1. Standard memberpyxelated
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    21 Aug '11 04:551 edit
    Here's the unhijacked version of black beetle's shootdown of Aquinas, with responses by yours truly.

    bb said:
    Sure thing;

    Aquinas suggests that G-d is an existent observer, and he tries to overcome his inability to simply state "well, this is the epistemic object in question, you have it in front of you and it is as real as any other existent observer that you are noticing everyday" by using the trick of the so called "incomprehensibility of G-d". This way, he hopes to establish as factual the hypothesis that G-d cannot be directly observed although it is an existent entity.


    A couple of points here:

    1) Strictly speaking God is not an existent observer, so Aquinas cannot have suggested that He is. Being existence itself, He cannot be said to exist in the same sense as ordinary observers. Besides, what requirement is there that an existent observer himself be observable by anyone, either to exist, or to observe, or to be real?

    2) Why do you call the incomprehensibility of God a "trick?" Are you asserting that Aquinas is some kind of closet atheist, and is merely positing the incomprehensibility of God to pull the wool over the eyes of his students and colleagues?

    So Aquinas states that the incomprehensibility of G-d is given because, for one, to comprehend is to understand perfectly; for two, to understand perfectly is to understand a thing as well as it can be understood; and, for three, G-d is incomprehensible because is infinitely understandable, due to the “fact” that G-d's incomprehensibility is rooted in a part of this entity that remains eternally denied to the finite intellect in its quest of understanding. Incomprehensibility, according to Aquinas, is caused because G-d cannot be seen as perfectly as intrinsically he is visible, whilst in the beatific vision incomprehensibility results from its fullness which overwhelms the finite intellect. Aquinas roots G-d’s incomprehensibility in God's unlimited ability to be comprehended, and on the other hand he claims that, if God's incomprehensibility resulted merely from an ontological disproportion, then the final happiness of the human person would not be achievable. Of course, according to Aquinas, if G-d were ultimately comprehensible in the beatific vision, the human subjectivity in comprehending the entity would transcend G-d.

    This appears to come at least partly from James L. Frederick's article "The incomprehensibility of God: a Buddhist reading of Aquinas," which appears to me to be a misreading 🙂.

    Fredericks paraphrases three statements from Aquinas's Commentary on John as follows: "(1) God's incomprehensibility is the result of an ontological disproportion between the finitude of the created intellect and the infinity of God; (2) God remains incomprehensible even in the beatific vision; and yet (3) the human person's final happiness in the immediate vision of God must be affirmed as a revealed doctrine of faith." He then goes on to claim a contradiction derived from them: "On the one hand, if God's incomprehensibility resulted merely from an ontological disproportion (statement 1), then the final happiness of the human person would not be achievable (a violation of statement 3)," but reading both the relevant parts of the Commentary on John and the Summa Theologica, First Part, Question 12, Article 7, there is clearly no contradiction between the incomprehensibility of God in the beatific vision and the "final happiness of the human person" in the knowledge of God. It's simply that the Beatific Vision is as complete a vision of God as the created intellect is capable of. There's no "overwhelming" of the finite intellect; in Heaven each intellect knows God to its utmost capacity, and is thus completely satisfied, as it could be by no one else. And yet only God can comprehend Himself: "... we must consider that what is comprehended is perfectly known; and that is perfectly known which is known so far as it can be known."

    I'll spare you (and myself) all the cutting-and-pasting from the works cited, but here are links to online versions if you're interested:

    Commentary on John: http://dhspriory.org/thomas/John1.htm (scroll down to Lecture 11)
    Summa Theologica: http://newadvent.org/summa/1012.htm#article7

    This way, Aquinas speaks of the incomprehensible G-d as the infinitely understandable God; and he feels quite comfortable, probably because he thinks he is not obliged to explain how exactly and by what means “the part of G-d that remains eternally denied to the finite intellect in its quest of understanding” became an epistemic object.

    Why should he feel obliged to explain what he says can't be explained, especially since he didn't contradict himself? You might as well challenge somebody who says "Aleph-null exists" to count to it.

    And that quote is fron Fredericks, not Aquinas; the latter would never speak of any "part of God." Another indication of faulty understanding of Aquinas on Mr. Fredericks's part.

