Saturday, November 13, 2021

Willa Cather, O Pioneers!


Opening Passage:

One January day, thirty years ago, the little town of Hanover, anchored on a windy Nebraska tableland, was trying not to be blown away. A mist of fine snowflakes was curling and eddying about the cluster of low drab buildings huddled on the gray prairie, under a gray sky. The dwelling-houses were set about haphazard on the tough prairie sod; some of them looked as if they had been moved in overnight, and others as if they were straying off by themselves, headed straight for the open plain. None of them had any appearance of permanence, and the howling wind blew under them as well as over them. The main street was a deeply rutted road, now frozen hard, which ran from the squat red railway station and the grain "elevator" at the north end of the town to the lumber yard and the horse pond at the south end....

Summary: The Bergsons are a Swedish immigrant family in Nebraska; we open with Alexandra Bergson and her little brother Emil. Emil has lost his kitten up a pole, and another boy, Carl Linstrum, helps to retrieve it at Alexandra's request; Emil then plays with the kitten with another girl, Marie Tovesky.

It is a simple beginning, just a few children in the farming communities of Nebraska. But the thing about children is that they grow up, and in ways you could never expect. Alexandra has a head for farming, a natural talent, and she will become very successful in the area while other farming families around her fail. Carl Linstrum, Alexandra's closest friend in youth, is from one such family; he himself will eventually go off to become an engraver, and then later will go with a friend to Alaska to find gold. The middle Bergson children, Lou and Oscar, hardworking, competent, and perpetually malcontented, will do well on Alexandra's coattails, but as the narrator notes, they would have been much happier in a city with their roles all set out for them than they can be on the farming frontier, where all roles have to be improvised by imagination and dogged persistence. Little Emil will grow up, too, and go off to college. It will be clear enough that he and Marie are a little sweet on each other at one point, but nothing will come of it then; Emil will go to Mexico to see the world and Marie will marry a local man, Frank Shabhata, handsome and unruly. 

Marie's marriage will not be exactly a bad one, but as Marie notes at one point to Alexandra, she is the wrong woman for Frank; she loved him genuinely once, but it took being married to him to understand the kind of woman he needed, and that woman was not her. For his part, Frank is gnawed by a vague sense of jealousy, although it's not jealousy that can be directed anything, as Marie is a good Catholic and is determined to make the marriage work in the best way she can despite no longer loving him. But then Emil returns, in full blossom of manhood, and -- well, an old flame colliding with the gasoline of a jealous man is an old story.

Of all the people she had ever known, Carl was really the only friend that Alexandra had; they had toyed with the idea of marriage once, but Carl, who had nothing, had instead gone off to try to make a fortune. He returns eventually and the two will marry and visit Carl's claim in Alaska; but it is clear that Alexandra will return to Nebraska, where she very surely belongs.

A wedding, or at least the promise of one, is traditionally the ending of a happy story, but this work is a sad tale, full of people with profound and distinctive potential that the world somehow never quite accommodates. We live, grow old, and die against a background that goes on quite well without us, and that is the way of things. But for all that our paths never go quite straight, we can and do love, and we can be and are loved, on the crooked paths we walk.

There are books that show most of their power on first reading, and there are books that show most of their power on re-reading, and this, I think, is one of the latter. The tale of those children and that kitten reads much more deeply when you know where they all will end up. 

Favorite Passage:

"You belong to the land," Carl murmured, "as you have always said. Now more than ever." 

 "Yes, now more than ever. You remember what you once said about the graveyard, and the old story writing itself over? Only it is we who write it, with the best we have." 

 They paused on the last ridge of the pasture, overlooking the house and the windmill and the stables that marked the site of John Bergson's homestead. On every side the brown waves of the earth rolled away to meet the sky. 

 "Lou and Oscar can't see those things," said Alexandra suddenly. "Suppose I do will my land to their children, what difference will that make? The land belongs to the future, Carl; that's the way it seems to me. How many of the names on the county clerk's plat will be there in fifty years? I might as well try to will the sunset over there to my brothers' children. We come and go, but the land is always here. And the people who love it and understand it are the people who own it—for a little while."

Recommendation: Highly Recommended. While not a long story, it weaves together slowly, so it is important to have the patience to let all the pieces fall into place.

Abyss & Sea 13


Summer passed and the Midsummer Festival came and went without much that was out of the ordinary. A number of important things happened around the time of Soromir's annual Pearl Festival at the end of summer, however.

First, before the festival, an official decree went out from the Porphyry Mountain officially setting the date for the great meeting of the Great Council of the Ten Kings and Two around the vernal equinox of the next year. The Ten and Two, as it is often called, is one of the most important occasions in all of the Great Realm, when the Twelve Kingdoms meet together. Only a Great Council can issue Decrees of the Twelve Crowns, the highest law beneath the Orikhalh Tablets. The next several months would necessarily see a flurry of correspondence among the royal households of the kingdoms as agreements were formed as to what proposals to sponsor; the finalized proposals would then be sent to the Porphyry Mountain to be placed on the Great Council agenda, and, when that was done, the High King would send out copies of all proposals to all the royal houses. Everyone had known that the Great Council would occur the next year, but doing it at the vernal equinox rather than midsummer set it unusually early, requiring everyone to speed up what had been expected to be a more leisurely process.

"The sands in the hourglass start to run," said Disan to Baia.

"Yes," said Baia; "the only reason for holding the Ten and Two so early, at least when there is no emergency, is if the High King intends to propose a major cooperative project over the summer."

The second important event happened during the Pearl Festival itself. Disan and Baia were in Soromir, after having visited the pearl oyster beds with the traditional gifts for the pearl divers. There were banners everywhere and booths selling foods and trinkets of every kind. There was dancing and music and laughter; there were children running in and out of the crowds; there were jugglers and stage magicians and rhapsodists declaiming poems and stories. And then the earthquake came. 

It began quickly and it hit hard, shaking everything immediately. Disan, who had been buying sweetmeats from a vendor, and was knocked to the ground by it. Booths began collapsing immediately and people started screaming and running. The wall of a nearby building began to crack. Disan pulled himself to his knees, putting his hands on the ground and closing his eyes, feeling for the semblance of life. Then he shouted (for the noise was by this point very great), "Earth, do you uphold the pacts and the covenants?"

The answer, slow and deep, came: "I uphold them, my king."

"Then be still for me!"

The shaking did not stop immediately, for earth is an element that changes slowly, but it began immediately to subside. He remained kneeling, with his hands on the ground, for the pacts and covenants that bound the land itself were the oldest and most distinctive of all, and so rarely invoked that Disan himself did not know how far they extended or how clearly his authority would be recognized under them. When it had subsided to a trembling and he was reasonably sure that he would not have to invoke the pacts and the covenants again, he rose and went to find Baia. Baia had been crouching to pet a child's tame fox when the shaking began, so had no more serious an injury than a bruised elbow. Disan was worse off, with his lower right arm heavily scraped up from his fall, but both of them were very fortunate. As they helped to organize the immediate recovery, and tried to keep people calm in the face of the waves of small aftershocks that followed, it became clear that the damage to Soromir was extensive, and dozens of people had died as walls collapsed or roofs caved in, and injuries both major and minor were common. Soromir was never built for withstanding earthquakes; even the oldest of old timers could not remember even a legendary story in which it had ever had one. Even so, things might have been much worse; because it had been during the Pearl Festival, most people were outside and in the open, so that most injuries were from falls and not from crushing, as might well have been the case on another day.

Soromir was not alone in experiencing the earthquake. By the end of the day it had become clear that everywhere on the Island had experienced it. Over the next several days, it became clear that the entire kingdom had done so. The shipyards all along the coasts were heavily damaged, and perhaps a half dozen of the many ships being built in them, each one worth a small fortune, would have to be scrapped entirely and begun again. And as the weeks went by, it became clear that nowhere in the Great Realm had been free of the shaking. Andra, which lies between the Khalad Mountains and the Golden Shore, was badly hit. Earthquakes in Andra are not unknown, but they are usually mild; no one could remember one so severe. A fissure had opened up on the mountainous end and the fires of the earth had poured out, devastating farmlands, and most of Myrander, the chief city, was badly damaged. The wife of King Zalan, Itta, died when the roof of a wing of the palace collapsed. This should not have happend at all, for the palace was a true neyat, and therefore should have maintained its integrity under any circumstances. Most Soreans on hearing the story attributed it to Andran corner-cutting, muttering the universal saying about making gold wire by giving two Andrans one coin, but Disan was not so sure, and he had the chanters check the chantments running throughout the walls and of Neyat Sor. The Khaljans, who lived in mountain villages and in caverns in the Khalad Mountains themselves, were said to have suffered many deaths due to cave-ins and landslides. But there was no place in the entire realm that was unaffected.

The third important thing that happened was perhaps less striking, and might perhaps not be considered important at all in comparison with the first two, but it affected Baia deeply. A few weeks after the earthquake, Disan was away assessing some of the shipyards, and Baia was visiting in and around Soromir to assess how rebuilding was going and whether there were poor folk who needed assistance in recovering. In doing this, she stopped at a small farmhouse outside the city. The men were away in the fields and the women of several small farms had come together to keep each other company in their various chores and crafts. It was apparently something they often did in the afternoons, helping with the chores and crafts at one of the farms and a few days later doing the same at another, something that they could do because all the farms were small and in close proximity. They were all at least a decade older than Baia, and most were considerably older than that. The old farmwife whose farm it was, was doing her butter-churning as Baia came in; others were sweeping or dusting; others were tying various vegetables in strands of twine so that they could hang and dry; one woman, older than most, was preparing melons for pickling . Baia volunteered herself and Asaia to help, but the women were reluctant to assign them chores; when she insisted, they put Baia and Asaia in charge of keeping an eye on the infant, a boy who was just learning the mysteries of propulsion by crawling and thus required continual supervision.

Baia herself was not much of a conversationalist, but Asaia was of a chatty temperament, and between her talking and Baia's occasional interjections, they learned much of the farms in the area and how they had been affected by the earthquake.

"We were fortunate," said the farmwife. "This house was built sturdy, so we only required a few minor repairs. I have cousins with a farm on the other side of the island who have to rebuild almost everything."

