Archives for posts with tag: John C. Wright

Axioms, Chance, Providence

John C. Wright’s article Last Crusade: The Promise of Peace (April 9, 2017) exposes why moral agnosticism makes impossible the advent of leftist utopian promises.

A commenter wrote in the thread: “I don’t subscribe to the belief that conscience comes from God, but this is a minor quibble.” I admired the irony of the proposition and, reading it again later, I felt compelled to find out how Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas and Jacques Maritain already answered the quibble. The following arguments are inspired from Maritain’s Preface to Metaphysics: Seven Lectures on Being (full text). A few relevant quotes are reprinted at the end of this post.

So, let us quibble first with the MATERIALIST’s argument:

  1. Axiom : a cause must be greater, or at least equal, to its effect.
  2. Physical, empirical matter is inferior to immaterial, non-empirical things such as soul and conscience (characteristic of the self and the capacity to act).
  3. Therefore, physical matter cannot be the cause of non-material, non-empirical phenomena.

Then with the PANTHEISTIC argument:

  1. According to the axiom of finality, an agent is a being which can determine itself to act, either reflexively (in and on oneself) or transitively (exerting an action on other beings, including creation).
  2. The eternal, cyclical world of metempsychosis is deemed to be one undetermined being.
  3. Therefore, it cannot be an agent nor a patient (caused, moved by another). The movement, the action our senses perceive is deemed to be a deception, thus an evil, in this worldview.

The belief that multiplicity and motion must be a deception is a logical conclusion from the premise that there is no determination, hence no finality, but the premise is false. It is a statement contradictory to the metaphysical axiom of SUFFICIENT REASON (or grounds for being), which calls for the determinate nature of every being, as well as to the axiom of FINALITY, which calls for a preordination of every nature, or essence. Preordination takes place in the creative mind before any being comes to existence, either ex nihilo (including the creation of a new soul at conception) or by rearrangement of existing things.

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

Civilization Is A Conversation

The popular philosopher Stefan Molyneux (https://freedomainradio.com) often reminds his audience that “civilization is a conversation. ” I read about the same idea before in a blog article by John C. Wright (www.scifiwright.com) about the Great Books. A philosopher himself, as well as a novelist, Mr Wright is an alumnus of St. John’s College of liberal arts. I gather the school’s Great Books program was inspired from the writings of philosopher Mortimer Adler on “The Great Conversation” and his editing work for the Encyclopaedia Britannica Great Books series.

According to classical philosophers and other classical writers who had to know philosophy as a general foundation for their field, philosophy and science, literature and arts, civilization in a word, is a great conversation, and philosophy is its common language. It began to spread from Greece some six centuries before Christ.

Metaphysics, or philosophy properly so called, is the conversation about the fundamentals of everything that is or may be, especially the “why”, the causes. The “how” is more particularly the domain of empirical sciences and mathematics.

Ethics is the part of philosophy that examines the use of practical reason, or moral conscience. Why is there a sense of right and wrong? Why is conscience attracted to the good and repulsed by evil? Why is happiness connected to the good? These are some of the main questions of moral philosophy.

The moral questions are of course paramount also to religion and theology. Philosophy is the greatest achievement of the human mind unaided by faith, since it derives its information from the senses, external and internal. But the self-revelation of God being at the same time the revelation of man to himself (e. g. John 2:25), the Judaeo-Christian revelation is a very reliable source of information for philosophy, particularly for natural theology (or theodicy) and ethics.

Christian theologians, philosophers, and authors of literary or scientific writings were the ones who kept the conversation ongoing and timeless. It is timeless because philosophia perennis, the common philosophy of humanity (as philosopher Jacques Maritain would say), known also as Aristotelian-Thomism, or classical theist philosophy, is true in all essentials and those essentials are not subject to time. True philosophy is therefore capable of organic, continuous development upon this perennial basis.

Up to the 1960s, every generation educated by learned masters had access to the great works of the past and to a common philosophical framework. Scholars and writers could thus contribute to build on and transmit the intellectual and moral treasure of civilization, the treasure of human wisdom.

 

Conversation Slows Down

Read the rest of this entry »

Beauty is in the Form

Professor Edward Feser quotes a sarcastic passage by Isaac Asimov and asks why plastic objects cannot eventually be admired as antiques.  (“The metaphysics and aesthetics of plastic”  Feb. 14, 2014)

Elsewhere, a commenter quoting from a David Gerrold novel compares moral integrity to that of a plastic balloon, lost when the balloon is destroyed by a pinhole. Philosopher and novelist John C. Wright answers that forgiveness is better than asking for perfect integrity. (“Why the Rats Conquer Empires”, Feb. 27, 2014 )

I looked into the matter in Plato and Maritain.

