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Atheism, Prot-Enlight, and the Schizophrenic Republic


Last week, I wrote about the longstanding Catholic drive to reinterpret the philosophy of Plato as realist. In actuality, Aristotle’s philosophy perfected Plato’s by connecting the material to the formal world—two separated domains which, in Plato, remain wholly alien to one another. Accordingly, it is quite a “stretcher,” I suggested, when Catholics talk about Plato as a realist. Any philosophy which divorces the material and the formal qualifies as anti-realism, because matter’s interaction with form is the very thing that constitutes intelligibility. (More on that below…)

As predicted, the article’s “combox” bore out my very thesis: Catholics and other Westerners (including some atheists) remain so strongly accustomed to just such an unduly charitable characterization of Plato that they startle to hear otherwise.

But here’s the real rub: such a distinction between the two ancient philosophers matters only because we live in a more violently anti-realist Modern era, which put to death (in popular thought) the Natural Law of Aristotle and of the Church’s Scholastic philosophy. Plato’s errors would not matter nearly so much if we were pre-Moderns.

As mentioned in last week’s article, living in the “Modern era” means inhabiting the centuries after the Sixteenth. Two moments of that most unfortunate century are directly insinuated here: the Protestant Reformation and the secularist Enlightenment. They are equal but opposite rejections of the Natural Law.

Today, in English-speaking countries, the faithful grandchildren of the Reformation are usually thought of as “the religious right,” while the intellectual progeny of the Enlightenment comprise “the secular left.” It so happens, as one of history’s bitterest ironies, that in countries like America and England, a giant, sustained food fight erupted between the two sets of grandchildren...who were once fellow travelers! We are all familiar with these skirmishes, of course, comprising the so-called “culture war” between two shouting, red-faced fundamentalisms: Protestant Biblicism versus Enlightenment Scientism in all its many vestiges.

The narrative not falsely goes that these two camps despise one another.

They do…today. But as aforementioned, it was not always so. One is surprised to find that together, each half of Prot-Enlight originally teamed up with the other against the Natural Law of Aristotle and of the Catholic Church. Together, each camp strove cooperatively to make the sixteenth century Catholic view of nature, the Natural Law, seem outdated. Together, both parties asserted an aggressive new anti-realist dichotomy for the supposedly new times: form versus matter, faith versus science, even faith versus reason.

Ironically, the two sides cooperated steadily against the Church during the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries in order to create these false dichotomies, only to spend the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries arguing ceaselessly about them!

Whether or not the reader accepts Plato’s role in this Modernist overturn of the Natural Law, it is far more important—and leagues more undeniable—to a clear conception of our world that we come to terms with the primary role played by Prot-Enlight. Plato’s role was mere prefigurement to that of the Prot-Enlight philosophies. The Prot-Enlight philosophies set the goal as the complete eradication of the Natural Law.

Prot-Enlight and the Three Prongs of the Natural Law

The two halves of Prot-Enlight Modernism altered the prevailing Western notion not so much of God, counterintuitively, as of nature. That is, any pop-theological changes wrought by the Reformation or the Enlightenment were actually secondary, in pervasiveness, to the harmful amendments Prot-Enlight made to the popular Western view of the world, or reality, itself.

I wrote in last week’s article: “In the main, Aristotelianism stands for reality’s incipient freedom and morality, its intelligibility, and its teleology.” Whether we’re talking about the authors of the Enlightenment like Francis Bacon and David Hume or the authors of the Reformation like Martin Luther and John Calvin, Prot-Enlight sought to “take down” the “big game” of the Catholic Natural Law, of which these three prongs were (and are) constitutive.

Natural Law Prong #1: Firstly, Catholic Aristotelianism (i.e. Thomism) puts forward physical nature as the forum of man’s freedom and morality. In other words, humanity’s freedom and morality are altogether natural. Catholicism does not naively suppose that either human or physical nature guarantee man’s automatic morality through any and all uses of his freedom; rather, physical nature is the forum where the proper use of human intellect and will may through deliberate action dispose each of the natural appetites, through habit, toward morality. And nature is the locus in quo where this happens. The secular and the Protestant worlds together decry this Catholic position: morality, for each worldview, counteracts nature. Again, for Catholicism, morality is perfectly natural, which is why Thomas Aquinas asserted that all of the appetites are natural…if implemented with the proper disposition, of course.

Protestantism, as mentioned above, rejects the possibility of freedom and morality altogether. Man is enslaved to sin. Whether we talk of Luther’s assertion that human will is “in bondage,” or Calvin’s infamous doctrine of predestination, Protestantism writ large rejects the first prong of the Natural Law hailed by the Catholic Church. The Protestant view of sin, mankind’s “total depravity,” swallows up any possible proper usage of intellect or will.

The Enlightenment, on the other hand, posited naturalism—the perfect opposite of the Natural Law’s first prong. Naturalism describes a deterministic nature which we find “red in tooth and claw.” The animals are no more than complex mechanisms, meat machines, which operate as the vector sum of their competing appetites. Moreover, naturalism places man squarely in the middle of, not above, nature. He too is bestial. He too is determined by his appetites alone. He too is just a meat machine. As such, human free will is rejected and determinism (equal but opposite to Protestant pre-determinism) prevails, although Enlightenment thinkers certainly wouldn’t designate this “sin,” as the Protestants do.

Natural Law Prong #2: Secondly, Catholic Aristotelianism puts forward nature as intelligible. “Being is intelligible,” Aristotle famously explained. As articulated in last week’s article, Aristotle described that form was in matter, as it were, rather than above matter, as Plato had taught. Because matter is in-formed, then, nature is intelligible. If form were instead compartmentalized somewhere above matter, as in Plato’s “noetic heaven,” then the material objects would be neither knowable nor differentiable. But the opposite is true. On this Aristotelian basis, the Thomism of the Catholic Church affirms that faith and reason work together, rather than against one another. Faith is strengthened, not weakened, by the two ways of knowing about human reality: the a priori way, philosophy, and the a posteriori way, science. Both philosophy and science affirm theology because, as Thomas Aquinas famously held, “truth cannot contradict truth.”

Protestantism, beginning with Luther, repudiated the scientific worldview—and not only the false scientific worldview of Scientism, but even science properly done. Protestantism also rejected the philosophical approach to the world: Luther held that “the whole of Aristotle is to theology as shadow is to light.” The rallying cry of Luther’s Reformation was sola scriptura, meaning that the Bible alone—not science or philosophy or anything less than supernatural revelation—is intelligible to the mind of man.

The teachings of the Enlightenment, in a coordinate if opposite manner, reject the intelligibility of the universe. And this is strange because Enlightenment secularists have always claimed to be “for science,” a claim which requires the principle of intelligibility. It’s quite simple: the new Scientism posits materialism. For the materialist, nothing but matters exists. Even though this precludes both ratio and intellectus, materialists never seem to understand how their point of view vitiates science’s ability to be done at all (cogitation requires ratio and intellectus: one recalls John Lennox’s debate with Richard Dawkins, where clearly Dawkins failed to understand Lennox that “the principle of consciousness, intelligibility itself, proved [his] point”).

Natural Law Prong #3: Thirdly, the Aristotelian view of nature poses nature’s goal-orientedness (i.e. teleology). Nature discloses its own purpose. Just as in prong #2, wherein the Catholic worldview affirms via the principle of intelligibility the formal cause of nature, this third prong of the Natural Law affirms nature's final cause as Jesus Christ. Nature's purposive, christological aspect is the culmination of Natural Law prongs one and two: because nature has a goal, its morality and intelligibility are thereby validly connected to the supernatural. If, in fact, nature were devoid of a supernatural telos, as the Prot-Enlights believe, then its ostensible morality and intelligibility would be rendered arbitrary and even conceptually null.

So, with regard to the convoluted Protestant stance on prong #3, the Reformation rejection was not of Christ, but of his sustained connection to the physical world. Reformation theology rejects the idea that nature's purpose is knowable through human examinations of the world. In short, Protestants express ambivalence insofar as they think the natural world does not really have a knowable supernatural end, even though of course they affirm Christ as the Logos (and in that sense, the goal). As Louis Bouyer said, “in Protestantism, everything goes on, or seems to go on, as if the Incarnation had ended with the Ascension of the Savior.” As if Jesus' connection to the world lasted only thirty-three years!

Clearly, through the Enlightenment’s rejections of God, of formal causation, and even of consciousness itself, the secularists removed any conception of a purpose in the universe. Such a crystal clear issue need not be belabored here. The secularists tell us every day, after all, that everything is pointless.


From here, the story only gets stranger and stranger. After all, the Modern English-speaking republics—Canada, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, among ours and the motherland—all claim to be founded upon the Natural Law, even as their professed basis lies in the twin sixteenth century movements (their opposite motives notwithstanding) whose raison d’etre was the elimination thereof!

So where does that leave us?

It leaves us confused, schizophrenic. Think of American history: who was it but men steeped in the Reformation and the Enlightenment—the “Prots” and the “Enlights”—who drafted the several state constitutions, the Virginia Declaration of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights? And what are these papers but documented ways of life, memorialized articles of culture, predicated squarely upon the Natural Law. As such, we Moderns are confounded citizens of the most schizophrenic republics of all-time. America, crown gem of all the paradoxical republics, was even founded as against Rome, by folks who thought Canterbury had grown to be too close a likeness.

Americans in 2016 have the temerity to be surprised when recounting our cultural failures in Natural Law living. Many Americans even have the gall to wonder why our republic is failing. In short, when Modernism is based upon dual rivaling rejections of the Natural Law, untangling the web equates to no trifling academic affair: it becomes an existential exercise required for our very survival. Until the republics founded in the Modern era return to the Natural Law, we will continue to be unable to justify such republican desiderata and sine qua nons as: natural rights, subsidiarity, popular morality, anthropology, a liberty-based political economy, and a humane employment of science and technology (materialist science yields materialistic technology, as we recognize). We shall no longer receive these benefits without shouldering the burdens, or at the very least without acknowledging the mutual exclusivity of the Natural Law and Prot-Enlight Modernism.

