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.

12.12.2012

As They Are III

Machiavelli judges republics by their life span and general stability. Athenian democracy under Solon did not outlast its own founder, and even after some semblance of democratic order was restored, the polity could not last a century. Sparta, on the other hand, endured for eight centuries under the institutions established by Lycurgus. Why? According to Machiavelli, Lycurgus constituted Sparta in such a way that the king, aristocrats, and people all had a share in the maintenance of order. For Machiavelli, these three parts or classes of a city, which are always present in some form, must be recognized as having unique virtues and vices that make them integral to perpetuating both tranquility and stability.

In the case of Rome, Machiavelli says that even though the city was originally established as a kingdom, fortune and chance allowed it to transition to a state that had at least two of the three required representative constituents present: the two consuls who stood for royal authority and the aristocratic senate. All that was left was access by the people, the democratic element of government. This would be accomplished by the creation of the tribunes of the plebeians.

The process of political transition is not without its troubles, and most people would rather not acknowledge that the three separate factions do not always share similar interests or have identical desires. Political life, though, is part of the life of men, and men, so says Machiavelli, are evil creatures who will always seek to act cruelly to others if given the chance. Rulers who seek to found cities and political associations, not to mention political philosophers who wish to remake the world according to their pet theories, ignore this at their own peril.   

This inherent evil in man is what necessitates the representation of each faction within the city. When Rome was no longer ruled by the Tarquins, the unchecked aristocratic class, which no longer needed to fear an alliance between the king and the people, began to abuse their authority over the plebeians. The tribunes were birthed from the conflict between these two classes, and Machiavelli recognizes that these conflicts, rather than creating total disharmony or anarchy, helped hold together a relatively stable political order for three centuries. The evil of men combined with the disparate interests of each class, with no faction going completely unrestrained, created conditions favorable to liberty.    

10.23.2012

As They Are II

Machiavelli, following more ancient political theorists, claims that there are, generally speaking, three types of government: kingdoms or principalities, aristocracies, and democracies. He points out, though, that it is more accurate to say that there are six, since each type has its own defective counterpart. Through a process of degeneration and decay, kingdoms become tyrannies, aristocracies become oligarchies, and democracies become anarchic ochlocracies.

The first ruler or prince comes about when smaller groups and clans place a leader, presumably the strongest among them, at their head in order to establish organization, protection, and law. In return, this leader is given obedience and, from this relationship, civil justice is born. Assuming that this dynamic persists, the next ruler chosen will not necessarily be the most powerful in the sense of being the strongest; he will, however, be the most able at maintaining justice among his people. It is here that Machiavelli says the process of degeneration may begin. Rulers, instead of being chosen for their ability, or even chosen at all, come to power through hereditary succession. Because of this, the rulers lose all necessary virtue, excelling only in the pursuit of power and pleasure. As a result of this abdication of concern for the common good, these new leaders are eventually despised by the people over which they rule. Living in fear of the people, these princes are more likely to enact violent deeds and become tyrannical rather than seek to assuage the displeasure of the citizenry.

At this stage, Machiavelli says that the tyrant begins to face opposition from men of wealth, power, nobility, etc. Upon the elimination of tyrannical rule, the mass of people fall under the rule of this small elite. These men, only just ridding themselves of the political yoke of tyranny, desire to keep the favor the people. They therefore take care to execute government effectively and also scrupulously observe the law themselves. However, just as the rule of a single virtuous man cannot endure perpetually, so too the virtuous collective must pass their rule to a group which lacks the necessary virtues. As the king becomes the tyrant, so too the aristocrats become oligarchs. Now, instead of turning to another small elite, the masses lend their support to any who are willing to destroy the oligarchs. Exhausting the rule of the one and the rule of the few, the people turn to the rule of the many.

Machiavelli, like Socrates in Plato's Republic, is particularly harsh toward democracy. He argues that democracies, like all other types of political organizations, can indeed maintain themselves at first. But unlike other forms of government, he does not think that a democracy can even outlast the generation which establishes it. Democracies immediately become anarchical, with each individual following only his own passions. Anarchy, though, is untenable. It must give way to either monarchy or monarchical tyranny, that is, if the state has not already been conquered by its more powerful and stable neighbors.

