Liberty University The Consequences of Ideas Discussion

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THE CONSEQUENCES OF IDEAS The Consequences of Ideas Copyright © 2000 by R. C. Sproul Published by Crossway Books a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers 1300 Crescent Street Wheaton, Illinois 60187 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher, except as provided by USA copyright law. Cover design: Jon McGrath First printing 2000 First trade paperback printing 2009 Printed in the United States of America Unless marked otherwise, Scripture references are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. The Scripture reference marked KJV is from the King James Version. Trade paperback ISBN: 978-1-4335-0314-6 PDF ISBN: 978-1-4335-1161-5 Mobipocket ISBN: 978-1-4335-1162-2 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Sproul, R. C. (Robert Charles), 1939The consequences of ideas : understanding the concepts that shaped our world / R. C. Sproul. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 13: 978-1-58134-172-0 (hardcover : alk. paper) ISBN 10: 1-58134-172-5 1. Philosophy—History. 2. Christianity—Philosophy. I. Title. B72. S68 2000 190—dc21 00-008637 VP 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 09 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 CONTENTS LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS INTRODUCTION: Why Philosophy? 1 The First Philosophers 2 Plato: Realist and Idealist 3 Aristotle: The Philosopher 4 Augustine: Doctor of Grace 5 Thomas Aquinas: Angelic Doctor 6 René Descartes: Father of Modern Rationalism 7 John Locke: Father of Modern Empiricism 8 David Hume: Skeptic 9 Immanuel Kant: Revolutionary Philosopher 10 Karl Marx: Utopian 11 Søren Kierkegaard: Danish Gadfly 12 Friedrich Nietzsche: Atheistic Existentialist 13 Jean-Paul Sartre: Litterateur and Philosopher 14 Darwin and Freud: Influential Thinkers CONCLUSION: Gilson’s Choice NOTES FOR FURTHER READING ILLUSTRATIONS FIGURES 2.1 Plato’s Synthesis 7.1 Sources of Civil Law 8.1 Hume’s Illustration from Pocket Billiards 10.1 Philosophies Arising from the Thought of Immanuel Kant 10.2 Hegel’s Dialectic 10.3 Hegel’s View of History 10.4 Hegel’s First Triad 11.1 Three Stages of Life 12.1 Spectrum of Philosophical Views TABLES 1.1 Ultimate Reality 1.2 The First Philosophers 2.1 Sophists 3.1 The Four Causes 4.1 Aristotle’s Successors 4.2 Humanity as Created and Fallen 5.1 Four Men Who Changed the World 5.2 The Source of Our Knowledge of Truth 8.1 Maxims of Modern Philosophers 9.1 Philosophers of the Enlightenment Era 9.2 Traditional Proofs of the Existence of God 13.1 Eight Men Who Changed the World INTRODUCTION: Why Philosophy? The summer of 1959: This date marked the end of my sophomore year in college and the tail end of the decade of “Happy Days.” The beloved “Ike” still occupied the Oval Office, the New York Yankees still dominated major-league baseball, and the turbulent decade of the Sixties was still a year away. My biggest concern was summer employment. Many friends who were engineering students had found lucrative summer jobs that paid well above the minimum wage. My prospects were bleak: I was a philosophy major. I did not find in the newspaper a single want ad calling for philosophers. My only real option was a job for unskilled labor paying the minimum wage. Even at that I was delighted to be offered work in the maintenance department of a hospital. When the foreman heard I was a philosophy major, he handed me a broom and said, “Here, you can think all you want while you’re leaning on the broom.” My coworkers enjoyed this calumny. Among other responsibilities, I was to sweep the hospital’s driveway and parking area. During my first week on the job, I was reaching the end of my sweeping territory. My zone ended where the main hospital driveway intersected the parking lot of the nurses’ home. I noticed another man sweeping the adjacent parking lot. He greeted me, and we exchanged names and pleasantries. When I told him I was a college student, he asked what I was studying. When I said philosophy, his face brightened and his eyes lit up. He fired a barrage of questions at me, inquiring about Descartes, Plato, Hegel, Kant, Kierkegaard, and others. I was astonished at this man’s knowledge. He obviously knew far more about philosophy than I did. “Dangerous” Thoughts I thought it bizarre that an adult whose chief occupation is to sweep driveways could be so erudite in the abstract field of philosophy. The whole conversation seemed incongruous to me. I had to ask him how he knew so much about philosophy. His story was heartwrenching. My new friend was from Germany. He had his Ph.D. in philosophy and had been a professor of philosophy in Berlin. When Adolf Hitler came to power, the Nazis were not content to find a “final solution” for Jews and Gypsies. They also sought to eliminate intellectuals whose ideas were at odds with the “values” of the Third Reich. My friend was removed from his position. When he spoke out against the Nazis, his wife and all but one of his children were arrested and executed. He escaped from Germany with his young daughter. When I asked why he was no longer teaching, he said that teaching philosophy had destroyed the lives of his loved ones and ruined his own. With tears in his eyes, he said he now lived only for his daughter. When I heard this man’s story, I was twenty years old. To me World War II was a dim memory. To a twenty-year-old, fourteen years seem like an eternity. But to my German friend, who was in his mid-fifties, the war years seemed like yesterday. His memory of the past was by no means dim. I mused on something else that morning, which is why I am recounting the tale here. I was pushing a broom because I lived in a culture that sees little value in philosophy and gives scant esteem to those who pursue it. My friend was pushing a broom, on the other hand, because he came from a culture that gave great weight to philosophy. His family was destroyed because Hitler understood that ideas are dangerous. Hitler so feared the consequences of my friend’s ideas that he did everything possible to eliminate him—and his ideas. As you read this book, you probably are not outside reading by sunlight or inside reading by candlelight. More likely you are reading in a room illumined by artificial light. Where did that light come from? You probably got to where you are right now by automobile. Where did that car come from? There is probably no outhouse behind your kitchen. Your place of residence probably has running water and indoor plumbing. Where did that come from? I ask about things that were virtually unknown just a century ago, but that we now consider essential elements of everyday living. These practical things are there because someone first thought about them (perhaps while leaning on a broom) before they were invented or brought into existence. The idea preceded the product, which is how it usually works. Not all ideas issue in tangible products. Some ideas are harebrained. Yet even a dreamer’s fanciful ideas often become honed into sharp concepts with massive consequences. Foundational Thoughts Philosophy forces us to think foundationally. By foundational I mean first principles or basic truths. Most ideas that shape our lives are accepted (at least initially) somewhat uncritically. We do not create a world or environment from scratch and then live in it. Rather we step into a world and culture that already exists, and we learn to interact with it. For example, few people today debate the virtues of a graduated or progressive income tax, in which one group pays not only more money but also a higher percentage of their income (how unlike the tithe—God’s “flat tax”!). Rarely does anyone challenge the justness of such a scheme, because it has been in force for so long. It is an accepted reality. When enacted, however, it was the focus of fierce controversy. Nor do we find much deep discussion about political or legal theory, such as marked the Enlightenment. Then, when the structure of monarchy was giving way to new forms of government, people focused on foundational theory. But today (except perhaps during impeachment trials) we rarely hear discussions of the difference between a republic and a democracy. Nor do we hear loud controversies about the foundation for law (save when Supreme Court-justice nominee Clarence Thomas alluded to natural law during his confirmation hearing and Senator Joseph Biden responded with a heated retort). Our country’s Constitution was established more than 200 years ago. This idea has already been implemented. Today we merely tweak it with new legislation here and a new judicial decision there. Never mind that we have tweaked the original beyond recognition and are in danger of being pecked to death by baby ducks. We step into the game long after the game was conceived. The rules have been decided and the boundaries set. We are amused when Descartes labors so long and thinks so deeply in order to conclude that he exists. We think it is funny; we think it a foolish waste of time to prove something we all know is true—that we exist. Or we are puzzled by Kant’s spending his life analyzing how we know anything that we know, when from our vantage point we simply know it. Or do we? Thinkers like Descartes and Kant are not merely gazing at their navels. Foundational thinking lays bare all of our assumptions so that we may discover those assumptions that are false and often lethal. Foundational thinking cares about the difference between truth and falsehood because it cares about good and evil. The ancient maxim still applies: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” To any serious thinker, and especially to the professing Christian, an unexamined life is not an option. If my thinking has no value in the marketplace or is not esteemed in the court of public opinion, I can always go back to sweeping parking lots. But I cannot not think. To not think is unthinkable. This book is written not for philosophy scholars but for laypersons —albeit educated laypersons. I hope it serves as an enticing foretaste for future study of theoretical thought. I have intentionally avoided the apparatus of technicalia, which tends to intimidate the laity. In addition to using primary sources, I have leaned on experts in the history of philosophy: Roger Scruton, Gordon Clark, Samuel Stumpf, and others.1 I hope you find this overview of the history of ideas helpful. R. C. Sproul Orlando January 2000 1 The First Philosophers The origins of Western philosophy are rooted in the ancient Aegean world. A sharp distinction between science and philosophy was unknown to thinkers of that day. The word science in its etymology simply means “knowledge,” and the term philosophy derives from “love of wisdom.” As ancient man sought to understand himself and the world around him, knowledge and wisdom were interrelated ideas. He was concerned about the nature of things. Philosophy was born in the ancient quest for ultimate reality, the reality that transcends the proximate and commonplace and that defines and explains the data of everyday experience. Three burdens dominated the thinking of the original philosophers: first, a quest for “monarchy”; second, a quest for unity in the midst of diversity; and third, a quest for cosmos over chaos. Though these quests may be distinguished at one level, at a different level all three involve the search for a metaphysical answer to the physical world. What is meant here by monarchy may be understood by a brief analysis of the word’s original meaning. The term monarchy is made up of a prefix and a root. The prefix mono means “one, singular.” The root, which is more significant, is archē, which means “chief, beginning, or root.” It is often used as a prefix in English, as in archbishops, archenemies, archetypes, archheretics, and archangels. Here arch means “chief, ruler.” An archangel is a chief or ruling angel, as an archbishop is a chief or ruling bishop. The later connotation of monarch as a political figure rests on the idea of one chief ruler. In the ancient quest for monarchy, philosophers sought the chief or ruling substance, or archē, of which all things are made or from which they exist. It was a search for the supreme