Until we return to Aristotle, to Thomas, and to the Natural Law, we should expect to find our Modern world more than just cold and hostile to us—we should expect to find it unfree, unintelligible, and pointless.

Timothy Gordon

Written by

Timothy J. Gordon studied philosophy in Pontifical graduate universities in Europe (Gregoriana and Angelicum), taught it at Southern Californian community colleges, and then went on to law school. Currently, he resides in central California with his wife and four daughters, where he writes and teaches philosophy and theology. His forthcoming book from Catholic Answers Press is titled Why America Will Perish without Rome. Follow Tim on Twitter at @catoandbrutus, for one-lined musings on politics, philosophy, culture, and the NBA.

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  • Will

    As mentioned in last week’s article, living in the “Modern era” means inhabiting the centuries after the Sixteenth. Two moments of that most unfortunate century are directly insinuated here: the Protestant Reformation and the secularist Enlightenment. They are equal but opposite rejections of the Natural Law.

    Interestingly enough, I think both the Reformation and the Enlightenment are two key developments that allowed for the freedom of thought, innovation, and creativity we see today. Don't like how the Roman Catholic Church does Christianity? Start your own denomination. Don't like Aristotle's philosophy? Come up with your own, maybe some others will come on board too, maybe not. Human freedom is now a value, at least to most of us, and both the Reformation and the Enlightenment are important stepping stones on the road to greater human freedom.

    Keep in mind that largely protestant countries have led the West since the Reformation/Enlightenment. These countries include the U.S., the UK, Germany, and northern Europe as a whole. The key, in my view, is that these countries celebrate human freedom in a way that no Catholic country does. There seems to be a strong correlation with high rates of Catholicism with low rates of economic, scientific, and engineering progress. I'm not certain why this is the case, but the correlation is powerful and present in both Europe and the Americas. In my work, no Catholic country is even relevant, but Asian countries are starting to become very relevant, especially China (and Japan has been for some time).

    • Rob Abney

      Don't like how the Roman Catholic Church does Christianity? Start your own denomination. Don't like Aristotle's philosophy? Come up with your own, maybe some others will come on board too, maybe not

      You are making Gordon's points for him. But William, you are a strong proponent of discovering the truth, so why is it more important to have "freedom" than to pursue the truth? I know you don't consider Aristotle or the Church as the truth but both had accumulated the best knowledge up until that time and both were arbitrarily rejected for other philosophies that were promulgated not by showing that the previous knowledge was wrong but that it could just be disregarded.
      EDIT: formatting

      • Will

        Put simply, much of what we regard to be "truth" is a construct we've created. Recognizing that it is a creation (thus there is no "true" philosophy though some are better than others for various pragmatic reasons) seems to be critical for furthering knowledge (I prefer that word to truth).
        With that in mind, I think there is a good bit of Aristotle/Aquinas's philosophy that is very interesting, but I think it says more about human intuition and the workings of the mind than anything in objective. In other words, I'm not claiming Aristotle's philosophy false, just limited and only one possible perspective.
        The most obvious example of truth being a construct is technology. It's true that most control signals are 0-10V, 0-5V, or 4-20ma, but why is it true? Because we created it that way, and no other reason (though the reasons why created it that way are interesting and largely motivated by pragmatism.) All industries and fields have these kinds of truths, but they are subject to change and primarily only applicable within their design paradigm. Aristotle's paradigm has been outdated, not falsified. The binary, true/false, view of truth is just over simplistic, but we still don't have an epistemology that captures everything. Perhaps Godel's incompleteness theorem applies to way more than just mathematical systems...an infinite number of knowledge paradigms seems possible.

        • Darren

          William Davis wrote,

          It's true that most control signals are 0-10V, 0-5V, or 4-20ma

          Thumbs-up for controls geekery.

        • Rob Abney

          most control signals are 0-10V, 0-5V, or 4-20ma

          We created that technology that way because we created all aspects of it, but that is not true of human nature, we didn't create it we can only discover it.

          • Will

            We create a huge portion of what we call "human nature" via culture. Pursuit of "truth" is one example, tribal people almost never pursue truth, as such, so there is excellent reason to believe the pursuit of truth is a cultural construct, and a valuable one. Fundamental human nature tends to be tendencies than hard facts. Monogamy and heterosexuality are tendencies, but these tendencies certainly aren't in all humans (and females tend to be more monogamous than males). Many innate tendencies often get reinforced via culture, but we are now realizing that this reinforcement can be harmful to outliers, especially when the reinforcement uses a stigma as with homosexuality.

  • Darren

    Even though this precludes both ratio and intellectus, materialists never seem to understand how their point of view vitiates science’s ability to be done at all...

    Hmmm... Perhaps it is all the science they imagine to have been conducted over the past 400 years that makes it hard for them to understand they can't do science...

    • Will

      These guys really need to take some classes on philosophy of science before they start telling us about philosophy of science. Your quote amounts to a Catholic apologist talking point. While "Truth" with a capital t may not exist, the idea that someone can't do science unless they embrace a particular philosophy is just wrong by any definition of the word.

      • Darren

        Rather remeniscent of the claim occasionally (often) seen on the Catholic blog-o-sphere that, had it not been for white men Catholics, Science would never have been invented at all.

        • Will

          Certainly Greeks like Aristotle and Archimedes were important for the beginnings of science (and they were not Catholic, obviously) but one of the first people to use something close to the modern scientific method was Alhazen, a Muslim. Descartes was critical in the west (methodic skepticism), and he is also credited with emancipating the West from Catholic Doctrine on the philosophical front (Luther was more political/religious...sorta). Sir Isaac Newton, Faraday...the vast majority of important scientists weren't Catholic (there are important exceptions like Mendel and Galileo, ironically) and more recently they've tended toward atheism and deism.
          WRT the history of science, the claim that science doesn't work without Catholicism is ridiculous.

          • Darren

            William Davis wrote,

            ...the vast majority of important scientists weren't Catholic (there are
            important exceptions like Mendel and Galileo, ironically) and more recently they've tended toward atheism and deism...

            Yeah, I had rather pointed that out at the time. The answer I usually got (happened more than twice, less than 7 times), was that, more or less, everyone after the Enlightenment was just coasting along using the Church's momentum... momentum that would be running out any day now...

          • Will

            That's a lot of momentum ;)

          • Darren

            If you are curious, comments spread out among several base posts, and crossing over into another blog (Cross Examined).

            Faith on the Couch blog

          • Will

            At least Dr. Greg seems bright and a good writer, and I don't blame for reacting against logical positivism. Of course, if Christianity was key to science, why did it take 1500 or more years after Christ to get it going.
            Fact is, philosophers of science still struggle. There is no one size fits all philosophy that captures all sciences, and all perspectives in philosophy of science have real problems...in other words science is bigger, more varied and more complex than any philosophical system can handle. There isn't even a single scientific method really, as methodology tends to very from science to science. I think the only philosophical requirement for science is some for of methodological naturalism simply because the study of spirits, gods, ghosts, and demons has never yielded any scientific information or theories (and not for lack of trying, many have tried to study these things over the years). Even then, defining the natural verses supernatural can sometimes be problematic in nuanced cases. Everything in philosophy is a mess because there are so many plausible perspectives that conflict with each other. As much as I would love to escape relativism in philosophy, it seems inescapable, possibly a function of a our mammalian minds. We certainly didn't evolve to do science and philosophy, so much in science is straight up counter intuitive.

          • Darren

            William Davis wrote,

            At least Dr. Greg seems bright and a good writer, and I don't blame for
            reacting against logical positivism.

            He is that, credit where credit is due. It is not as though I am ideologically opposed to there having been something unique to the Christian worldview that was particularly conducive to the flourishing of science, which is why my disputing with Dr. Greg was along the lines of questioning where the theory did not fit the data.

            All models are wrong; some models are useful.

  • In traditional philosophy, Plato's position on forms is exaggerated realism and Aristotle's position moderate realism. In the author's attempt to uphold traditional philosophy, he begins this post by breaking with that tradition by redefining one of the most important words in its vocabulary, realism.

    • timothygordon

      "Traditional philosophy" designates terms ("Exaggerated Realism")whose traditions in England and America go back about a hundred years.If there is some way in which Plato's failure to solve the PoU's does NOT interrupt his ability to pose a causal, categorical interaction of form and matter, then I'd love to hear it. Until then, I'm by far most comfortable designating him at MOST an "aspirational realist"

      • I was going to use the adjective, extreme, for Plato’s realism, but I
        checked the nomenclature used in an English translation of a French language history of philosophy, the second edition of which was 1940.
        Plato’s exaggerated realism was an historical pre-requisite to Aristotle’s correction to moderate realism.
        Another analyst of the decline of western philosophical thought,
        resulting in its being out of touch with reality, did not blame a return to Plato for that decline as you do. In fact, he labelled the possible reversal of that decline, the rehellenization of western thought.
        That analyst attributed the decline to the exaltation of the will over the intellect and traced its origins to voluntarism originating in the late Middle Ages. The German to English translation of his synopsis of the decline and his exhortation to rehellenization is available at http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/speeches/2006/september/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20060912_university-regensburg.html

  • Jim (hillclimber)

    Somewhat to my surprise, I find myself in general agreement with this post insofar as it is a (broad brush) analysis of the ways that the Reformation and the Enlightenment have led to our current state of affairs, which, I would agree, is "schizophrenic". In my own view, this plays out in current American politics as a choice between an incoherent far right (which does seem to find many of its roots in the Reformation), an incoherent far left (which does seem to find many of its roots in the Enlightenment), and a completely dissatisfying "averaging" of these two incoherent systems that "moderates" (like myself) have to muddle along with. In short, I can agree with this (broad brush) analysis of the problem.