"One of the women from around here, Enna," put in another of the women, "is not here because her son died; he was cutting wood when the earthquake began and hit his head on a stone."

"Very sad," another said. "He was a promising boy."

"It is a terrible thing to lose a child," another said, shaking her head.

"I have no doubt of that," said Baia, holding the little boy up and looking at his big eyes as he smiled at the sudden surge of height and sense of flight. "Whose boy is this?"

"I suppose he would be mine, after a fashion, Your Highness," said the farmwife. "Although all my own boys are grown. I am too old, perhaps, to be raising a child, but when I saw him crying there, my heart almost broke, and I could not bear to think of him being eaten by the ants."

"I do not understand," said Baia as she put the little boy back on her knee.

"She means that the boy was abandoned," said Asaia.

Baia was astounded. "Is this so?"

"It is so, Your Highness," said the farmwife. "He was abandoned on the hillside, with no father and no mother, and I could not leave him be."

The queen looked down at the boy, who was playing with her fingers. "How could anyone do such a thing?"

"It is these young people today," said the woman preparing the pickling. "They are not brought up as they should be."

"Every generation says that," another woman said. "Our mothers said it of us, and their mothers said it of them, and probably their grandmothers said it of their mothers."

"And they were no doubt all correct," the woman at the pickling stubbornly said.

It was apparently an old argument between them, because everyone else made a sudden effort to change the subject, and the conversation went on to more pleasant things. Eventually, Baia handed the little boy off to a woman who had finished up the sweeping and took her leave. Before she did so, she gave a bag of gold to the farmwife and said to her, "You have done a good thing." Then she took off a small ring with a pearl and said, "Keep this, and if you need any additional money for the raising of the boy, send it to Neyat Sor with your request."

As Baia and Asaia went on their way, Baia asked Asaia if she had ever heard of infants being left abandoned.

"While it is not common, in Tavra it does happen," Asaia said. "Does it not happen in Sorea?"

Baia shook her head, replying, "I have not heard of such a thing here. There are peoples on the western continent that do this, but exposure of infants is forbidden by the Orikhalh Tablets. How can a people call itself civilized if they do it?"

"Well," said Asaia diplomatically, "it is sad when it happens, and the Orikhalh Tablets are important, but they are, after all, just rules, and sometimes following rules does not get the best results. No doubt it only happens when they are in a terrible situation."

If Baia had an answer to this, or even heard it, she gave no indication, but was instead lost in thought. Having never had a child despite wanting one, the whole thing bothered her deeply, and over the next several days she would sometimes lapse into brooding for no obvious reason.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Dashed Off XXIV

readiness to appear, either (A) 'created purposely' to appear or (B) continuing to exist when not appearing; note that (A) just moves it back to a cause that is (B)

explanations of the form [disposing cause + particularizing/activating cause]

cooperative vs compulsive measures of government

Brilliance is only as good as its paideia allows.

People seem to find it easier to process and apply normative descriptions than prescriptions.

modalities of personhood: creature, image of God, member of household, citizen/subject

hope & the sense of adventure

All of philosophy, East and West, is filled with altars to the Unknown God.

externality: "the capacity of being taken notice of by more than the perception of one mind" (Shepherd EPEW 35)

evidence for reliability vs evidence for trustworthiness

logical systems as abstract machines

Those who genuinely dare to be wise do not forget the teachings of their fathers and mothers.

Human words are not static; by their nature they flow out.

Love transfigures knowledge to wisdom.

Body transfigured becomes manifestation.

Life turns the physical into sign.
semiosis as living, abstractly considered

Fight scenes in movies are made interesting by story, by choreography, and by the visual context shaping it.

The earliest references suggesting a collection of Paul's letters (2 Pt and 1 Clem) are both from Rome.

In his greetings, Paul substitutes his apostleship for what would usually be identification by household or city, and changes charein (greetings) to charis (grace).

Inspiration works in the manner of a final cause or lure.

Mt 9:36 -- What moves Christ's pity most is not the illness but the lostness.

"For that which we call ourselves, and that which forms any individual mind, is a continued capacity in nature, which yields a liability to sensation in general." (Shepherd EPEU 42)
-- As she notes, this gives us as well the sensations being such as would occur to (possible) other minds like our own.

sensation of passing through different points of space --> extension of space / unresisting medium

'Inordinate' is relative to appropriate end; appropriateness is relative to the nature of the thing.

Psalm 1 on the temptations of the World

The primary difficulty with the problem of the external world is superabundance of information, not paucity. Skepticism gets its results by introducing hypotheses to flatten the evidence arbitrarily; this flattening, like projection from globe to plane, introduces distortions as well. Nonetheless, as map projections, the skeptical flattenings can have use in bringing out features of the globe.

Every positive right is constituted by the remedies that makes it possible.

We do not merely sense; we use our senses.

analogical inference
(1) from bare similarity
(2) from complex of similarities
(3) from system of similarities

light activating a body to activate by light the eye

We know that reality exceeds what we can articulate because we never run out of things to articulate.

gifts as speech acts

developmental delay, medial delay, and resistential delay in causation

Shepherd's analysis of memory: masses of sensible qualities + idea of lapse of time + idea of removed causes
-- thus memory is both a temporal and a causal experience
-- the lapse of time includes the self-ness of memory -- it is the perception of our own continuous existence as able to link the original experience and the remembering

"Self is always considered as a continuity...." (Shepherd, EPEU 139n)

Shepherd's definition of miraculous evidence: "a similarity in the course of nature, with respect to the necessity and action of efficient cause, but a variety from its apparent regularity, in order to be used as a means toward a specific end." (EPEU 145)

power, wisdom, goodness --> fear/respect, trust, love

modalities as modalities of powers

miscibility and immiscibility are 'properties' applying to pairs of chemical substaces

The Lord is
(1) cause of origin of the world
-- -- like clay is substance of jar
-- -- like gold is substance of gold ornaments
(2) cause of the substance of the world
-- -- like magician is source of illusion
(3) cause of reabsorption of the world
-- -- like creatures reabsorbed into earth

conscientious humanity, conscientious citizenship, conscientious professionalism

God considered as alethic Diamond : principle of noncontradiction :: God considered as deontic Diamond : first principle of practical reason :: God considered as actual : principle of causality :: God considered as alethic Box : principle of primacy

US Constitution, Article III, Section 2, Clause 1 clearly recognizes the law/equity distinction

"The human being is destined by his reason to live in a society with human beings and in it to cultivate himself, to civilize himself, and to moralize himself." Kant

q is a natural consequence of p
suppose q is found true
q implies ~(~q)
therefore q rules out rivals of p that imply ~q
therefore p is more likely to be true than before

A very large part of using one's own reason is determining what authorities to trust.

"By denying abstractions, Berkeley denied analysis -- by denying analysis, he truly kept up the associations of the vulgar...." Shepherd (EPEU 304)

In assessing the veracity of men and women, we are not directly assessing the truth and falsehood of what they say, but rather where they stand with respect to temptations related to truth and falsehood. (Do they have incentive to lie, do they have a history showing a susceptibility to temptation?)

No one can take a survey of human argument and reasonably conclude that polemic is not a pervasive mode of human argument on serious matters; indeed, argument wholly devoid of polemic only exists under artificial conditions.

People often retreat to polemic when they feel themselves pressured to be hypocritical, or to argue under assumptions they think inappropriate.

Scripture as prophetic and apostolic presence

Everything holy is dangerous.

three kinds of aesthetic response: formal admiration (to artful presentation), catharsis (in response to tragic events), material admiration (sense of how well artful presentation presents tragic events)

storytelling as classification-facilitating

The Church is both catholic and apostolic, and therefore looks both forward and backward.

Salvation by its nature is something that must be prayed for.

yes/no question as a 'subpossible' modality

to endure evil, to wait prayerfully for Christ, to rejoice in God

What is it in itself?
What is it in respect to another?
from predication of what is wholly in itself to predication of what is wholly to another:
substance | quantity | quality | relation
extrinsic but more in itself: action, place, position
extrinsic but more to another: passion, when, vestment

People treat elections as magic, definite and precise and immediately clear, but in reality every election is more like a cooking or brewing process.

creative ideas as 'potentially valuable improbable constructions' (Fedyk & Xu)

Lauren N. Ross, "Causes with material continuity" (2020)
-- 'material continuity' here means 'reliable movement of material from cause to effect'
-- meets a minimal interventionist criterion, so can be regarded as genuine causes
-- contrasts with contact-interaction causation (dominoes falling series) and also absence/prevention causation
-- useful to consider because they help us differentiate distinct causal systems
-- at least two main categories: (1) manufacturing (material transformed); (2) movement (material flows through)
-- one way to study is to use tracing & tagging techniques (traces are relatively inert in, or at least only minimally interactive with, the relevant system, but are distinctively recognizable so they can be identified and followed -- e.g., dyes or radioactive isotopes or radio tags). Use of these requires prior understanding of the system as causal, so a proper tracer can be identified; the technique is used to get more precise and particular information.

The word is implicit in the person, the person is explicated through the word.

Hirschman argues that there are three categories of conservative argument: futility, perversity, and jeopardy. This is true and valuable but less substantive than it looks because these are also the three categories of progressive argument, as well. When you argue for or against a change, you do so by arguing one can't really stay or go (futility) or that staying or going is actually self-defeating (perversity) or that staying or going harms something valued (jeopardy).

Mary in Luke-Acts as symbol of faith

"Prayer is higher than theology." Maximus the Confessor
"All beings are believed to exist in three modes: in essence, in difference, and in life."
"I think the human being sins according to four ways: by impulse, by deception, by ignorance, and by inclination."

It is good to believe together, and pleasant to hope together, when by charity we dwell together.

The choices of angels are related to each other as circles within circles, as wheels within wheels.

The increase of domestic devotion lays the foundation of evangelism.

debt as the engine of urbanization

[four aspects of good life, cf. Hume]

Being an expert on something is a functional role, not an oracular vocation.

"If there be no moral Truth, there is no Truth." (Whewell)

Anything with form of any kind is a potential source of knowledge.

Natural religion is familial religion.

the Church as a body, as a community, as a language, as a world

Every jural command posits a moral ground of authority.