    But all this jazz is not justified, because Aquinas merely accepts blindly as existent an “epistemic object” (G-d) out of the blue (“blue”, over here, are the so called Holy Scripture and everything else that the beleiver has to accept blindly because it comes from an authoritative agent, because it is supposed to be the Word of G-d). Aquinas does not have a honest way to establish the existence of his G-d by means of using his mind, he just accepts blindly his unjustified religious dogma and then he is using it as the cornerstone on which his Summa is constructed.
    But no stress, this is theology afterall: bad philosophy, theoplacia, supreme mambo-jumbo
    😵


    Hmm. Somebody misreads Aquinas (surprise, surprise) and thinks he's caught him out, and then goes on an atheistic "blue" streak of name-calling and accusations of dishonesty. Very rational. 🙂

    (But thanks for making me get off my duff and do a little thinking this weekend 🙂 )
  2. Standard memberblack beetle
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    21 Aug '11 08:02
    Originally posted by pyxelated
    Here's the unhijacked version of black beetle's shootdown of Aquinas, with responses by yours truly.

    bb said:
    [b]Sure thing;

    Aquinas suggests that G-d is an existent observer, and he tries to overcome his inability to simply state "well, this is the epistemic object in question, you have it in front of you and it is as real as any other existent obs ...[text shortened]... off my duff and do a little thinking this weekend 🙂 )
    Edit: “1) Strictly speaking God is not an existent observer, so Aquinas cannot have suggested that He is. Being existence itself, He cannot be said to exist in the same sense as ordinary observers. Besides, what requirement is there that an existent observer himself be observable by anyone, either to exist, or to observe, or to be real?”

    If G-d is not an existent observer, then is definately non-existent.
    Regarding the requirements you asked for, an observer has to be an epistemic object. Aquinas does not explain how and by which means G-d "became" an epistemic object, he merely speaks of "faith" and "revelation".


    Edit: “2) Why do you call the incomprehensibility of God a "trick?" Are you asserting that Aquinas is some kind of closet atheist, and is merely positing the incomprehensibility of God to pull the wool over the eyes of his students and colleagues?”

    The so called “incomprehensibility of G-d” is in my opinion a trick as I told you earlier at the other thread, because this way Aquinas does not explain how exactly and by what means “the part of G-d that remains eternally denied to the finite intellect in its quest of understanding” became an epistemic object. Again, it all boils down to faith and revelation, therefore Aquinas’ theology is to me bad philosophy, theoplacia, supreme mambo-jumbo.

    Regarding Fredericks, of course I agree with his thesis in full.


    So, if I do misread Aquinas and if the cornerstone of his Summa is indeed something more that blind beliefs (hence something more than “faith” and “revelation” alone), kindly please show me how should I read him and have me corrected
    😵
  3. Standard memberblack beetle
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    21 Aug '11 08:03
    Oh, I 'm sorry for the bold characters;
  4. Standard memberpyxelated
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    21 Aug '11 12:24
    Originally posted by black beetle
    Oh, I 'm sorry for the bold characters;
    No problem. That seems to be a hazard of the forums... miss a "bold" start tag somewhere and the rest of the page goes all loud on you.

    More later... after Mass and the parish picnic 🙂
  5. Joined
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    21 Aug '11 15:331 edit
    Originally posted by black beetle
    Edit: “1) Strictly speaking God is not an existent observer, so Aquinas cannot have suggested that He is. Being existence itself, He cannot be said to exist in the same sense as ordinary observers. Besides, what requirement is there that an existent observer himself be observable by anyone, either to exist, or to observe, or to be real?”

    If G-d is no evelation” alone), kindly please show me how should I read him and have me corrected
    😵
    Big edit:

    The following is addressed to Pyx. Please forgive.

    I am not asking you to engage in a separate line of discussion with me and would prefer not to. But I have one minor question with one major implication depending on your response. If you choose to respond to this in your response to BB, or not respond at all, please do accordingly.

    In your:

    Edit: “1) Strictly speaking God is not an existent observer, so Aquinas cannot have suggested that He is. Being existence itself, He cannot be said to exist in the same sense as ordinary observers. Besides, what requirement is there that an existent observer himself be observable by anyone, either to exist, or to observe, or to be real?”

