Friday, April 3, 2015

Qualms about the Resurrection of Jesus | Reasonable Faith

Qualms about the Resurrection of Jesus | Reasonable Faith

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Holy Week A Time Apart for Renewal - Loyola Press

Holy Week A Time Apart for Renewal - Loyola Press

Did Jesus Rise From the Dead? | Yale 2014 | William Lane Craig

Aristotle: The Four Causes: Chance and Finality. Is the Universe Designed? Sec.2 2(3)

Change as Natural Tendency to Self-Realization

According to Aristotle nature is (a) a principle of movement and rest within a thing (all beings that have such a principle are “natural,” they act by “nature”), (b) nature constitutes the essence of a “this something,” (c) nature is the source of the tendency and action-movement towards actualization.
We already noticed that form contributes to a being its actuality, its essence, and it constitutes the being's internal finality. It is the final cause inside the thing. Aristotle identifies “nature” many times in his writings with “essence,” “whatness,” and consequently with form. “The term according to nature” is applied to all these things and also to the attributes which belong to them in virtue of what they are.” 8 In another place he says „The form is ‘nature' rather than matter.”9
The nature of a thing is revealed in the process of growth (change) by which its complete fullness is attained. The internal movement is initiated by nature, but on the other hand, nature is attained, completely realized in that process. Then Aristotle expressly affirms: “But the nature is the end or “that for the sake of which.”10 But “that for the sake of which” means what is best and the end of things that lead up to it.11
To confirm this further Aristotle stresses: “Now, the causes being four, it is the business of the physicist to know about them all, and if he refers his problems back to all of them, he will assign the 'why' proper to his science–the matter, the form, the mover, that for the sake of which. The last three often coincide for the 'what' and ‘that for the sake of which’ are one.”12
Nature itself therefore plays the role of final cause. This identity is very clearly stated by Aristotle: “Therefore action for an end is present in things which come to be and are by nature.”13 Both artificial and natural products are therefore for ends. Aristotle mentions animals other than man which make things neither by art nor after deliberation: spiders, ants. He also mentions plants.
If then it is both by nature and for an end that the swallow makes its nest and the spider its web, and plants grow leaves for the sake of the fruit and send their roots down (not up) for the sake of nourishment, it is plain that this kind of cause is operative in things which come to be and are by nature. And since “nature” means two things, the matter and the form, of which the latter is the end, and since all the rest is for the sake of the end, the form must be the same in the sense of “that for the sake of which.”14
Aristotle concludes: “It is absurd to suppose that purpose is not present because we do not observe the agent deliberating.”15 It is clear from the above quotations that for Aristotle all natural tendency is finally directed. Nature is operating for a purpose. Change as natural tendency is self-realization at which the transition aims. This “aim” or “end” is the actualizing or the full completion of the form, which, as Aristotle stated above, very often is identified with “that for the sake of which,” the purpose, the goal: the final cause.
Finality therefore or purposiveness is rooted in the very nature of all natural beings. It can be stated that this is a fundamental principle of the entire universe. Aristotle affirms towards the end of the Physics that anyone who denies finality in Nature denies natures themselves.

Chance and Finality

Within the Aristotelian system Nature is radically pervaded by Telos. It can become intelligible only if we see it as a universe through and through teleological.
In Chapters 4 to 6 of Physics II Aristotle discusses the problem of chance and spontaneity, complaining that: “There are some who ascribe this heavenly sphere and all the worlds to spontaneity. They say that the vortex arose spontaneously, i.e., the motion that separated and arranged in its present order all that exists.”16 The first thing Aristotle points out in this context is that chance cannot be the cause of what happens with constancy or for the most part.17 Constancy and determinateness cannot be caused by chance, for chance is the exact opposite to the latter. For Aristotle a thing comes to pass by nature or as a result of thought or by chance. The disjunction is absolute. Things which happen by nature or as a result of thought both belong to the class of things which are for the sake of something. 18 So chance is a name for incidental events which, however, are secondary by-products of actions by nature or deliberation. A per se cause by its nature is determinate, whereas incidental causes are indeterminable and indefinite.19 The incidental occurs and is possible only within the sphere of what happens by nature of deliberate intent. “It is clear then that chance is an incidental cause in the sphere of those actions for the sake of something, which involves purpose.”20
So chance is really not a cause stricto sensu. It is rather an unintended intersection of different events which happen by their nature or are deliberately intended. Therefore, it is “contrary to rule,”21 and as such it is unstable and “none of the things which result from it can be invariable or normal.” 22 Aristotle further explains that chance occurs only as the contrary of deliberate intention; hence it is possible only within the “moral sphere” or where deliberate intention is present, and thus he excludes it in inanimate things, lower animals, children. These cannot do anything by chance because of lack of deliberate intentionality in them. However, he grants to inanimate beings and animals spontaneity.23 Spontaneity results from an action “by nature” but one producing an unintended result under the influence of an external agent. Spontaneity connected with deliberate intention may result in “chance.” Both chance and spontaneity are sources of change since “in this sort of causation the number of causes is infinite.”24 Their effects remain always incidental and no incidental cause is prior to cause “per se.” “Hence, however true it may be that the heavens are due to spontaneity, it will be true that intelligence and nature will be prior causes of this All and of many things in it besides.”25
In the last statement we can clearly see that the universe is primarily caused by “intelligence and nature” and these two belong, as previously stated, to the class of agents which always act for an end, i.e., for “that for the sake of which.” Finality reigns there.
The evidence for the priority of finality is, for Aristotle, constancy and determinateness. Both are rooted in the metaphysical structure of each being and here the form is the final cause. Prime matter, being their potency, does not contain determination of any kind. We mean prime matter as such, because there certainly exists a “sequence of forms” in nature, and prime matter already informed, actualized by some form, seems to be “disposed” rather to this form than that one. There remains therefore the form in beings which contributes constancy, determinateness and finality to Nature. Those few remarks are only logical sequelae of what has been said before on the role of form within the Aristotelian notion of finality.