One strength of representative government is that diffusion of responsibility provides a partial safeguard against subversion.

Half of willpower is prudence and planning.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

All Are Begotten Alike

  And since my brother broke out in such expressions as these, that he was grieved, that he was vexed, that he was indignant, that he regretted that illiterate, poor, unskilled people should dispute about heavenly things; let him know that all men are begotten alike, with a capacity and ability of reasoning and feeling, without preference of age, sex, or dignity. Nor do they obtain wisdom by fortune, but have it implanted by nature; moreover, the very philosophers themselves, or any others who have gone forth unto celebrity as discoverers of arts, before they attained an illustrious name by their mental skill, were esteemed plebeian, untaught, half-naked. Thus it is, that rich men, attached to their means, have been accustomed to gaze more upon their gold than upon heaven, while our sort of people, though poor, have both discovered wisdom, and have delivered their teaching to others; whence it appears that intelligence is not given to wealth, nor is gotten by study, but is begotten with the very formation of the mind. Therefore it is nothing to be angry or to be grieved about, though any one should inquire, should think, should utter his thoughts about divine things; since what is wanted is not the authority of the arguer, but the truth of the argument itself: and even the more unskilled the discourse, the more evident the reasoning, since it is not colored by the pomp of eloquence and grace; but as it is, it is sustained by the rule of right.

Minucius Felix, Octavius, chapter 16. I've talked about this minor classic of Christian philosophy here. I was reminded of it because the work is one of the earliest attestations of the game of skipping stones or shells on the water.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Abyss & Sea 12


 The Sorean springtime was always lovely but often wet. Rain at times complicated, but did not fundamentally change, the building of ships; compensation for the regularities of the seasons is part of every craft. There is an endless flurry of things to do. Patterns are laid out on the boards for the sawyers to cut while the cross timbers are planted for holding the ship as it is built. The keel is put in place, several good pieces of wood scarfed together to make one keel, cut so as to be joined together. This can be done in several ways, but in Sorea the keels for ships for naval use were made by lock-scarf, in which the pieces are cut so as to lock together except for an opening which is then 'keyed' with a wooden wedge to seal the join tightly. The pieces were further integrated by trunnels, wooden rods of seasoned locust wood nailing the parts together by being driven with hammers through holes precisely made by hand auger. The hull would then be brought together, from stem to stern, by means of elaborate frames. In the meantime, other craftsmen would be busy working on the supplementary parts of the ship, the silk sails and the canvas sails, the ropes, and the like. Such things are common, with variations, everywhere, but Sorea was not an ordinary sea power. The quality of materials was always high, the skill always pure, and everything that was made was interwoven with chantments that would themselves interlock to make it not merely an excellent ship but a true master of all waves, unsinkable, unburnable, and true. But even this was not the greatest element. The keystone of it all was that the ships were given the semblance of life and brought under the pacts and the covenants, so that every ship became an active cooperator, as it were, with the sailors who manned her. They were truly the greatest of all ships that have ever been built by human hands, the greatest of all ships that ever will be, and their like will never be seen again.

Disan and Baia, of course, were not involved directly with the building, but Disan often needed to do inspections of various aspects in order to assess what materials were needed; Baia sometimes did the same; and there was endless paperwork and negotiation to bring all things together at the right time in the right place, as there ever is in great works. 

It was not all work, and as things, became more routine, the supply lines more established, the new yards built, Baia and Disan were able at times to devote themselves to more leisurely pursuits. Dye season came. Sorean snails could be milked for dye all year round, and even in the winter there were some kept carefully sheltered from the cold, but late spring and early summer is the very best season for it. As a trade it was long, tedious work, but it was common during dye season for the nobleborn and the wealthy hold small parties, nominally to gather the dye. As a garment of Sorean black would require dye from hundreds of thousands of snails, any dye harvested by a group of dilettantes doing it as a sort of party game was miniscule. But Sorean black was the pride of the kingdom, a byword of excellence; even the rich and the noble felt they had to make a token contribution to it. In reality, the parties always consisted mostly of drinking and eating beneath silken canopies and occasionally venturing out to hunt seashells.

Disan and Baia particularly loved this activity of seashell-hunting. They would walk along the shore, talking, looking out for interesting shells and stones. Those that met their approval were kept, while those that did not but had been rubbed smooth by the waters, they skipped out to sea. They were both quite good at it, skimming it off the top of waves, giving it a series of hops, making it go as far as they could. Seashell-hunting before they had married had been an excuse to talk in relative privacy; after, it was a reprieve from royal duties, although an all-too-rare one.

As they walked, Disan asked Baia how she liked her new lady in waiting.

"Asaia is a delightful girl," said Baia, picking up a shell and then discarding at as inadequate. "She knows what she is doing. And she likes to talk, so I learn a great many things about Tavra."

"Such as?"

"You have heard the rumors, I know, that King Canthan is mad, and the actual work of governing is largely done by his daughter."

"Yes, that seems widely believed."

"It is apparently true; Canthan spends his days with his menagerie, and sometimes his nights, and never makes a decree or gives an order except to be left alone. He talks to himself and the animals. He does not recognize people and forgets where he is. But more than that, he has delusions at times that he is a camel or a rhinoceros or a monkey. He is also terrified of being poisoned, and only eats food he makes himself. The royal family tries to keep it quiet, but too many people have come across him in odd situations, thus the rumors."

"Including Asaia?"

"Yes," said Baia. "She accidentally let out that she happened to meet him one night when he was completely convinced that he was a talking rabbit. They had a long conversation about it before his handlers discovered him and hurried him off. But there is more. Asaia is very circumspect about it, but I am certain from things she has said that it is the widespread view that the madness is not natural but induced."

Disan, who had been examining a shell, looked at her with surprise. "Induced how?"

"I have no way of knowing, of course. But the rumors are that she is a witch and makes poisons. It is certainly possible to derange someone's mind with poisons." She skipped a stone. "I have not met Elea, but you have. What do you think of her?"

"Hmm," said Disan. "She is certainly a cunning woman. The claim that she is a poisoner seems a scurrilous one, but it is also true that I would not be surprised if, when she saw an opportunity for what she wanted, she would find ways to help it along. Antaran seems to like her, but much as I like Antaran, I am not sure I would trust his judgment in women."

They walked a brief stretch in silence, then Disan said, "He and I spent a lot of time together in childhood."

"Antaran, you mean?"

"Yes. Several times a year. My father and Emberan were good friends, and we spent summers together." He sighed. "One of the difficulties of this is not knowing how far I can trust him. My father was a great king, and my mother a great queen, and I woed them all that I have, but they raised me more as a prince than as a son. In all my life, only two people have seen more to me than the crown on my head, Antaran and you, my oldest friend and my closest friend. Without either of you, what am I but a hollow man on a throne, nothing real about me. So much of what we are doing seems so necessary, and yet," and here he sighed again, "so much of it seems almost a betrayal."

Baia had no words in response, but she put his hand in his and they walked on, hand in hand, for a long while after that.

Lion of Rome

 Today is the feast of Pope St. Leo I the Great, Doctor of the Church. From one of his Easter sermons, Sermon 71:

Let God's people then recognize that they are a new creation in Christ, and with all vigilance understand by Whom they have been adopted and Whom they have adopted. Let not the things, which have been made new, return to their ancient instability; and let not him who has put his hand to the plough forsake his work, but rather attend to that which he sows than look back to that which he has left behind. Let no one fall back into that from which he has risen, but, even though from bodily weakness he still languishes under certain maladies, let him urgently desire to be healed and raised up. For this is the path of health through imitation of the Resurrection begun in Christ, whereby, notwithstanding the many accidents and falls to which in this slippery life the traveller is liable, his feet may be guided from the quagmire on to solid ground, for, as it is written, the steps of a man are directed by the Lord, and He will delight in his way. When the just man falls he shall not be overthrown, because the Lord will stretch out His hand. These thoughts, dearly-beloved, must be kept in mind not only for the Easter festival, but also for the sanctification of the whole life, and to this our present exercise ought to be directed, that what has delighted the souls of the faithful by the experience of a short observance may pass into a habit and remain unalterably, and if any fault creep in, it may be destroyed by speedy repentance. And because the cure of old-standing diseases is slow and difficult, remedies should be applied early, when the wounds are fresh, so that rising ever anew from all downfalls, we may deserve to attain to the incorruptible Resurrection of our glorified flesh in Christ Jesus our Lord, Who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Ghost for ever and ever. Amen.

Tuesday, November 09, 2021

The True Good Which Stems from Truth

Just as Socrates maintained that no god was ill-disposed to mankind, so I maintained that those who love and pursue truth -- a divine gift which constitutes the glory of the human spirit not because the human spirit forms truth but because the truth informs it -- are the best disposed, indeed the only people well-disposed towards humankind and to the systems which others have thought out. They alone offer human nature the true good which stems from truth and is reduced to truth. Within their systems they willingly recognise, love and prize everything that is lovable and can be appreciated, that is, the immortal element of their systems, the truth on which the systems agree and unite. This is not the case with those who imagine that the human spirit itself deserves honour independently of any share in the truth. For them, the truth is honoured as a creation of the human spirit just as error is. And error, certainly, is an authentic creation of the human spirit.

Bl. Antonio Rosmini, About the Author's Studies (Introduction to Philosophy, Volume 1), Murphy, tr., Rosmini House (Durham: 2004) p. 91.

Monday, November 08, 2021

Abyss & Sea 11


The next few months were busy for both Disan and Baia, the time being filled with not just the ordinary royal responsibilities but the new responsibilities involved in organizing the massive expansion of shipbuilding. Busy schedules often chase out worries, and there was something soothing about the combination of daily routine with the challenge of improvisation in the face of new problems. 

Such was the day. The night was often restful, but only often. Disan began periodically to have severe nightmares. They varied considerably, but they were all unpleasant, and he often woke in a sweat. In some, and these were not the worst although they were the most vivid, he dreamed that he was back east aiding the Chipou tribes, watching helplessly as companions died again on the battlefield. It was difficult to sleep afterward, with their dead faces haunting his memory.

