosophy.” (Socrates in Plato’s Theaetetus 155d) “For it is owing to their wonder that men both now begin and at first began to philosophize.” (Aristotle, Met. 982b12).

We wonder about reality. That leads to questions, to queries. Wonder is not skepticism. Wonder does not doubt reality. Wonder affirms reality but wonders about it. What about this or that? The wonderful story of the Virgin Mary’s question to the angel of the annunciation illustrates this:

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34)

Mary wondered rather than doubted. (cf. previous post here.) The angel was strange enough but this was stranger. Could further information be provided? Yes. We are encouraged to ask and seek: “And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Jesus in Luke 11:9)

We begin but reality has already begun. So we begin again. That is, we begin in the middle. We begin with questions. Socrates has many questions. He shows us how to keep asking. He knows nothing before his questions are answered. “The theologian always begins in the middle” (Stanley Hauerwas) and the philosopher does, too.

Evangelical attributes

I have written before about evangelicals (and others) here, here, here, and here.

An evangelical Christian is basically one for whom the Bible is the final authority for faith and life. This contrasts with Christians for whom the Bishop of Rome is the final authority, or Tradition. Some who claim to be Christians make religious feeling the final authority, such as those known as theological liberals, but surely that stretches the term Christian too far (see Christianity and Liberalism by Gresham Machen).

Evangelical Christians, or Evangelicals for short, receive the Bible as the Word of God, the final authority for faith and life. A corollary to this is that Evangelicals can only approach the text of the Bible with reverence and wonder, and not critically, that is with skepticism or doubt. Critical biblical scholarship is thus not for Evangelicals. Another corollary is that for Evangelicals all subjects must align with the text of the Bible. Hence Evangelicals approach the world with awe and wonder, as realists rather than anti-realists.

Evangelicals are not united on all matters. There are some significant divergences, notably: (1) baptism of infants and adults or only adults, (2) Eucharist/communion as the Body and Blood of Christ or only symbols, (3) some church hierarchy or only congregations, (4) continuationism or cessationism with regard to miracles and the gifts of the Spirit, and (5) emphasis on believers receiving Christ or deciding for Christ.

Unity, duality, trinity

Postulates of Motion

Postulate of three: There are three dimensions of the extent of motion.

Postulate of two: There are two measures of the extent of motion.

Postulate of one: There is only one transformation of space and time.

From the postulate of three comes a non-quantitative three-dimensional geometry of motion.

From the additional postulate of two comes two three-dimensional quantitative geometries of motion.

From the additional postulate of one comes one six-dimensional quantitative geometry of motion.

Being is a unity. Existence is a duality. Reality is a trinity.

There is a unity of being, a duality of existence, and a trinity of reality.

Existence is a distinction within universal being. Reality is an indistinction within universal existence.

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Reality and belief

Reality precedes us: we discover it rather than invent it. Belief precedes knowledge, and metaphysics precedes epistemology. That is realism. Nevertheless, experience and thought can lead to revision of belief, which is the way of science.

Anti-realists make the mistake of limiting reality to what they know, and so limiting belief to knowledge. But they ignore their own prior beliefs and wrongly think of themselves as neutral observers and unbiased participants. They may retreat to a position of nonbelief, as if that were possible.

There is no knowledge without prior belief, at least provisionally. Prior belief may be like common sense or like a postulate or hypothesis. It must first be asserted to find its implications for inductive exploration. The conclusion of induction is new belief, expressed in definitions and principles, which forms the basis for deductive exploration.

There is no society without prior loyalties, such as blood and soil, language and custom. There is no religion without prior revelation, such as from a prophet or shaman or charismatic leader. There is no economy without prior exchange, such as between neighbors or tribes.

The Bible and science

The Bible is true. However, the Bible does not contain all truth. And the Bible does not meet every degree of precision. No book or set of books does.

Is the Bible scientifically true? The Bible is better than scientifically true. The Bible is true without qualification. Science seeks truthlikeness. If parts of science are true, they do not contradict the Bible.

The Bible emphasizes intensional truth. While the Bible does contain some extensions – quantities, places in space and time – the focus is on the meaning and significance of places, people, and actions. In contrast, science is extensional.

Is all of the Bible true? Yes. The Bible has been tried over centuries and peoples, and found true. It has also been misunderstood and misapplied but that is another matter. In any case, our standard of truth is not higher than the Bible, so we are not in a position to judge the Bible against a higher standard.

Some accepted scientific theories seem to contradict the Bible. But the Bible is about reality. Science is completely conditional, and depends on a metaphysics to assert truth about reality. So it is only with a particular metaphysics that science can be possibly said to contradict the Bible. In that case, the metaphysics is false in some respect.

The best metaphysics is one that is based on the Bible. The metaphysics of the Bible is a neglected subject. Roger E. Olson has written an introduction excerpted here.

Manliness

Harvey C. Mansfield wrote the book Manliness (Yale University Press, 2007) which is about manliness in the gender-neutral society. The author is a professor of government at Harvard University so the book is concerned with manliness in its social setting. The book is an intellectual tour de force that seeks a place for manliness in contemporary society. And the conclusion strikes just the right note.