    Where I differ is: I can't conceive of any sort of restorationism as a solution. However misguided Martin Luther may have been in some respects, there were surely good reasons for the prophetic stance that he took. It seems to me that he was right to react against a certain overconfidence in reason, against the presumption that the Church "had it all figured out" with her Thomistic metaphysics. It also seems to me that Luther was right to react against an over-identification of the visible Church on Earth with the Mystici Corporis Christi. I am ready to buy into arguments that Luther over-reacted, or that he reacted in a misguided manner, but it seems we would only be inviting a repetition of history if we attempted to "re-set" ourselves to a pre-Reformation mindset, as if there weren't good reasons we moved on from that.

    To me, the proper balance, the proper stance of humility with regard to the intelligibility and teleology of nature is summarized very well by Pope Francis's exegesis of the Pharisaical mindset: “They forgot that God is the God of Law, but he is (also) the God of surprises ... And they did not understand, and closed themselves in this system created with the best of intentions.” Likewise, however much Thomistic metaphysics may be a useful system created with the best of intentions, it seems to me that we should not close ourselves off within its boundaries.

    • Rob Abney

      there were surely good reasons for the prophetic stance that he took. It seems to me that he was right to react against a certain overconfidence in reason, against the presumption that the Church "had it all figured out" with her Thomistic metaphysics.

      That seems to be a reading of the Church and of history as if that point in time were static, and yet history and the Church have always been changing and developing. In fact some historians see Father Martin Luther as initially doing just what Dominican priests should do, ask for reform. Although it rapidly turned from reform to revolt. And it certainly doesn't seem like Thomistic metaphysics had all the answers, it is still be developed today. But it does seem like Thomists had a very developed system for how to reason and understand this visible and invisible world.

      • Jim (hillclimber)

        I don't want to read Church thinking, or Thomistic thinking, as if it is static. That is, in a sense, my point: Church thinking and Thomistic thinking should learn from where it has been. That includes taking seriously, and dialogically, all of the legitimate criticisms that have come out of the Reformation and the Enlightenment, taking it, as you say, as a "call to reform", rather than as something that we can backpedal out of to recover some lost point in our past. Perhaps I am misreading Timothy, but I think he is calling for the latter rather than the former.

        • Rob Abney

          Right, backpedaling won't work but reform is very difficult if most don't agree to the source of the problem. Maybe he is recommending that we reform by taking a step back. Anyway, its great to read this sort of post here that combines reasoning and the history of reasoning, it reminds me of Brad Gregory's book called the Unintended Reformation.

    • timothygordon

      Jim, the only "restorationism" that would avail us would be true Natural Law, which is to say a Thomistic Small governmentapproach to liberty (instead of Prot-Enlight license),

      • Jim (hillclimber)

        Have we ever known what "true Natural Law" is? I think I'm willing to embrace a moral ontology that is approximated by our conceptions of Natural Law, but that to me is like embracing an ontology with "Laws of Nature" - I may believe those Laws exists "out there", but there are epistemic limits to what we can say about it. We are learning as we go, I think.

      • Will

        You do realize that the political philosophy in the U.S. Constitution is primarily based on Enlightenment philosophy, particularly that of the Enlightenment thinker John Locke, right? I personally find social contract theory compelling, and if society things government should do more, that simply becomes part of the contract. How would your "Thomistic small government" constitution be different? The enlightenment did not break with the concept of natural rights, which is a derivative of natural law theory, more or less.

        • timothygordon

          That is the entire point of this article...schizophrenia in particular...Locke and the Whigs rejected all three premises of Natural Law, saying mortifying was i unknowable outside the Bible, but that natural rights and natural revolutions somehow exist. See SN's Dr. Edward Feser's book on Locke, and let the unlearning begin!

          • Will

            What would be different about your new constitution though? That's my question.
            With regard to natural rights, I don't see a problem considering them a postulate. If we generally agree on the premise/postulate, we don't need background systems to validate them. The background system was useful in reaching a consensus on the idea, even if the background system (natural law) isn't objectively true. In reality, the consensus on the idea is what pragmatically matters. Natural rights are useless if no one believes in them. In a way, belief in natural rights makes them real, similar to belief in the value of fiat currency many skeptics today don't believe in fiat currency and constantly expect it to collapse (and it will collapse if enough people share their belief and act on it).

          • timothygordon

            The Constitution would look like ours--except amended by Antifederalists Cato (in his 2nd and 3rd letters) and Brutus (in his 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 6th letters). But the CULTURE would understand itself--it would have to if it liked the benefits of the Natural Law--as Catholic. Prot-Enlight rejects the Natural Law (even as it enjoys NL's fruits: natural rights, subsidiarity, pop morality, humanism, free economy, and humane science/tech.). Well, it used to. But our national schizophrenia has dried up the fruits.

          • Will

            So Cato was probably George Clinton, and Brutus probably Robert Yates both were members of the Dutch Reformed Church (protestant). So you are taking a Prot-Enlightenment document, adding some changes wanted by more Prot-Enlightenment politicians, and calling the result Catholic Aquinian? I'm confused. Catholics always tended to support the Divine Right of Kings. Aquinas did make an exception for evil rulers condemned by the Pope, from the wiki article on the Divine Right of Kings:

            Thomas Aquinas condoned extra-legal tyrannicide in the worst of circumstances:

            When there is no recourse to a superior by whom judgment can be made about an invader, then he who slays a tyrant to liberate his fatherland is [to be] praised and receives a reward.

            — Commentary on the Magister Sententiarum[4]

            On the other hand, Aquinas forbade the overthrow of any morally, Christianly and spiritually legitimate king by his subjects. The only human power capable of deposing the king was the pope. The reasoning was that if a subject may overthrow his superior for some bad law, who was to be the judge of whether the law was bad? If the subject could so judge his own superior, then all lawful superior authority could lawfully be overthrown by the arbitrary judgement of an inferior, and thus all law was under constant threat. Towards the end of the Middle Ages, many philosophers, such as Nicholas of Cusa and Francisco Suarez, propounded similar theories. The Church was the final guarantor that Christian kings would follow the laws and constitutional traditions of their ancestors and the laws of the presumptive god and of justice. Similarly, the Chinese concept of Mandate of Heaven required that the emperor properly carry out the proper rituals, consult his ministers, and made it extremely difficult to undo any acts carried out by an ancestor.

            Notice that authority is still not from the governed, but from God. The enlightenment broke this idea, and changed it to the authority coming from the people that are being governed (again social contract). This is a major break from Catholic Natural Law and political thought, and it is a break that defines the enlightenment to the certain extent (although some of the ideas started in ancient Greece and Rome).

            You seem to fail to understand that culture changes. Current modern culture is derived from previous culture (prot-enlightenment if you will), which was derived from Catholic Culture, which was derived from Hebrew, Roman, and Greek culture, which was derived from Sumerian, Egyptian, and Hindu Culture. Why aren't we arguing that our Republic is Sumerian, Egyptian, and Hindu? They started what we call civilization after all. Or we could just go back to Rome. Rome created the first Republic (which worked better than Greek Democracy in many ways), long before Christianity came around. Apparently Clinton and Yates wanted to give tribute to Rome as that picked major Roman pseudonyms.
            You might have a philosophical argument, but it does not hold up to historical evidence, in my opinion. Evidence matters.

            Edit to add: If you want to argue that people should study the history of ideas to understand where modern concepts came from, I agree completely, just think you are taking a very narrow perspective.

          • timothygordon

            William, you have managed to miss the point. 1) Not that Wokipedia is not Is as good as the thought of Aquinas...but...um, yeah. Thomas never contradicts his dictate of just tyrannicide. It is a close corollary of his 4-pronged just war theory. And no, neither a just war nor a just revolution require the pope. He who kills an illegitimate king is to be lauded. As such, yes, I reject the idea of social contract theory--outright--which is garbage, and which is the only nuance that Locke really mixed into his plagiarism. You cite everything about the telativism of contract theory correctly. The right to rule, or sovereignty, comes from God only. But, as is clear from Thomas and Suarez, the people, through natural intelligibility, can make a moral judgment as to the legitimate/tyrannical nature of their gov't (whatever form it takes). That aspect of self-determination is not the same as Social Contract theory. Finally, the Antifederalists were the devotees of Montesquieu, whose view of republics was very classical and very Catholic.

          • Will

            The right to rule, or sovereignty, comes from God only.

            How do we know who God wants to rule? Every king says he/she has a right to rule. Certain Muslims in the Taliban probably think they have the divine right to rule the U.S. straight from Allah (what right do infidels have to rule?) Every candidate for president and congress thinks God is on their side. Saying the right to rule comes from God is pointless because God never comes down from heaven to tell us who should rule. It's a pagan idea that predates the Hebrews altogether. It was a trick to establish authority. A useful trick, but a deceitful trick nonetheless. Too many of us simply aren't fooled by these claims anymore (blame education of the masses, uneducated people are much easier to fool). No one speaks for God, even if God exists.

          • Will

            As such, yes, I reject the idea of social contract theory--outright--which is garbage, and which is the only nuance that Locke really mixed into his plagiarism.

            Lol, garbage? Your accusation of plagiarism is comical when there is very little original to Christianity and the Catholic Church. It "plagiarized" the Hebrews for their supernatural stories in the Hebrew Bible, and ideas of sacrifice. Aquinas clearly plagiarized pagan Aristotle who, if alive, may have been appalled that his philosophy was used in such ways. Catholics took much from the Romans, Pontifex Maximus was a pagan Roman term literally meaning "high priest". The priesthood was originally a pagan idea (Sumeria, Babylon, Egypt). The idea that the Catholic Church somehow owns these ideas is downright laughable, and should be responded to with derision.