Notice, the distinction between a virtuous government and its opposite is whether the state's rulers are concerned with the common good or their own personal good. This contrast is most visible in democracy, where the concern for the common good is almost completely lost. Each man becomes a ruler to himself, it is a land of little tyrants. In our democratic regime, the very notion of the common good is rejected.   

10.08.2012

As They Are, The Machiavellian Perspective

Machiavelli's political philosophy is essentially historical. By this I mean to say that his analysis does not proceed from lofty principles derived from abstract reasoning or fanatical devotion to one particular idea. He says that civil law just is the judgment of the ancients. Therefore, learning the art of governance, learning politics, necessarily entails learning history.

His political outlook is anti-revolutionary, meaning that, to him, the world and the men found within it have not fundamentally changed since ancient times. There is no ushering in of a new age, no radical discontinuity with the past. The is not the politics of a Rousseau, a Hegel, or a Marx.

In this way, Machiavelli's perspective is illiberal and non-ideological. Politics is the art of organizing men as they are found in nature and not as they are thought to be according to the whims and sentiments of the supposed intellectual.

9.24.2012

Culture and Anti-Culture

Multiculturalism, usually conceived as a system whereby multiple cultures are given equal accommodation within some polity, is, at a practical level, a proficient method of destroying actual cultures. Although the apparent intention of such a policy is the creation of a broadly diverse yet utterly tolerant people, the result is a deracinated population whose members eventually become un-cultured. Multiculturalism, then, is profoundly anti-culture.

In order for a culture to thrive it requires the ability to totalize the lives of its members. It must inform all human activities and institutions; this includes both governing and economic action. If it cannot do this, it is doomed to wither away with time. Without this totalization, cohesion and unity cannot exist to the degree necessary to perpetuate cultural norms and mores.

Notice, this is precisely what modernity, what we call liberalism, seeks to eliminate. Theoretically, this is supposed to be a compromise between cultures based on some exogenous humane reasoning to which any and all cultures can conform. In reality, it is merely another version of cultural hegemony commonly found throughout imperial histories.     

7.17.2012

Notes on Potency

- Being is perfection. Any being, then, that is not infinite in its being or perfection must contain within itself some principle by which it is finite and limited. This principle, though, cannot be the being through which something is perfected since perfection is, of itself, infinite and unlimited. Perfection is opposed to limitation, so our limiting principle must be something else. Its name is potency.

- Potency requires the act of being in order to become actual. All potencies are potencies for some act. In this way, potency has an essential relationship to act. Act, however, bears no essential relationship to potency.

- Something is known only inasmuch as it is in act. Being-in-act is determinate and therefore intelligible. Potency is essentially indeterminacy, it is not yet determined to an act. As such, it is unintelligible. Our knowledge of potency, then, cannot come to us through itself but only through our knowledge of something which is intelligible: act.

7.13.2012

Being One Thing

Parmenides saw the undifferentiated nature of being. Being is not differentiated within itself, so inasmuch as things are said to be, there can only be one being. Any distinction between things must be predicated upon something other than being, but the only thing besides being is non-being, which is literally nothing. At this point, if we have no adequate response, we should cease thinking or speaking, for our metaphysics and thus all true knowledge, is complete.

7.10.2012

A Similarity

Saying that the dignity of man consists in his ability to choose between good and evil is like saying that his dignity consists in being able to know either the true or the false.

6.28.2012

Direct Knowledge is only of Universals


A consequence of our definition of the proper object of human knowledge -- the abstracted quiddity of the sensible as represented in the phantasy – is that the human intellect cannot obtain direct knowledge of material things. Direct knowledge is opposed to reflex knowledge, which is a way of knowing that requires the intellect to turn back upon either itself, meaning its own act, or upon another cognitive act.
The argument for this consequence is as follows:

1. The proper object of the human intellect is the abstracted quiddity of the sensible as represented in the phantasy.

2. The abstracted quiddity is a universal.

3. Therefore the proper object of the human intellect is the universal.

The thrust of the argument is that something is known by the intellect only inasmuch as it is intelligible, and that a material object can only be rendered intelligible by abstracting it from the very conditions which make it a material object.  

