|AN INTRODUCTION TO CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHY|
|William G. Most
Chapter 1—Prehistoric origins of rational thought
1. Possibility of Christian Philosophy: The problem arises from this: Philosophy and Theology both deal with much the same questions, the basic questions about God, life, existence. But the methods they use are radically different. Philosophy uses solely reason. Authority should not be used. It is important for methodological reasons to keep the lines clear and sharp. Historically, one great root of the impasse on the question of human interaction with grace comes from an abuse of method, i. e, trying to use metaphysics to solve a problem which involves God's free decisions. Metaphysics cannot find an answer where freedom is a factor. It finds only what is necessarily true.
Theology, in contrast, starts with the sources of revelation. For a Catholic, these are Scripture and Tradition. There was much confusion and debate at Vatican II over saying one or two sources of revelation. A desire to help ecumenism is probably the reason for straining. Vatican II, DV 9 said: "Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture are closely connected and related. For both, flowing from the same divine source, as it were coalesce into one, and tend to the same goal." But it admits: "The Church gets its certitude on all revealed things not by Scripture alone. Hence both are to be venerated and received with equal affection, devotion and reverence." And again in § 10: "The task of authoritatively interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living Magisterium of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ."
But not all things in Scripture are obvious in meaning. Many Protestants try to claim that, but are refuted by the Yellow Pages of the phone book, listing numerous churches all claiming to know how to understand Scripture. When we meet something that is not obvious, the Protestant method is private judgment. The Catholic method is to follow the teaching of the Church, if there are some teachings on the point in question. Even if there is nothing direct, often there will be help from the analogy of faith, i.e. , the whole body of our teachings. Cf. DV § 12. Sadly, many today who call themselves Catholics are following the Protestant method. Some have even been taught to do that by so-called Catholic schools. (Lutherans may object: "But we must follow our creeds, such as the Augsburg Confession". But the reply is: If a Lutheran went to his pastor and said, "I do not believe this and this" in the Augsburg Confession, he would not be told: "You have a divinely imposed obligation to follow our church." No, the Pastor would say; "I guess you belong with some other denomination".
We return to our starting question: Can there be a Christian or Catholic philosophy? Many say no, because of the difference in method, which is very distinct and sharp. If one wants to say yes, he would compare the case to that of a mathematics textbook. In the body of the book we find explanations and problems to work. We should work them on our own, with normal mathematical method. But after that, many books in the back have the answers to the problems. So we look, and see if our answer is right. If not, we recheck our process, and see where we went off.
Similarly, the teachings of the Church are the back of the book for a philosopher.
2. The value of philosophy in deeper penetration into theology: To seek a deeper penetration into the truths that theology gives us, we can get much help from philosophy. The Fathers knew this, and tried to use it. They usually relied on Plato, for he had so many things in common with Christianity, as we will see later in detail.
The precise way in which philosophy can be helpful can be seen from considering correct theological method.
1) We begin by picking up the things that are explicit in the sources of revelation, with the help of the Church, where the Church has given some help at least indirectly. It is of great importance to completely exhaust the resources of this step before moving onto the next step, for whatever problem we are studying.
2) We then pick up the things that are implicit in the sources of revelation. There are several steps in this process:
a) First we pick up the implications that are easily seen, without the need of as it were, any tool to dig them out. Again, we exhaust the resources of this step before moving on.
b) We then use a process that is equivalent to a syllogism, even if we may not really put things into syllogistic form. (In a syllogism we have three lines: two premises, and a conclusion, for example: All men are mortal—but John is a man—therefore John is mortal. In this phase our syllogism will take both premises from the sources of revelation. By comparing them, we reach a third truth.—Even if we do not formally put our reasoning in the pattern of a syllogism, we have the equivalent, that is, we use an enthymeme , a compressed pattern in which we leave out one of the three lines of a syllogism, and expect the listener to understand the omitted part, e.g., "John is a man, so he must be mortal". We leave out the line: "All men are mortal", but it is understood. It is easier for error—or deception—to creep in this loose form.
c) We use a form in which one premise is from the sources of revelation, but the other is from some other source. That other source often will be philosophy. This is what is strictly called theological speculation. Vatican II in Optatam totius, the Decree on the formation of priests in seminaries, explicitly said that in theological speculation the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas should be used: §§ 15, 16. Sadly this is not always done.
d) Finally we use equivalents to syllogisms in which neither premise is from the sources of revelation. At this point, if the conclusion is supported by or fits in with the conclusions we have from revelation, we are still in theology—otherwise, we have crossed the line into pure philosophical speculation.