Perception of form

Beauty, Plato said, is in the form. It is not in the philosophical prima materia, that cannot exist without an essential form. Contrary to Plato’s theory, though, separate forms of material beings do not exist either, except as concepts. For example, human form, or nature, does not exist apart from actual human beings.

Form differentiates individuals only in beings who are pure forms (God and angels). There are as many angelic natures as there are angels. But physical beings are differentiated by matter, and all individuals in a species share a common form.

By the fact it has a form actualized in matter, every physical being, particle, element, compound has the same degree of intrinsic beauty that the form lends to matter. Although an unlearned observer may not perceive anything interesting and pleasing about, say, subatomic particles, an observer possessing even a small knowledge of the thing certainly does.

Read the rest of this entry »

Arianism and Rebellion

Posted on John C. Wright’s blog:

November 14, 2013
Arius and his followers denied that Jesus was fully God by nature (homoousios) and added a superfluous iota (homoiousios) to the theological term to make him a divinized man, thus a lesser “god” than the Father Almighty.

November 15, 2013
Affirming that Christ is not God by nature leads immediately to denying him God’s authority and power for a host of things. Another logical and immediate consequence is the loss of reverence and obedience to the Church founded by Jesus Christ, whose authority is automatically suspicious if her founder is not God. A third most important consequence is that the Eucharist and other sacraments are then deemed to be human inventions and not the only means to receive God’s grace (the Church teaches that everybody who is saved, including non-Christians, is saved through actual or desired baptism, that is, through the Church, the Body of Christ). Every heresy, false religion or schism, as every grave sin, is basically a refusal of God’s authority over one’s conscience. For Christians, it is also the denial of the Church’s authority to assess what comes from God or not, and to distribute God’s gifts as instructed. Some consequences take time to become manifest; for example, the Arians would not think, in the 4th Century, to abrogate the Eucharist, but Luther did a thousand years later.

I agree entirely with Mr. Wright that the territories plagued for three centuries with Arianism were easy prey for the barbarians.

[See also the preceding comment by John C. Wright on various errors and heresies and his answer to Stephen J. on the same question of Arianism.]

Leftism and Sturm und Drang

Posted on Bruce G. Charlton’s blog [Leftism as rebellion against reality]:

November 15, 2013
This is very perceptive and well said: rebellion against reality can never win, but will never cease.

Maritain pointed out interesting things on the subject in his essay on Luther. He said that the Reformer was in fact the precursor of the Romantic movement [Sturm und Drang] in opposing his subjectivity, his self, to God and the entire Church. His phrase “Tell them Dr Luther will have it so” is a proud refusal to accept anything from “the other” that would not fit his views. Luther is the type of charismatic “hero” whose heroism consists in being a (preferably young and genius) rebel against all authority, and doing the contrary of real heroic deeds.

It appears that the layer added by political correctness to the inversion of values was previously taught to modern people by the Romantic movement. All this ultimately boils down to the original sin: I am god unto myself and owe nothing to anyone, particularly to God – hence the propensity to gradually negate God’s authority, then his existence. The philosophically inclined usually call that enlightenment.

Peace from Heavens to Men of Goodwill

It is Advent and a timely season to wish peace to all who have a place in their heart for Truth, Beauty and Goodness.

To an unbeliever who is a man of goodwill, John C. Wright offers his advice on  “How to Find God”  (http://www.scifiwright.com/2012/12/how-to-find-god/, December 4).

His essay titled “Christ and Nothing” on December 6 is also a very good read (http://www.scifiwright.com/2012/12/christ-and-nothing-2).

Abstraction and Judgment

In a blogpost titled “The Other Side of the Picture” about the failings of Leftist and politically correct college education, John C. Wright wrote:

”This is a mental disorder inflicted by modern education. It is a narrowing of the mind in the name of broadmindedness, and the closing of the mind in the name of openmindedness.
“It is the folly of those who are taught only enough of a subject to be told the objections and questions undermining its foundations, but not enough to do the disciplined and rigorous intellectual work, yes, the hard work, of answering those objections or sitting as a judge and making a determination of their admissibility, as debating as a juror and weighing their probity and pertinence.
” [my emphasis]

I was at the same time reflecting on an idea I noticed in Dr. Bruce G. Charlton’s Thought Prison where he qualifies Leftist and PC worldview as “abstract.” I was a bit taken aback by the term, as I find nothing wrong with abstraction in itself, but then I recalled, from Maritain’s works, that abstraction is only the first of the two necessary operations of the intellect.

Knowledge – and determination of an act as good or not when speaking of the practical intellect – is achieved only when ideas formed through abstraction of universal essences are processed in the second operation of the mind, namely judgment, where they are checked against reality. To be proven true, an idea must terminate at the thing itself, actual or possible; judgment must assert what the thing is in extramental reality.

It is then no wonder that Leftists and nihilists are always accusing others of being “judgmental.”
Read the rest of this entry »