Sunday, July 17, 2016

Reading #5: Aquinas and the 5 Ways

The 5 Ways:

Study guide
1.  What objections to God's existence does Aquinas consider?  If God exists why would it be important to be able to prove this?
2.  What is the conclusion of each of the 5 ways?
3. What conclusions do each actually support?  
4. Can any of the 5 ways, by itself, support theism?
5.  Can the 5 ways be used to build on each other and each support a part of theism so that together they can validly conclude with theism?
6.  What does Aquinas assume about changeable being and the eternal?
7.  In what way does Aquinas prove that there is changeable being or does he take that to be self-evident?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Reading #4: Aristotle on Eternal Being

From Aristotle's Metaphysics book 2

Study questions:
1.  Can you construct an argument from this passage to show that something must be eternal?  
2.  Can you construct from an argument from this passage that changing beings are not eternal?
3.  What is Aristotle's argument that there cannot be an infinite series?
4.  Why does Aristotle say that rejecting definitions destroys science and knowledge?
5. How does Aristolte connect up the good with knowing that there cannot be an infinite series?

"But evidently there is a first principle, and the causes of things are neither an infinite series nor infinitely various in kind. For neither can one thing proceed from another, as from matter, ad infinitum (e.g. flesh from earth, earth from air, air from fire, and so on without stopping), nor can the sources of movement form an endless series (man for instance being acted on by air, air by the sun, the sun by Strife, and so on without limit). Similarly the final causes cannot go on ad infinitum,-walking being for the sake of health, this for the sake of happiness, happiness for the sake of something else, and so one thing always for the sake of another. And the case of the essence is similar. For in the case of intermediates, which have a last term and a term prior to them, the prior must be the cause of the later terms. For if we had to say which of the three is the cause, we should say the first; surely not the last, for the final term is the cause of none; nor even the intermediate, for it is the cause only of one. (It makes no difference whether there is one intermediate or more, nor whether they are infinite or finite in number.) But of series which are infinite in this way, and of the infinite in general, all the parts down to that now present are alike intermediates; so that if there is no first there is no cause at all. 

"Nor can there be an infinite process downwards, with a beginning in the upward direction, so that water should proceed from fire, earth from water, and so always some other kind should be produced. For one thing comes from another in two ways-not in the sense in which 'from' means 'after' (as we say 'from the Isthmian games come the Olympian'), but either (i) as the man comes from the boy, by the boy's changing, or (ii) as air comes from water. By 'as the man comes from the boy' we mean 'as that which has come to be from that which is coming to be' or 'as that which is finished from that which is being achieved' (for as becoming is between being and not being, so that which is becoming is always between that which is and that which is not; for the learner is a man of science in the making, and this is what is meant when we say that from a learner a man of science is being made); on the other hand, coming from another thing as water comes from air implies the destruction of the other thing. This is why changes of the former kind are not reversible, and the boy does not come from the man (for it is not that which comes to be something that comes to be as a result of coming to be, but that which exists after the coming to be; for it is thus that the day, too, comes from the morning-in the sense that it comes after the morning; which is the reason why the morning cannot come from the day); but changes of the other kind are reversible. But in both cases it is impossible that the number of terms should be infinite. For terms of the former kind, being intermediates, must have an end, and terms of the latter kind change back into one another, for the destruction of either is the generation of the other. 

"At the same time it is impossible that the first cause, being eternal, should be destroyed; for since the process of becoming is not infinite in the upward direction, that which is the first thing by whose destruction something came to be must be non-eternal. 

"Further, the final cause is an end, and that sort of end which is not for the sake of something else, but for whose sake everything else is; so that if there is to be a last term of this sort, the process will not be infinite; but if there is no such term, there will be no final cause, but those who maintain the infinite series eliminate the Good without knowing it (yet no one would try to do anything if he were not going to come to a limit); nor would there be reason in the world; the reasonable man, at least, always acts for a purpose, and this is a limit; for the end is a limit. 

"But the essence, also, cannot be reduced to another definition which is fuller in expression. For the original definition is always more of a definition, and not the later one; and in a series in which the first term has not the required character, the next has not it either. Further, those who speak thus destroy science; for it is not possible to have this till one comes to the unanalysable terms. And knowledge becomes impossible; for how can one apprehend things that are infinite in this way? For this is not like the case of the line, to whose divisibility there is no stop, but which we cannot think if we do not make a stop (for which reason one who is tracing the infinitely divisible line cannot be counting the possibilities of section), but the whole line also must be apprehended by something in us that does not move from part to part.-Again, nothing infinite can exist; and if it could, at least the notion of infinity is not infinite. 

"But if the kinds of causes had been infinite in number, then also knowledge would have been impossible; for we think we know, only when we have ascertained the causes, that but that which is infinite by addition cannot be gone through in a finite time."

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Readings #2: Nagarjuna and LNC

Eastern examples of rejecting the law of non-contradiction both for thought and being. The conclusion is that nothing can be affirmed or denied. Silence is the best, because the only, response to questions. 
Graham Priest quotes Nagarjuna and explains ineffability and the silence of the Buddha: 
"Thus we find the great second-century Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna saying:
'The nature of things is to have no nature; it is their non-nature that is their nature. For they have only one nature: no-nature'." 

"Philosophers in the Mahayana traditions hold some things to be ineffable; but they also explain why they are ineffable, in much the way that I did. Now, you can’t explain why something is ineffable without talking about it. That’s a plain contradiction: talking of the ineffable."

We find a further description here:

"Buddhism contains a philosophy called catuskoti that rejects the law of non-contradiction. In catuskoti, if a Buddhist is asked if the world has a beginning or not, he replies, "No, the world does not have a beginning, it does not fail to have a beginning, it does not have and not have a beginning, nor does it neither have nor not have a beginning."

Also see

Study questions:
1.  What does it mean to say that something does not have a nature?
2.  Does it follow that we cannot speak about what does not have a nature?
3.  How does the catuskoti philosophy apply its rejection of non-contradiction to claims about what has existed from eternity?
4.  Can a belief be true and ineffable?

Readings #3: Nietzsche on LNC

In the following quotes Nietzsche argues against the law of non-contradiction and its application to reality.  Instead he relies on intuition which he believes shows us that reality contains contradictions like being and becoming.  Study questions: does Nietzsche actually show contradictions within reality?  Are being and becoming contradictions as he states them?  Does he rely on the law of non-contradiction to make his case for intuition?  Did Aristotle (in Reading #1) anticipate this?

"Heraclitus' regal possession is his extraordinary power to think intuitively.  Toward the other type of thinking, the type that is accomplished in concepts and logical combinations, in other words towards reason, he shows himself cool, insensitive, in fact hostile, and seems to feel pleasure whenever he can contradict it with an intuitively arrived at truth.  He does this in dicta like "everything forever has its opposite along with it," and in such unabashed fashion that Aristotle accused him of the highest crime before the tribunal of reason: to have sinned against the law of contradiction"


"The Law of Contradiction provided the schema: the true world, to which one seeks the way, cannot contradict itself, cannot change, cannot become, has no beginning and no end.  This is the greatest error that has ever been committed, the essential fatality of error on earth: one believed one possessed a criterion of reality in the forms of reason - while in fact one possessed them in order to become master of reality, in order to misunderstand reality in a shrewd manner.  And behold: now the world became false, and precisely on account of the properties that constitute its reality: change, becoming, multiplicity, opposition, contradiction, war." quoted from: Aristotle's Defense of the Principle of Non-Contradiction in Metaphysics IV.