3. A good philosophy can also help to protect the deposit of faith, that is, the whole body of truths given to us from the beginning. And since it gives deeper penetration, it can be helpful spiritually, e. g, philosophical development shows how powerfully true are the words of St. Paul in Phil 2. 13 and 2 Cor 3. 5 about our total dependence on God, even for a good thought, even that we cannot make a free act of will without His movement.
4. The widespread atheism today needs the help of philosophy to show the existence of God by reason alone. However some who say they do not believe, really do believe, without realizing it, as we shall see in our treatment of St. Justin the Martyr.
5. Apologetics: Before we can have faith, logically we must show by reason and research that faith is reasonable. This is the work of apologetics. In it we begin with the Gospels, but do not look upon them as sacred or inspired—that is still to be proved. We look on them only as ancient documents. We put them through various tests that are usually given other ancient works, and reach the conclusion that we can get from them a few simple facts about Jesus, that is facts, not entwined with an ancient culture, and also of such a nature that they can be directly perceived by an onlooker without room for bias, e.g. , if a leper stands before Jesus and asks to be cured and Jesus says: "I will it. Be healed:.—There is no room for bias in that report. Someone could make up out of nothing such an account—but there is no room for distortion, and the concern of the first Christians for their own eternity, which depended on facts, would preclude that possibility. then we look for an find six such simple facts: There was a man called Jesus—He claimed He was sent from God as a sort of messenger—He did enough to prove this by miracles worked in contexts in which there is a tie between the miracle and the claim—He had an inner circle to whom He spoke more and told them to continue His work, His teaching. He promised God would protect that teaching: "He who hears you hears me." Then we have before us a group or church commissioned to teach by a messenger from God, promised God's protection on their teaching. Then we not only intellectually may but should believe that teaching, independently of the quality of those who hold the commission. Then that group or church can tell us many things: the messenger is divine, there is a Pope and what he can do, the ancient documents are inspired. There is no other way to determine which documents are inspired, are part of Scripture. Protestants lack this, and so, logically should not use Scripture.
This process also amounts to a bypass around the worries of critics, who question the credibility of various items in the Gospels. We need only the six very simple things, and then the Church can assure us of whatever else we need to know.
6. Seeming clashes of truths: If we follow this method well, we will at times encounter two conclusions that seem to clash, to contradict each other. At this point we must imitate the Fathers of the Church. We should of course begin by rechecking our work, but if we still have the seeming clash, then we must not force either conclusion to fit with the other. Rather, we hold to both, hoping that sometime someone may find how to reconcile them.
For example, the Fathers wrestled long and hard with two Scriptural texts: Luke 2. 52 which says Jesus returned to Nazareth and advanced in wisdom and age. This could imply that previously He was deficient or less full in wisdom. We find here that many Fathers give us two sets of statements: in the one set, they seem to affirm ignorance, in the other, to deny it. They knew both kinds of statements must be true, did not know how to reconcile them, until St. Athanasius discovered a distinction—the usual refuge in difficult matters. He saw that we distinguish between actual growth in wisdom, and growth in manifestation of what was always there. For example, if Jesus at age 3 had shown His marvelous wisdom, coming from the fact that His human soul saw the vision of God, it would have seemed very strange. Therefore, He let His wisdom appear gradually, in accordance with His earthly age. For details, see Wm. G. Most, The Consciousness of Christ, chapter 6. The Fathers had a similar experience with Mark 13. 32, in which Jesus Himself seems to say He did not know the day of the end. Pope Gregory the Great and Eulogius solved this problem. Gregory said that He knew the day in His humanity, but not from His humanity.