We already mentioned that for Aristotle chance is incidental, not truly even a cause per se, indeterminate and, so to say, a secondary by-product within the sphere of what happens “by nature and deliberation.” As such, chance can never be a source of finality in the universe in any sense whatsoever; it is by definition its very opposite and can be conceived only in reference to purpose and order. Direction towards ends is for Aristotle evident when works of nature are comparable to human actions whose purposiveness is obvious and cannot be denied. There exists a strong parallelism and similarity between human purposive activity and the activity of other beings in Nature. Aristotle says: “If, therefore, artificial products are for the sake of an end, so clearly also are natural products. The relation of the later to the earlier terms of the series is the same in both.”26
In another place he emphasizes again: “It is absurd to suppose that purpose is not present 27 because we do not observe the agent deliberating.” Deliberation is not necessarily present, for example, in art, though art is not thereby lacking purpose.
In any ordered series of steps in an action that tends to a completion, all earlier steps are for the sake of the last one. “Now surely as in intelligent action so in nature; so it is in each action if nothing interferes. Now intelligent action is for the sake of an end; therefore, the nature of things also is so. Thus if a house, e.g., had been a thing made by nature, it would have been made in the same way as it is now by art; and if things made by nature were made also by art they would come to be in the same way as by nature.”28
In human works we observe the determination of the earlier steps in action by the later and ultimately by the “completion” the end, the purpose in an intelligent activity. The former steps become “means” to the later steps which lead to completion in the series. “Future” dominates the “now.” The “now” is and is determined and produced for the sake of the “not yet” realized, but intended future achievement. The different elements of activity are united into a coordinated series and become members of a sequence of activities as means (moments in the whole flow of action) precisely because they are necessary and must exist in this and not in another sequence if the purpose is to be attained. So the very order and determinate sequence of realization, the ordering of many into a unified series of directed activities and the regularity with which this ordering necessarily occurs are leading to a purpose-completion. Directionality which is achieved through and by orderly sequence already defines the completion as future purpose. There is a similarity between human intelligent activity and activities that are accomplished by nature. If in human action the orderly relationship of the later to the earlier constitutes the finality of the whole activity it is clear that the same is done by works of nature.
This seems to be the core of the whole argument. Now since the activity of any being flows from its nature it reveals the purposive character of works of nature. Aristotle gives examples from the life and activities of birds and animals. Specifically he mentions spiders, ants; the way the swallow builds its nest, the spider the network, the ants their anthills. Later on he mentions plants, and seeds. Ultimately, since nature means primarily prime matter and form, the form remains the ultimate principle of action bearing the character of “that for the sake of which.” This action, however, is purposive, as has been shown.

Aristotle does not even suspect that the above line of argumentation would be attacked as anthropomorphism. He simply points to the same elements in human intelligent activity and the works of natural beings, living and non-living outside of the human sphere. Since he does not see any difference between the two, his reasoning is for him conclusive: “It is absurd to suppose that purpose is not present because we do not see the agent deliberating.” Thus he concludes firmly: “It is plain then that nature is a cause, a cause that operates for a purpose.”29

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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Aristotle :The Four Causes - Every Agent acts for an end. Is the Universe Designed? Sec.2 Part 1(2)


Aristotle is the first philosopher in the Greek tradition who developed the full technical analysis of final cause. He is fully aware of that fact and expresses this awareness when he criticizes his predecessors for failing to understand the crucial value of final cause.for any serious philosophical explanation of reality.1 This philosophy of final cause is found mainly in the first book of his Metaphysics and the second book of Physics. Occasionally he develops the concept of final cause in other places within the body of his writings. The Aristotelian notion of final cause deserves a thorough examination on two counts: (a) he is the first one to give complete metaphysical analysis of final cause, and (b) he influenced in this respect very deeply the thought of Thomas Aquinas and many other thinkers in the West.

The Explanation of Change Through the Employment of the Idea of Act and Potency.