What follows are some excerpts from this book:

Manliness seeks and welcomes drama and prefers times of war, conflict, and risk. Manliness brings change or restores order at moments when routine is not enough, when the plan fails, when the whole idea of rational control by modern science develops leaks. p.ix

Manliness is below the gentleman, since many manly men are coarse and rude, but I believe it is also above him in the unfamiliar uncelebrated manliness of the philosopher. p.xii

The gentleman, however, is an embarrassment to the gender-neutral society. p.5

How is it possible that men will let women do men’s work but no reciprocate and do women’s work when women are perfectly willing to let them do it — when women even invite them to do it? The answer is that men look down on women’s work. They look down on it not because they think it is dirty or boring or insignificant, which is often true of men’s work; they look down on it because it is women’s. p.7-8

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Atheist illiteracy

Antony Flew was a leading atheist who came to the conclusion that God exists. What changed his mind? “The difference between life and non-life, it became apparent to me, was ontological and not chemical. The best confirmation of this radical gulf is Richard Dawkins’ comical effort to argue in The God Delusion that the origin of life can be attributed to a ‘lucky chance.’ If that’s the best argument you have, then the game is over.” (How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind)

Robert Hutchinson writes: “Recently, I’ve begun to systematically record all of the debates on the Existence of God that I can lay my hands on and listen to them at my leisure, usually while driving.

In the process, I made a shocking discovery. It turns out that the atheists are really, really good at insults but are actually quite poor debaters. The atheists insult Christianity, Judaism and religion generally with a nastiness that is almost breathtaking. They belittle. They demean. They insinuate. But the one thing they don’t do is offer intelligent arguments that disprove the existence of God.

In fact, they don’t actually reason at all.

Reasoning, after all, is a systematic questioning of assumptions… a marshaling of evidence… a critical examination of arguments. It is not, primarily, name-calling. When I first started watching these debates, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I assumed the atheists would eventually put forward logical arguments that the Theists would be hard pressed to answer. What I wasn’t prepared for was that the atheists didn’t really marshal salient arguments at all: they merely sneered.”

Michael Egnor writes: “When I was becoming a Christian, I secretly feared reading debates about God’s existence. I feared that my growing faith would be shattered by some obvious logical flaw in theist arguments. I began to read, with trepidation, Christian vs. atheist debates (my first was Does God Exist? The Great Debate. by J.P. Moreland, Kai Nielsen and others).

I was astonished. The atheist arguments, rather than presenting formidable challenges to belief in God, were.. pitiful. The Christian arguments were well-structured logical demonstrations, basically rigorous extensions of common sense. The atheist arguments were tangential, ad hoc, absurd (‘the universe caused itself’, ‘everything came from nothing’). The best the atheists could do is play semantic games. In Does God Exist, the most capable atheist philosopher, Kai Nielsen, merely argued that ‘God’ was undefinable, and therefore arguments for His existence were nonsensical. That’s the best he could do.

As I’ve studied the arguments, my disdain for atheist arguments has grown exponentially. None of the New Atheist ‘intellectuals’ has presented an argument against God’s existence that would get a passing grade in a freshman philosophy course.

Bottom line: read good philosophers like Feser and Craig and Moreland, and you’ll see that reason and logic are Christian virtues, not atheist virtues. Atheist illiteracy on even rudimentary philosophical issues is astonishing.”

Nominal breakthroughs

Modern science is quantitative, not qualitative. The top breakthroughs in modern science have broken through traditional distinctions of quality or kind. Consider the following:

(1) Newton’s theory of gravitation broke through the traditional distinction between the sublunar and supralunar universe (e.g., the earth and the heavens). All motion is subject to the same laws.

(2) The atomic theory of matter broke through the traditional distinctions between different kinds of matter (e.g., water, earth, air, and fire). All matter is merely a combinations of atoms (or subatomic particles).

(3) Darwin’s theory of evolution broke through the traditional distinctions between different kinds of organisms (e.g., humans and animals). All species are merely variations of life (or genes).

(4) Einstein’s theory of relativity broke through the traditional distinction between space and time. All dimensions are subject to the same laws.

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The hierarchy of knowledge

The physical sciences, especially physics, are considered nowadays to be the pinnacle of knowledge. They are given credit for modern technology, which has far surpassed any other civilization. Maximum deference is given to the physical sciences, which then function as the paragon of all knowledge. “Physics envy” pervades the study of knowledge today.

But it is a mistake to put the physical sciences at the top of the hierarchy of knowledge. They are very limited in scope, and their methods are not appropriate for all disciplines. Instead, the most general disciplines should be at the pinnacle of knowledge. For secular universities this would be philosophy, and for religiously-affiliated universities this would be theology.

The humanities should be returned to their place of seniority above the sciences. Philosophy, great art and literature, classical studies, and mathematics should regain their seriousness and their cultural significance. To some extent mathematics still receives respect, but it is considered an arcane subject, which happens to be useful to arcane specialists.

The social sciences and history should be next in the hierarchy of knowledge. They are dependent on the higher disciplines but are more general than the physical sciences. They provide the context for the physical sciences, which has been weakened by over-reliance on physical knowledge. This extends to all studies of humanity, including those that intersect the physical sciences such as biology. We must never forget that we are humans first, and animals second.

The physical sciences and the practical arts such as business, engineering, medicine, and technology should complete the hierarchy of knowledge. There’s no discredit in coming at the bottom for that is where we mostly live our lives. We are accustomed to extensive physical knowledge as a resource for solving the complex problems of contemporary society.

This is a return to the old academic hierarchy. It was abandoned out of fear that narrow-minded clerics and philosophers would limit the ability of scientists to discover new realities. That is a lesson of history that bears remembering – but only as a genuine history, not as a prejudice against philosophy and theology. We should also be wary of the Whig histories of those who misread the history of ideas.

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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