    ...it seems to me that "...God is not an existent observer, so Aquinas cannot have suggested that He is" vests Aquinas with infallibility on this point. Assuming God is not an existent observer (in any sense that accommodates the attribute of 'being existence'😉 then either (a) Aquinas suggested He was, in spite of your saying he cannot have suggested it, or (b) Aquinas didn't suggest it, which would make this entire discussion pointless because it would make Aquinas out to be an agnostic or at least, uncommitted on the question of whether God is an existent observer.
  6. Standard memberblack beetle
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    21 Aug '11 16:11
    Originally posted by pyxelated
    No problem. That seems to be a hazard of the forums... miss a "bold" start tag somewhere and the rest of the page goes all loud on you.

    More later... after Mass and the parish picnic 🙂
    OK!

    I will soon be on vacation and thus unable to connect for about a week, so it seems we will both take our sweet time;

    Best regards, pyxelated, be well!
    😵
  7. Standard memberRJHinds
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    21 Aug '11 18:54
    Originally posted by pyxelated
    Here's the unhijacked version of black beetle's shootdown of Aquinas, with responses by yours truly.

    bb said:
    [b]Sure thing;

    Aquinas suggests that G-d is an existent observer, and he tries to overcome his inability to simply state "well, this is the epistemic object in question, you have it in front of you and it is as real as any other existent obs ...[text shortened]... off my duff and do a little thinking this weekend 🙂 )
    I have learned not to pay any attention to the "black Beetle" since he
    usually goes on and on about things that don't make sense. I figure
    it is just a waste of my time. I put him there on the borderline of
    reality and insanity.
  8. Standard memberpyxelated
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    21 Aug '11 20:00
    Originally posted by JS357
    Big edit:

    The following is addressed to Pyx. Please forgive.

    I am not asking you to engage in a separate line of discussion with me and would prefer not to. But I have one minor question with one major implication depending on your response. If you choose to respond to this in your response to BB, or not respond at all, please do accordingly.

    In your: ...[text shortened]... n agnostic or at least, uncommitted on the question of whether God is an existent observer.
    Oh, I should have just left that off. Of course (!) God exists, and of course He is an observer. His existence and observation are very different from ours, that's all; He is not an existent observer among others of more-or-less equal ontological/epistemological status, as we are. His status is unique, if I read Aquinas right (and I think I do, at least in this case... corrections from anybody who knows better welcome. )

    I hope that clarifies things instead of muddying them. 🙂
  9. Joined
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    22 Aug '11 05:32
    Originally posted by pyxelated
    Oh, I should have just left that off. Of course (!) God exists, and of course He is an observer. His existence and observation are very different from ours, that's all; He is not an existent observer among others of more-or-less equal ontological/epistemological status, as we are. His status is unique, if I read Aquinas right (and I think I do, at least in ...[text shortened]... nybody who knows better welcome. )

    I hope that clarifies things instead of muddying them. 🙂
    So you are retracting your statement "1) Strictly speaking God is not an existent observer, so Aquinas cannot have suggested that He is. Being existence itself, He cannot be said to exist in the same sense as ordinary observers. Besides, what requirement is there that an existent observer himself be observable by anyone, either to exist, or to observe, or to be real? "
  10. Standard memberpyxelated
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    22 Aug '11 22:31
    Originally posted by JS357
    So you are retracting your statement "1) Strictly speaking God is not an existent observer, so Aquinas cannot have suggested that He is. Being existence itself, He cannot be said to exist in the same sense as ordinary observers. Besides, what requirement is there that an existent observer himself be observable by anyone, either to exist, or to observe, or to be real? "
    I'm retracting the first sentence. It was simply wrong. 🙂

    God is an existent observer, but He is unique among existent observers. black beetle's statement appeared to me to be putting God in the same class as all other existent observers, and my first sentence was a clumsy attempt to distinguish Him from others.
  11. Joined
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    23 Aug '11 15:03
    Originally posted by pyxelated
    I'm retracting the first sentence. It was simply wrong. 🙂

    God [b]is
    an existent observer, but He is unique among existent observers. black beetle's statement appeared to me to be putting God in the same class as all other existent observers, and my first sentence was a clumsy attempt to distinguish Him from others.[/b]
    OK I will wait for bb from here.
  12. Standard memberpyxelated
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    24 Aug '11 03:08
    I've already dealt with my "existent observer" silliness, so I'll let that go here.