essence or substance of things, a quest for the ultimate “stuff” of the real world. One of the most vexing problems encountered by the ancient thinker (a problem that remains vexing today) was that of unity and diversity, or of “the one and the many.” It was a matter of discovering sense amid vastly different manifestations of reality: How do all things fit together in a meaningful way? Today we speak, often somewhat glibly, of “the universe.” The term universe is something of a mongrel, in which the words unity and diversity (the one and the many) are jammed together to coin a single word. Institutions of higher learning are often called “universities” because there the various elements of the universe are studied. The so-called “analytical method” of the Enlightenment reflected this ancient quest as it sought the “logic” of the facts—that is, as it sought to deduce laws or universals from the raw data of the particulars. It used the scientific method of learning that combines the tools of induction (observing and collecting data) and deduction (drawing logical inferences and conclusions from the data). The logic was that which gave sense, coherence, or unity to the diversity. In his famous book Cosmos,1 drawn from the television series of the same name, Carl Sagan begins by affirming that the world is cosmos, not chaos. A cosmos is orderly, chaos is not. Chaos is the archenemy of science. If reality is ultimately chaotic, science itself becomes a manifest impossibility. Perhaps you have heard of “chaos physics.” This name suggests a kind of commitment to chaos, but the opposite is the case. Chaos physics probes elements of apparent chaos in order to discover patterns of order that lurk beneath the surface. These physicists study such things as the dynamics of fluid motion, the topography of seacoasts, the structure of snowflakes, and the patterns of wind currents that influence weather. In some respects modern chaos theory recapitulates in a more technical and sophisticated manner the pursuit of cosmos by ancient philosophers. Thales of Miletus When asked about the ultimate stuff of which humans are composed, we may answer that boys are made of “frogs and snails and puppy-dog tails,” while girls are made of “sugar and spice and everything nice.” This children’s ditty may amuse, but as a scientific analysis of the real differences between the sexes, it obviously does not suffice. When we look at Thales’ answer to the question of ultimate reality, we may conclude that he too was spinning a childish ditty. Thales argued that all is water. Everything that is is composed of water, and water serves as the unity, the archei, of all things. Before dismissing Thales to the land of fairy tales and mythology, however, we must afford him the benefit of a second glance. One reason Thales is regarded as the father of Western philosophy is that he distanced himself from traditional mythology and poetry. He sought instead a scientific answer to the nature of things. Nor can Thales be dismissed as a primitive blockhead with no eye or brain for real science. Thales can be regarded as a preRenaissance Renaissance man whose diverse achievements are comparable to those of Leonardo da Vinci and rival those of Archimedes. Thales solved engineering problems by diverting the flow of a river. He devised a system of measuring the heights of Egyptian pyramids based on the movement of their shadows. He developed techniques of navigating by the stars and created an instrument for measuring distances at sea. But his crowning scientific achievement was his accurate prediction of a solar eclipse that occurred on May 28, 585 B.C. So much for puppy-dog tails! Although the original writings of Thales have been lost, some of his thought can be reconstructed by way of anecdotes told about him by other ancient writers, their quotations from his writings, and their allusions to his ideas. We do not know the full measure of his argument that water is the ultimate reality. Water has several factors to commend itself as the ultimate reality. First, the three great mysteries of ancient (and contemporary) science are life, motion, and being. The third is the issue of metaphysical essence. Thales noted that all things he observed in this world come in innumerable sizes, shapes, and colors, and that they all appear in one of three possible states: liquid, gas, or solid. To reduce reality to a single element, Thales looked for one that manifests itself in all three states. The obvious choice is water, which appears as liquid, steam, or ice. From here it is a short speculative step to consider all liquids as particular forms of water, all gases as particular forms of steam, and all solids as particular forms of ice. What about the mystery of life? Thales could easily see that living things are dependent on water. He knew he could not live long without it. And if he wanted to grow grass from seed, he knew he had to water the seed. Ancient people linked their survival to the presence of rain and the absence of drought. Finally, Thales faced the problem of motion: How does one explain the origin of motion in light of our understanding of the law of inertia—that bodies at rest tend to remain at rest unless acted on by an outside force? The obvious question is, What set that outside force in motion? (The quest for an “unmoved mover” did not begin with Aristotle.) To solve this part of the puzzle, Thales needed an automobile. No, I do not mean a Buick. Thales sought something that was hylozoistic, something that has the capacity for self-motion (auto-mobile). He needed something that can move itself without being acted on by something else. As he observed the flow of rivers and the constant motion of the tides, water again became an enticing candidate. Before dismissing Thales as being “all wet” for not perceiving the forces of gravity, especially as exercised by the moon on the ebb and flow of tides, we owe him the benefit of the doubt. Thales was the first philosopher, but by no means the last. He was succeeded by others who sought to correct or refine his theories. The preSocratic philosophers can be organized into four distinct camps, depending on their view of the nature of ultimate reality: 1) corporeal monism, 2) incorporeal monism, 3) corporeal pluralism, and 4) incorporeal pluralism. These four categories can be reduced to two crucial issues: 1) Is ultimate reality physical (corporeal) or nonphysical (incorporeal)? 2) Is ultimate reality one (monism) or more than one (pluralism)? Table 1.1 Ultimate Reality Monism Pluralism 1. Corporeal monism: 3. Corporeal pluralism: Ultimate reality is Corporeal Ultimate reality is physical physical and more than one. (Empedocles, and one. (Thales) Anaxagoras) 2. Incorporeal monism: 4. Incorporeal pluralism: Ultimate reality is Incorporeal Ultimate reality is nonphysical and more than one. nonphysical and one. Thales, seeing water as the one ultimate essence, was a corporeal monist. He was succeeded by his student Anaximander, who rejected the theory that reality can be reduced to one specific element. Anaximander looked for something even more basic, something that rises above or transcends the arena of this world, a world with chronological and spatial boundaries. He searched for a boundless, ultimate realm from which all things come. It is the realm of what he called the apeiron or the indeterminate boundless, what we might call the infinite. Anaximander had a young associate named Anaximenes, who was the last of the group known as the Milesian philosophers. Dissatisfied with the vague idea of a mysterious “boundless,” Anaximenes sought to bring philosophy back to earth by combining or synthesizing some of Thales’ concerns with those of Anaximander. Anaximenes looked for something that is both specific and spread everywhere. This he found in air. Air has many of the same advantages as water: it has different states of rarefaction and condensation, is essential to life, and appears to have the power of self-motion when the wind blows. Pythagoras One of the most fascinating groups that preceded Socrates and Plato was the Pythagoreans, people who clearly influenced Plato. Every high-school student who has taken geometry has heard of the Pythagorean theorem. Pythagoras migrated from Samos to southern Italy, where he developed his theory of numbers. He had a spiritual and religious interest in mathematics by which mystical significance was assigned to numbers. He considered the number ten to be the perfect number. In the study of math, the formal (pertaining to form or essence) becomes more important than the material, the intellectual or spiritual more important than the physical. For Pythagoras and his followers, mathematics is a matter of the soul. Pythagoreans held music in high regard because of its therapeutic value to the soul. To them music is what “soothes the savage beast.” They developed a mathematics of harmony, seeing that sounds can be broken down into numerical ratios or mathematical proportions. Our modern scales owe their origin chiefly to the insight of the Pythagoreans. Medicine, for Pythagoreans, was also subject to mathematics. They saw bodily health in terms of balance or harmony between such opposites as hot and cold and among the body’s chemical functions, anticipating the current biomedical concern for hormonal balances. Pythagoreans applied mathematics to astronomy, seeking the “harmony of the spheres” in an effort to plot and predict the motion of heavenly bodies. This was no mere exercise in speculation; ancient people depended on the stars not only for navigation but, even more importantly, for measuring time (calendars) so they could plant and harvest their crops at optimum times. That math has served as a crucial handmaiden to advances in natural science is documented by history. Advances in mathematical theory have ushered in several revolutions such as the Copernican revolution, the revolution initiated by Isaac Newton with his physics, and the revolution in our day of nuclear science. Two philosophical giants in the pre-Socratic era were Heraclitus and Parmenides. Some have said that all philosophy is nothing more than footnotes to the thought of Plato and Aristotle; one could also argue that Plato and Aristotle were but footnotes to the thought of Heraclitus and Parmenides. Heraclitus Heraclitus is sometimes called the “father of modern existentialism” because of his attack on essences. His thought is summarized with the Greek phrase Panta rhei, “All things are flowing.” According to Heraclitus everything is always and everywhere in flux. To introduce an important philosophical concept here, this means that all things are in a state of becoming as distinguished from being. For Heraclitus, whatever is is always changing. He illustrated this by declaring that you “cannot step into the same river twice.” If you put one foot into a river, by the time you can put your other foot in the river has flowed on. It has changed. Its banks, due to imperceptible erosion, have changed, and you yourself have changed—if in no other way than that you are a few seconds older. Nevertheless, whatever is changing is still a something. Reality is not pure diversity; there remains an abiding unity. Heraclitus looked to fire as the basic element in things because it is constantly in flux. Fire must be constantly fed, yet it constantly gives off something—smoke, heat, or ashes. It is always “in process,” always being transformed. For Heraclitus the process of change is not chaotic but is orchestrated by “God.” I put God in quotes because for Heraclitus “God” is not a personal being but more like an impersonal force. Flux is the product of a universal reason Heraclitus calls the logos. Here we see the philosophical roots of the logos concept that the apostle John appropriated to define the preexistent and eternal person of the Godhead who became incarnate. It would be a serious mistake, however, simply to equate or identify John’s use of logos with that of Greek philosophy, because John filled the term with Hebrew categories of thought. At the same time it would be an equally serious mistake to separate completely John’s use of the term from Greek thought. Heraclitus was looking for a principle of telos, a teleology or purpose that would give