            Where does authority come from? Power. What gives the authority power? Soldiers. What makes the soldiers follow the authority? Belief that the authority is valid, and is in fact in charge. Change the belief of the soldiers, and the center of power changes (many revolutions have occurred this way). Where do the soldiers come from? The citizens. Therefore, power comes from the citizens...completely consistent with social contract theory. If God has power, there is no sign he exercises it other than stories never backed by solid evidence. If God does have power, he has been content to allow some very evil people to rule. It isn't just kings, do you need me to go into how the Popes abused their power over time? Were they speaking for God when they created ghettos to through Jews into, taking their property (Cum Nimis Absurdum).

            Anyway, end rant (how would you like it if I called Catholic theology garbage, and we are all guilty of plagiarizing our forefathers). I do appreciate the goal of using the Papacy as a check against tyrants even though it didn't always work well in practice.
            I get it, people today yearn for the monoculture of the middle ages. Multicultural societies certainly have their problems, but they fix many of the problems created by forced (think Inquisition) monoculture. I think the freedom to pick culture is worth it, and the dominance of open societies economically, philosophically, scientifically, and militarily is a sign of their superiority. Those who join open societies via immigration usually pick up many of the best western ideas within a generation or so, I don't think it can or needs to be forced. May the best ideas win (and sorry many of yours lost a very long time ago, I think for good reasons).

          • timothygordon

            Sorry, that should read not "mortifying" but rather "morality and reality." Damned iPhone...

  • No, naturalism does not entail determinism. You are using perjorative language to characterize naturalism as seeing humans as being "meat machines" and "too bestial". This is like saying the earth is just a planet or the smallpox vaccine is just a drug. And, of course, even if these characterizations were accurate, it doesn't mean they are not true or reasonable beliefs to hold.

    With respect to your second law, I do not know if the cosmos is intelligible. I do agree that science assumes it is, but ultimately whether this is an illusion, whether things like quantum strangeness repudiate this, is still an open question. Science does not entail scientism, nor materialism. Materialism doesn't entail naturalism and so on. You seem to just be affirming a bunch of things, to what point, I cannot discern. It seems that like Edward Feser, you are convinced that the reason not everyone, nor even a majority accept your Scholastic philosophy is because we don't understand it. It could be that you just fail to understand the critique.

    Goodness, who are these secularists who say everything is pointless? Saying that because you haven't demonstrates any god exists, that we can't accept that nature acts according to a god's purpose, is not saying everything is pointless.

    I can accept that many modern states are founded on notions of natural law, but that this notion has lost really any force because, it has been shown to be false. I don't see why you must call this schizophrenic. To me it is simply reasonable.

    I affirm the following, your desperate clinging to scholastic philosophy is a function of a personal and theological bias to Catholicism, leading to a blindness to other and superior metaphysics.

    • Rob Abney

      I can accept that many modern states are founded on notions of natural law, but that this notion has lost really any force because, it has been shown to be false.

      What parts of natural law have been shown to be false? I can think of quite a few that have been rejected in some way by the will of those in power but that doesn't mean they have been shown to be false.

      You accuse the author of clinging to scholastic philosophy but you miscategorize scholasticism, from Wikipedia:
      Not so much a philosophy or a theology as a method of learning, scholasticism places a strong emphasis on dialectical reasoning to extend knowledge by inference, and to resolve contradictions. Scholastic thought is also known for rigorous conceptual analysis and the careful drawing of distinctions.

      • Another difficulty I have had with this post (lest I go into another crazy rant) involves a possible definition of natural law, - something perhaps omitted from this OP. I have always! understood natural law to describe? issues of morality. It would thus be distinguished from, and by the same 'measure' conformable to the acceptance of 'developing' theories? of physical laws related to the material universe. Correct me if I am wrong...or help me please, I'm 'falling'????

        • Phil

          Hi loreenlee,

          It ought to all form an organic whole. That is part of the beauty of the Aristotelian-Thomistic synthesis (this is not to say that the A-T system is the end-all be-all and that it gets everything 100% correct, since perfect knowledge is not possible in this life).

          Natural law has a direct connection to teleology, which is known as "final causality" in the A-T system. What something is (its nature or "formal cause") is based upon the ends towards which it is directed, i.e., its final cause.

          Now there is a distinction in how natural law applies to natural inert objects (e.g., rocks, clouds, planets, moons, etc), how it applies to objects created by humans (e.g., computers, cars, knives, etc), and how it applies to living beings (e.g., plants, plankton, penguins, and human persons). But this is only because these are intrinsically different types of objects. But the concept is the same: the type of object it is will dictate the ends towards which it is directed.

          Now when it comes to persons with free will there is a further way that we can see natural law at work. Just as we see formal and final causes at work in all those above categories, so we see them at work in human actions in many various ways. Natural law shows us that all reality was created--from top to bottom--to flourish by acting in certain ways that are in line with its nature and final cause. When things are acting in accord with their nature they flourish, when they don't act in accord with their nature, they don't flourish. (Some get hung up here by pointing to evolution and the evolving of species. But that ain't no problem for Aristotle because the type of being it is shows forth what it means for it to flourish. So if a new animal comes into being, then a slightly different nature/form and final cause has also come into existence.)

          Now, rocks, planets, plants, plankton, and penguins do not have a conceptional-rational intellect and free will, so they cannot direct themselves in congruence with the proper end of their nature. So when a penguin is not flourishing, it is not a moral issue. It is a moral issue when a human person does something that is not in accord with its nature.

          For example--purposely killing an innocent human life undermines the natural end life for that human person. When we take it a step further from secular rational ethics into moral theology, we understand that harming another person also harms oneself. The human person is made to love and give ourselves so others may have life to the fullest. But killing another does not form ourself in the image of love. We deform our very being to the extent that we carry out immoral actions.

          So in the end, if we wanna be happy and flourish--follow natural law and seek to unite ourselves with the end that God created for our human nature: unity with God himself in this life and eternally in the next!

          Hope this helps some!

          • Mike

            excellent little summary.

  • The rallying cry of Luther’s Reformation was sola scriptura, meaning that the Bible alone—not science or philosophy or anything less than supernatural revelation—is intelligible to the mind of man.

    This is the weirdest understanding of sola scriptura I have ever encountered. The first paragraph at WP: Sola scriptura seems much closer to what I've regularly encountered. Is Wikipedia wrong on this matter?

    • Rob Abney

      From Wikipedia: ...but sees them all as subordinate to and corrected by the written word of God.

      Where in the bible do you find "that matter has form and is intelligible to man"?

      • My suspicion is that there were more pressing matters to be discussed.

        • Rob Abney

          That seems like an uncharacteristic response from you since you are usually very interested in philosophy.

          • Hmmm? I just don't see why the Bible needs to be concerned with stating an explicit position on "matter has form and is intelligible to man".

          • Rob Abney

            Exactly, it doesn't have to explicitly state that but the reason it doesn't have to state it is because the understanding of God and realism has to either be presupposed or taught concurrently. The bible was part of the church and was never intended to stand alone. When it stands alone it is often misunderstood, by those who see it as predeterministic or by those who see it as outdated because man is deterministic.

          • There is a difference between the Bible standing alone, and the Bible taking precedence over all else. We can draw on the philosophy of science to talk about how facts can inform theory but how theory can also distort facts to fit the theory. The Bible would provide the facts, church tradition and [some] philosophy would do the theorizing. Sola scriptura says to prefer altering the theory to fit the facts, over altering the facts to fit the theory. I think this prioritization can survive the lessons we've learned about theory-ladenness of observation.

          • Darren

            Rob Abney wrote,

            The bible was part of the church and was never intended to stand alone.

            Indeed! If one were an omnipotent cosmic super-intelligence seeking to communicate the most important message in history to one's most privileged sentient creation, why go the route of simply writing it down?

          • Rob Abney

            Simple, because it would be misinterpreted.

          • Darren

            Rob Abney wrote,

            Simple, because it would be misinterpreted.

            That is a problem. If only God were slightly smarter than those people who write the Ikea instructions.


        • Darren

          Luke Bruer wrote,

          My suspicion is that there were more pressing matters to be discussed.

          Such as the penile proportions of mythical sea-monsters? The consumption of pigeons by the average Levitte? The mis-deeds of a certain intransigent fig tree? 'case all of these were pretty thoroughly discussed...

          • "His underparts are like sharp potsherds" constitutes "pretty thoroughly discussed"? I don't think I can take this tangent seriously anymore.

          • Darren

            Luke Breuer wrote,

            I don't think I can take this tangent seriously anymore.

            It isn't a topic that one should...

    • Paul F

      Luther was using sola scriptura to disregard church tradition as a source for the deposit of faith - trying to strip off what the evil church had added since the end of the first century I suppose. The author is pointing out that one consequence of sola scriptura is a casting out of philosophy; i.e. casting out the means of understanding anything. It is a self-refuting principle.

      • Sola scriptura was used to relegate tradition to a lower tier than the contents of canon; that does not necessarily lead to "disregard". Now, Luther did want to "disregard" the sale of indulgences, but surely you do as well? You will have to be a bit more clear on what is self-refuting. Perhaps you intend to draw on some of François Véron's arguments?

        • Paul F

          I don't think that everything Luther did was bad or wrong. He was right on the money with many of his theses. Most of his criticism of the church was well-founded.

          Sola scriptura is self-refuting for several reasons. The author was pointing out the antiphilosophical bent of the early Protestants, and I was saying that without some philosophy we can't understand the revelation. It strips away the context for revelation.

          Furthermore, sola scriptura is not scriptural. Scripture in fact refutes sola scriptura in many places where tradition is said to be of value for instruction.

          • You seem to keep interpreting sola scriptura to mean "nothing else is of value", which is a biblicism no Reformer advanced. Indeed, such a position cannot even be consistently communicated if truly believed, because the very communication would not be of any value. What can be communicated, and what was communicated, is that we are to be more sure of scripture than tradition—or anything else. One can read scripture and find tradition in conflict with it, such that the tradition is altered instead of the interpretation of scripture.

            What you don't do, according to Luther, is be more sure of your philosophy than of scripture, or even equally as sure. That's like being more sure of your theory than of the supporting data!