6.07.2012

Materiality as a Condition for Knowledge


If we say that the proper object of the human intellect is the abstracted quiddity of the sensible as represented in the phantasy, then we are affirming that human knowledge as it operates within the union of body and soul essentially depends upon materiality. This is why the last portion of the proper object’s definition – represented in the phantasy – must be equally emphasized when discussing human cognition. Noticing that brain injuries, intoxication, sleep, etc. disrupt or prevent human learning does not constitute an argument against the immateriality of the intellect. In fact, according to the proper object’s definition, this is exactly what we should expect.    

5.28.2012

A Few More Notes on the Soul

- The old philosophers' conception of the human soul followed from the consideration of the human intellect or reason and the proper object thereof. Without this consideration, all philosophical psychology will appear arbitrary.

- The word 'color' is the expression of an idea that is not reducible to any particular color or colors. Words are universals, the tools rational beings use to communicate intellectually. Without this ability, we could not rise above our individual sensations.

- If the human intellect is responsible for the creation of knowledge (as it is, say, in Kant's epistemology), then the intellect must be an active power, meaning that it alters the thing upon which it acts. But knowledge is the possession of the form of another qua other, and form is the perfection of being. If the intellect is an active power, then it must contain within itself all perfections, meaning that the human intellect must be infinite. No human intellect is infinite, therefore...

5.11.2012

Living Parts

If life is essentially self-motion, then living things must contain within themselves a certain amount of heterogeneity. Remember that motion is the reduction of some potency to act, so in a being that moves itself, some parts must be in potency and other must be in act. No one part can be in both potency and act in the same way. A unified being endowed with self-motion, a living thing, then, is composed of heterogeneous parts.

5.08.2012

For We Are Many

A machine, strictly speaking, can never be one thing. Rather, it must be a collection of things which are put together, meaning a machine can never have an existence given by nature. It has an inauthentic unity placed upon it by an artificer. Authentic unity is a oneness that is irreducible, if a thing is said to have parts but is essentially one, no knowledge of the parts without reference to the whole will yield real knowledge of the thing itself. Without the unified whole, the parts cease to be. This irreducible unity is known as life, and to confuse something whose parts exist in virtue of some unified whole with the mere aggregate is to mistake the living for the dead. That which is dead can never truly be one thing.

5.05.2012

Notes on Necessity

There is a sense in which possibility is not opposed to necessity but is, in fact, a consequence of it. All necessity, as such, entails possibility inasmuch as something necessary cannot contain any repugnance within itself. The source of possibility is, in this case, ontologically posterior to necessity.

Possibility is also unopposed to necessity inasmuch as something possible undergoes motion, meaning the reduction of some potency to act. That which was first in potency and later in act can be necessary.

Ontologically speaking, possibility and necessity are opposed to one another when possibility is taken to mean contingent. Contingency is the possibility for non-existence, and that which is potentially non-existent cannot possibly be necessary.

4.07.2012

A Good Friday

"If we wish to understand the power of Christ’s blood, we should go back to the
ancient account of its prefiguration in Egypt. “Sacrifice a lamb without blemish”,
commanded Moses, “and sprinkle its blood on your doors”. If we were to ask
him what he meant, and how the blood of an irrational beast could possibly
save men endowed with reason, his answer would be that the saving power lies
not in the blood itself, but in the fact that it is a sign of the Lord’s blood. In
those days, when the destroying Angel saw the blood on the doors he did not
dare to enter, so how much less will the devil approach now when he sees, not
that figurative blood on the doors, but the true blood on the lips of believers,
the doors of the temple of Christ.
"


-St. John Chrysostom, On The Power of Christ's Blood

4.03.2012

Act, Potency, and the Four Causes

Mobile being is divided according to act and potency. Potency, again, when speaking of mobile being, is regarded as matter or the material cause. Act is the formal cause, rendering the being in actuality and intelligibility. Potency, though, according to its own power, cannot become act. It must therefore become act by the operation of another. This other, which must itself be in act in some way in order to exercise power over that which is, of itself, in potency, is the efficient cause. No being, though, operates without some determinate end, all potency is ordered toward some act. This end is the final cause, that for the sake of which a potency becomes an actuality. So, from this division of mobile being into act and potency, we derive the four causes.