order and harmony to things in flux, that would give unity to diversity. For him the logos is the universal law that is immanent in all things. In the final analysis it is Fire with a capital F. His system is at root a kind of pantheism. In examining the presence of flux in all things, Heraclitus sought to account for the reality of strife, which he located in the conflict of opposites. Just as fire works through the conflict of opposites, where nothing is ever lost but only changes its form, so all conflict ultimately is resolved in the overarching fire or the logos of things. Parmenides Parmenides, a younger contemporary of Heraclitus, founded the Eleatic school of philosophy (so-named for Elea, Italy, where he lived). I first heard of Parmenides while in college. My philosophy professor quoted Parmenides’ best-known assertion, “Whatever is, is.” I laughed and blurted out, “And he’s famous?” With this verbal ejaculation I revealed myself as the quintessential sophomore. I assumed that Parmenides had done nothing more than stutter. As I reach my twilight years, perhaps the last three holes of the back nine, I have lost the omniscience I briefly enjoyed as a college sophomore. On reflection I can think of no concept I learned in philosophy that has provoked more thought than Parmenides’ “Whatever is, is.” It forces me to contemplate being itself, which has the salutary benefit of stretching my mind to consider the things of God himself. What I once ridiculed now absorbs me and carries me to the brink of holy apprehension, where I tremble at my own inadequacy. For Parmenides, if anything exists in an absolute way, it cannot change (“Whatever is, is.”). It cannot be and not be at the same time and in the same way. If it is becoming, it cannot be being. If it is not being, it is nothing. It must be absolutely or not at all. This raises the ultimate philosophical question: Why is there something rather than nothing? If indeed there is something, then there must be being, for without being nothing could be. At the same time, Parmenides understood the principle Ex nihilo, nihil fit, “Out of nothing, nothing comes.” The idea that something could come out of nothing or that nothing could give rise to something Parmenides rightly considered to be absurd. Manifestly, if ever there were a time when there was nothing, then there would be nothing now. Change is for Parmenides an illusion. The very concept of change is unthinkable; that is, we cannot really think of it. We cannot think of change because there is no “it” to think about. If something is changing, then in reality it is not an “it.” To think of change would require us to think of something in terms of what it is not, which is impossible. For Parmenides, not only can something not come out of nothing, but also, something cannot arise out of being. If something arises out of being, it already is. Here we see the folly of any concept of self-creation, which requires something to be before it was and which therefore defies all logic. The law of non-contradiction declares that something cannot be what it is and not be what it is at the same time and in the same sense. It is important to note, however, that Parmenides was apparently attacking not only the absurd notion of self-creation but also any notion of creation, which by implication includes the Christian notion of creation. Though the Christian notion does not suffer from the absurdities of self-creation, it is nevertheless not without difficulties. The “how” of creation and the way in which the creature’s being differs from the creator’s remain impenetrable mysteries. (We take comfort, however, that mystery is not a synonym of contradiction.) The impasse on the matter of change became a dominant question for later thinkers, who sought to resolve the difficulties between being and becoming. The impasse also provoked a period of skepticism, during which some concluded that the philosophical quest for ultimate reality is a fool’s errand, doomed to failure. Zeno of Elea Zeno of Elea was a student of Parmenides who devoted himself to answering his mentor’s critics. The “common sense” critics argued that the five senses confirm the outward reality of physical things that are many and that undergo change. Sense perception proves the reality of physical things. Zeno set out to prove that the senses deal only with appearances and not with reality. To prove that the senses can easily deceive us, Zeno set forth four arguments or paradoxes. To answer the pluralists, who declared that the world is divisible, with discrete units, Zeno used the illustration of a racetrack: To circle the track, the runner must traverse an infinite number of points in a finite number of moments. The runner would first need to reach the halfway point. Then he would need to go halfway to the end from there, then another halfway, and another, all the way to infinity, never reaching the finish line. The second paradox concerns a race between Achilles and a tortoise: To give the slow tortoise a chance, Achilles gives him a head start. To beat the tortoise Achilles must first catch up to the tortoise. In the time that it takes Achilles to reach the spot where the tortoise began the race (with his head start), the tortoise has moved on. This process continues forever so that Achilles is always chasing the tortoise but never catching him. The third paradox involves an archer and an arrow: An arrow in flight must always occupy a space equal to its length. But for an arrow to occupy a space equal to its length, at that moment it must be at rest. Since the arrow always occupies a space equal to its length, it must always be at rest. Hence the arrow’s “motion” is an illusion. The fourth paradox, like the others, demonstrates the relativity of motion in terms similar to those used today, which indicates that motion has no clear definition. Empedocles Zeno’s skepticism concerning matter and motion was challenged by the Sicilian philosopher Empedocles. He argued that the reality of motion (and change, which is a form of motion) is too obvious to deny. He located the problem in Parmenides’ monism and countered with a philosophy of pluralism. His pluralism was corporeal, with reality being composed of immutable and eternal particles. These particles possess “being” and do not change. The objects composed of these particles, however, do change, as they undergo changes in their composition. Empedocles identified four basic elements: earth, air, fire, and water. (This led later thinkers to look for a transcendent element, a “fifth essence,” that would unite the four, thus creating the word quintessence. ) For Empedocles, motion and change were explained by equal and opposite forces in nature that attract and repel each other. He called these forces love and hate, or harmony and discord. The governing principle of harmony is love, which “makes the world go round.” Anaxagoras Anaxagoras made a major contribution to the pre-Socratic era with a single modification of corporeal pluralism. He viewed the material world as being composed of eternal units called “seeds” or spermata. Unique to Anaxagoras was his view that reality is composed not only of matter but also of mind. In searching for a rational principle to bring order and harmony to the seeds of a material world, he developed his concept of the nous. The Greek term nous means “mind,” and from it we get the English adjective noetic, “pertaining to the mind.” Still, Anaxagoras did not fill his concept of nous with the idea of a personal creator or governor of the universe. His concept was more abstract, an impersonal power or force that is the teleological (purposeful) principle of reality. Table 1.2 The First Philosophers BirthCentury death Place of birth (B.C.) (approx.) Thales 6th Pythagoras 6th 570-497 Samos Heraclitus 540-480 6th-5th Parmenides 5th Zeno 5th Empedocles 5th 495-435 Acragas,Sicily Primary place of Major work residence Miletus,Asia Minor Croton,Italy Ephesus,Asia On Nature Minor The Way of Truth Elea, Italy and the Way of Seeming Elea, Italy Title unknown On Acragas,Sicily Nature,Purifications Clazomenae,Asia Athens Title unknown Minor Other developments in pre-Socratic philosophy include the primitive atomism of Democritus and the rise of ancient skepticism. We will examine the impact of skepticism on Plato’s great mentor, Socrates, in the following chapter. Anaxagoras 5th 500-428 2 Plato: Realist and Idealist One cannot grasp the historical significance of Plato without first considering the impact of his mentor, Socrates. Since Socrates left no body of literature and since he frequently stars as the supreme sage in Plato’s Dialogues,1 it is difficult to discern where Socrates leaves off and Plato begins. Socrates, the “gadfly of Athens,” was born in 470 B.C. He grew up during the golden age of Greek culture, a period that witnessed the genius of Euripides and Sophocles in literature, the influence of Pericles in politics, and the building of the Parthenon. The war with Persia was over, and victorious Athens had emerged as a major naval power. Athens’s gilded age, however, was short-lived. Her gold began to tarnish under the burden of the heavy taxation levied by Pericles. This sparked the Peloponnesian War in 431, which ended in 404 with the defeat of Athens. Meanwhile a crass politicization of education, economics, law, and public works led to a decline in both substantive thinking and civic virtue, both of which are enemies to any democratic enterprise that thrives on compromise and the relativization of ethics. Cynicism and skepticism sapped Greek culture of its grandeur. The ancient quest for the archē or ultimate reality had given way to a new kind of skepticism and pragmatism. This new mood was incarnated by the Sophists of the fifth century B.C. Sophism From the Sophists of antiquity are derived the terms sophistry, sophomoric, and the pejorative use of sophisticated. The three most famous leaders of this movement were Gorgias, Protagoras, and Thrasymachus. Gorgias is known for introducing radical skepticism. He turned his back on philosophy and practiced rhetoric instead. This discipline focused on the art of persuasion in public discourse. The goal of rhetoric was not to proclaim truth but to achieve practical aims by persuasion. Rhetoric in this sense functioned in antiquity as Madison Avenue does today. Gorgias denies that there is any truth. “All statements,” he declares, “are false.” It doesn’t seem to bother him that if all statements are false, then the statement “All statements are false” is also false, meaning that at least some statements must be true. His views are not unlike those of modern relativists who proclaim that there are no absolutes (except for the absolute that there are no absolutes!). He bases his axiom on the premise that nothing exists. He hedges his bet, however, by saying that if something does exist, it is unknowable or incomprehensible. Even if it does exist and is knowable, he argues, it remains incommunicable. The views of Gorgias and others served to arouse Socrates from his dogmatic slumber, as the skepticism of David Hume would awaken Immanuel Kant centuries later. Socrates realized that the death of truth would mean the death of virtue, and that the death of virtue would spell the death of civilization. Without truth and virtue the only possible outcome is barbarianism. Thrasymachus, who appears as a foil for Plato in The Republic,2 is a Sophist who attacks the quest for justice. According to Thrasymachus, far from being an immoral person, the unjust person, realizing that crime does pay, is a superior person with superior intellect. Here Thrasymachus anticipates Friedrich Nietzsche’s Übermensch (“superman”). Justice, says Thrasymachus, is a concept for the weak-minded person who lacks the will to assert himself. Those who rise to the level of true masters are those who prefer injustice. Here is the philosophy of “might is right” with a vengeance, the philosophy of barbarianism. Anticipating Karl Marx, Thrasymachus sees law as nothing more than a reflection of the ruling class’s vested interests. Protagoras, probably the most influential Sophist in Athens, is frequently described by modern historians as the “father of ancient humanism.” His famous maxim, “Homo mensura,” declares