Without a clear knowledge of change (or motion) there is no understanding of the nature of things since by nature Aristotle understands that which is the origin of motion and change. “For those things are natural which by a continuous movement originated from an internal principle arrive at some completion, but always the tendency is towards the same end if there is no impediment.” 2 The essential meaning of “nature” is for Aristotle “…the essence of those things, which have the principle of movement in themselves, insofar as they are this something.”3
Nature therefore contains the following elements: (a) it is a principle, a metaphysical beginning or a source, (b) a principle of movement or change, (c) it is internal, constitutive of the essence of a being, (d) it is a tendency to a determined end, (e) it is a tendency towards a state of completion, perfection, actualization.
From the above it is clear that the analysis of change is the central focus of the Aristotelian Metaphysics and his Philosophy of Nature. Confronted with the Parmenidean monism of immutable being, on the one hand, and the obvious, omnipresent and real fact of change on the other, Aristotle gave a masterly metaphysical analysis of change and becoming in dynamical terms. Basic Aristotelian insight in this respect remains true even today. We shall also see that every natural change is intelligible to him only through the notion of final cause.
In order to solve the problem of change in general, Aristotle introduces the notion of potency. This notion of “potency” as correlative to “act” makes change intelligible. The thing which is changing is in the process of transition from one mode (terminus a quo), to another mode of being (terminus ad quern). There are two main types of such transition: one, called accidental, when one and the same being changes and acquires a new state retaining its proper nature; a second, called substantial, when the transition is from one nature to another, a different one. One being ceases to exist and a new one emerges. At this point we are interested in the first type of change. It occurs in beings composed of potency and act.
Potency as a metaphysical and internal component is openness, possibility, capacity for a being to move from one actual mode of existing to another, a new one. It makes newness intelligible. By newness here we understand the gradual transition to the “terminus ad quem.” This transition is always a “transition toward,” never something in itself, but it is a movement of something which itself changes. Something can be in the movement of change only insofar as it is actually not yet completed, not having yet what it can have, not completely realized. It cannot at “terminus a quo” be already what it becomes at “terminus adquem”. The changing movement is therefore defined by Aristotle as realization of the potential as such.4
A being can exist in three possible modes: (a) it is not yet moving, (b) it is in the mode of complete realization, full completion; then it moves no more, (c) it is in the middle mode of movement-change, in the transition from one mode of being to another, to its realization.
Change, therefore, is a state of a being which does not yet fully realize all the potency of “this something” It still is in the position to acquire new “points of completion.” Each natural change is an internal going towards its end perfection, or full realization: towards its final completion. Each natural movement is for the “where-for” or the “good” for which the movement occurs. Each natural movement has an aim. This, however, is the Aristotelian definition of final cause 5 proposed, e.g., in Metaphysics (Bk. XII, Chap. 1): “For final cause is (a) some being for whose good an action is done, and (b) something at which the action aims.”6 Since we are considering here internal directionality towards final actualization, this actualization is precisely “that for the sake of which” and „that at which the action aims.” Both are Aristotelian definitions of final cause.
It remains to show that the internal finality in natural beings is identical with the form as final cause. Form is the essence of “that which is coming to be.”7 For it is clear that the Aristotelian notion of finality is rooted in the analysis of motion-change. This analysis, as mentioned above, makes the notion of “nature” very clear. As a matter of fact, for Aristotle both nature and internal final cause are identical.

Richard Dawkins’ Argument for Atheism in The God Delusion | Reasonable Faith

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The Courage to Think For Yourself The Search For Truth and The Meaning of Human Life: Christ’s Words from the Cross: 7 Weapons of Victor...

The Courage to Think For Yourself The Search For Truth and The Meaning of Human Life: Christ’s Words from the Cross: 7 Weapons of Victor...: Christ’s Words from the Cross: 7 Weapons of Victory Over Evil

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"The Lord never tires of having mercy on us" Pope Francis

Spiritual reflection: “The Lord never tires of having mercy on us”
Pope Francis, Homily, February 2015
Dear brothers and sisters, the Lord never tires of having mercy on us, and wants to offer us His forgiveness once again — we all need it — , inviting us to return to Him with a new heart, purified of evil, purified by tears, to take part in His joy. How should we accept this invitation? St Paul advises us: “We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:2...0). This power of conversion is not only the work of mankind, it is letting oneself be reconciled. Reconciliation between us and God is possible thanks to the mercy of the Father who, out of love for us, did not hesitate to sacrifice His only begotten Son. Indeed Christ, who was just and without sin, was made to be sin (cf. v. 21) when, on the Cross, He took on the burden of our sins, and in this way He redeemed and justified us before God. “In Him” we can become just, in Him we can change, if we accept the grace of God and do not allow this “acceptable time” to pass in vain (6:2).
Please, let us stop, let us stop a while and let ourselves be reconciled to God. […] The call to conversion is thus an incentive to return, as the son in the parable did, to the arms of God, gentle and merciful Father, to weep in that embrace, to trust in Him and entrust ourselves to Him.
Painting by Mikhail Nesterov.