3.25.2012

Angels vs. Demons

James Chastek, at Just Thomism, discusses one critique of "rights." Here is another:

In America, since at least the Civil War, the fiction of "rights" has been popularly used as a justification for violence, both physical and verbal, against whoever is perceived to be against the "rights" in question. Instead of speaking about justice, morality, virtue, the health of the community or the common good, we only hear of ever expanding rights that only an inhuman or, worse, subhuman creature could possibly oppose.

Once you limit the debate to the categories of those who are in favor of expanding "rights" and those who would deny this expansion, you have created a morality play in which "rights" proponents are angels whose cause is justified no matter the content. The popular arguments over homosexual "marriage" play out in just this way. A practice that makes absolutely no sense from any normal human metric of individual morality or the common good not only becomes acceptable, it becomes the default morally superior position. How can the pendulum swing so hard and fast? This is only possible when the discussion is framed in terms of "rights." Those who stand against such behaviors and actions can, in principle, have no justifiable reason for their opposition. They are demons, and demons do not have to be treated like human beings.

3.19.2012

Unnatural Relations VI

"The separation out of individual liberty and the placing it in conflict with the community by modern political philosophy has been the greatest asset imperialism has enjoyed - it has provided imperialism with its strongest motivating drive and its most powerful legal weapons. Government has aggrandized itself by posing as the defender of the individual against the community. To the Founders the community was the context into which the individual was born or admitted, a context which provided him with a secure identity and the possibility of realizing his potential as a human being. Community implied a degree of homogeneity and stability, of givenness. Cultural activity was an expression of the personality of the community. Political activity, in a healthy and republican community, was the effort to enhance the well-being of the community in regard to its domestic peace and its freedom from the foreign enemy.
...Individual liberty was thus a byproduct of membership in good standing of a free community, not a grant from government. Therefore, individual liberty was much more effectively guaranteed by limitation upon government than by grant of rights. To assume any other grounds for republican citizenship was to assume (and a great deal of what passes at present for democratic political philosophy does so assume) that man derived his worth from the government, that he had no intrinsic value. This may indeed be true of imperial man. It is not true of republican man. Even man's relation to the Almighty, while transcending nations and cultures, has no particular means to express and perpetuate itself except through the personality of a particular community."

-Citizens or Subjects?, Clyde N. Wilson

Men will always be placed under the rule of men. There is no absolute freedom. The question, then, is not whether we will be ruled, we most certainly will be. Rather, the question is whether rule will come from local authority or foreign authority. Local authority may sometimes rule poorly. Foreign authority always will.

3.14.2012

Not All Principles Are Causes

Not all principles are causes. A principle is that from which anything derives or proceeds. This definition might closely resemble a cause, yet there is a distinction. A privation, for instance, is a principle of change, but it is not a cause. There is a sense in which premises cause the conclusion, but it would be more accurate to say that they are principles of the conclusion. In the case of a privation, the difference is that a cause is more than mere non-being, which is accidental, it must be something which, in some way, is. And in the case of premises and conclusions, a cause must be a principle from which something really proceeds. Conclusions, properly speaking, only logically follow from premises.

2.25.2012

Unnatural Relations V


The term Free Market, as it is usually used, is only an abstraction. In reality, there are only particular markets that exist within particular social contexts and arrangements. We should therefore see the market as the servant of the community in which it exists. This makes it necessary to analyze the market as primarily a function of communal relations that enables a type of political flourishing, political, in this context, meaning the group qua group.

For modern Americans, this may seem inimical to what their conception of the free market entails. To speak of the needs of the community might appear to be merely a socialist mimicry. I would ascribe this line of thought to two sources. The first is actual socialism. Socialism has done much to destroy the notion of the common good. Whereas the common good might have once enjoyed a prominent position in discussions of political economy, it is now seen, at least by many modern conservatives, as antithetical to private property and personal liberty. The second is liberalism, broadly speaking. This would include many strains of what we would call conservative thought. Perhaps because of the prevalence of socialism, or perhaps for independent reasons, Americans subscribe to an ideology of individualism wherein the individual must assert his rights against any and all who are perceived to make a claim on him. When this is coupled with the efforts of the modern state to eliminate any form of social organization that might provide a bulwark between it and individual people, the idea of the common good becomes either misused or too thin to have any real content.