that “man is the measure of all things,” of the existence of things that are and of the nonexistence of things that are not. From a biblical perspective, of course, the honor of being the first humanist does not belong to Protagoras. Indeed, it is accorded not to a man, but to a serpent whose maxim was “Sicut erat Dei,” “You will be like God” (Gen. 3:4). For Protagoras, knowledge begins and ends with man. All human knowledge is limited to our perceptions, and perceptions differ from person to person. Objective truth is neither possible nor desirable. Ultimately (if there is an ultimate) there is no discernible difference between appearance and reality. Perception is reality. Thus something can be true for one person and false for another. This is true, of course, with respect to preferences. I may prefer chocolate ice cream and you may prefer vanilla. But Protagoras goes beyond the subjective aspect of preference to reduce all reality to preference. This makes scientific knowledge manifestly impossible, as no standards or norms exist to distinguish truth from error. If you prefer to believe that two plus two equals five, then for you it does. Table 2.1 Sophists BirthPrimary Century death Place of birth place of (B.C.) (approx.) residence Gorgias 5th Thrasymachus 5th Leontini,Sicily Athens Greece Major work On NotBeing See Plato’s Republic, bk 1 BirthPrimary Century death Place of birth place of (B.C.) (approx.) residence Major work See Protagoras 5th 490-420 Abdera Plato’s Protagoras Protagoras argues that ethics are likewise merely a matter of preference. Moral rules merely express customs or conventions, which are never really right or wrong. The distinction between vice and virtue rests on the preferences of a given society. The Roman Seneca would say that when vice becomes a society’s custom or accepted convention, it is almost impossible to remove. Protagoras takes the same approach with respect to metaphysics and theology. Though he acknowledges that some people “prefer” religion and that this is fine for them, he says:“About the gods, I am not able to know whether they exist or do not exist, nor what they are like in form; for the factors preventing knowledge are many: the obscurity of the subject and the shortness of human life.” Socrates Into this milieu of Sophism stepped Socrates. Socrates was no more ready to abandon the quest for truth than to stand back and watch civilization crumble. Some have argued that in his era Socrates was the savior of Western civilization. He realized that knowledge and virtue are inseparable—so much so that virtue could be defined as right knowledge. Right thinking and right doing can be distinguished from each other, but they can never be separated. The method of discovering truth attributed to Socrates is that of the dialogue. In the early dialogues of Plato, Socrates is the protagonist. Scholars debate whether the person depicted in these dialogues is the real, historical Socrates or merely a beloved character through whom Plato expresses his own ideas. In either case there remains little doubt that Socrates did invent the so-called “Socratic method.” The Socratic method of discerning truth is to ask provocative questions. Assumptions are challenged as each question probes deeper into the matter at hand. Socrates was convinced that to gain knowledge one must first admit one’s ignorance. This admission is the beginning of knowledge, but by no means the goal or end of knowledge. It is a necessary condition for learning. For Socrates, however, unlike the skeptics, knowledge is possible through learning. Socrates was persistent in his quest for accurate definitions, which are essential to true learning and precise communication. For example, he believed that there is such a thing as justice, though justice may be difficult to define precisely. Anticipating the Enlightenment, Socrates used an analytical method by which he sought the logic of the facts. For him the logic is what is left after the facts are exhausted. “Beauty remains,” he said, “after the rose fades.” He sought the universals that are gleaned from an examination of the particulars. Socrates was a martyr to the cause of philosophy. His endless questioning of Athenians, focusing on issues of morality and customs, made them suspicious of him. This was particularly true of his challenging the behavior of young men from the patrician class. One of Socrates’ students, a man named Alcibiades, betrayed Athenian secrets to the Spartans. As a result, Socrates was viewed as a mentor to traitors and was brought to trial. He was accused of not worshiping the gods of the state, of introducing strange religious practices, and of corrupting the city’s youth. The prosecutor demanded the death penalty. Socrates eschewed compromise as a means of escape and chose instead to drink the hemlock, the means of execution. His dramatic death is chronicled by Plato in the Phaedo dialogue.3 Plato: Student of Socrates Plato was born in Athens in 428 B.C. and died at the age of eighty. One tradition is that his name means “broad shoulders,” a nickname he received in his youth when he exhibited prowess as a wrestler. Before meeting Socrates, Plato was interested in poetry, an interest that continued and is evident in his later literary style. He studied with Socrates while in his twenties. After his mentor’s death, Plato left Athens and traveled abroad, where he encountered the Pythagoreans. While in Sicily, according to one legend, he was kidnapped, put on sale at a slave-market, ransomed by a friend, and sent back to Athens. At age forty he founded the Academy, for which he is famous. A member of the Athenian aristocracy, Plato’s father was a descendant of the early kings of Athens. The Academy was so named because Plato received a tract of land outside of Athens from a benefactor named Academia. The Academy, situated in a grove of olive trees, is the source of the expression “the groves of Academe.” A sign posted above the entrance to the Academy read, “Let none but geometers enter here.” To the modern observer this sign implies that the school taught only mathematics. Plato’s real passion, however, was philosophy. The link to geometry is this: Both math and philosophy may be considered formal sciences (pertaining to form or essence), as distinguished from the physical or material sciences. Plato maintained a keen interest in mathematics and its concern with abstract forms, an issue that was central to his thought. At the heart of Plato’s elaborate philosophical theory was his desire to “save the phenomena.” “Phenomena” refers to those things that are evident or manifest to our senses. The task of science, in simple terms, is to explain reality. Scientific paradigms shift as they seek more accurate and comprehensive explanations for observed reality. Thus, to “save the phenomena” is to construct a theory that explains reality with a minimum of anomalies. An anomaly is a datum that does not fit the pattern or cannot be explained by a current model or paradigm; the paradigm is forced to shift when the anomalies become too severe or numerous. Plato’s passion for “saving the phenomena” helped to build the philosophical foundation for science. Plato’s paradigm was designed to resolve the tension between Parmenides and Heraclitus, the tension between flux and permanence, becoming and being. Using the later Hegelian terms of a dialectic, we could say that the thought of Heraclitus (becoming and flux) was a thesis and the thought of Parmenides (being and permanency) was its antithesis; Plato then sought a synthesis that would account for both change and permanence, that would incorporate both being and becoming as poles of a dialectic that seems to be demanded by a comprehensive view of reality. Theory of Ideas It is sometimes confusing for students to hear Plato described as both a realist and an idealist. In modern nomenclature the terms are used as antonyms. An idealist tends to view the world through rosecolored glasses and ignores the harsh side of reality. Conversely a realist has a jaundiced eye toward lofty ideals and focuses instead on the warts and blemishes of life. Figure 2.1 Plato’s Synthesis When the terms idealist and realist are both applied to Plato, something different is in view. He was an idealist because of the central significance he attached to Ideas (with a capital I). He was a realist because he argued that ideas are not merely mental constructs or names (nomina) but real entities. Plato conceived of two different “worlds.” The primary world or sphere of reality is the world of ideas. This metaphysical realm lies beyond or behind the realm of material things. For Plato the world of ideas is not only real but also “more real” than the world of physical objects. For Plato the realm of ideas is the realm of true knowledge. The realm of material objects is the realm of mere opinion. His famous analogy of the cave illustrates this. In The Republic Plato tells an imaginary story of men who have lived in a cave as prisoners since childhood. They are chained and immobile. Their field of vision is restricted to a wall directly in front of them. Behind them is an elevated area where people are walking, carrying objects made of wood, stone, and other materials. The glow from a fire casts shadows of the people on the wall that the prisoners can see. The prisoners hear the voices of those people and assume that the voices come from the shadows. Indeed, their only perception of reality comes from the shadows. Plato then asks what would happen if one of the prisoners were to be released and allowed to walk toward the fire. Having been cramped for so many years, he would find walking painful. The glowing fire would hurt his eyes. Because looking at real objects is more painful than gazing at shadows, he would be inclined to return to his customary position and confine his glance to the familiar shadows. Suppose the prisoner were dragged out of the cave and into the midday sun. The pain in his eyes would be intensified. Soon, however, his eyes would grow accustomed to the light and he could see things clearly. This would be a grand epiphany for him. If, however, he were then forced to return to the cave and tried to explain his new understanding of reality, he would be ridiculed. “If they could lay hands on the man who was trying to set them free and lead them up,” said Plato, “they would kill him,” perhaps an allusion to the fate of his beloved mentor, Socrates. For Plato, knowledge that is restricted to the material world is at best mere opinion and at worst ignorance. The task of education is to lead people out of darkness into light, out of the cave and its shadows and into the noonday sun. The Latin term educare describes this process. Its root meaning is “to lead out of,” as the root ducere means “to lead.” We remember the title of Benito Mussolini, “Il Duce,” meaning “the leader.” Plato saw people living in two different worlds: the world of ideas and the world of physical objects. He called material objects “receptacles”—things that receive or contain something else. The physical object contains its idea or form. The form is distinguished from the object. The form causes the essence of a thing. In this sense a material object participates in or imitates its ideal form. But it is at best a copy of the ideal form, and an imperfect copy at that. This concept of the relationship between form and matter, idea and receptacle, lies at the heart of the Greek view of the inherent imperfection of all things material, which led inevitably to the denigration of physical things. This negative view of physical reality influenced many Christian theologies. Theory of Recollection Plato’s ontology (his theory of the nature of being) had a major impact on his epistemology (his theory of the nature of knowing). The theory of recollection is frequently called the theory of reminiscence. Both recollection and reminiscence involve an act of remembering or recalling. To understand this view, let us ask the following question: When you think about a chair, what idea or concept comes to your mind? A wooden, ladder-back chair? A folding metal chair? An overstuffed lounge chair? Or perhaps a rocking chair? These are but a few examples of a vast variety of objects we call “chairs.” How