          • Paul F

            If sola scriptura doesn't mean "nothing else" is of value for something, then you need to drop the word 'sola'. Sola means only; and only means nothing else. The term itself is completely exclusive of tradition, philosophy, reason, etc.

            I don't know the history of interpretation of the principle, but many of my baptist friends seem to take it very literally. They say "we don't have doctrine; we have the bible." Or insert tradition or anything else into that sentence.

            It's not always clear what 'only scripture' is good for, but I take it to mean something like "only scripture is good for instruction in the faith." To me, that is the principle of sola scriptura in one sentence. Am I mistaken?

          • Luther held that only scripture can establish articles of faith. He did not hold that only scripture is intelligible to man. You don't get to tack on whatever you desire to the 'only'—you've gotta work off of what Martin Luther meant. Otherwise, you're equivocating. The term 'literally' is a non sequitur, here. In a context like this, it seems to be a cipher for, "I want to understand it my way, with no consideration of possible alternatives."

          • Paul F

            OK, I accept that is how Luther intended sola scriptura, though like I said, that is not how my protestant friends have explained it to me. Nor is that how the author of this article understood it.

            But the author was using sola scriptura as an example of the Protestant Revolution rejecting the intelligibility of the universe. The contrast in question is between Aristotelian hylomorphism - the inseparability of matter and form - versus the platonic superimposed forms. He is pointing out that Luther opted out of the debate and chose instead to reject philosophy altogether.

            On his three points of natural law, the author is comparing and contrasting the Protestant view to the Catholic view. In morality, Protestants are saved in an instant and forever after, versus the Catholic working out his salvation in fear and trembling. In intelligibility, the Protestant is far less concerned with science and philosophy than with scripture. In teleology, the natural world does not have a supernatural end.

            On all three points, the Protestant view is that the world really doesn't matter as much as it does in comparison to the Thomistic/Catholic view. For Plato, the world didn't matter much because it's not as real as the Forms. For Thomas/Aristotle you don't have the forms without the matter - they are inseparable and of equal importance. For Luther, forms shmorms, just read the bible (but not the books that refute what I teach.)

          • Luther had a habit of exaggerating for rhetorical effect, so I would take his comments on philosophy with a grain of salt. He certainly rejected raising any philosophy to the status of canon, a point on which the RCC agrees. For a more detailed analysis, I would defer to a scholar who has studied Luther's views on philosophy and the extent to which he passed these views on (that is, whether he and others thought these particular views were important in the scheme of things, given what Luther and they were most concerned about).

            I'm afraid that the rest of your comment paints Protestantism with an awfully broad brush. There are indeed (I would say: anti-intellectual) pockets of Protestantism which match your description. But there are also swaths of Catholicism which are so liberal that they are little more than social clubs.

            Let's take the alleged disinterest in matter. A Protestant could read the Bible, see the importance of a true resurrection body—not a less-than-fully-material ghost but a body which can chow down fish—and note that God must surely be quite interested in matter. The same Protestant can realize that matter is also fallen and corrupt, and does not have the resources (neither will nor knowledge nor wisdom) within itself, for its rescue from futility. The solution must come from God, for man and creation simply doesn't have the resources for it. Is this compatible with Timothy Gordon's understanding of sola scriptura? Not clear!

            I think it is right to say that on average, (non-liberal?) Protestants are more interested in scripture than philosophy. Whether or not this is a problem would seem to depend on whether the focus on philosophy is at least as glorifying of God as the fruit of focusing on scripture. I don't disparage Scholasticism as many have (Amos Funkenstein can probably single-handedly establish that, via Theology and the Scientific Imagination), but I have suspicions that it contains grievous errors (e.g. nominalism, thinking that there is such a thing as religious belief-independent 'natural reason'), errors which Martin Luther's emphasis could help fix.

            When it comes to teleology, I just don't have a good take on the spread of Protestant thoughts on the matter. I know that some strands of Calvinism were very intent on establishing God's kingdom on earth, which seems teleological. Dispensationalism has done great damage to the idea that there is any continuity between this life and the next; I hope it has largely run its course, although I have no hard data on its popularity over the last fifty years. I wonder if you think C.S. Lewis had any sort of robust thoughts on teleology? I do recall him saying that those who were the most heaven-minded were the most effective on earth. There is also J. Richard Middleton's 2014 A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology, although it is more on the scholarly side.

          • Paul F

            I have found CS Lewis robust in everything I have read of his. I am sure that Mere Christianity has elements of teleology, though I cannot call an example to mind now.

            I think what interested me about this article is that it shows the big picture of the battle the church militant is currently fighting. It shows historically how at the same time the church was divided it came under attack by secularism.

            The author shows this as a three-pronged battle, when really it is the mystical body of Christ, His Church, under assault by secularism. The Church is losing the day because of its divisions.

            I am aware that the same way a Catholic is stung by the accusations of Luther's theses, a Protestant is stung by the idea of submitting to the authority of a church that has proven a propensity for corruption. But I think that, some how this side of eternity, God longs for His Church to be reunited. I am curious, do you think the church should be reunited? And if so, what do you think is the primary obstacle?

    • I understood some recent remarks on this site as suggesting that Catholic doctrine (or dogma) does not arise from 'reason' or natural philosophy, etc. If this is true, is there a conflict/contradiction in the 'use' of Aristotle's philosophy as the basis of 'trans-substantiation' for instance. Please. Have I or have I not discovered? 'another' contradiction?

  • David Hardy

    I disagree with most of the points of this article in regards to naturalism, and so find the conclusions less than convincing. I shall take each point one at a time.

    Naturalism describes a deterministic nature which we find “red in tooth and claw.”

    This over-generalization was never a core principle in naturalism, and I believe even Darwin rejected it, noting numerous species that use cooperation and symbiosis to thrive.

    The animals are no more than complex mechanisms, meat machines, which operate as the vector sum of their competing appetites. Moreover, naturalism places man squarely in the middle of, not above, nature.

    It is only the assumption of or need for superiority and uniqueness that makes this unappealing, and nothing stated in this article challenges it as untrue. I would also add that the sum of an integrated complex system can be far more than the parts might initially indicate.

    The teachings of the Enlightenment, in a coordinate if opposite manner, reject the intelligibility of the universe. And this is strange because
    Enlightenment secularists have always claimed to be “for science,” a
    claim which requires the principle of intelligibility.

    I assume this refers to the principle of intelligibility as an innate property to things (having a reason). Science does not require this if those doing the science have as a property the ability to form intelligible concepts of things and assign reasons for them. It is no surprise that many things are determined to have a purpose relevant to humans, if humans are the ones forming and assigning the purpose.

    Clearly, through the Enlightenment’s rejections of God, of formal
    causation, and even of consciousness itself, the secularists removed any
    conception of a purpose in the universe . . .The secularists tell us every day,
    after all, that everything is pointless.

    Removing the idea of innate purpose and saying things are pointless are different things, and the distinction is quite important for many naturalists.

    Americans in 2016 have the temerity to be surprised when recounting our cultural failures in Natural Law living. Many Americans even have the gall to wonder why our republic is failing.

    Many people are also ready to assume that perceived failures are due to positions they do not agree with. Catholic countries have had their own examples of failure. I would not assume this is due to Catholicism any more than any current failures in our culture is due to naturalism, unless a clear connection could be shown.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      Science does not require this if those doing the science have as a property the ability to form intelligible concepts of things

      Am I understanding correctly that the key distinction you are making is between "the intelligibility of the universe" and the "the intelligibility of our concepts of the universe"? If so, this substitution seems to me to reduce all of science to an exercise in psychology. Rather than actually using science to learn about truth, we are using science to learn about our concepts of truth. One can undoubtedly still do great science if that is what one believes, but it seems be a rather low and uninspiring vision of what science accomplishes.

      • Will

        If so, this substitution seems to me to reduce all of science to an exercise in psychology.

        I think this can't help but be true to a certain extent, because the human mind is the instrument that built science, thus science is dependent upon the human mind. It's completely possible that other intelligent beings who evolved in different ways might find our version of science incomprehensible, and vice versa. They may still be able to generate the same, or superior predictive power...the predictive power is the key. Predictive power is the primary judge of scientific theories, if their predictions fail, they are considered false, but there could always be better theories that have more predictive power that we don't know about yet, and their might even be some types of prediction in hidden conceptual realms that we haven't even thought of. GR is incredibly predictive, of course, but it is still just a model of what reality does. I think calling a model "True" is confusing the model for reality, like confusing the map for the terrain. The map (science) will always be a mental construct or model that represents and predicts reality, but it will never be reality. Is there one best model for physics that can never be bested? Maybe, but we will never know for sure that we have it, because we can't see the future. We will only know the limits of an old model when we find a better one (compare classical physics to GR).

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          Predictive power is the primary judge of scientific theories

          That is sort of true, but potentially misleading.

          Consider "black box" statistical models, which, if developed carefully, have the ability to predict extremely well under the conditions that have already been studied. As useful as these models can be (I don't mean to slander them, because I sometimes earn my keep by developing such models), they are usually not the best way to advance scientific understanding. Because these models are essentially unintelligible (they don't tell you why you are getting the prediction you are getting), they generally predict very poorly under new conditions (e.g. they may predict well what would happen to a person under homeostasis, but not what will happen when there is some novel exogenous perturbation of the system such as a pharmaceutic agent). By contrast, intelligible models that give you some insight into the "hidden system of pulleys and levers" that influence the outcome have a much better track record at predicting under new (e.g. exogenously perturbed) conditions.

          Now the decisive question is, does that "hidden system of pulleys and levers" exist only in our minds, or does it (approximately) reflect a logic that is "out there"? Personally, I take the relative success of intelligible models as a sign that reality itself is intelligible.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          Since I know you are interested in AI, you may be interested in this related quote from AI thought leader Judea Pearl, which indicates his own view of the matter:

          The Babylonians astronomers were masters of black-box prediction, far surpassing their Greek rivals in accuracy and consistency. Yet Science favored the creative-speculative strategy of the Greek astronomers which was wild with metaphysical imagery: circular tubes full of fire, small holes through which the fire was visible as stars, and hemispherical earth riding on turtle backs. It was this wild modeling strategy, not Babylonian rigidity, that jolted Eratosthenes (276-194 BC) to perform one of the most creative experiments in the ancient world and measure the radius of the earth.