In another dream, a recurring one, he dreamed that the sky was torn from above and thrown down to earth; the earth, under the crashing weight of heaven, was swallowed up in a great gaping hole, a vast and ever-growing nothingness that seemed to devour all things. Mountains were thrown into mountains, and both swallowed by the void; forests were uprooted, and devoured by the void; everything sank into the gaping maw of a fathomless abyss. In a third kind of dream, he dreamed simply that he was taken by a great wave and was drowning.

Other dreams were more complicated. He dreamed once that, while walking through the halls of Neyat Sor, he saw his father, Rezan, in a doorway. He hurried over, but found nobody there. Instead, when he stepped through the doorway, he found himself in a cave, dark and cold and breathing, and there were words hanging on the air in an unforgettable voice -- no, the Unforgettable Voice, the Voice of Fath -- and the words said: For three transgressions and for four, judgment shall surely come upon you all.

The dreams, however disturbing, nonetheless did not occur every night, and, again, busy schedules chase out worries; they often seemed distant in the day, particularly since, in the case of the shipbuilding project, it was especially necessary to establish the foundations before the coming of winter, which was primarily a season for the repair rather than the building of ships, so that in the spring the building might be begun as soon as possible.

The winter snows came early, and all the court at Neyat Sor went down to Soromir for the First Snow celebrations. Winter in Sorea is typically mild, and there had been years in which there was no First Snow festival at all, and often the first snow was a bare dusting, like powdered sugar on baker's goods, but this year there was a snowfall sufficient for snowball fights and even a little light sledding. The adults sat outside on benches brought out for the occasion, making mulled mead over fires and, of course, drinking it as they watched both the next batch of mead, lest it boil and turn bitter, and the children and animals playing in the snow, lest they hurt themselves or get into fights. The dogs were always the most enthusiastic participants in First Snow celebrations, for it is a kind of holiday well suited to their understanding; they enjoyed the snow itself. The tame foxes, for the people of the Great Realm had domesticated foxes as pets, as well, generally preferred to roll around in the icy crackling grass, for the sound and new sensation. Even a few cats gingerly put paws into the snow and meditated gravely on whether this was acceptable behavior on the part of the forces of nature. The house ravens generally stayed where it was warm, but where they did come out, they here and there roosted together, except when they slyly investigating the sacks of ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom used for the mulled mead. 

As the day turned to evening, the lights of the neat houses and trim cottages shone though their windows and colored the lightly drifted snow outside. Soreans are great enthusiasts for stained glass, and scarcely even the poorest house lacks at least one window with color. The cheapest and simplest were ordinary glass painted with a thin coat of paint, but it is common to have true stained glass, in which the glass itself is tinted, sulfur-amber, lead-yellow, tin-white, copper-blue, iron-green, copper-and-gold-red. Above, the starlit sky was crisply clear, and on the snow below people gathered for circle dances and, of course, for more warm and spicy mead, telling jokes and singing songs. It was the custom that for each new batch of mulled mead, a libation was poured to the Powers at the little garden shrines and in the village squares. This was done scrupulously early in the celebrations, but it must be admitted that, as the celebrations ran into the deep, dark morning, and large quantities of mead had been drunk, the accounting for whether a libation had been performed or not became a little inconsistent.

It was a delightful occasion, but some old-timers noted that such an early snow heralded a harsher winter than usual, and so it would turn out to be. The second snow, a week later, did not stop for another week, and it was a cold, icy, windy, heavy thing, smothering the land and besieging every building. The road from Neyat Sor down to the city below was not made for ice or heavy snow, and several times a day pages, some grumbling at the cold and some glad for a chance to walk outside, spread ash and, where necessary, much more expensive sea salt, to melt the snow and ice so that the road would remain traversable. The ash turned the snow and ice at the side of the road a muddy color. Nobody could go outside and come back in without tracking wet, black marks everywhere. Disan and Baia would have preferred to stay in the castle, where it was warm and the food was plenty and there was plenty that needed to be done before winter's end, but royal duties superseded and, given the harshness of the weather, they had to spend much of the day away from Neyat Sor, going door to door to make sure that that the elderly and the poor had sufficient fire and food and blankets. They, and others that they assigned to share in the task, would leave early and return late, tired and wet and cold, with ash-caked clothes. Baia caught a cold toward the end, although fortunately a mild one. Disan, who was the sort who rarely gets sick, teased her for how bad her temper got as she was getting over it. That snow melted, but the winter stayed mostly very cold, and would occasionally flurry in fits and tantrums, some quite bad, although none as long-lasting as that second snow.

Eventually, however, winter broke, and spring began shyly to peek around corners, and it was a new year. It would be a busy year.

Four Poem Drafts

The Lotus Cross is the symbol of the St. Thomas churches of India (e.g., the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church). It's also known as the Mar Thoma Sliva (St. Thomas Cross), the Persian Cross, or the Nasrani Cross. On the third poem, Samantabhadra in certain Tibetan Buddhist traditions is the primordial Buddha (Adi-Buddha), the Buddha in all things, and is indeed often depicted as blue and naked, symbolizing purity and clarity like the cloudless sky.

 Lotus Cross

His feet are on the lotus,
holy, holy, holy;
the sunrise blazes brightly
beneath His feet.

Nectar and ambrosia,
holy, holy, holy,
he gives for endless life
in lordly dish.

His name is sure salvation,
holy, holy, holy,
health and consecration
in word, deed, thought.

St Thomas Cross in maroon background

Night Life

The night is treading softly like a cat upon a wall.
The stars are cloud-encompassed. The breeze is growing chill.
All seems at rest, but all things flow with steady, silent pace to hidden goal.

Night is full of shifting life; it is no grave,
but seminary rich with seeds that seek to live;
it is a boundless heaven full of things that yearn to love.

Naked Blue Buddha

The sky is blue and clear
but not so blue and clear
as Samantabhadra;
blue on a lotus floating,
clear as the body of truth,
naked of adornment,
for he needs no further adornment,
for the source is but the source,
expansive and unchanging.
Have you met the primal Buddha?
You have and you have not.
A long voyage is required,
an infinitely long voyage,
to move not a single step;
not outside but inside
is the never-ending journey
in which the quest's bright end
is never far away.
For at the end of the seeking
on a lotus pure and still
you will meet the naked Buddha,
and discover that you are he.
Have you met the primal Buddha?
You are the primal Buddha.
You have and have not met him,
hidden and bright and clear.

Words and Fire

fire leaps bright
words also leap
woods burn quickly
spirits also burn

heat boils rivers
light devours night
words also blaze
spirits also blaze

Sunday, November 07, 2021

The Mystery of Piety 1.3.3&4


1.3.3 On the Infinite Intelligible

In arguing against general skepticism, Descartes placed great emphasis on the idea of the infinite, since, he argued, the idea of the infinite is not an idea that our finite minds can manufacture. This led other philosophers to consider the nature of this idea of the infinite. The most important of the positions put forward is that of Malebranche. Suppose, says Malebranche, someone falls to the earth from heaven, with no prior experience of the earth. He begins to walk in a straight line along one of the earth’s great circles; let us also suppose that no mountains or oceans impede him. If he is wise, he will not assume even after many days that the surface of the earth is infinite. We know that he is right, for if he walks long enough, he will eventually return to his starting point because the earth is finite. While, in the course of walking, he recognized that his journey would be an indefinitely long one, he is able to distinguish its being an indefinitely long one from its being infinite. The idea of extension, however, is different; this idea is inexhaustible, and, says Malebranche, this is because the mind "sees it as actually infinite, because it knows very well it will never exhaust it” (JS 15). Geometry is concerned with infinites (infinite lines, infinite divisibility, and so forth). We do not, however, have to test its claims against the finite things we sense; we seem to perceive the infinite. And we need to be able to do so in order to distinguish it from that which is merely a large indefinite finite. Likewise, we recognize that the square root of two is a number requiring infinite precision. As Malebranche says (LO 614), "The mind sees clearly that this proportion is such that only God could comprehend it, and that it cannot be expressed exactly, because to do so, a fraction both of whose terms were infinite would be required."**

What is said of infinity here applies as well to what is related to it. All universal ideas imply the infinite, because to be universal is to be such as to represent infinite possible instances (JS 27); for the same reason, recognizing that an idea is universal and not particular requires recognizing that the former applies to infinite possible particulars. If your idea of a circle were merely a confused assemblage of particular circles, for instance, it would not be applicable to all circles, but only to the indefinite group delineated by the assemblage; the finite explanans would not be adequate to the infinite explanandum. Likewise, what is said of infinity applies to necessity, because what is necessary must pertain to infinite possibilities; therefore necessity cannot be recognized without the idea of the infinite. Similar things may be said of the capacity of ideas to be true for all possible times, or from infinite possible perspectives.

From this, Malebranche concludes that ideas must in fact be perceived in a being that is other than ourselves, one that is infinite, necessary, eternal, and so forth; this is divine Reason. We recognize that the infinites that only God could comprehend them. And we recognize further that our own minds are not infinite; we are finite. Therefore we can only consult the idea of the infinite in inexhaustible Reason. "No creature is infinite; infinite Reason, therefore, is not a creature" (LO 614). As John Norris summarizes the position (Reason and Religion, p. 198), "For 'tis plain that we perceive Infinites, though we do not comprehend it, and that our mind has a very Distinct Idea of God, which it could not have but by its union with God. Since 'tis absurd to suppose that the Idea of God should be from anything that is Created."