would we define the common characteristics or the “essence” of a chair? Would we say simply that a chair is “an object you sit on”? This would be inadequate. We sit on objects that we do not call chairs. There is a difference between a chair and a sofa, a chair and a bench, a chair and a stool. We could say a chair has four legs, but some have fewer, some have more, and rocking chairs have none at all. Even Plato found it difficult at times to define things accurately. When seeking a precise definition for man, he settled for a while on the definition “a featherless biped.” Then one of his students, hiding behind a wall, threw over it a plucked chicken with a sign attached that read, “Plato’s man.” Plato argued that in the ideal world a perfect idea of chair or “chairness” exists. Our soul comes from the ideal world already possessing the knowledge of the ideal chair. That knowledge is obscured but not obliterated by the body, the soul’s prison. The body is the cave in which the soul or mind is held captive. Chairs that we perceive in the physical world are shadows or imperfect copies of the real, ideal chair. We recognize chairs as chairs insofar as they approximate the perfect idea of chairness that is innate in our minds. We are reminded of the Supreme Court’s attempt to define pornography. “I may not be able to define pornography,” said one justice, “but I know it when I see it.” Likewise, we may be unable to define a chair precisely or exhaustively, but we know one when we see it. Plato would explain this by saying that our encounter with a physical chair, which is a receptacle or imperfect copy of the ideal chair or the idea of chairness, stimulates our memory of the perfect idea of chair. Therefore we call it a chair. Plato developed this theme in several dialogues. In Meno,4 Socrates leads an uneducated young slave into articulating the Pythagorean theorem. By asking the lad the right questions, Socrates gets him to recollect the formal truth from the deepest recesses of his soul or mind. For Plato, knowledge comes, not from experience (a posteriori), but through reason (a priori). Ultimate ideas are innate and not discovered from experience. The best the senses can do is to awaken the consciousness to what it already knows. At worst the senses can mislead the mind. Teaching is a form of midwifery, in which the teacher only assists the student in giving birth to an idea that is already there. Plato put a premium on the mind. No wonder he put up the sign, “Let none but geometers enter here.” The mind or soul is tripartite, according to Plato—composed of reason, spirit, and appetite. Reason includes the awareness of a value or goal. The spirit is the drive toward action under reason’s impulse. Appetite is the desire for physical things. We experience moral conflict when the spirit is opposed by the appetite. They are like horses pulling us in opposite directions. The good or virtuous life is dominated by contemplative reason. The true philosopher cannot be satisfied with empirical or sensory knowledge, which is not ideal knowledge but the shadowy knowledge of opinion—the “knowledge” of the cave. The true philosopher reaches for the essence of things, for the ideals. This allows the philosopher to rise above the superficiality of Sophism and the skepticism of the materialists. He seeks the universal and is dissatisfied with a list of particulars. After discerning that a particular object is beautiful or virtuous, he moves beyond that particular to discover the very essence of beauty and virtue. Something is good only insofar as it participates in or imitates the perfect idea of the good, and this ideal was Plato’s god. Since Plato, philosophy has never stopped wrestling with the metaphysical status of ideas, the relationship between the formal and the material, and the relationship between the mind and the senses. 3 Aristotle: The Philosopher It is no accident that, when students of philosophy refer to “the philosopher,” everyone in the group recognizes the allusion to Aristotle. Aristotle earned the title “the philosopher” by the prodigious scope and depth of his work. He taught a wide variety of subjects, including logic, rhetoric, poetry, ethics, biology, physics, astronomy, political theory, economics, aesthetics, and anatomy—not to mention metaphysical philosophy. Aristotle was born in 384 B.C. in Thrace. His father was the personal physician of the king of Macedonia. At age seventeen Aristotle went to Athens. He enrolled in Plato’s Academy and studied there for twenty years. Aristotle distinguished himself under Plato’s tutelage but presumably provoked jealousy and animosity in other students. Despite being the Academy’s most celebrated alumnus, he was twice passed over for the position of Plato’s successor, possibly making him the first victim of academic politics. Around 347 B.C. Aristotle left Athens and went to Assos, near Troy. He spent three years in the king’s court, where he married the king’s adopted daughter. When Aristotle and his wife returned to Athens, she died. He then entered into a union with a woman named Herphylis, who bore him a son, Nicomachus (for whom the Nicomachean Ethics1 is named). In 342 Aristotle was summoned to Macedonia by King Philip II and appointed personal tutor of the king’s son, Alexander. This relationship would have a massive impact not only on the Mediterranean world in the immediate future but also on Western civilization throughout history. Aristotle’s star pupil would distinguish himself not as a philosopher but as a military leader. Alexander the Great gained from his mentor a passion for unity. His military conquests were motivated in large measure by his desire to create a unified culture in the ancient world, a culture united by a common language, Greek. Because this program of Hellenization extended to Palestine, the New Testament was written in Greek rather than in Hebrew or Latin. Alexander was also interested in the acquisition of knowledge. Some have argued that the best-funded government-sponsored scientific expedition prior to the modern American space program was the one connected with Alexander’s military expeditions. A virtual army of scientists marched with his soldiers for the express purpose of collecting flora and fauna and of classifying and analyzing these specimens. In 334 B.C. Aristotle returned to Athens and founded his own school, the Lyceum. The campus boasted a tree-covered walkway, the Peripatos. Aristotle would stroll along this walkway and lecture to his students following behind him. This earned for the Lyceum the title “the peripatetic school.” This method of teaching while walking was later imitated by others, the most famous being Jesus of Nazareth, whose disciples (or pupils) literally “followed” him. Aristotle presided over the Lyceum for thirteen years, involved in scientific studies and in writing—his literary output was massive. After Alexander the Great died in 323 B.C., a fierce antiMacedonian sentiment arose, which caught Aristotle in its wake because of his connection to Alexander. Like Socrates earlier, Aristotle was charged with impiety. He fled to Chaleis, where about a year later he died of natural causes. Logic When we hear Aristotle’s name we often think first of “Aristotelian logic.” Other refined and modified systems of logic have been developed since Aristotle’s day, but he laid the foundation of formal logic. Aristotle did not invent logic any more than Columbus “invented” America. What Aristotle did was to define logic and set forth its fundamentals. In one sense he did not view logic as a separate science with its own field of inquiry, such as botany, physics, chemistry, and many other disciplines; rather, he saw logic as the organon or instrument of all science. As an organon, logic is the supreme tool necessary for all other sciences. It is the necessary condition for science even to be possible. This is because logic is essential to intelligible discourse. That which is illogical is unintelligible; it is not only not understood, but is also incapable of being understood. That which is illogical represents chaos, not cosmos. And absolute chaos cannot be known in an orderly way, making knowledge or scientia a manifest impossibility. Logic itself has no material content and in this regard may be seen as a formal science, much like mathematics, which in some respects is a form of symbolic logic. Logic measures or analyzes the relationships of statements or propositions. It can show that the conclusion of a syllogism is valid or invalid; it does not determine the truth of a conclusion or argument. Arguments are not true or false, but valid or invalid. Statements may be either true or false, but the logical relationship of one statement to another is either valid or invalid. Aristotle wrote about the fundamental laws of logic, including the law of “noncontradiction.” The chief principle of logic is the law of noncontradiction: Something cannot be what it is and not be what it is at the same time and in the same sense or relationship. A cannot be A and -A (non-A) at the same time and in the same relationship. We may be able to predicate (affirm or deny) many things about the same subject, but we cannot predicate of a subject its negative. For example, we can say that a man is tall, short, rich, poor, old, young, a brother, a son, or a father, but we cannot say that the man is not a man. Likewise, we can say that he is a father and a son at the same time, but we can’t say this of him in the same relationship. Contrary to the popular ditty, “I am my own grandpa,” I cannot be my own biological grandfather. It is crucial to understand that in formulating the laws of logic, Aristotle was concerned not only about our thinking about things but also about the existence of the things we think about. Though Aristotle finally rejected Plato’s philosophy, he certainly was concerned about the relationship between thought and reality. Though we call logic a “formal” science, to Aristotle it was by no means merely formal. Aristotle’s concern for truth was also a concern for reality, for the two are inseparably related. The very word for truth in Greek, aletheia, means, among other things, “real state of affairs.” According to Aristotle, the laws of logic apply to all sciences because they are valid for all reality. This is not to say that all that is rational is real. We can conceive of ideas that are logical but do not correspond to reality. For example, the idea or concept of a unicorn is not illogical, but unicorns do not exist in reality. Everything that is real, however, is rational. The illogical cannot exist in reality. There cannot be in reality a nonunicorn unicorn. This does not mean that people never violate the law of noncontradiction and thereby indulge in illogical thinking. This happens frequently. But when we begin to think in this manner, at that point we lose touch with reality. For instance, the idea of an immovable object is perfectly logical; so is the idea of an irresistible force. What is not logical is the idea of a real immovable object and a real irresistible force coexisting. The two cannot both exist in the real world. Why? What would happen in the real world if an irresistible force met an immovable object? As the songwriter understood, something would have to give. If the irresistible force moves the immovable object, then the immovable object is in fact movable. If it is movable, it cannot at the same time and in the same relationship be immovable. On the other hand, if the immovable object does not move, the irresistible force is in fact resistible. A force cannot be both resistible and irresistible at the same time and in the same relationship. Again, reality may contain something that is itself both immovable and irresistible in its force, but it cannot contain one thing that is absolutely immovable and another that is absolutely irresistible. For Aristotle, the law of noncontradiction is not merely a law of thought but also a law of being. Indeed it is a law of thought precisely because it is first a law of being. People can say that the number five is both odd and even, but it cannot be both odd and even, because the terms are mutually exclusive. We may say it is both, but we cannot intelligibly think it is