          Correspondingly, Pearl has been a leader in developing AI systems that formally invoke causal reasoning, rather than just relying on "black box" predictions. Interestingly, successful encoding of causal reasoning in a computer system requires that we indulge the software with immaterial concepts concepts that have no empirical referent, namely counterfactual outcomes.


          EDIT: see strikethrough.

          • Will

            Interesting thoughts :) I'll kick back some disagreements, as usual.

            Some consider Babylonian astronomy to be a primitive form of science, it does have an internal logic (as far as we can tell):

            During the 8th and 7th centuries BCE, Babylonian astronomers developed a new empirical approach to astronomy. They began studying philosophy dealing with the ideal nature of the universe and began employing an internal logic within their predictive planetary systems. This was an important contribution to astronomy and the philosophy of science, and some scholars have thus referred to this new approach as the first scientific revolution.[2] This new approach to astronomy was adopted and further developed in Greek and Hellenistic astronomy. Classical Greek and Latin sources frequently use the term Chaldeans for the astronomers of Mesopotamia, who were, in reality, priest-scribes specializing in astrology and other forms of divination.


            Most ancient astronomy was intelligible, even that of the Mayans thus I would argue against it being that "black box" compared to the inner workings of the human mind, or one of the newer neural networks.
            Pearl's work is pretty interesting, but so far such formal AI has been blown away (recently at least) by ANNs which sadly are very black box. Perhaps Bayesian AI will catch up, but that might be hard as the industry is currently jumping on Google's Tensor Flow pretty rapidly, though it's not clear tensorflow will be very effective at everything. I should research Bayesians more, but from what I understand there has always been a problem of computing so many possibilities, and that's reflecting in the wiki article on Belief propagation. IBM has done wonders with Watson, however, but an expert system like Watson will never be capable of genuine learning (outside of a specified scope) though it can play a mean game of Jeopardy.

            For comparison Google's Deepmind just recently beat the French "Go" champion. It was once thought that a computer could never play the game because of the astronomical number of possibilities in the game (that would cause Watson or any chess playing AI to self destruct on the sheer volume of possibilities). This same neural network platform has also had success at teaching itself to read and playing simpler games. It's ability to learn based on sensory input (raw pixel feed) is very impressive and formal systems have never come close to being able to do this. Logic and reason can't perceive, and can grok or intuit. There is reason to believe that logic and reason are only a subset of thinking in general, but a very important subset for sure :)
            Notice that Deepmind didn't learn from having the rules programmed, it learned from watching experts play (much like how humans learn), and then playing itself.



        • We don't even 'understand' language - either as a map or 'the' terrain!!!

      • David Hardy

        If so, this substitution seems to me to reduce all of science to an exercise in psychology.

        I would be agreeable to this description, but I would qualify this with a modifier. I would say that it is a combination of reality and our concept of it. For example, we may describe an object, and our description (1) is in terms of our senses, creating a degree of subjectivity and (2) is based on our prior experiences and associations in how we make sense of it as a concept, which is more subjective. However, that does not mean it is pure psychology. There are still real objects being sensed and conceived of, and here is where science plays an important role.

        The best metaphor I can offer is to think of our concepts as a map. The map is not the territory it describes, and is, in many ways, fully distinct. However, it accurately and usefully describes that territory in some way, and guides our actions and expectations of it. It has some measure of connection, in this sense, to the outer reality, and is not just derived from psychology absent an objectively real base. Most science is based on the influence of the objective side, but understanding the psychological aspect helps identify and account for bias that would otherwise mislead those trying to understand that objective side.

        One can undoubtedly still do great science if that is what one believes,
        but it seems be a rather low and uninspiring vision of what science

        I have two responses to this. First, I would rather have an uninspiring but true position rather than an inspiring false one, so I do not find this to be a challenge to my position. However, I am also not sure it is meant to be.

        Second, what is and is not inspiring is highly subjective. I do not find it uninspiring at all: it is inspiring to me. We have intuitions that helped us in the past, but through science people have managed to usefully understand aspects of nature that run contrary to those intuitions. Because our ability to form intelligent concepts is innate to us, not something we discern in other objects, we have no reason to expect that we will form accurate and useful concepts of things that operate counter-intuitively. Yet we have, and every success shows people overcoming innate bias to form better concepts of the universe as it is. To me, this ability to overcome and understand reality is inspiring, because it requires both insight into our own nature and the humility to allow our assumptions and intuitive guesses to be challenged and overturned.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          I think I more or less agree with everything you wrote, and/but it seems to me that the view you are advancing amounts to the view that that the (apparent) intelligibility of nature does not arise simply in our minds. I fully appreciate that we apprehend the intelligibility of nature in a subjective manner, but --as you acknowledge -- that does not mean that the intelligibility resides only in our (subjectively biased) conceptions.

          By way of analogy, consider how I am forming my own internal model of your worldview. As I develop my model, I can return to what you have written, re-examine that objective data, and revise my model if necessary to make it truer to that data. This is a check I can perform to reduce my biases and prevent my conception of you from becoming too far divorced from reality.

          As it turns out, I am able to develop an (intelligible) model of what your are trying to say.

          Now, if you are willing to work with this analogy, I propose to analyze it as follows. On the one hand, the intelligibility of your words does not reside wholly in my conceptions: I suspect you will agree that I have not simply spun the intelligibility of your words out of whole cloth. Nor, however, could the intelligibility reside wholly in your words, taken in isolation, divorced from the context of our conversation. It seems to me that intelligibility needs to be understood here as a characterization of the way that you and I are relating to each other.

          What I take away from that is that intelligibility is fundamentally a relational aspect of existence. If I try to rephrase one of your points in my own words, I would say say that it makes no sense to speak of the the intelligibility of nature in isolation, as if intelligibility resides entirely in nature, taken in objective isolation. The intelligibility of (objective) nature only makes sense in the context of some sort of (intersubjective) relationship between minds. Does this line up at all with the point you were making?

          • The point of the article on Just Thomism was the relation of concept to causation, to put it simply. AI- Abstraction to Intelligibility, the abstraction can be associated even within the context of Aristotle's cosmological proofs, to the First Cause, or if you wish not to be a pagan, the 'creative' - and therefore related to the causative power of God. The point of the article is that even our 'abstractions' (i.e. just take mathematics) are causative.....(they allow discovery, perhaps would be a limited interpretation???) and this is the distinction between Hume's psychological description in his first book, and the more scientific description (the causative 'power' even of 'concepts', I then ask?---) You see why I feel this somewhat elemental thought could be considered dangerous. I don't want to add any difficulty to any difficult debate!!

            Good thing I'm crazy, wouldn't you say? I trust you will 'see' the implications of this last comment, as after all, you are a Christian, are you not. But, thus, again, I trust this talk of mine, is not being 'causative', in any way?????

            No mind to matter here...Never mind. I have no mind. I will be a Just/Thomas and trust you will read the articles, as it would take too much editing on my part to put the argument within a context that is acceptable within these debates. But I do 'get' it!!!! I think. Like I think therefore I am, but I'm not quite sure!!! I'll have to do another experiment, and trust that it will not render my 'thought' too incoherent!!!! for the Overlord.....All the best with the hill climbing....Jim. Thanks for allowing my 'free-thinking- non-theist??? associations?????'.....(But....(what's the legal term here? meaning not responsible...) I am not the origin of that 'associative thought'!!!!!) Edit: Ah! Caveat emptor!!!!

          • https://thomism.wordpress.com/2016/02/14/the-overcoming-of-abstractconcrete-opposition/ (I'll be back with the other link - interesting that I was thinking of this problem and then I find these postings beginning last week....love it!!) So:::: https://thomism.wordpress.com/2016/02/14/divinity-compared-to-other-abstractions/ And there are others, prior to this but more a focus on logic per se.....I believe I told you some time ago that I really appreciate this 'James' guy. Thanks again Jim!!!! Hope I'm a good 'secretary'!!!!

          • So yes, Jim. I've been quite excited because I feel like I have made a 'break through' on a subject that has recently been of interest, with a doubt about the whole Kantian thing....So now I've got another 'problem'--- like I need to learn more about Plato - he says even that his 'forms' - call them universals, etc. are 'abstractions'....So is it that such contradictions are 'inevitable' within different word usage/definitions or is there are 'real?' difficulty with causation within Plato? I'm back to the 'problem' I'm having with Kant. And even 'my' problem in understanding for myself the relation of abstractions to 'the post-modern interest in making philosophy 'concrete'. Is there really a need to 'think' differently within these different 'relationships'.

            Fortunately, I also have Heidegger's critique of metaphysics - Kantian... Also, I have a book I once read 'abstractly' - hopefully I can get through it -more concretely, (if I have time in this life!!) written by a WOMAN philosopher at Princeton- Kant and the Capacity to Judge. That would be judgment in the third book The power of judgement - i.e. beauty order as against the logos etc. of the first critique, which also though relates to the third book on beauty,order,- even the empirical and good grief emotions - is this 'variety of religious experiences' (James) the justification for why the Holy Ghost is so rarely spoken about by the Good Overlords?????

