4.24.2014

Maritain's Division by Degrees

Humans know things. Matter, however, is not a thing but is a potential thing. Inasmuch as something is material, then, it contains within itself a certain degree of unintelligibility. Conversely, inasmuch as matter is actually determined to one thing, meaning inasmuch as we are speaking of something which actually is (on account of form), we are speaking of an intelligible object, an object of knowledge.

From this, we can divide human knowledge of the material world according to two criteria: the degree to which the objects of our knowledge can exist apart from matter and the degree to which the objects of our knowledge can be understood apart from matter. Here is Maritain's division:

The first degree: That which can neither exist nor be understood apart from matter. The science of these things is most properly called 'physics,' for it pertains to things which have matter within their definition. Remember in our previous post on man, animal is part of the definition. This science, then, is concerned with sensible nature.

The second degree: That which cannot exist apart from matter but can be understood apart from matter. When we abstract material quality from natural substances, we are left with quantity, and when we begin to treat of quantity as such we are engaged in the science of mathematics. We understand material substances inasmuch as they are the subject of quantity and then understand quantity as if it were a 'thing' in its own right, which it is not.

The third degree: That which can exist and be understood apart from matter. The proper object of this science is being as being, in other words, not being as it exists in material substances or being necessarily limited to the objects of our sensible experience. This science is called metaphysics and it treats of that which is most immaterial.

4.21.2014

The Proper Object of Science

If science's proper object was the real as sensible, then any object of sensible experience would have its own science. Every object does not have its own science, therefore science's proper object is not the real as sensible.

To the major: Science most properly deals with abstracted universality which is separated from any individual existing thing. This is why we can have a science of humanity. If this were not the case, we would need to have a science of individuals; a science of Ryan and a science of Peter. Human knowledge, then, concerns itself with the objects of sense experience, but not as sensible. The human intellect is able to consider the objects of our experiences as instances of kinds, with science being primarily of the kind and not the instance.

This means that science is about the real world, but not in a direct way. Our knowledge needs to be indirect because the real world is a world of particular things, meaning things that are made of matter and form and subject to motion. Our science, though, must be necessary and unchanging. Therefore we need a necessary knowledge of a contingent world. This cannot be had directly, so science cannot be of things as particular sensible objects.

4.18.2014

First Principles

Man, unlike all other creatures, can relate to the world as a unity. His experience is of a 'world,' meaning all things are seen as part of a unified whole. Since man can understand reality as one thing, he will, as a searcher of causes, seek to explain the world not merely with respect to all of its individual constituents but also as a unity. This is not a mere aspiration, this is something that men naturally seek to do.

In a way, the post-modern turn is a decisive rejection of this notion, it is an affirmation of the idea that reality is really a set of essentially unrelated elements, and the vain quest for a unified explanation necessarily does violence to the irreducible differences found in the world. This can be true, but only if our principles are not, in fact, the proper first principles of unity. In other words, the skepticism of post-modernity is not the humble recognition that the world cannot be understood in its most fundamental mode, but rather that the modes of our recent analyses have been inadequate.

If we seek to reduce the world to a mathematical model, or a physico-mathematical model, we must end in skepticism because these are not the principles of unity. The unity of the world is metaphysical, and the proper object of metaphysics is that which truly gives unity to our experience. It is being.

4.17.2014

Definition Matters

We often use the term 'essence' in order to denote form. In natural substances, though, we must remember that 'essence' most properly denotes not form, but the substance which is composed of both matter and form. If essence was merely constituted by form within natural compounds, man would not be defined as a rational animal but only as a rational soul.

The reason that essence is more closely associated with form is because form is that which makes matter intelligible, meaning it is the act which determines some potency in real existence. This means that something is definable inasmuch as it is in act; inasmuch as it is determined by some form. But it is also within the analysis of definition that we matter's essential role. Again, to have a body is just part of what it means to be a man.

4.13.2014

Measured Uniformity

Consider some basic measuring instruments: a ruler or a scale. You hold a ruler against an object, any object, and as long as the ruler is long enough you will receive a proper measurement. In a similar way, place an object on a scale, and as long as the object is not too heavy for the scale you will receive a proper measurement.

Now notice, the ruler must be held against the object; the object must be placed upon the scale. The object you are measuring must first be related to the instrument you are using to measure it. In these simple examples, the relation is easy to understand. If I hold the ruler against a table leg or against my own forearm, the ruler remains the same. It is a tool we use to relate to objects in one particular way, and we do this in order to know length.

We can use any number of analogies to help us understand the act of measuring. The ruler and scale are like filters; we hold them up to the world around us, and the world becomes nothing but lengths and weights. These are the only pieces of information allowed to come to us from the sensible world given these chosen filters. Or the ruler and scale are like lenses, and when they are held in front of us our eyes can only perceive lengths and weights. We can even view them as translators, each instrument translates the world of our everyday experience into the language of numbers, lengths, and weights.

We must remember, though, that the ruler is not the table leg or the forearm. In other words, the devices we use to measure the world, and this includes number in general, impose an homogeneity on sensible experience that is not otherwise there. This is not to say that we are not describing the real world when we speak of lengths, weights, or any other type of measurement, but it is to say that there are other aspects of sensible experience that are not captured by these or any other measuring devices. We treat the world as homogeneous inasmuch as it is homogeneous according to our way of knowing. This is the proper limit of any science. 

5.31.2013

Categorical Notes I

-Aristotle beings his discussion of the Categories by noting how we speak. What we say of things is indicative of their categorical composition.

-To be said of something is different than to be in something. Ryan is a man = Ryan is an animal, Ryan is rational, etc. Ryan is white =/= Ryan is a color.

-Of all things said, substance is the most fundamental. Without it, nothing could be said of anything else. In a way, both species and genus are substances.

-Genus is said of the species, and these are both secondary substances. Primary substances are individual things (this horse, this man).

12.18.2012

The Solitary Boast

The Immaculate Conception: The Crucifixion::The Assumption of the Virgin: The Resurrection of the Dead.

Just as Mary's Immaculate Conception prefigures Her Son's Salvific Act, so too her Assumption, body and soul, into heaven prefigures the resurrection of the elect.