    Regarding the requirements you asked for, an observer has to be an epistemic object. Aquinas does not explain how and by which means G-d "became" an epistemic object, he merely speaks of "faith" and "revelation".

    It seems to me that an observed would have to be an epistemic object. But why do you think it necessary for an observer to be so? An observer is a subject, not an object. Not that God isn't an observer, but it's easy to conceive an observer who observes without being observed himself.

    But anyway, why ever should Aquinas be required to explain how God "became" an observer, or an observed, or anything, given that Aquinas considers Him as having always existed, or rather as being existence itself? And while it's true that Aquinas does speak of faith and revelation, he does so as a shortcut, maintaining that while it is possible using reason and simple facts to conclude (among other things) that God exists, the demonstration is neither easy nor readily understandable by most people, and that reasoning from faith and revelation is a much easier and more accessible way of proceeding (well, more so in his day than ours). The famous Five Ways, however, proceed from purely philosophical premises, no theology, as does much else about God.

    True, Aquinas says that there are things about God that can be known only through revelation, but we can arrive at some knowledge of God without reference to it.

    The so called “incomprehensibility of G-d” is in my opinion a trick as I told you earlier at the other thread, because this way Aquinas does not explain how exactly and by what means “the part of G-d that remains eternally denied to the finite intellect in its quest of understanding” became an epistemic object.

    You have to distinguish God as fully comprehensible from God as known by the created intellect. In himself God exceeds any possibility of comprehension by anyone but Himself--comprehension being understood in the sense St. Thomas uses the term, understanding as fully as the object is capable of being understood--but He is still knowable to finite intellects, to exactly the extent of their capacity to know. People's intellectual capacities differ as much as their visual acuity; different people can see a painting, for example, only as well as their eyes let them.

    If these premises--that God is infinitely understandable to Himself and partially knowable to others--are granted, then the rest of the argument follows pretty routinely, it seems to me. Now, it does require faith to believe that we will see God as He is in the Beatific Vision, but it does not violate reason to say that we will be supremely happy--as intellectually fulfilled as we can be--without understanding God as fully as He is capable of understanding Himself.

    Regarding Fredericks, of course I agree with his thesis in full.

    I don't see why. While I don't think his misunderstanding is deliberate, it seems to me pretty clear from reading Aquinas himself that the problem Fredericks thinks he has discovered simply isn't there. Fredericks substitutes his own understanding of some of Aquinas's terms for the ones put forth by Aquinas himself.

    So, if I do misread Aquinas and if the cornerstone of his Summa is indeed something more that blind beliefs (hence something more than “faith” and “revelation” alone), kindly please show me how should I read him and have me corrected 😵

    Spotting the flaw in Fredericks's argument was pretty easy. Convincing you that Aquinas's beliefs rest on something more (or less) than "blind faith," on the other hand, is a task I'm not sure I'm up to, yet at least. But just as our inability to comprehend God doesn't preclude our being eternally happy with Him in Heaven (if we love Him more than we do ourselves), my (perhaps not permanent) inability to make a convincing rational argument for God's existence doesn't mean it isn't possible. 🙂
  13. Hmmm . . .
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    24 Aug '11 04:192 edits
    Originally posted by pyxelated
    I've already dealt with my "existent observer" silliness, so I'll let that go here.

    [b]Regarding the requirements you asked for, an observer has to be an epistemic object. Aquinas does not explain how and by which means G-d "became" an epistemic object, he merely speaks of "faith" and "revelation".


    It seems to me that an observed would hav al argument for God's existence doesn't mean it isn't possible. 🙂[/b]
    You have to distinguish God as fully comprehensible from God as known by the created intellect. In himself God exceeds any possibility of comprehension by anyone but Himself--comprehension being understood in the sense St. Thomas uses the term, understanding as fully as the object is capable of being understood--but He is still knowable to finite intellects, to exactly the extent of their capacity to know.