both. The Categories In defining how we think about things, Aristotle developed the concept of categories. This concept is vital to an understanding of language and knowledge. Knowledge implies a certain awareness of objects in reality. We assign names to these objects or we use words to describe them. Ideas involve words. Biology, for example, has a subdivision called taxonomy, the science of classification. Biological entities are sorted into kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. We distinguish between the animal kingdom and the plant kingdom. In the former we further distinguish between mammals and reptiles, vertebrates and invertebrates. This process of classification notes two things: similarities and differences. We group ideas according to their similarities and distinguish them according to their differences. We group birds together because they have feathers and wings, and fish because they have fins and gills. But not all birds are woodpeckers and not all fish are minnows. The science of taxonomy is crucial not to biology alone but to all science, because it is crucial to all knowledge. It is crucial to all knowledge because it is crucial to all language. Knowledge depends on language for its intelligibility. All meaningful words reflect the properties of similarity and difference. A word that means everything actually means nothing. To be meaningful a word must both affirm something and deny something. It must refer to what it is and not refer to what it is not. In this sense all science is taxonomy, because taxonomy involves the content of discrete ideas that can be distinguished from the content of other discrete ideas. The more complex and discriminate knowledge becomes, the more precise the science. We are grateful a physician can distinguish between a stomachache caused by indigestion and one caused by stomach cancer, because the treatment for each differs significantly. When we think about something, we think about subjects and their predicates (those things that can be affirmed or denied about them). This is what Aristotle was getting at with his doctrine of categories. For him the categories refer to ideas that can be predicated of a particular substance. These categories include quantity, quality, relations, place, date, posture, possession, action, and passivity. For example, we may state that a man is six feet tall. The term man is the substance we are describing. The predicate “six feet tall” tells us something about his quantity. If we say he is short or gifted, we are speaking about a quality he possesses. If we say he is in Miami, we say something of his place or location. These nine categories, according to Aristotle, refer to all possible predicates about a thing. They are all possible meanings attached to the verb is. For Aristotle the tenth (or first) category is substance itself. If I say, “Socrates is a man,” I am predicating something about Socrates’ substance. Every reality must have a substance or it would be nothing. Its substance is its essential reality. The Sophists argued against the law of non-contradiction and asserted that the same thing can be a man and a mouse, meaning it can be both man and non-man at the same time and in the same relationship. Aristotle said this is absurd. Those who argue against the law of noncontradiction must also deny substantive reality. According to Aristotle, an entity is made up of its substance and its predicates, or what he called its accidens. The primary category of a thing is its substance, its essential nature. Some men may be tall, others short. Some men are fat, others thin. Some men are rich, others poor. But all of them are men. Manhood is the universal essence found in all men. While men may differ with respect to particular qualities or categories, there is a substratum of manness in all of them. This substance stands “under” or “beneath” all of its qualities. The language of Aristotle was used in the Christian church to define many theological concepts. One example is the term transubstantiation, used by the Roman Catholic Church to define the miracle of the mass. Aristotle had distinguished between the substance and the accidens of a thing. The substance is its essential nature, while its accidens are its external, perceivable qualities. An oak tree has the accidens of tallness and hardness because these accidens are connected to the substance of the tree. The doctrine of transubstantiation maintains that in the mass the substance of bread and wine are miraculously transformed into the substance of the body and blood of Christ, while the accidens of the bread and wine remain the same. This transaction involves a double miracle. On the one hand, you have the substance of the body and blood of Christ present without the accidens of the body and blood of Christ. On the other hand, you have the accidens of bread and wine without the substance of bread and wine. This is why the elements still look like bread and wine, taste like bread and wine, and feel like bread and wine. Though Aristotle’s language is used in formulating it, the doctrine of transubstantiation represents a sharp departure from his philosophy. Aristotle allowed for the distinction between an entity’s substance and accidens, but not for their separation (as is called for in transubstantiation). He maintained that a thing’s accidens are generated by or flow out of its substance. An oak tree has acorns because acorns are part of the accidens of an oak tree’s substance. The presence of acorns signals the presence of an oak tree, not the presence of an elephant, because the substance of an elephant does not produce the accidens of acorns. Thus a thing’s substance generates its accidens. Of course the Roman Catholic Church understood Aristotle’s philosophy at this point and found that a miracle was necessary to transcend the natural connection between substance and accidens. Form and Matter Aristotle’s theory of form represents his most significant departure from Plato. Aristotle was not satisfied with Plato’s synthesis of Heraclitus and Parmenides, of being and becoming. In an attempt to account for both being and becoming, both permanence and change, Plato had postulated two different worlds—one of ideas and one of receptacles. The result was a philosophy that is essentially dualistic. Aristotle’s passion for unity led him to break with Plato and construct his own metaphysical theory. For Aristotle, all substance is a combination of form and matter. We never encounter form without matter or matter without form. Forms or ideas have no independent existence apart from matter. There is no ideal realm where forms or ideas exist in and of themselves. Aristotle is not saying that form or idea is not real. Universals are not mere categories supplied by the mind, or subjective notions or names (nomina). The forms are real, and they exist in individual entities themselves. The form of manness really exists in each individual man. The form of elephantness exists in each individual elephant. Aristotle explains that the form of a thing—what he calls its “entelechy”—determines its particular materiality. Humans display the attributes of humanity because they contain the form, the entelechy, of humanness. Entelechy is a teleological force or principle that governs a thing’s becoming what it becomes. Acorns do not grow into elephants because they contain the entelechy of oak treeness, not elephantness. The realm of becoming is the realm of change. All change represents a kind of motion. That which changes moves from one thing to another. This does not necessitate a change in location. For example, the process of generation and decay are types of change or motion. Likewise the process of aging is a kind of change or motion. For something to change from one place to another or from one state to another, something must cause that change to take place. The process of becoming requires causation. The Four Causes Aristotle posited four distinct types of causes that produce changes in things. These causes are 1) the formal cause, which determines what a thing is; 2) the material cause, that out of which a thing is made; 3) the efficient cause, that by which a thing is made; and 4) the final cause, that for which a thing is made, or its purpose. Table 3.1 The Four Causes Formal cause Material cause Efficient cause Final cause Defined That which determines what a thing is That out of which a thing is made Illustrated The sculptor’s idea or plan for a sculpture The block of marble That by which a thing is made The sculptor That for which a thing is made; The decoration of a house or its purpose garden For example, what causes a statue to be made? Its formal cause is the artist’s idea or plan for it. Its material cause is the block of marble out of which it is carved. Its efficient cause is the sculptor who shapes the marble into the statue. And its final cause is, in all likelihood, to decorate someone’s house or garden. Change does not occur by combining formless matter with matterless form. Rather, changes are always wrought in things that already have a combination of form and matter, that are changed into something new or different. The painter does not create a masterpiece ex nihilo. Instead he arranges pigment on a canvas that already exists and arranges the paint in a way that creates a picture. The dynamic of change, for Aristotle, is bound up with the ideas of potentiality and actuality. An oak tree begins with an acorn. The acorn is not actually an oak tree, but it has the potential of becoming one. That potential is realized when it actually becomes an oak tree. But nothing contains any potentiality unless it first has actuality. Actuality is primary, and it is a necessary condition for potentiality. There can be no such thing as pure or absolute potentiality. Such a “thing” would be potentially anything or potentially everything, but it would be actually nothing. According to Aristotle, however, there can, indeed must, be something that is pure or absolute actuality. This is Aristotle’s “god,” or his notion of pure being. A being of pure and absolute actuality has no unrealized potential. It is not open to change, growth, or mutation. A being with no potentiality and with pure actuality, since it has no change, must have no motion of any kind. This concept formed Aristotle’s idea of the “unmoved mover.” The Unmoved Mover The ultimate cause of motion, according to Aristotle, must be rooted in pure being or pure actuality. It must be eternal, immaterial, and immutable. The unmoved mover is not merely the first in a series of movers or causes. Aristotle realized that if the unmoved mover were merely the first mover, this would require that something else moved it. Similarly, if the unmoved mover were the first cause, this would require that something else caused it. Aristotle understood that, to escape the illogical morass of infinite regress, the ultimate cause of motion must be an uncaused cause or an unmoved mover. Actuality must precede potentiality, just as being must precede becoming. Therefore being precedes becoming by logical necessity. This forms the classical root for the notion that “God” is a logically necessary being, an ens necessarium. Later philosophical theology would add that God is necessary not only logically but also ontologically. That is, pure being has its power of being within itself. It is self-existent and cannot not be. Aristotle’s “god” did not rise to the level of the Judaeo-Christian God. It remained a kind of impersonal force. Aristotle had no doctrine of creation. Rather, the unmoved mover is the ultimate form of eternal matter, which moves the world not by force but by attraction, as a light draws a moth to itself. This power of attraction then becomes also the efficient cause that “moves” things in this world. And, the unmoved mover is the final directing of all things to their proper end, their ultimate teleological purpose. It is ultimate thought that does not contemplate the world and offers no intelligent providence. It is pure thought thinking itself. Aristotle’s understanding of God did influence the later thinking of Thomas Aquinas, but it would be a mistake to assume an identity between the god of Aristotle and the God of Aquinas. Will Durant once