Orestes Brownson reasons in a way similar way, based on Vincenzo Gioberti's development and adaptation of Malebranchean arguments. In the simplified form he gives the argument in his novel, Charles Elwood, when we look into reason, we find the ideas of the finite and the infinite. The idea of the infinite cannot be derived from another idea; our experience is finite, but "from no imaginable number of finites can I deduce the infinite" (p. 210). It is only on the basis of the idea of the infinite that we can recognize anything specifically as finite. "As my first experience is of finite things, the conception of the infinite must precede experience, and must therefore be a transcendental idea", which is to say, "a conception of the pure reason prior to all experience." Reason, then, requires that there be some infinite; but it cannot be our own minds, and it cannot be anything natural, in the sense of being the kind of thing we experience through the senses. Therefore it must be supernatural. "The conception of unity, of perfection, would lead me to the same result." However, he also considers the matter in a somewhat different way in his article, "The Existence of God". Even an atheist must concede that something is intelligible. "But as what is not cannot act, so what is not cannot be intelligible." What is intelligible must then be found in some real being; it could not be in a merely possible being, since possibility is a power of the real, and it could not be a merely abstract being, because what is abstract can only be apprehended in the apprehension of the real. What is intelligible, then, must be real. This intelligible, however, must either be a necessary real being or a contingent real being. If we say that the intelligible is necessary real being, we say that it is God. If it is contingent, however, there must be a necessary and eternal real being, since the contingent depends on the necessary in such a way as to be unintelligible without it. So anything being intelligible implies that God exists. "The conclusion here is evident, but if we analyze it we shall find that it is not that God is, but that what is really apprehended in every act of intelligence as the intelligible, without which the act were impossible, is God."

These views seem to come near to something right, yet not quite to attain it. Therefore, guided by what is reasonable in such views, we may argue the matter from the beginning, as follows.

(1) Our intellect by understanding reaches toward the infinite. As St. Thomas says (ST 1.86.2), never does our intellect understand so many things, that it cannot understand more. We can recognize this more specifically in a number of ways. 

(1.1) First, as was noted by Descartes, 'finite' and 'infinite' are correlatives; because of this, to recognize correctly that something finite requires recognizing that it is not infinite. We do, however, correctly recognize some things as finite, and therefore our understanding must in some way and in some sense extend to the infinite. Moreover, we can, as Malebranche says distinguish the infinite from the mere indefinite that we obtain when build up from finite things.

(1.2) Second, we see that our intellect must have some direction to the infinite from considering mathematics. The examples of thought reaching to infinity in mathematics are numerous. For instance, given any finite quantity, our intellect can think of a greater one. As St. Thomas says (SCG 1.43), Our intellect extends to the infinite in understanding; and a sign of this is that, given any finite quantity, our intellect can think of a greater one. And as St. Augustine says of numbers (Civ Dei 12.18), For it is very certain that they are infinite; since, no matter of what number you suppose an end to be made, this number can be, I will not say, increased by the addition of one more, but however great it be, and however vast be the multitude of which it is the rational and scientific expression, it can still be not only doubled, but even multiplied. Moreover, each number is so defined by its own properties, that no two numbers are equal. They are therefore both unequal and different from one another; and while they are simply finite, collectively they are infinite. Obviously our thought must be able in some way to reach the infinite to consider the infinite collectively. Likewise, by the Pythagorean theorem, we can identify numbers, like the square root of two, that are infinitely precise, and we can recognize that a geometrical line admits of infinite distinct constructions of points.

We may see this again from an argument based on a thought by Dedekind ("What are numbers and what are they good for?"). We know we have possible objects of thought that are picked out determinately by what can be thought about them, like mathematical objects. These objects can in turn be associated in the mind, i.e., thought-together in a determinate way. This Dedekind calls a 'system'. The system just is the determinate thinking-together of the objects that are its elements; thus each system is itself a possible object of thought. When every element of one system is an element of another system, the first is at least a part of the second; and it is a proper part when this is true but the systems are not the same. Finally, we can relate the elements of one system to another; Dedekind calls this a 'transformation', with the other system being called the 'transform'. The transformation between two systems that are related by a one-to-one between their elements is similar, and a system is infinite if it is similar to at least one of its proper parts. From this Dedekind draws his argument that all of the determinate possible objects of one's thought are infinite. If we consider the system S that includes all such determinate possible objects of my thought, then if 's' is an element of S, 's can be an object of my thought' is also an element of S, by definition of S. It is also related to s by a transformation; so if we consider the system S' that is the transform of S in this way, we find that it is both a proper part of S and similar to it, because S certainly includes things that are not indicators of something else being an object of thought, and S and S' are able to be put into one-to-one-correspondence. In other words, for every object of thought s, one can have the further object of thought 's is an object of thought'; we can do this one-to-one correspondence with everything about which we can think, but if we take all the explicit 'is an object of thought' thoughts, they will be a proper part of the totality of objects of thought, because there will be some objects of thought (like myself) that are not thoughts involving the explicit form 'is an object of thought'. So the whole of what can be thought is infinite. 

A very great many others could be included. All of these mathematical infinites are potential infinites rather than actual infinites, but they are truly infinite, not indefinite finites. Some confusion reigns on this matter due to confusion about the terms 'potential infinite' and 'actual infinite' which can be used in somewhat different way. Many gravely err in taking 'potential infinite' to mean what is not infinite at all, like an indefinite finite. This is contrary to the point. In the sense meant here, there are infinite potential points in a plane; actual points require a construction making them points, as in the crossing of two actual lines. There are infinite potential numbers; actual numbers require a construction of counting, proportion, set construction, or the like to make them actual numbers. An actual infinite in this sense requires infinite constructions actually done. We have done no such thing, nor do we know that anything has done it. Nonetheless, these potential infinites are truly infinite, and thus that we are able to recognize and reason with them shows that we are able to extend our minds to the infinite in understanding.

(1.3) Third, we recognize that our intellect must have some orientation to the infinite when we consider the requirements of logic, as Malebranche recognized, for logic requires an understanding of universality, necessity, and the like. Or, in the words of Aquinas (ST 1.76.5 ad4), The intellectual soul, as comprehending universals, has a power that is open to infinite things, and again (ST 1.86.2 ad4), it can know the universal, which is abstracted from individual matter, and which consequently is not limited to one individual, but, considered in itself, extends to an infinite number of individuals.

A related argument can be adapted from Kant and modified. In disjunctive syllogisms or eliminative reasoning, as well as in induction in the scholastic sense, we take a sphere of possibilities and divide it into particular possibilities, which may or may not overlap but need at least to be conceptualized distinctly to have a division. We may then eliminate possibilities, or show that something is true for all of the possibilities. This division is often expressed in a disjunctive judgment, like 'Either p or q', but the division can have as many possibilities as might be relevant; indeed, in some fields, it might sometimes have more possibilities than we can individually count. But there are infinite possibilities consistent with each other, and thus our minds extend to the infinite in understanding.

(1.4) Further, adapting an argument from Josiah Royce, we recognize that our intellect must in some way extend to the infinite when we consider the nature of error, which we can hardly doubt occurs.  As Royce notes in The Religious Aspect of Philosophy, an error is not identifiable as an error simply on its own, but only by being put in a proper context. To err is to miss the target, one might say; it is impossible to err without contextualizing the error in relation to a target. In other words, something is an error only insofar as it is related to what it opposes; the error is a fragment of a larger whole, and can only be called an error in relation to that larger whole. This is true for all possible error, of which there are infinitely many different kinds. For instance, one might err in mathematics about the number one, about the number two, and so forth. Thus the intelligible whole in the context of which all possible errors can be recognized must be infinite. As Royce, who is an idealist, prefers to put it (RAP, p. 393),  "Either then there is no error, or else judgments are true or false only in reference to a higher inclusive thought, which they presuppose, and which must, in the last analysis, be assumed as Infinite and all-inclusive."

(1.5) Further, we recognize that our intellect must in some way extend to the infinite when we consider human practices of explanation. Infinity has always arisen in our attempt to explain the world. Perhaps the earliest clear recognition of infinity that we can definitely identify, in fact, arose in the efforts to explain the world causally. Ancient philosophers attributed to the fundamental features of the universe some kind of infinity, because infinite things derive from them. And, of course, it follows from this that the kind of infinity they attributed to the first principle was that which was appropriate to the kind of cause they were considering. 

Those who explained things materially, for instance, attributed a material infinity to their first principles, like some kind of infinite body or extension, or something capable of taking endlessly many different forms.  The infinity of matter lay in its being potential for different forms, but it receives a termination, and thus finitude, in receiving its form. Likewise, the infinity of form consists in its being common to many different material embodiments, but when it receives its matter, it is found in this one, and thus also receives finitude. However, these are not wholly symmetrical, because matter is completed by the form making it finite, and therefore there is something incomplete or imperfect to the infinity of matter, whereas this is not true of formal infinity, which is not completed by matter but contracted by it, and thus there is a completeness to formal infinity that exceeds material infinity, as indeed we see in comparing mathematics to physics. But infinity in either matter or form implies infinity for ends, as well.

(1.6) The notion of the infinite is implicit in our understanding of being, which is implicit in our understanding of everything else. Being is capable of infinitely different modes. Therefore we think of finite being not as being as such, but as limited in its being by something. The same may be said for intelligibility itself, since being is the first intelligible our intellect attains.

We may take it, then, that our intellect has a capability reaching to the infinite in some way; that is to say, the intellect tends toward the infinite in such a way that we can understand something of the infinite.

(2) This capability of the intellect requires that there be some infinite intelligible. That is, this ordering of the intellect to the infinite would be in vain unless there were an infinite intelligible to serve as an end for it. 

There must, for instance, be something to distinguish such an ordering from an ordering to the mere indefinite. We see this in considering empiricist attempts to account for our recognition of the infinities in our understanding. Thus, in Berkeley's early notebooks, he toys with the idea that the Pythagorean theorem might actually not be true but merely useful as a kind of recipe; and Hume in his account of equality in the Treatise argues that geometry is a loose rather than an accurate field, based on the tendency of our mind to continue a while in the same track. The reason for these oddities is that empiricism as they understood it has no ability to distinguish the indefinite from the infinite, because if you attempt to explain the infinite entirely from the finite, the latter provides no resources for telling the difference between the infinitely large or small and the indefinitely so. Either the capability of the intellect to reach to the infinite in some way is due wholly to finite things or at least also to something infinite. But it seems clear that it cannot be explained as due wholly to finite things.