            I will get there.....I've a few years left. But I still feel assured, (and found support on this when I re-read the topics discussed by John Locke- yes I follow this dialogue/debate) that he too believes there are different 'relations'- within the different contexts -within the 'hierarchy' from 'concrete' (I would prefer particular or even if I dare, individual) to the 'abstract'. So this whole 'thing' is much more 'complicated' than I could even have been capable of understanding even in the 'passive' way in which I was able to read, (and understand) these philosophies in the abstract. I merely ask, (in order to balance my limitations) whether or not these philosophers write their books, i.e. originally, within the context of abstraction, only.
            You may not agree, but I find this a 'sensible' question to ask....especially with what I have always appreciated as a true statement, within a philosophy which I found, like in the OP, to be as I expressed as my/a 'perception' that there are GAPS within the philosophy of Locke. Yes the philosophy of the 'gaps'.... and so it goes -- it is so difficult to put all the pieces of the puzzle together, (it's what is needed after all to overcome any 'mode' of 'madness' ---- ) and so perhaps I don't have to feel too bad about my 'incoherence'.....perhaps not even the philosophers have been able to 'put it all together'???? (Is this irony- would you say- intentional? )

            ....Thanks again for your patience, but I do feel like I am putting together some pieces, in finally or as usual, relating the abstract to my own 'life experience' - perhaps I have or am even learning to 'think for myself'....???? or hopefully, and 'better' - 'how' I think????? I do believe, for the sake of 'your?' argument that there definitely is 'intelligibility' - out there. Hope this is a 'help'?????!!!!!! (that is some encouragement to all of you that surely you can do 'better than me'!!!!!????) It's not all about debate, you guys.....Ask Mr. Locke!!!! He did 'know' a few things, after....don't you think? edit again. I mean like as a Father of the Modern Republic, he himself was never classified as being schizophrenic, eh? And those guys were pretty funny, as an after thought, modelling their 'behavior' after the Cato's and Brutus-es of an ancient 'Rome???' - don't you think????? So no-- who would want to go back and live under the 'authority' of a Nero and the rest of those 'real' men who assumed the 'divine rights' of even according to the pronouncement of themselves as gods, as the 'secular priests?' - of the republic of yesteryear.....Oh yes, is that world still so much with us.....???

          • And a final Post Script. I really am going to work towards being more coherent- understandable to you guys, and within discussion generally. Yes, I've got a degree- and a specialty - didn't qualify for the M.A.program so took the one year course instead - i.e. the specialty - no thesis requirement!!!- Besides by that time I was in my 50's!!!! but yes, I'm mainly self-read- self-educated....and definitely don't consider myself an academic.... so all is OK. My incentive has always been to better understand my-self--- thus my 'irony' interest, in 'Second' Philosophy!!!! (Yeah! I've evened out the numbers again. Time to sleep on it.....) And hey! maybe that makes me one of the 'true' philosophers?????!!!!!!! 'Know thyself?' ---yes - quite as difficult as knowing 'God' - I understand......

          • David Hardy

            I would tend to agree with these positions -- making sense of things has a clear relational element -- both through dialogue and a social context. There is a great deal to learn from observing and understanding these factors in understanding individuals and how they think and act. However, to avoid confusion, I will emphasize that I believe that intelligibility could be said to exist in nature only insofar as nature exists in a form that our senses and mind can process into intelligible terms. I do not believe that nature is intelligible prior to an intelligent creature observing it, as a separate property, but rather that the human brain (and the brains of other creatures, for that matter) evolved to form useful concepts and adapt behavior based on the sensory data of the universe around it. We are adapted to make the universe intelligible, but intelligibility is still a property of the brain's ability to make sense of the universe, not a property of the universe itself. Hopefully all that makes sense.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Fair enough.

            As you might imagine, I would want to say it a little differently, indulging in some extrapolation and reverse analogizing:

            In the same way that your words are only intelligible in the context of an intersubjective dialogue between you and me, I would propose that nature can only be said to be intelligible in the context of an intersubjective dialogue between us and ... something, the source of nature, whatever or whoever that is, that which "spoke nature into existence". Just as the dialogue between you and me, though ultimately intersubjective and participatory, is mediated through words that (once written) are objective, so the dialogue between us and God, though ultimately intersubjective and participatory, is mediated by an (objective) nature / creation that can be analyzed. Thus, I would want to say that when we do science, we are analyzing our conversation with God.

            This is all very loosey-goosey and analogical, so I don't expect it to convince you, but I put this forward as one reasonable way of thinking about the "intelligibility of nature".

          • Yes! as in the Just Thomism - (it is the writing of 'James' that I like- i could not read the Real Thomism!). But this modernization that says - Abstractions are causative - Aristotle's Causes- is really 'difficult'. I am amazed at becoming more aware of the complexities of language...Levels, contexts, etc. etc. A 'form of life?' in Wittgenstein's terms: It's particularly difficult for me, as/when I remembered - my understanding, that Plato did insist did he not, that his 'forms' were 'merely' abstractions - but so too are 'mathematical "forms"....And I can think 'abstractly' if I only am capable of offering up prayers by rote.... This causative implication assigned to concepts, is thus, you may understand, 'really' perplexing to me!!! And not just for the analogy? with 'word made flesh, etc. etc. I only hope that philosophically, we could be more scientific? about these issues....????? Have I put my mouth up my......yet????? Pardon. The problem 'evolves' from 'extending the thesis'!!!

          • David Hardy

            This is all very loosey-goosey and analogical, so I don't expect it to
            convince you, but I put this forward as one reasonable way of thinking
            about the "intelligibility of nature".

            For what it's worth, I don't expect to convince others, either. To me, the value comes from learning about new ways of understanding things. I appreciate your thoughts, and I do think you have offered a good explanation of your position. It has given me something to think about. I hope that my thoughts are of similar value to those I speak with.

        • Yes!!!!!

        • Good morning Jim. I truly hope to leave you guys alone to 'flush out'!! the argument. But waiting for me today was this: http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/2016/02/15/how-do-we-interpret-the-proverbs/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ToughQuestionsAnswered+%28Tough+Questions+Answered%29

          So please do keep a record of my insane comments, in the event of need for any future 'committal' !!! or perhaps just another reminder that there could be perhaps a 'wisdom' beyond 'reason', And/or Logic? I will not withdraw my 'comments'. Thankfully, such writing as found in Proverbs, demonstrates, at least for me, that 'narrative' of many different kinds, including the poetic and even the 'subjectivity' of madness, can have a reach far beyond the balances of logic and proportion. Indeed, within such a posting as this, with the subsequent remarks on SN vs EN, I 'truly'? do find indicators of a 'broader reality' that 'truly'? is quite 'discomforting' or should I say 'disturbing' - and perhaps these are the provocations that 'tempt me' to express the 'insanity' that for me, they entail ....even with respect to the 'ends' that I attempted to make the subject of satire in another earlier conversation. So, no. I don't 'intend' to withdraw or delete any of my comments - intentionally? Let us 'all' be 'carried away'!!! As 'they' say: And- 'May we live in interesting - ?? times? Or would another word be more 'appropriate'? All the best to you.

          With respect to the 'drug culture' illustrated in the following video - we all seem to be involved in 'such' here: in memoriam to the guy who passed away: No the dormouse did not say 'Feed your head' - but I couldn't resist 'this evil'...on where I got the phrase - logic and proportion- following in the tradition of a mathematician who definitely showed in chasing the rabbit that he knew his 'stuff': and how to creatively put disparate elements! together to at last produce: https://ca.video.search.yahoo.com/search/video;_ylt=A0LEV2gFJcNWrigAZ8XrFAx.;_ylu=X3oDMTByMjB0aG5zBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzYw--?p=Youtube+White+Rabbit&fr=ush-mailn#id=1&vid=3975eb1648066951ce34207b774c75a4&action=view

          P.S. I truly hope you 'discovered' something of interest or worth or whatever? in the Just Thomism articles; something that can, in some way, be found to be relevant to this 'ongoing' 'discussion'. Do these 'articles' support the 'back to Rome' thesis in this OP? Please don't misunderstand my 'intention'....my 'interpretation'....my 'interest'??? What is that old saying?: Is it: Elemental dear Watson? elemental? Nay, came the answer: you are speaking merely of elements: all is but earth air fire water but also, oh yes, lest we forget - the quintessential???? Adieu Again Amen
          But Edit: opened another e-mail. From the 'Stacy T', that 'lady' towards which so many at EN have directed 'criticism'. Would they be interested in her comments on the 'gravitational waves' perhaps? My bets are that perhaps they haven't yet 'read the news'! is she really that 'dumb'? then? Well at least she is far superior in (that kind? of) intelligence than I, but at least I can 'see that'.. And of course the relevance of her comments on the 'schizophrenia' or the 'schism' or (sectarianism???) with respect to the evangelical focus found within 'both sides of the argument'. Enjoy: I did. http://www.integratedcatholiclife.org/2016/02/trasancos-these-thy-atoms/#.VsMWsOZgjiQ

      • This is 'not' a comment. Just feel my favorite Hillclimber that you might be able to get even more from the articles on Just Thomism than I am getting (edit: with this use of my time!) and going back to the source of the Old Testament with the lectures of the Rabbi's. There are other links to the following post, like over the last couple of days - but for example. the IA.. Intelligence, and what? agency, first cause, creation, and then yes intelligence, the 'super'natural?, etc. etc. (Look at the distinctions between Hume's first analysis of causation and that in his later book (more scientific?) in an article that is linked to this post, for instance). I have just never thought of all of these concepts in this way before. Things may indeed be 'coming together' for me, hopefully......(edit) Like when they are all described as various forms!!! of ABSTRACTION, as in this article, and yes the order, the structure, even Kant's schemata, would 'need' therefore! to be 'a priori'?? to even logic. (Hope I have this 'right'. Have I had good instincts, intuition here? I 'wonder'!!) Anyway, this certainly is a more preferable way to spend my time, than indulging for my need with respect to these posts to adopt my mode! of 'mean sarcasm/irony'!!! to the 'controversies' and/or may I say 'censorship'. May you enjoy the 'abstract'!!!....(from abstraction to the 'concrete' - is my thinking hopefully becoming less 'passive' in this process- whoops this could lead to another difficult reference/implication?- guess I'll always be a bit ironic!!!) P.S. You guys know that I'm always re-writing, etc. so what can I say....more edits here than I acknowledged? true!!)