    To state that God is “knowable to finite intellects, to exactly the extent of their capacity to know” seems to remove even that finite “knowing” from being in principle defeasable. One can always say something like: “Well, since you’re an atheist [or a Buddhist, or Jew, or a Muslim, or a _________], that just defines ‘exactly the extent’ of your ‘capacity to know’.” There either is some criteria, external to the particular religious paradigm (of faith, revelation, etc.) that can be used for testing the religious propositions (including this one), or else the whole thing seems to devolve to a vicious circularity.

    I have little knowledge of Aquinas, per se. I see this as a basic epistemological issue. Many “believers” are quite content to simply accuse non-believers of simply lacking (culpably or not) the “proper” “capacity to know”. How is this different? What are the independent epistemic criteria that any person of reasonable intellect ought to be able to affirm?

    EDIT:

    But just as our inability to comprehend God doesn't preclude our being eternally happy with Him in Heaven (if we love Him more than we do ourselves), my (perhaps not permanent) inability to make a convincing rational argument for God's existence doesn't mean it isn't possible.

    But surely you concede that mere possibility is not sufficient to warrant actual belief?
  14. Hmmm . . .
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    24 Aug '11 13:50
    Originally posted by pyxelated
    I've already dealt with my "existent observer" silliness, so I'll let that go here.

    [b]Regarding the requirements you asked for, an observer has to be an epistemic object. Aquinas does not explain how and by which means G-d "became" an epistemic object, he merely speaks of "faith" and "revelation".


    It seems to me that an observed would hav ...[text shortened]... al argument for God's existence doesn't mean it isn't possible. 🙂[/b]
    maintaining that while it is possible using reason and simple facts to conclude (among other things) that God exists, the demonstration is neither easy nor readily understandable by most people, and that reasoning from faith and revelation is a much easier and more accessible way of proceeding (well, more so in his day than ours).[/b]

    I did not read your posts as thoroughly as I ought to have before asking my questions last night; for that I apologize.

    A’s demonstration may be “neither easy nor readily understandable by most people”, but there are extremely bright people on here who argue that it is not possible using reason and simple facts to conclude that a supernatural being (or the supernatural category as a reality) exists. You seem to be a pretty clear translator of Aquinas, and perhaps would be willing to have a go. Meanwhile, I will go and perform my due diligence my taking a look at A’s Five Ways.

    But I will put forth as a kind of “null hypothesis “ the following:

    (a) Any argument for a supernatural reality that follows from reason and simple fact is refutable based on reason and simple fact; therefore,

    (b) There is epistemic justification, absent compelling evidence to the contrary, for believing there is no supernatural reality, based on reason and simple fact.

    Note that this is a pretty weak argument—that is, it fits with a weak rather than a strong non-theistic position. There are others on here who have made strong-version arguments better than I can (as yet, anyway 🙂 ). Hopefully, they might wander in.

    Also, there is no limitation in the above on the exact nature of that supernature—e.g., no personal theism involved. I personally would think that a naturalistic theism of some sort would be easier to defend because it does not run into any stark dualistic divide between theos and phusis.
    Now, as I say, I have some due diligence to attend to.
  15. Hmmm . . .
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    24 Aug '11 15:536 edits
    Originally posted by vistesd
    maintaining that while it is possible using reason and simple facts to conclude (among other things) that God exists, the demonstration is neither easy nor readily understandable by most people, and that reasoning from faith and revelation is a much easier and more accessible way of proceeding (well, more so in his day than ours).

    I did not read your ...[text shortened]... between theos and phusis.
    Now, as I say, I have some due diligence to attend to.[/b]
    Since Aquinas follows Aristotle, it seems that his main proof ends up positing an unmoved mover in order to avoid an infinite regression. His notion of an unmoved mover is that its essence (quiddity) and existence are one. However, the need for an extra-natural unmoved mover has been refuted on here more than once on several grounds. I have tried to sort the following by their relevance to the Five Ways, as best I can—*

    (1) The universe is not a thing-itself, but the set of all existents, and that once one has explained all of those existents and their relationships, one has explained all there is to explain about the universe, without appeal to any external existent (whatever that might mean); there is after all that—with cause-and-effect being a feature of the natural universe, rather than a metaphysical requirement—nothing left to explain. [Re: the First Way]