When we consider the matter carefully, it is clear that inquiry is structured by the tendency to this infinite intelligible. The intellect in inquiry obviously is directed toward understanding the intelligible object of its inquiry, which is selected out of all intelligible objects that might be investigated. No inquiry, however, considers only its intelligible object. In order to understand anything, this object must be related to other things in an intelligible way. For instance, an effect must be intelligibly related to an intelligible cause. More than that, appropriate inquiry requires relating the object to the inquirer, and, if the inquirer uses any means, the means, in some intelligible way; we see this in the methodological and critical aspects of inquiry. For instance, if we are studying Mars by telescope, full inquiry will perhaps consider whether features we are seeing are due to optical illusions or errors in the equipment or even psychological expectations or sociological pressure; we will perhaps need to consider whether we are reasoning or calculating correctly, and whether our theories of the way light travels are correct. In addition, we may have to consider contaminating influence from the environment. Even if we do not consider these things specifically, they are relevant and possible, and inquiry will at least indirectly involve situating or contextualizing the object of inquiry within this broader context. And some of the feature of this intelligible 'situation' are, for reasons already noted, infinite, which we see in considering the mathematics, the logic, and the relation of what is studied to being. Nor could we say this is just some fiction in the mind, since otherwise all inquiry would merely be the vain searching of our own fictions. 

We see this as well if we consider error again. Nothing is an error unless it is defective with respect to some truth that makes it intelligible as an error. Thus every possible error implies a greater intelligibility within which it has its nature as error, and within which it is properly related to the intelligible truths with respect to which it is defective. There are, however, infinitely many possible errors. For instance, one error would be to conclude that 1 + 1 = 1, another that 1 + 1 = 3, another that 1 + 1 = 4, and so forth infinitely, all of which must be intelligibly linked to the single truth, 1 + 1 = 2, in order to be errors at all; and so it goes for every truth and every combination of truth. To recognize this, however, requires that there be some intelligibility that actually relates all these properly and in an intelligibly unified way, to which we more closely conform when we correct our errors.

(3) Thus there must actually be some infinite intelligible. What is intelligible is so because of its actuality, not its potentiality, and insofar as it is actual; thus the infinite intelligible, intelligibly unifying what can be known in our inquiry into what is, must be an intelligibly actuality. We can see this with error, as well; as Royce says (RAP 429-430), "The conditions of possible error must be actual." Therefore Aquinas says (SCG 1.43), There must be some infinite intelligible thing that must be the maximum of things

It is necessary to clear up certain errors that have been made on these points by considering the alternatives available. There are only three ways to think of this infinite intelligible, since our intellect is a power specified by various objects according to various ends. Either it must formally be our intellectual power itself (or some intrinsic feature of it), or it must be a form specifying the intellect as its objective cause, or it must be the final cause of our intellect. 

(A) The first possibility, that it must be formally either our intellectual power itself or some intrinsic feature of it, is impossible, although it has a certain superficial plausibility. It is true that the intellect must be such as to tend to the infinite in a recognizable way. It is also true that this requires that the intellect have a power that is in some way infinite. As St. Thomas says (ST 1.86.2 ad4), As our intellect is infinite in power, so does it know the infinite, for its power is indeed infinite inasmuch as it is not terminated by corporeal matter. But, first, this is what is to be explained, not the explanation of it. And second, our intellect does not understand the infinite either actually or habitually, but potentially and by indirect reflection on the potential. Infinity is something open to us insofar as we can consider successively one thing after another, and recognize our own operation in doing so in an abstract way. When we recognize the infinity of the natural numbers, we recognize not each natural number individually and all together, but understand what a natural number is and what succession of numbers is, and therefore that a successor to any natural number can always be identified. But this is not to know something about the mind, but to know something about numbers and numerable things. And we see a sign of this in that our understanding seems to depend on sensory processing; we can know beyond what we sense and imagine, but only by abstraction, so that we know them in a general way and in their universal principles.

(B) We can recognize on similar grounds that the infinite intelligible cannot be a form or immediate object of our intellect, in the way that Malebranche, for instance, suggests. Infinity is potentially in our mind, not actually or habitually, through considering successively one thing after another, and therefore known only in a potential and confused manner. But the infinite intelligible cannot be merely potential and confused in order to structure our inquiry.

This leaves only (C). We can thus conclude to it.

(4) This infinite intelligible must be the final cause of our intellect. We recognize the infinite intelligible as that to which our intellect tends in understanding, that is as the final cause of our intellect. This is reasonable even on general grounds. All intellectual progress, philosophical, scientific, or in any other way connected with understanding, is impossible except with respect to some end that is such that it distinguishes progress from regress, stagnation, or mere difference. Without an end, there is no way to tell how something stands with regard to worse or better, less perfect or more perfect, erroneous or right. This end, as the end of intellectual progress, must be intelligible, and given the nature of the intellect, it must not be subject to any intelligible limitations.

In this way, much sense may be made of the more plausible philosophical views of the rationalists, the transcendentalists, and the idealists, for often their primary error consists simply in treating what must be regarded as an end for the intellect as if it were a formal object or else an intrinsic feature of the intellect itself. When this is corrected, they will often be found to converge on something more tenable than their own position.

The infinite intelligible must be be a superordinate end for nature in the manner we have previously noted. First, because intelligibility is most properly associated with the final cause. Second, the orientation of the intellect to it is itself a natural order to an end, not selected by the intellect itself, and thus must be due to some intelligence other than itself setting its end in the manner of an end. As Royce puts it (RAP p. 427), "Our thought needs the Infinite Thought in order that it may get, through this Infinite judge, even the privilege of being so much as even in error." Third, for our intelligible ends to have any relation to the natural world, so that we can know the latter, our intellect and the natural world must be united by some end to which they are both subordinate. Thus it is because both intellect and nature tend toward the infinite intelligible as an end that the intellect can understand what is natural; for we cannot recognize as nature what is not intelligible, and all limited intelligibles are subordinate to that intelligible which is without limit.

Such an infinite intelligible, superordinate end for inquiry and thus superordinate end for natural things, must be divine. Things are intelligible to the extent that they are unvarying, unified, and not limited, and thus the infinite intelligible must be immutable, simple, and eternal. It must also be that than which no greater can be thought, because nothing can be thought that is greater than an infinite intelligible unifying all intelligibility. Thus all our understanding and knowledge in a way implies the divine; as St. Thomas says (DV 2.2 ad1),  All knowers implicitly know God in whatever is known, and as Pierre Rousselot says (L'Intellectualisme p. 40), "Intelligence is the faculty of being in general only as it is the faculty of infinite being." Because of this, sense may often be made of a priori  or 'ontological' arguments for God's existence; that is, while they seem to be concerned with an object of intellect, they are often better regarded as a posteriori arguments, moving from the tendency of the intellect to its final cause. Other things than God are known because of God, but because God is the final cause of our intellect and its activity, not because God is the first object of our intellect. As object, the divine exceeds our grasp; as St. Bonaventure says (Sent, Divine light is inaccessible to the powers of every created nature on account of its preeminence. However, the divine is the destiny of all intellects.

From this we find that God is infinite and in what way in which infinity can be attributed to the divine. It is clear that God is not infinite in terms of either discrete or continuous quantity; He must rather be an infinite of intelligibility, which is an even more fundamental form of infinity, as St. Thomas says (SCG 1.43): There must be some infinite intelligible thing that must be the maximum of things. Everything other than God is relatively infinite rather than simply infinite, because everything other than the divine will fall short of the infinite of intelligibility in some way. A material infinite is limited by its form, and has its infinity in its unlimited potential for form. A formal infinite is more properly called 'infinite'; but forms are limited by their matter, and only have their infinity to the extent that they exceed material limitations. Even if you had a form that had no material limitations at all, it would be limited by the contraction of its nature to a particular determinate kind of intelligibility. However, the infinite intelligible is not so contracted, being in some way inclusive of all other intelligibility. Thus its infinity might be called an absolute formal infinity; but we could perhaps more accurately call it a final infinity, that is the infinity appropriate to the very possibility of final causality as such, and thus to the very possibility of all causality.

These matters are related to sublimity. The sublime, properly speaking, is that which by its greatness exceeds all comparison. It is generally experienced as that which overwhelms but in a way such as to exalt. Human beings have many experiences of sublimity; we find sublimity in the vastness of view from a mountaintop, in the seemingly endless heaven of seemingly infinite stars, in the dynamic glory of the storm, in the epic sweep of great literature about great deeds, in luminous truth, in mysterious beauty, in moral law. Now, it is clear that in some of these experiences, what is directly experienced is not literally in excess of all comparison; for instance, we do not actually see infinity in the heaven or in the number of its stars. Because of this, Kant has argued that the infinity that we experience in sublime experiences is actually our own, the sublimity of a reason that can consider mathematical infinity and moral unconditionality. We can see now, however, that this is nearly true (for instance, it is true that things to do with reason are often sublime), but that the same error noted above has interfered with an adequate account, because Kant has made a formal feature of reason what is in fact a final end to which it tends, the infinite intelligible. From this we can see that God is most sublime; as the Psalmist says (Ps 144:3), Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; of his greatness there is no end.  We can also better understand an aspect of the divine sublimity, namely, that it is both luminous and mysterious. It is luminous because the divine, being the infinite intelligible superordinate to all other intelligibles, But it is also mysterious, because its infinity exceeds the power of our intellect formally to capture. As St. Thomas says (ST 1.12.1), But what is supremely knowable in itself, may not be knowable to a particular intellect, on account of the excess of the intelligible object above the intellect; as, for example, the sun, which is supremely visible, cannot be seen by the bat by reason of its excess of light.

1.3.4 On the Love of Wisdom

Philosophy in the most proper sense is love of wisdom. As such it is contrasted with many things, but most often with sophistry, which, as St. Clement of Alexandria says (Strom 1.8), makes false opinions like true by means of words, whether for the purpose of persuading or for the purpose of victory in wrangling and toying with people, which are then treated as the purpose of reasoning. But philosophy differs from this in that it is concerned wisdom, and, indeed, not merely apparent wisdom, as might occur if one simply persuaded others to regard oneself as wise or if one seemed wise by vanquishing them in dispute, but true wisdom. As Plato argues in the Gorgias, the philosopher takes the distinction between real and apparent seriously, recognizing that they can come apart: real versus apparent knowledge, reasoning that is really good versus reasoning that is only apparently good, and ultimately, real wisdom as opposed to apparent wisdom. Thus Clement describing the opposition of philosophers to sophistry, continues, For Plato openly called sophistry an evil art. And Aristotle, following him, demonstrates it to be a dishonest art, which abstracts in a specious manner the whole business of wisdom, and professes a wisdom which it has not studied. The philosopher recognizes that the only victory that matters in reasoning is to become more wise, and the only persuasion that matters if being persuaded to a wiser position or view; to one who truly loves wisdom it is intolerable that the goal of wisdom be subordinated to the manipulation or domination of others or to cleverness in the use of a method for such ends. Likewise, the philosopher is wary of pretending to the name or appearance of wisdom; Pythagoras, indeed, coined the term so that men might their true place as being always in need of pursuing wisdom. For to one who loves wisdom, finding a humility in love, it seems impudent to call oneself wise based on the rudiments we usually have; as St. Paul says, Knowledge puffs up while love builds up. For this reason also Plato regularly puns on the similarity between the erotic, that is the arts of love, and the erotetic, the arts of questioning and inquiring. 