There is another case of this procedure in the way the Fathers handled the teaching that there is no salvation outside the Church. Cf. Wm. G. Most, Our Father's Plan, appendix.
7. Divine Brinkmanship: God has made two commitments: first, He gave us free will; second, He promised to protect the teaching of the Church. At times, these go in opposite directions, and so He needs to draw a tight line, giving each its due, but no more than that. As a result , at times we may at least suspect that the author of an official text had more in his mind than what he set down on paper. In such a case, only what is written down is protected, with each word being taken in the sense in which it was used in the day of composition. For example, it is likely that Pope Pius IX, and probably also Gregory XVI and perhaps Leo XIII, had more stringent ideas in mind than what they set down on the obligation of the state to suppress false doctrines. Yet only what they really wrote is protected.
8. Catechetical approach: It is good to present everything in the framework of God's dealings with our race, that is, salvation history. This is a catechetical approach.
II—The Thought and Religion of Earliest Mankind
Anthropology studies both the primitive people who are still alive today, or for whom we have records made by explorers and missionaries, and the while race when it was at a primitive state.
Wilhelm Schmidt (1868-1954), in his Der Ursprung der Gottesidee, 12 volumes, Münster, 1912-54, presented evidence from a study of various primitives, at the lowest level of material culture, such as those of Tierra del Fuego in South America, the Negrillos of Rwanda in Africa, and the Andaman Islanders in the Indian Ocean. The 1990 printing of Encyclopedia Britannica, 26, p. 554 says Schmidt and his collaborators, "saw in the high gods, for whose cultural existence they produced ample evidence from a wide variety of unconnected societies, a sign of a primordial monotheistic revelation that later became overlaid with other elements... . Their interpretation is controversial, but at least Andrew Lang [1844-1912] and Schmidt produced grounds for rejecting the earlier rather naive theory of evolutionism. Modern scholars do not, on the whole, accept Schmidt's scheme.... it is a very long jump from the premise that primitive tribes have high gods to the conclusion that the earliest men were monotheists."
What seems to be rejected is the extrapolation from finding that many low level primitives (hunting and fishing stage) are monotheists to the conclusion that the same was true of the whole human race at a similarly low level of culture.
However, the evidence for many such tribes in historical times still stands. The case seems similar with the Greeks and Romans, both of whom came from the Indo-Europeans. In those days when people traveled, they often tried to see if some of the gods they found in other lands were really the same as their own gods. Herodotus did much of this (in 2. 50 he says that almost all the divine figures came to Greece from Egypt). Many of these attempts were strained, and without real foundation. But when the Greeks and Romans got to know each other, they found they had some myths and divinities in common, even though with different names. We know that the names for the chief God, Jupiter and Zeus (possessive case: Dios) are linguistically the same, both going back to Indo-European dyaus-p[schwa]ter. (The computer does not have a character for schwa, which is an obscure vowel, like the a on the end of sofa ). The IE word means "Sky Father".
Really if one does not suppose that it is highly likely that conditions for the whole race at the same level of material culture as known primitives (hunter-gatherers) would be quite similar, there is no solid way to establish what the race was like. It is far better than the mere armchair imaginings, of an evolutionistic type that others have used. So the extrapolation proposed by Schmidt was and is quite reasonable. Actually some scholars today in archaeology do make precisely such an extrapolation. In a recent work, The Adventure of Archaeology, by Brian M. Fagan, published by the National Geographic Society in 1989, on pp. 344-46 we find: "Experimentation in archaeology is not limited to state-of-the-art technology. 'New archaeologists' seek innovative ways to study living societies in order to construct models that describe the behavior of past ones. Jeremy Sabloff of the University of New Mexico said, ' We've gone beyond filling up museums with art objects. The objects are not an end in themselves but a means to inform us about the social and economic behavior of ancient people. ' In the 1970s Lewis R. Binford of the University of New Mexico observed Alaska's Nunamiut Eskimos, a modern hunter-gatherer society. Binford watched the Eskimos set up hunting camps and saw how they
hunted, killed, butchered, and ate animals. His insights gave him a fuller understanding of how ancient hunter-gatherers chose their campsites, and helped him analyze the animal bones found at such sites."