    (2) There is no way to stop the infinite regression except by fiat. This argument depends, I think on a non-nihilistic view of the universe: that is, since ex nihilo nihil fit, there was “always”** “something”.** The universe-as-we-know-it may not have existed (being finite to the past), but that is not the same thing as positing an absolute nihil, which seems to me to be a leap from the physical to the metaphysical. Under this argument, I can just as validly declare a stop to the regression before absolute nihil. Previously I would have said that whatever mysterious cause gives rise to things as we known them in the universe could just as well be some mysterious, perhaps unknowable, aspect of the universe; but I want to be more careful, allowing for a broader understanding of "universe"--i.e., as the set of all that is non-nihil, whatever its form. [Re: the First and Third Ways]

    —Epiphenehas has eloquently and stubbornly [ 😉 Epi knows that I am just as stubborn as he is, and that that is no criticism on my part] argued the opposing view, based on what appears to be the current cosmological orthodoxy. I have revised my argument here by suggesting that positing an absolute nihil represents a leap from physics to metaphysics; I might be wrong. I might also be wrong in assuming that physics allows for no absolute nihil, and may be corrected on both counts. However, the latter would still imply that nihil is possible within the natural universe. And, in any event, basing one’s argument on the current scientific orthodoxy (denying the possibility of bang-bounce-bang-bounce, for example, which is still in play according to a Scientific American article that I saw in the last year or so) assumes the risk of any “god-of-the-gaps” argument.

    (3) The notions of efficient cause and priority are both dependent upon dimensionality as it is in the universe; priority, for example, makes no sense in reference to the universe-itself—since it is incoherent to speak of “before time”. (Though it is not incoherent to speak of a beginning, in reference to finiteness to the past.) Similarly, it makes no sense to speak of “outside (or beyond) space”; the physical universe as we know it is finite but unbounded (there being, by definition, nothing vis-à-vis the “Whole” could be bounded). [Re: The Second Way]
    —LemonJello has questioned the whole principle of sufficient reason (efficient cause?), but do not recall his argument: shame on me! But that would also apply here.

    (4) The Fourth Way seems to me to be very similar to Anselm’s ontological argument: e.g., (a) that “those things that are true to the maximum degree also enjoy being to the maximum degree” [CDP, p. 39; reference below.] I would like to see that established in a logical inference. Similarly, the argument (b) that “what is supremely such in a given genus is the cause of all other things in that genus”. [ibid]

    An attempt at a crude reductio of (a) above:

    (i) That which is maximally true is also has maximal being;
    (ii) Nothing is more maximally true than to be absolutely true;
    (iii) In order for an absolute to have being, it must be absolutely true; [from (i) & (ii)]

    Therefore—

    (iv) The statement “the absolute [God] has being” must be a priori absolutely true in order for the absolute [God] to have being.

    But that makes the whole argument circular—question-begging—since the aim is to establish (“prove” ) that the absolute has being (existence). More simply, the conflation of truth and being results in an empty tautology.

    (5) I think that Thomas’ Fifth Way can be deconstructed in a similar fashion to the First and the Third (and maybe the Fourth): that is, to conclude from the existence of intentional beings to a being of absolute intentionality (rather than, say, a complex—over-determined?—emergent property of the universe) is not clearly necessary.

    —NOTE: According to DCP, the Fifth Way is based on “final causality and should not be confused with any based on order and design”. This would mean, I think, that a similar deconstruction to the one for the Fourth Way (above) would be possible—i.e., that a final cause that assumes intentionality (in intentional existents) cannot be used to “prove” (absolute or ultimate) intentionality as the ground/source/cause of intentionality....

    Now, my brain is for the moment cracked! I have not as yet sought out arguments from other sources, and have reconstructed the ones above from memory—simply trying to apply them directly to DCP’s understanding of the Five Ways.

    _____________________________________________

    * Using the discussion of the Five Ways in The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy [CDP], Second Edition, 1999, pp. 38-40. (Article on Aquinas written by John F. Wippel of the Catholic University of America)

    ** The language here is, at best, a wicky-sticket [ 😉 ]: time is a feature of the dimensionality of the universe as we know it, and “something” implies a spatial dimensionality that allows identification of an entity because it has spatial boundaries.
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