When the state enacts policies of multiculturalism, seeks to actively alter the demographics of its own country, enforces, through popular culture, a materialism that encourages mobility for the sake of success as the pinnacle of virtue, and when it eliminates any federative principle by which its authority might be removed to more local governing bodies, the need to assert the rights of the individual might seem of paramount importance. In reality, however, it only reinforces the idea that the modern state and the individual are the only viable political actors. Since any form of local government, that is, government which is actually a part of the people it represents, has been rendered impotent in this country for some time now, the only organizations left with power are the national state and any corporate entity wealthy enough to manipulate the state. Neither body is loyal to any person or place, so we are left with a thoroughly devastated notion of the market existing for the sake of the community. This does not mean, though, that we should adjust our conception of the free market and how it relates to human justice, it means that all of the aforementioned impediments and ideologies must be removed before any sane discussion can begin.

2.16.2012

Parts and Wholes

We must remember that a natural compound is the unity of its matter and form. Inasmuch as prime matter and substantial form are united, they exist as one thing, meaning that they constitute no reality that is separate and apart. We can construct an argument for such a thesis:

1.If natural things were not essentially the unification of prime matter and substantial form, then the natural thing would itself some third thing.

2.This third thing, as an actuality, would be the act of the unity of matter and form.

3.Substantial form, though, is the first act by which prime matter is rendered actual.

4.Therefore, this third act, supposedly constituting the unity of matter and form as an actual natural compound, would be an act apart from the substantial form.

5.It must be, therefore, an accidental form.

6.An accidental form, then, would constitute a natural thing in existence, which cannot be, since substantial form is prior to accidental form.

7.Therefore, the natural thing just is the unity of prime matter and substantial form.

2.03.2012

A Rebuttal to Modernity

Our Duties are Revealed by Our Relations to One Another

You are not an isolated entity, but a unique, irreplaceable part of the cosmos. Don’t forget this. You are an essential piece of the puzzle of humanity. Each of us is part of a vast, intricate, and perfectly ordered human community. But where do you fit into this web of humanity? To whom are you beholden?

Look for and come to understand you connection to other people. We properly locate ourselves within the cosmic scheme by recognizing our natural relations to one another and thereby identifying our duties. Our duties naturally emerge from such fundamental relations as our families, neighborhoods, workplaces, our state or nation. Make it your regular habit to consider your roles – parent, child, neighbor, citizen, leader – and the natural duties that arise from them. Once you know who you are and to whom you are linked, you will know what to do.

If a man is your father, for instance, certain emotional and practical claims follow from this. That he is your father implies a fundamental, durable link between the two of you. You are naturally obligated to care for him, to listen to his advice, to exercise patience in hearing his views, and to respect his guidance…

…Most people tend to delude themselves into thinking that freedom comes from doing what feels good or what fosters comfort and ease. The truth is that people who subordinate reason to their feelings of the moment are actually slaves of their desires and aversions. They are ill-prepared to act effectively and nobly when unexpected challenges occur, as they inevitably will.

Authentic freedom places demands on us. In discovering and comprehending our fundamental relations to one another and zestfully performing our duties, true freedom, which all people long for, is indeed possible.
 
-Epictetus

1.25.2012

One Argument for Matter as the Principle of Individuation

1.Material substances that are of the same species are numerically multiple.

2.This multiplicity must have its source in one of the general principles of material substances.

3.Since species is formal, this formality must then be multiplied either according to itself or according to something else.

4.If it is multiplied according to itself, then we would have distinct formalities by which something is made a member of a species.

5.To have distinct formalities, though, is to have different species. Different forms cannot constitute identical objects.

6.Therefore form cannot be the cause of numerical division in species.

7.The formality, then, must be multiplied according to something else.

8.We are left with matter, or the subject into which the substantial form is received.

9.Therefore matter is the principle by which members of the same species are individuated.