Philosophy, then, is a pursuit and a devotion, a love that inquires. As St. Clement says (Strom 2.9), The philosopher loves and likes the truth, being now considered as a friend, on account of his love, from his being a true servant. Such a person may well say (Pr 8:11), Wisdom is more precious than precious stones and nothing desirable can compare with her. Such philosophy begins in wondering. As Plato has Socrates say to Theaetetus (Theatetus 155d), "For this feeling of wonder shows that you are a philosopher, since wonder is the only beginning of philosophy, and he who said that Iris", that is, the messenger of heaven, "was the child of Thaumas", which Plato interprets as thauma, wonder, "made a good genealogy." Aristotle agrees, saying (Met 1.3 982b), "It is through wonder that men now begin and originally began to philosophize; wondering in the first place at obvious perplexities, and then by gradual progression raising questions about the greater matters too, e.g. about the changes of the moon and of the sun, about the stars and about the origin of the universe." Clement of Alexandria, too, insists on this, saying (Strom 2.9), The beginning of knowledge is wondering at objects, as Plato says is in his TheƦtetus; and Matthew exhorting in the Traditions, says, Wonder at what is before you; laying this down first as the foundation of further knowledge. So also in the Gospel to the Hebrews it is written, He that wonders shall reign, and he that has reigned shall rest. If we wish to understand philosophy, then, we would do well to pay attention to wondering, a natural activity closely bound to our existence as persons.

Wondering seems to have two essential preconditions: ignorance and the desire to know and understand. In a sense, all human beings are ignorant before they are not, but it is the mark of the philosopher to be aware of this. Socrates did not rest with his ignorance, but sought to inquire with others, to determine what they knew and did not know, and in the same way Confucius says, "Yu, shall I tell you what knowledge is? When you know a thing to hold that you know it, and when you do not know it to allow that you do not know it: this is knowledge." That is to say, it is essential to human knowing actually to sort out what we know from what we do not know. In saying this, we learn what we do not know, and it is this that makes it possible for us to know more. Thus we find Plato's Socrates, considering himself most ignorant, coming to the conclusion that the Oracle at Delphi, in saying that he was wisest of the Greeks, really intended to highlight the limitations of human knowledge, using Socrates as the model, and concludes that its meaning was (Ap 23b), "This one of you, O human beings, is wisest, who, like Socrates, recognizes that he is in truth of no account with respect to wisdom." Likewise, it is said in the Analects (Ana 13), "A superior man, in regard to what he does not know, shows a cautious reserve." This aware ignorance is not terminal, but is of such a kind as to dispose to more careful inquiry and closer pursuit of truth. Thus it is also said (Ana 9), "The Teacher said, Am I indeed possessed of knowledge? I am not knowing. But if a mean person, who appears quite empty-like, ask anything of me, I set it forth from one end to the other," that is, faced with a question to which he did not know the answer, he investigated it thoroughly in order to discover what he had not known.

Such a philosophical ignorance can only be non-terminal if it is properly joined with the desire to know and the love of learning that comes from it. Aristotle famously tells us (Met 1.1), "All men desire by nature to know." That is to say, all human beings have an intrinsic tendency to knowing that is part of their human nature, even where it is impeded by other factors in some way. It is this desire to know that, in unimpeded, form, gives us the love of learning that does not shirk the occasionally hard road of coming to know, as when Confucius says (Ana 1), "Is it not pleasant to learn with constant perseverance and application?" The combination of aware ignorance and the desire to know leads to wondering; this wondering is not itself a desire but an intellectual reflection considering possibilities that grows out of it.

While wondering has ignorance and the desire to know as its preconditions, it is constituted by the intellectual apprehension of what we may call the mirandum, the wonderful or thing of wonder, and in philosophy this particularly is expressed by the articulation of this into the aporia, the set of puzzles about it, about which we may wonder. The aporetic is literally that in which there is no pre-established path for knowing. All wondering is a wondering at or about something; we have the mirandum as our object and out of this we begin to identify what it is in the object that makes us wonder, namely, something that makes us think that there is a gap between what is and what seems. For instance, things may seem a certain way if we look at common opinions of clever men, but we may have an experience of them that does not fit with this seeming; this makes us wonder what is the cause of such a divergence, and we begin to articulate this by determining how the experience does not fit the common opinion. Or we may have come to accept something by familiarity, such as the shining of the sun in the sky, but then something happens, like a solar eclipse, and we wonder what makes the difference between what happened and what we would normally assume. Thus the immediate object of wondering is the mirandum articulated into aporia, and, more remotely, the causes that are relevant to it.

We wonder because we are ignorant, but it is also true that we may say that in wondering we are no longer merely ignorant, for to wonder is to begin to think through something. This wondering may or may not find its term in science or knowledge, but it raises us out of mere ignorance whether it does or not, and in doing so it in a way disposes us better to know. As some have noted, because of this philosophy has a kind of affinity with poetry; thus Aristotle says (Met 1.3 982b), "The philosopher is to some extent a lover of myth, for myths are composed of wonders", and Confucius says (Ana 8), "It is by the Odes that the mind is aroused." Poetry, like philosophy, appeals to the human desire to know the things we do not know; it shows us wonders, that we may wonder. Philosophy goes beyond this; in philosophy we wonder that we may no longer be ignorant. But the two should not necessarily be opposed. As Aquinas notes, the rudiments of philosophical knowledge were often found in poets. Likewise, metaphors are wonders in speech by which we may come better to understand real things, and may of course be useful as such for both the poet and the philosopher. Further, one wondering so as to know may find an appropriate vehicle in poems, like Dante, or in novels, like Austen, and not merely in syllogisms and other analytic instruments. In all these ways we are lifted above mere ignorance by wondering.

Wondering by its nature has an end to which it tends. The immediate end of wondering is coherence or intelligibility in things, which we possess in knowing and understanding. To wonder is to examine the puzzling for what is intelligible. This immediate end of wondering serves as a means to the end of philosophy, which, since philosophy is love of wisdom, is wisdom. This, of course, makes sense in that all knowing and understanding are commonly recognized to be means to wisdom.

From this we can see more clearly that philosophy is natural to human beings insofar as we are human, and this is true of us both individually and insofar as we form communities and societies. Individually, as Bonaventure says (QDMT 1.1), a desire for wisdom has been implanted in the minds of men, for the Philosopher says, 'All men by nature desire to know.' This desire for wisdom manifests itself in many ways, but in all ways we find it a pursuit suitable for a human person. From this we can recognize that to philosophize, that is to say, to act in love of wisdom, is a natural human function, and is the most complete expression of our desire to know. This is confirmed by the impossibility of human beings doing without it. As St. Clement says (Strom 6.18), But if we are not to philosophize, what then?...The consequence, even in that case, is that we must philosophize. For if someone says that the wise course is not to philosophize, then we must act out of love for wisdom to follow this advice; if someone says that philosophizing is pointless, we must philosophize in order to determine this; if someone says that philosophy is in itself absurd, we must reason philosophically in order to understand what philosophy is so as to see its absurdity. Therefore philosophical desire for wisdom is natural to the individual human being. A human being who never wondered, who never asked why things are as they are, or why things should be as they should be, or who never attempted to reason to an answer, would necessarily be stunted as a human being.

Philosophy also a natural tendency of our nature insofar as we are social. We see this even in elementary ways, if you get people together to muse or argue about things that they regard as important. We see it in the crucial importance of advice and example to our own rational lives. And we see it in teaching itself, for in a sense, teaching is not the giving of knowledge from one to the other, but a more experienced student studying with a less experienced student. The Romantic philosophers spoke of symphilosophie, complementary minds philosophizing communally, a group of friends coming together to philosophize with each other, in something that goes beyond mere sympathy in opinion and sentiment, in such a way that through discussion and argument the result is the result of them all. As discussion among close friends attests, we are at our best, intellectually, in such joint pursuit of wisdom, because the wisdom philosophy seeks is that to which the social aspects of our intellectual nature also tend.

 Without insisting on it, we can perhaps see all of this summarized in the unified progression given in Analects 1.1, which says, "The Teacher said, To study and find a use for one's study, is this not a pleasure? To have friends come from afar, is this not a source of enjoyment? To be unrecognized and unacknowledged but to be without resentment, is this not to be a noble man?" These are best seen as not three distinct questions but as describing the same thing in three ways. First, to learn and continually return to what is learned is consistently a pleasure, a sign that the philosophical pursuit is a fulfillment of our nature. Second, this study is done with friends from afar, whether literally from elsewhere or figuratively from other intellectual positions; this coming together with others is a source of joy, a sign that the philosophical pursuit fulfills us not merely individually but insofar as we are social beings. And third, this philosophical pursuit is not, like the pursuit of sophists and orators, a pursuit of benefit or profit; the noble person can endure being unacknowledged, unhonored, because what the noble person is worth far more than such honors. In this we find a full account of philosophy in the true sense, one that recognizes it as an activity of fulfilling our human potential.