      • My apologies if I'm speaking out of bounds, but just! checked the dialogue on EN, and have to beg off the discussion of the use of 'knowledge' or even 'access' to 'divine truth', or 'right of kings', or even the authority of the priest with respect to some incredible power of thought which goes beyond my mere understanding, for this is not what "I am about" or "in agreement with". I have often spoken about what I feel is a need for an expansion within a 'circular' inclusion principle of some sort rather than a hierarchy, as is I believe the case, within the possible! use of primary causation known only to those privileged higher echelons within any 'society. For yes, according to my 'lesser knowledge' as a 'poor soul' devoid of 'intellect', and thus among those, who like me, are only able to 'think' within the context of a 'secondary causation'. I do not want, as in the case of what I hoped to illustrate by 'going crazy', to go back to the past (re-formation) within a context that is without any 'true synthesis'!! I trust I am getting Aristotle, or is it Thomas 'correct' within my interpretation of Just Thomism - but I want to understand more too of Heidegger's critique of Kant, etc. etc. and really, that we do not know 'how' we think!!..... There I go again with my irony. Hopefully, I now leave you in 'piece/peace' - with my disquis account at a comfortable mathematical 'numeral'!!! (I like things to be in order (that?????) Thanks Hillclimber. I trust I'm not rocking any rolls!!!

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          Loreen, your encouragement of me always makes me smile. Thank you. I can't claim that I always understand your responses (I don't know a damn thing about Kant -- you'll have to explain him to me some day), but I do always appreciate hearing from you and looking for your wild turns of phrase and creative associations. Carry on, wild, elemental, free-spirited Loreen!

          • Thanks Jim.....I do 'like to have fun'....I can't outgrow my 'childhood' propensities, so yes indeed, perhaps I really am better off dealing with my 'PortalsofParadox' than getting involved in the debates on this site. I do after all prefer narrative, and the 'freedom' that such allows, even within what I hope will be a philosophic satire.....Thanks Jim....(The insight for me, if i can put it simply is that what today is an emphasis on the value of abstractions, is really more of the same old, same old, 'intelligibles' - whether they are called angels or devils --- it all has to do with those incredible powers of the 'intellect'....I won't try to explain why I feel the need to be ironic with respect to such 'propositions'.....(which of course, unlike grammar, are themselves recognized to be but 'logical abstractions'....yes, there will remain a 'hierarchy'.....and hey - maybe my irony 'evolves' from my expectation that I, in my craziness, will of course, not be 'understood', nor will anyone ever 'stand under me'....Take care. Jim. Hope you like the articles which I did send because I believe they are relevant to this argument you are involved in....and therefore you will have the 'means'. to 'settle the dispute'????? (Irony????)

          • Gee. I just thought of word associations to-o 'elemental'.....too dangerous in thought for me to think about at the moment!!!!

    • Paul F

      Do you really think symbiosis is an argument against determinism? Do you really think modern psychology doesn't favor the behaviorists over any real moral truths? I don't think you understood this article at all.

      • David Hardy

        My comment on symbiosis was completely unrelated to determinism, and I did not discuss morality at all in my post. Perhaps I did not understand the article. However, your response does not seem to address anything within my actual post. Unless you respond to something I actually claim in my post, we have little to discuss here, and I will respectfully disengage from responding further.

      • Thought, word, and deed. May I interpret as thought: that within the internal consciousness, !! word, that which is spoken, say within community, and deed, or action, which (I don't want to argue) but which you might find some justification for -by at least finding some 'association' with 'behaviorism'!!...The difficulty, I find, with the psychological behaviorism, if that it is used as a means of identifying 'mental illness' - so called, which I believe even now, in this changing world, is recognized to be 'inadequate'!!!! That's all from me. No immoral behavior here, I hope!!!
        (Edit: But may I make one general objection - that is to the use of schizophrenia - within a derogatory connotation. At least with Deleuze and Schizophrenia and Capitalism, schizophrenia is seen as the potential 'cure' for these 'problems' relating to the 'end of philosophy/western civilization/ and even the enlightenment' - a subject I found worthy of great humor and ironic madness as commentary within a former debate.... Let the arguments continue. I'm glad I'm not 'intelligent' enough to participate.....!! It would really be very difficult to get a handle on these dialogues which would be up to the 'standard' of the philosophers I have attempted to understand in my life - even (for the sake of argument!!!) John Locke.....who I find made connections which I consider to have been very important, although admittedly as even I found, and thus agree with the OP, did not always seems coherent, or without some 'argument from the gaps'....!!!! of philosophy.....There you have it - within a different context - a philosophy of the gaps - !! (My 'contribution'!!!)

        Oh. And I won't make the case, but if there was no 'some?' determinism there could be no freedom: Hegel - freedom is the 'recognition' of necessity, even. Freedom also. vs. security is another way of looking at it. Would you prefer 'no order' or 'chaos' to 'determinism'. No you can't have freedom without both intelligibility and determinism, and may I say that if I could/would understand how you come to your POV, I would put in the energy needed to give you an argument on this, - except if you think about it, I'm sure you can work it out for yourself.....That is the way to 'truth' after all, and doesn't 'necessarily?' in the logical/epistemological sense of the word of course.... 'demand' argument....(edit. I did it again. Changed a few words, which if you don't read, will at least be for 'my benefit'.....)

      • Oh - and what kind of 'symbiosis'.....may I suggest that you're not being very 'specific' here. A little perhaps, more determinism, might be 'helpful'.....??? (My irony, of course - and yes this is an edit!). Edit- and yes you did put the word within a context- my lack of in-sight!!! But still could not some forms/modes of symbiosis have some determining precedents - even within the arbitrariness? often related to 'evolution'....Maybe we just haven't found the determinants, the rules, the laws - yet....????

        • It's OK. Don't want to get into any argument. I haven't the 'faculty' to be competitive. But to expand on this topic, such clarification nevertheless might be 'helpful'???? -with respect to my limited powers of reason, at least.... Making distinctions is after all, perhaps even or more or AS important within philosophy AS 'is' debate???!!!! definition, So I'll excuse or justify my comments as irony again...so you don't have to take me seriously ...really ....do you...I'm just looking for 'order'....judgment as prior to reason, say...So thanks for 'bearing with me'.....If I was younger I really would attempt to 'read' more of the posts --- you know- those guys!!
          Adieu... (I did delete much here....just a need to express my confusion about the world today....surely ye all- 'feel' it too!!!) But an EN post talked about a 'satirical' guy who the commenter said removed himself from 'argument' - different reason, perhaps, (I watched the video anti -Craig, for example, but at least I understand now I'm not alone....in how I feel about these 'arguments' - ) I don't believe they will 'get us anywhere'!! That's all. You can work it out, if you have the need!!! to figure out why I feel this is the case with respect to this 'crazy' world.... I'm just happy when I get the occasional 'insight' - 'revelation?' - 'epiphany' - hey! not more religious connotations???? Yes- making such connections is more important 'to me' than giving logical arguments-- why???? 'How' do we think????
          P.S. Ran across a Bowie song/lyric -for instance, and though yes- his 'Is there Life on Mars' was rightfully recognized as being extraordinary - I believe because it catches onto to some 'subconscious?' thought - now that - I find 'interesting'... It really upped my what ' respect' or something for him ..like those poets that the overlord noted I misnamed- (he actually used a straw man - maybe he didn't think I noticed- even though I said I hoped he at least got my point - and so it goes....And why they have become so important to language analysis, etc. Anyway, I just wanted to alert the Hill to some JustThomas posts----and now I've become compulsive ---again!!)
          Take care you all....if only I could speak logically about what I merely 'intuit' is 'really' happening 'here' ???.....like again...I'm out of here!!!! Thanks for your patience...Have not been able to get back to my narrative writing....There's a 'real' crazy' puzzle here????

  • I seem to have lost 'evidence' of an attempt to respond to a comment by William Davis, which comment itself seems to have disappeared...So maybe it's getting to the point where I'm hallucinating!! But I found another comment on 'divinely instituted power' which I agree with. No more problems.
    The difficulty is that I have been in discussion with respect to a lot of these issues in philosophy classes, etc. But for some reason, like your, or at least the Overlord's and Geena observation of 'my incoherence', I can't help but have some 'suspicion' that this is not my problem alone. Maybe the 'cause' is not 'conceptual'!!! :) but a 'product' of the 'design' or 'schemata' of com-box presentations. I do once again assert that I really want to 'leave' - that I don't 'really' need this....but the way in which this 'controversy' - presented before as the end of western civilization, enlightenment, etc. etc. in the news...has once again been presented in this OP. (correct term?) has been difficult for me to 'ignore'....
    My 'problem' then, is that I just can't believe, that this examination gets to the 'core' of the issue....perhaps specifically in the relation presented between Protestantism and Enlightenment values. I guess I 'feel' that these may 'work out' on an abstract level, but I would suggest could not be 'coherently' exemplified. Have I said enough. And now I've got another problem- that of 'abstractions' in all their many modes, and contexts. If only there could be an End to philosophy....!!! And for you dear Hillclimber, perhaps it really is 'elementary' : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M76nPnaJ7G4

  • Simon K

    Maybe I'm not part of the intended target audience for this article, but as a non-Aristotelian reading this, I'm not seeing a convincing argument for why I should replace my current views with Aristotelianism/Thomism. I used to be an atheist materialist; I came to theism, not through Aristotelianism-Thomism, but through idealism (my views are similar to, but not exactly the same as, Berkeley.) Us idealists may be a rare breed, but to me it makes sense in a way in which Aristotelianism-Thomism does not. I will be honest and say that central Aristotelian doctrines such as hylomorphism are simply unintelligible to me, despite having tried to understand them (and I will continue to try.)

  • Amrita Sharma

    But here’s the real rub: such a distinction between the two ancient philosophers matters only because
    we live in a more violently anti-realist Modern era, which put to death
    (in popular thought) the Natural Law of Aristotle and of the Church’s
    Scholastic philosophy.