likened Aristotle’s unmoved mover to the king of England. Aristotle’s god, said Durant, is like a “do-nothing king” who “reigns but . . . does not rule.”2 4 Augustine: Doctor of Grace If Western civilization was “saved” from disintegrating into barbarianism by Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, it may be said that the advent of Christianity and Christian philosophy had a similarly salutary effect. The golden age of Greece began to tarnish after the death of Aristotle, and it soon turned to rust with later philosophical movements. As the metaphysical impasse of Heraclitus and Parmenides yielded an era of skepticism and Sophism, so the impasse of Plato and Aristotle led to a new wave of philosophical skepticism. The only two philosophical schools mentioned by name in the New Testament are the Stoics and the Epicureans, whom the apostle Paul encountered at the Areopagus in Athens (Acts 17:18). The Stoics and Epicureans were rival schools founded at about the same time, around 300 B.C. Stoicism was founded by Zeno of Citium and Epicureanism by Epicurus. Though both schools eschewed the rising skepticism that followed in Aristotle’s wake, they clearly departed in focus and emphasis from the metaphysical quest for ultimate reality. The Stoics The Stoics developed a cosmology of materialism. They emphasized Heraclitus’s view of the seminal fire that determines all things, the logos spermatikos. This universal logos produces seeds or “sparks,” the logoi spermatikoi, in all things, so that every person has within himself a spark of the divine. The central concern of Stoicism was moral philosophy. Virtue is found in one’s response to materialistic determinism. Man cannot determine his own fate. He has no control over what happens to him. His freedom is restricted to his inner response or attitude to what befalls him. The goal of a virtuous life is philosophical ataraxia, a goal the Stoics shared in common with the Epicureans. What is ataraxia? The word is rarely heard in the English language, save as the name of a tranquilizer. This Greek word may loosely be translated “peace of mind” or “tranquility of the soul.” Though both Stoics and Epicureans sought ataraxia, they differed sharply on how to attain it. Stoics sought ataraxia through practicing “imperturbability,” the acceptance of one’s lot with serenity and courage. Their theme song could have been “Qué será, será,” “What will be, will be.” The wise person finds virtue in strength of will. The secret of a good and happy life is the knowledge of what is under our control and what is not. Socrates was a heroic model to Stoics by virtue of the serenity with which he faced his execution. Later, Epictetus said, “I cannot escape death, but cannot I escape the dread of it?”1 The views of the ancient Stoics constitute what we now describe as a stoical attitude toward life, the philosophy of the “stiff upper lip,” by which nothing ever rattles us or causes us to despair. When one perfects the practice of imperturbability, the soul remains in a state of tranquil bliss. The Epicureans The Epicureans, on the other hand, rejected a materialistic determinism and affirmed a much broader scope for human freedom. They were hostile to religion, because they believed that religion engenders a superstitious, debilitating fear. They saw philosophy as humanely liberating people from their bondage to religion. Epicureans sought ataraxia through what I call “refined hedonism,” as opposed to crass or crude forms of hedonism. Refined hedonism defines the good as the attainment of pleasure and avoidance of pain. The ancient Cyrenaics were an example of crude hedonism. They were gluttons, seeking physical pleasure to the maximum degree. The Cyrenaic idea was exhibited in Hollywood movies depicting ancient orgies and feasts in which people gorged themselves on food and wine, induced vomiting by sticking their fingers down their throats, then gorged themselves again. The Cyrenaics satiated themselves with food, drink, and sex, seeking to gratify every lust and satisfy every physical appetite. Unlike the Cyrenaics, the Epicureans sought a refined and sophisticated enjoyment of pleasure by indulging themselves in moderation. Theirs was no simplistic formula of, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” They understood that there are different kinds of pleasure—pleasures of the mind as well as those of the body. Some pleasures are intense but short-lived. A preoccupation with intense and merely physical pleasure leads inevitably to two things one wants to avoid: unhappiness and pain. The goal for the Epicurean is not the intoxication that leads inevitably to a hangover but the absence of bodily pain and the presence of peace of mind, or ataraxia. Epicureans sought to escape the “hedonistic paradox”: The pursuit of pleasure alone ends in either frustration (if the pursuit fails) or boredom (if it succeeds). Both frustration and boredom are kinds of pain, the antithesis of pleasure. Thus Epicureans sought not the maximum pleasure but the optimum pleasure. They concluded that a wise man’s diet of bread and water will more likely bring happiness than a glutton’s diet of gourmet food. The Skeptics -Aristotelian revival of skepticism may be traced to Pyrrho and Arcesilaus, who founded two schools, Pyrrhonism and academic skepticism, respectively. The skeptics cast doubt on the work of both Plato and Aristotle. Arcesilaus, who became the head of Plato’s Academy in the third century B.C., rejected Plato’s metaphysical philosophy. Arcesilaus denied that truth can be obtained with certainty, creating instead a philosophy of probability. Skepticism was codified by Sextus Empericus around 200 B.C. He argued that for every philosophical proposition, a counter proposition of equal weight and force may be argued (anticipating to some degree the “antinomies” of Immanuel Kant in the modern period). The skeptics did not abandon the pursuit of truth. Indeed they pursued it vigorously. They tended, however, to remain aloof from any conclusions. They reflected the biblical description of those who are ever pursuing truth but never arrive at it (2 Tim. 3:7). They preferred not to reach firm conclusions, believing that the pursuit of truth cannot go that far. They were particularly cautious about drawing conclusions from sense perceptions, because the senses are so easily deceived. They also cast doubt on moral axioms, preferring to suspend judgment on ethical questions. Dogma was their enemy. Though skepticism initially did influence Augustine’s quest for truth, there were primarily two other major forces that reshaped the intellectual climate of the centuries immediately preceding him. The first, of course, was the advent of Christianity. The early Christian church turned the world upside down, and in an amazingly short span of time Christianity supplanted Greek philosophy as the dominant worldview. The Greeks did not surrender without a fight, however. Neoplatonism, the second major force, arose and presented a formidable challenge to Christianity. The Neoplatonists Plotinus (A.D. 204–270) was from Egypt, where he was exposed to the theories of the ancient Greeks as well as to Hellenistic Judaism and Christianity. He moved to Rome at the age of forty and consciously sought to develop a philosophy that would provide an alternative to Christianity. He wanted to revive Platonism, but to modify it so that it addressed the major issue introduced by Christian thought: salvation. His philosophy was eclectic and syncretistic, borrowing elements from various philosophers. He rejected the materialism of the Stoics and Epicureans, Aristotle’s form-matter schema, and the Judaeo-Christian doctrine of creation. Central to Neoplatonism is God, whom Plotinus calls “the One.” In the final analysis, says Plotinus, all reality flows out of or emanates from the One. The One does not create, however, because creation would involve the One in an act of change. Rather, the world emanates by necessity from the One, in a way analogous to the rays of the sun emanating from its core. Reality is structured in layers or modes emanating from the One. The farther reality moves away from the core of the One, the more material that reality becomes. Plotinus is often seen as a kind of pantheist, since he believes that all reality is ultimately a mode of the One. Yet he insists on a kind of transcendence for the One, which is higher in pure being than its subordinate modes of being. The first level of emanation is the level of nous or mind, which is eternal and beyond time. Here is the Platonic realm of ideas. Out of nous comes the realm of the soul, and out of that comes the realm of matter, the lowest stage. Table 4.1 Aristotle’s Successors Primary Birth-death Place of place of (approx.) birth residence 334-262 Citium, Zeno Athens B.C. Cyprus 341-271 Epicurus Samos Athens B.C. 365-275 Pyrrho Elis, Greece B.C. Pitane, 316-240 Arcesilaus Asia Athens B.C. Minor Philosophy Major work Stoicism Republic Epicureanism On Nature Pyrrhonism Academic skepticism Primary Birth-death Place of Major place of Philosophy (approx.) birth work residence Late 3d Sextus Outlines of cent.early 2d Skepticism Empericus Pyrrhonism cent.B.C. A.D. 204NeoPlotinus Rome Enneads 270 platonism The One itself is ineffable. It cannot be grasped by reason or perceived by the senses. It is “known” only by mystical intuition or apprehension. No positive attribute can be assigned to it; it can be described only through the “way of negation” or the via negationes. That is, we can say about God only what he is not. This method of negation functions to some degree in Christian theology. Although Christianity also has a “way of affirmation,” it does employ the way of negation when it describes God as infinite (not finite), immutable (not mutable), uncreated (not created), and so forth. The Doctor of Grace We have taken a brief reconnaissance over the important movements of philosophy between the eras of Aristotle and Augustine so that we might better understand the weighty issues with which Augustine grappled. Augustine was born in A.D. 354 in the town of Thagaste in Numidia (in present-day Algeria). His father was a pagan and his mother, Monica, a devout Christian. Augustine died in A.D. 430 after distinguishing himself as the supreme “doctor of grace.” He was the greatest Christian philosopher-theologian of the first millennium and arguably of the entire Christian era. As a young man Augustine displayed an extraordinary zeal for knowledge. After reading Cicero at age nineteen, Augustine dedicated his life to the pursuit of truth. He went through distinct periods of growth and upheaval. Initially he rejected Christianity and embraced the dualistic philosophy of Manichaeanism. Later he embraced skepticism and then went through a period of Neoplatonism. In 386 he experienced conversion to Christianity. Within ten years of his conversion, he became a bishop, a role he maintained until his death. His writings were voluminous, including the famous Confessions and The City of God.2 He championed Christian orthodoxy in fierce theological struggles with heretics in the Donatist and Pelagian controversies. It is said that Augustine achieved a philosophical synthesis between Platonism and Christianity, but his work did not set forth a system as such. His reflections on key areas of epistemology, creation, the problem of evil, and the nature of free will are of abiding importance. He influenced the development of the doctrine of the church, the doctrine of the Trinity, and the doctrine of grace in salvation. Augustine combated all ancient forms of skepticism, seeking to establish a foundation for truth. He sought truth within the mind or the soul, becoming the father of psychological introspection. He sought truth that was not merely probable but eternal, immutable, and independent. He was aware of the limitations of sensory knowledge and of the propensity for the senses to deceive us, which he illustrated by the example of a boat oar: From the eye’s perspective an oar in the water is bent, but in reality the oar is straight. Augustine searched for areas of certainty and discovered them in the realm of the rational and mathematical, as well as in selfconsciousness. In the act of self-consciousness, the