That the pursuit of wisdom is rooted in human nature is recognized by the wisdom literature of many cultures; thus, for instance, sacred scripture says in the person of Wisdom (Pr 8:4), To you, O people, I cry out, and my call is to sons of men. All human beings then may be said to have a vocation to wisdom, which is fulfilled in philosophy. Given this, we may say with St. Thomas (SCG 1.2) Among all human studies, the study of wisdom is the most complete, the most sublime, the most useful, and the most joyful, for it is the fulfilment of the major aspirations that constitute human life as human. Likewise, we may agree with St. John Paul II, saying (Fides et ratio, Intr. 3),  Born and nurtured when the human being first asked questions about the reason for things and their purpose, philosophy shows in different modes and forms that the desire for truth is part of human nature itself

Wisdom is commonly said to be that knowledge or understanding that sets all things in order, and that is more wise that sets more in order. That is, they are called wise who order and judge, and we say people are wise with respect to a certain kind or genus of thing when, knowing the fundamental principles and causes of that genus, they act in light of this knowledge. Thus an excellent mechanic is wise about machines and a great engineer is wise about designs; in both cases this happens why they know their field intimately. The one who best knows a field, however, is the one who best understands the principles and causes on which it depends. Likewise, prudence is a kind of practical wisdom, since the prudent person, understanding the true ends of life, directs human actions to good ends, and thus best able to discern the right and viable way. Different kinds of wisdom, however, may be greater or less as wisdom, for some are concerned with more fundamental principles, and thus the wisdom associated with them is more architectonic. The name of wisdom, therefore, is most properly given to the most architectonic wisdom; and this is the wisdom to which consideration of what is truly universal belongs.  As Aristotle says (Met 1.1), "All men suppose that what is called wisdom has reference to first causes and principles." This will particularly concern final causes; as St. Thomas says (SCG 1.1), The end is the standard of governing and ordering for all things ordered to an end.

From all that has been said, we can see that the ordering of the philosophical being to wisdom as a destiny is a natural ordering to an end. Thus wisdom is final cause of our nature; as Bonaventure says (QDMT 1.1), there is no love for what is completely unknown, and Clement says (Strom 2.9), It is impossible for an ignorant man, while he remains ignorant, to philosophize not having apprehended the idea of wisdom; since philosophy is an effort to grasp what truly is, and the studies that conduce thereto. Philosophy is an activity expressive of our intellectual natures in their flourishing, and thus must have a real final cause. The order of philosophy to wisdom would be in vain were there no wisdom that is universally architectonic; and in this sense we can understand Bonaventure's comment (QDMT 1.1), some knowledge of this highest wisdom must be implanted in the human mind

This is, as we have noted for the infinite intelligible, not as formal cause but as final cause. Indeed, the universally architectonic wisdom must be the infinite intelligible, because the wisdom sought by philosophy is that which sets all things in its intelligible order. Thus the end to which our intellectual nature, in both its theoretical and its practical work, as seen in its purest form in philosophical love of wisdom, is the infinite intelligible, that is, infinite being, as something with which to be intellectual united and which to contemplate. If this intelligible end did not exist, intellectual nature would be in vain, which is absurd. But it must also be the superordinate end of nature, for this architectonic wisdom is a final cause not selected by us for our intellects but is the natural end for all possible intellects, without which they could not exist; it must therefore select the ends of natural things. 

Universally architectonic wisdom must therefore be divine. It must be immutable, for what orders all is not ordered by what it orders; it must be simple, because what is composite is set in order by something else; it must be eternal, because it can have no beginning, nor end, nor proper measure according to change. And we see signs of this in philosophy itself, for, as Bonaventure says (QDMT 1.1), the most desirable wisdom is eternal, and as the Horoi, or Platonic Definitions says, philosophy is desire for "knowledge of what always is." Since it orders all, universally architectonic wisdom must also be that than which no greater can be thought, because, as ordering all, there is no higher standard of ordering against which it could be measured, nor is anything thinkable greater than that which fulfills all intellectual pursuit and inclination. Thus we may say, as we find written in Sirach (1:8), There is one who is wise, greatly to be feared, sitting on his throne. Likewise, St. Clement of Alexandria says (Strom 2.9), the Divine alone is to be regarded as naturally wise. Therefore also wisdom, which has taught the truth, is the power of God; and in it the perfection of knowledge is embraced. In this light, and particularly insofar as the universally architectonic wisdom must be the universally superordinate end, we can often make sense of even very elementary design arguments for God's existence, which, although often incomplete and merely suggestive, are concerned with the wisdom-ish character of the natural world, and argue thence to architectonic wisdom setting all things in order on the basis of this appearance suggestive of wise ordering.

In the first book of the Confessions, St. Augustine notes that our hearts are restless until they rest in God, but, alas, even from the beginning we often seem to go wrong, hating learning, or, if learning, doing it only for vain benefits, or, if learning for its own sake, without regard for what is best to learn. Nonetheless, in all learning done out of love of truth and wisdom, however imperfect, we do find some goodness from God. We see then the sublimity and humility of human wisdom, so far as we attain it in our limited ways at various stages of our existence, for it is derived from that wisdom than which can be thought no greater, an echo of it, something as if it were divine, and yet we grasp it only in part, and only in the pursuit, not by nature but only by love of it, so that the wisest human person is in a sense more accurately called a philosopher, a lover of wisdom, than a wise person, and certainly in comparison with the universally architectonic wisdom. For this reason, in human beings it is better to love wisdom than to know wise things; as Aquinas says (ST 2-1.66.6 ad1), knowledge is is perfected by the known being in the knower, whereas love is perfected by the lover being drawn to the beloved. The wisdom to which we may be drawn by love is greater than any wisdom we may have come to possess. And it is in this loving pursuit of wisdom that we are at our best. 

Thus our holy predecessors made clear that our wisdom, such as we may have it, depends on respect for divine things. We find this in sacred scripture, which emphasizes it vehemently and repeatedly. Thus we read in Proverbs (1:7), The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction, and (9:10), The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. We find in the book of Job (28:28), And he said to man, Behold the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding. Likewise, the Psalmist says (111:10), linking both fear of the Lord and the beginning of wisdom to observance of Torah, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts gain rich understanding. And in Sirach, who emphasizes this idea of the Torah as wisdom given to us, we find this emphasized even more strongly. The first verse (1:1) tells us, All wisdom comes from the Lord, and is with him forever, and as noted above, we are told (1:8), There is one who is wise, and greatly to be feared, sitting on his throne. Then we have four statements of the relation between fear of the Lord and wisdom. First (1:14), To fear the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; she was created with the faithful in the womb. Second (1:16), To fear the Lord is wisdom's full measure; she satisfies men with her fruits. Third (1:18), The fear of the Lord is the crown of wisdom, making peace and perfect health to flourish. Fourth (1:20), To fear the Lord is the root of wisdom, and her branches are long life, which in some manuscripts is connected in the next verse with the fact that to fear the Lord drives away sins. And later in his summary, he says (1:27), The fear of the Lord is wisdom and instruction, and he connects it with humility, not exalting oneself. In any case, we do find that where people wholly lose sight of the ultimate divine nature of wisdom, the sense of philosophy as love of wisdom begins to fade and the reasoning of men becomes puffed up with sophistry and wrangling, whereas even merely maintaining respect and humility before it preserves the possibility of true love of wisdom.

In pursuing this wisdom, we are imperfect, however, and, our perspectives and our grasp on wisdom being limited, human philosophies, however beautiful and brilliant, cannot be identified with wisdom in itself. They are, rather, at best cloudy mirrors. And at worst, people led by vanity and self-importance seize this or that aspect of wisdom, this or that intelligible truth, and without regard for all the others attempt to turn everything into it. Nonetheless, from all cases in which there is any of love's tendency to wisdom at all, much can be learned. As St. Clement of Alexandria says (Strom 1.13),  just as the Bacchantes tore asunder the limbs of Pentheus, so the sects both of barbarian and Hellenic philosophy have done with truth, and each vaunts as the whole truth the portion which has fallen to its lot. But all, in my opinion, are illuminated by the dawn of Light. Let all, therefore, both Greeks and barbarians, who have aspired after the truth — both those who possess not a little, and those who have any portion — produce whatever they have of the word of truth. And where true lovers of wisdom, however the state of their knowledge and however far apart their starting-points, come together as friends from afar, much more can be gleaned, and we find, by coming together, a greater unity which our partial recognitions only approximate in limited ways, because we discover, on the basis of a mutual love of wisdom arising from a common human nature, that our partial recognitions are in some complementary. As John Paul II says (Fides et ratio, Intr.3),  It is an innate property of human reason to ask why things are as they are, even though the answers which gradually emerge are set within a horizon which reveals how the different human cultures are complementary. But all these philosophical aspects, in varying ways and to varying degrees, with varying clarity and varying success, tend toward the divine wisdom; as Clement also says (Strom 6.17), The philosophers, therefore, who, trained to their own peculiar power of perception by the spirit of perception, when they investigate, not a part of philosophy, but philosophy absolutely, testify to the truth in a truth-loving and humble spirit; if in the case of good things said by those even who are of different sentiments they advance to understanding, through the divine administration, and the ineffable Goodness, which always, as far as possible, leads the nature of existences to that which is better. Taking it in this sense, we can agree with the comment by Friedrich Schlegel (Athenaeum Fragments 344), "Philosophy is a mutual search for omniscience."

When we consider the causality of the world, then, we find that there is a necessity for the final cause, and in particular for a universally superordinate cause that makes determinate the causality of natural things. When we consider the natural tendency of the intellect, which is to the intelligible, we find that there is a necessity for an infinite intelligible as that which is the end for the intellect. When we consider the love of wisdom as a preeminent natural expression of the intellectual nature, we find that there is a necessity for a universally architectonic wisdom. Each of these is related to the previous as more specific to the more general; thus we have seen that an ultimate end, infinitely intelligible, so as to be all-governing wisdom must actually be, based on natural causation, intellectual disposition, and philosophy itself.

Therefore from actuality and potentiality, from communication and participation, and from finality and tendency, we have more than adequate reason to hold that there is something divine. However, for the completion of this demonstration, there are a few additional things that need to be considered, namely, the relationship of these arguments to each other, possible objections to their conclusion, what can be known from these arguments, and how we can speak of the divine on the basis of these. To these we will turn.


* Nicolas Malebranche, Dialogues on Metaphysics and on Religion, Jolley & Scott, trs. Cambridge University Press (Cambridge: 1997).

** Nicolas Malebranche, The Search after Truth, Lennon & Olscamp, trs. Cambridge University Press (Cambridge: 1997).