mind’s objective reality is immediately known with certainty. Long before René Descartes posited his famous maxim, Cogito, ergo sum (“I think, therefore I am”), Augustine had formulated the argument. He countered the academic skeptics’ fear of error and their probabilism by saying, “If I err, I am.” He argued that a person who does not exist cannot err. Therefore, even if a person errs he cannot err without first existing. So even error proves the certainty of existence. Augustine also argued that the law of noncontradiction cannot be disputed, for it must be assumed and employed in every effort to deny it. Thus, to deny the law of noncontradiction, or to “contradict” this law, is in fact to affirm it. Augustine saw mathematics as a source of objective and indubitable truth. Like logic, math is not dependent on sensory data to establish its truth. Not only are two plus three equal to five, but two plus three will always equal five under any conditions. Truth and Revelation The concept of divine revelation was central to Augustine’s epistemology, or theory of knowledge. He saw that revelation is the necessary condition for all knowledge. As Plato argued that to escape the shadows on the cave wall the prisoner must see things in the light of day, so Augustine argued that the light of divine revelation is necessary for knowledge. The metaphor of light is instructive. In our present earthly state we are equipped with the faculty of sight. We have eyes, optic nerves, and so forth—all the equipment needed for seeing. But a man with the keenest eyesight can see nothing if he is locked in a totally dark room. So just as an external source of light is needed for seeing, so an external revelation from God is needed for knowing. When Augustine speaks of revelation, he is not speaking of biblical revelation alone. He is also concerned with “general” or “natural” revelation. Not only are the truths found in Scripture dependent on God’s revelation, but all truth, including scientific truth, is dependent on divine revelation. This is why Augustine encouraged students to learn as much as possible about as many things as possible. For him, all truth is God’s truth, and when one encounters truth, one encounters the God whose truth it is. Even in the act of self-awareness or self-consciousness, one is immediately aware of God. When I become aware of myself, I am at the same time aware of my finitude and of the God who made me. For Augustine, the knowledge of self and the knowledge of God are the twin goals of philosophy. As Augustine’s disciple John Calvin later reflected, there is a mutually dependent, symbiotic relationship between the knowledge of God and the knowledge of self. I cannot know God until I am first aware of myself in thought, yet I cannot truly know myself except in relationship to God. Augustine further argued the premise that Calvin would later call the sensus divinitatis, the immediate knowledge of God innate in the human soul. All people know that God exists, though not all people will acknowledge that they know him. Their primal sin is their refusal to honor God as God by refusing to acknowledge what they know to be true. People’s ignorance about God’s existence is willful and therefore sinful ignorance. Knowledge and Faith Faith, says Augustine, is an essential ingredient of knowledge. Augustine does not restrict his notion of faith to what we typically refer to as religious faith. Faith also involves a provisional belief in things before we can validate them through demonstration. He adopted the famous motto Credo ut intelligam, “I believe in order to understand.” In this sense faith is prior to reason. All knowledge begins in faith. As children we accept what we are taught by faith. We believe our parents and teachers until we can test what they say for ourselves. We may doubt our parents’ warning that the stove is hot, but we demonstrate its truth by touching the stove ourselves. We begin learning by provisional trust or faith. At this point Augustine is careful to note the difference between faith and credulity. Though in one sense faith is prior to reason, in another sense reason is prior to faith. I cannot believe something that is manifestly irrational. Knowledge, to be believed, must be intelligible. This does not preclude the realm of mystery, but there is a big difference between a mystery and a contradiction. I may not be able to plumb the depths of the mystery of gravity or motion, but it is not absurd to believe that gravity and motion are real. Likewise, I may not have a comprehensive understanding of the mystery of the Trinity, but the concept of the Trinity is not contradictory or irrational. I believe the truth of the Trinity because I am convinced that it is revealed by divine rev elation, to which I, on sane and sober grounds, yield an implicit faith (fides implicitum). If, for example, I know that God exists and is omniscient and wholly righteous, I would be foolish to doubt what he clearly reveals. To Augustine faith is not, like credulity, blind or arbitrary. To be credulous is to believe the absurd or irrational—to believe without good reason. Right faith for Augustine is always a reasonable faith. Revelation yields information that one cannot gain by unaided reason, but never information that is opposed to the laws of reason. Creation Over against Greek philosophy, Augustine staunchly defended the biblical concept of creation. God’s work of creation, said Augustine, is voluntary and purposive. Creation is not of necessity (as in Greek thought), nor is the material world eternal. The universe had a beginning. There was a “time” when the universe was not. I put time in quotation marks because time is a corollary of space and matter. When asked by skeptics what God was doing before he created the world, Augustine replied, “Creating hell for curious souls!” According to Augustine, God created all things ex nihilo, “out of nothing.” Augustine was not violating the maxim Ex nihilo, nihil fit, “Out of nothing, nothing comes.” He did not argue that once there was nothing and suddenly there was something. This notion of selfcreation is irrational, and only the credulous affirm it. For something to create itself, it must exist before it existed, a manifest violation of the law of noncontradiction, as the thing must be and not be at the same time and in the same relationship. Before creating the world, the eternal God existed, so creation ex nihilo does not mean creation by nothing. Using Aristotle’s view of causality, we may say that the universe had a formal, final, and efficient cause, but not a material cause. Since God is good, all that he originally created was good. That which is material is not, as in Platonism, inherently evil. However, although the universe, including man, was created by God, he did not make it immutably good. The present world is fallen. The Problem of Evil Wrestling with the problem of evil, Augustine sought to define evil in purely negative terms. Evil is a lack, privation (privatio), or negation (negatio) of the good. Only that which was first good can become evil. Evil is defined against the backdrop of the prior concept of the good. Evil depends on the good for its very definition. We speak of evil in terms of unrighteousness, injustice, and lawlessness. The Antichrist depends on Christ for his very identity. As a parasite depends on its host for its existence, so evil depends on the good for its existence. Anything that participates in being, so far that it exists, is good. Nonexistence is evil. If anything were purely or totally evil, it could not exist. Evil is not a substance or a thing. It is a lack or privation of the good. At this level Augustine seems to be defining evil in purely ontological terms. If this were the case, Augustine would have to say that evil is a necessary consequence of finitude. God cannot create an ontologically “perfect” being. To do so would be to create another God. Even God cannot create another God, because the second God would be, by definition, a creature. To avoid the ontological necessity of evil, Augustine turned to free will. God created man with a free will (liberum arbitrium), in which he also enjoyed perfect liberty (libertas). Man had the faculty of choosing what he wanted. He had the ability to sin (posse peccare) and the ability not to sin (posse non peccare). He freely chose to sin out of his concupiscence (an inclination that leans to sin but is not sin). As a result of the first sin, man lost his liberty but not his free will. He was plunged, as a divine punishment, into a corrupt state known as original sin, losing the ability to incline himself to the things of God. This resulted in man’s absolute dependence on a work of divine grace in his soul if he were ever to move toward God. Fallen man is in bondage to sin. He still has the faculty of choosing, a will free from coercion, but he now is free only to sin, because his desires are inclined only toward sin and away from God. Now posse non peccare, “the ability not to sin,” is lost and in its place is non posse non peccare, “the inability not to sin.” With this view Augustine combated the heretic Pelagius, who denied original sin. Pelagius argued that Adam’s sin affected Adam alone and that all people have the ability to live perfect lives. Augustine remains a patron saint of the Roman Catholic Church, but he was also claimed by Protestantism’s magisterial leaders, Martin Luther and John Calvin, as their chief theological mentor. Table 4.2 Humanity as Created and Fallen Humanity as created yes yes yes Free will Liberty The ability to sin The ability not to yes sin The inability not to no sin Fallen humanity yes no yes Latin term liberum arbitrium libertas posse peccare no posse non peccare yes non posse non peccare 5 Thomas Aquinas: Angelic Doctor The apex of intellectual accolades is to be known merely by one’s last name. Titles such as doctor or professor are dropped, and usually first names are bypassed. We do not need to know that Descartes’ first name was René or that Hume’s first name was David. But in the case of Aquinas this all changes. To cite this prodigious scholar one need refer only to his first name, Thomas. Indeed, his thought is often referred to simply as Thomism. The Catholic Church not only canonized Thomas but conferred on him the honorific title “Doctor Angelicus.” The angelic doctor stands as a giant in the intellectual world, and his work continues to be studied in every university, both sacred and secular. The great theologians of history display different styles and different gifts. But for sheer weight of intellect, I doubt that Thomas has had any peers, unless it is the Puritan divine Jonathan Edwards. Thomas Aquinas was born in 1225 near Naples, Italy. His father, a count of Aquino, was of the aristocracy. At five years of age Thomas entered the Abbey of Monte Cassino, where he studied until enrolling at the University of Naples at age fourteen. While there he entered the Dominican Order, a group of friars devoted to teaching. From Naples Thomas went to the University of Paris at age eighteen. At the time the most heralded theologian in the world was Albert the Great (Albertus Magnus). Albert was known as “the universal teacher.” As Plato had his Socrates and Aristotle his Plato, so Thomas had the benefit of the tutelage of Albert. While studying under Albert, Thomas was ridiculed and teased by his classmates. They called him “the dumb ox of Aquino,” provoking Albert to say that someday this dumb ox would astound the world. On one occasion a classmate gaped out a window and said, “Look, Thomas, there is a cow flying.” Thomas got up from his seat and went to the window to see. His classmates broke into laughter at his naïveté. Thomas turned around and said, “I would rather believe that cows can fly than that one of my brothers would lie to me.” The dumb ox of Aquino went on to become the supreme force of scholastic philosophy and theology. Samuel Stumpf refers to the scholastic period as the apex of medieval philosophy. In modern times scholasticism has become a pejorative term. We live in perhaps the most anti-intellectual period of Christian history. We affirm technology and education, but we demean the…



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