Further, as the Britannica says, at least Schmidt blocked the silly evolutionistic view that primitive man must have been stupid, that one day he came out of his cave, saw lightning and heard thunder, thought they were gods. There never was a shred of evidence for such a view. It was just imagination built on the assumption that everything has evolved.
That evolutionistic notion was a further projection from belief in the evolution of the human body from primates. Science News, Research Reports of November 21, 1980, pp. 883-87 reports on a meeting of 160 of the world's top paleontologists, anatomists, evolutionary geneticists, and developmental biologists held at the Field Museum in Chicago. The majority of those scientists concluded that Darwin was wrong—not in those words, but they rejected Darwin's idea that there were many intermediate forms between, for example, fish and birds. They recognized that the fossil record does not provide even one clear case of such forms. This did not lead them to reject evolution itself. No, they opted for what they called "punctuated equilibria", the idea that a species might stay the same for millions of years, and then by a fluke, leap up to something much higher, in the same line. If any evidence for the view was offered at the meeting, Science does not mention it. Nor does the report in Newsweek, of November 3, 190, pp. 95-96. They might perhaps point to the high vertical columns exposed in the Grand Canyon, in which low forms, such as Trilobites, appear at the bottom, and higher and higher forms as one goes up. But there is no evidence that the higher came from the lower by a fluke or leap. Further it is admitted that the Grand Canyon was once a sea bottom: naturally the lower things would be found farther down.
The related theory of polygenism has had an inconclusive but impressive blow recently. Allan Wilson of the University of California at Berkeley (Science News, August 13, 1983, p. 101) from a study of mitochondria worldwide, concluded that all existing humans came from one mother who lived 350,000 years ago. At first Wilson received little acceptance, but now, as Newsweek of Jan 21, 1988 reports, his view is getting widespread acceptance, except that the age of the mother is now put at 200,000 years ago. As we said, this does not conclusively disprove polygenism—for there could have been, for example, 6 original pairs, but the lines from all but one died out.
Also, history does show in many instances that when a people has high material affluence, religion tends to suffer. The U. S and Japan are examples today.
Is sacrifice universal among primitives? Very widespread, but not entirely universal. Further, the ideas behind sacrifice vary widely. For example, in Mesopotamia sacrifice was food for the gods. Thus in the Epic of Gilgamesh, after the Babylonian Noah, Utnapishtim, came out of his ark and offered sacrifice, the gods—who had been cowering in fear of the flood on the battlements of heaven—came down and swarmed "like flies" about the sacrifice. They had not had anything to eat for some time. Again, Aristophanes the Greek comic poet, in his The Birds, pictures the birds threatening to cut of the supply of sacrifices if the gods would not do what the birds wanted.
Is belief in a Supreme Being universal? At least nearly so, but there are a few cases where it seems lacking, e.g. , among the Navahos in the Southwest of the U. S. A. Even in such cases, we must wonder if perhaps extensive alcoholism has blinded the people. St. Paul in Romans 1. 18-32 describes the gradual descent into blindness, and says that atheists are inexcusable, for the existence of God is so obvious from creation. (More on seeming atheists in our section on St. Justin the Martyr).
2. Human rationality and the beginning of human thought: Aristotle said, in Metaphysics 2. 1, that people began to work for wisdom when they began to wonder, first about obvious things, then on deeper things, and when they got enough leisure to do it. He is, of course, indulging in armchair method. Yet the thought is at least very plausible.
However, at least most of the most primitive peoples—cf. remarks on Navahos above—do seem to know a Supreme Being. The fact is so evident, that no one, without some kind of mental block, could fail to see it.
Some primitive peoples have even held an idea of creation. One Egyptian creation myth says that Atum (meaning: totality) stood on the mud hillock that emerged from the primeval waters and named the parts of his body, and thus the gods came into being. This reflects a belief held long after the time of the most primitive cultures, that a word spoken by a person in authority produces what it says.
Egyptian creation stories seldom mention the origin of man. Some say that Atum wept, and thus mankind came. This is a play on words: ramet means mankind, remiet means tears.
3. Pantheism: Since there is so much deep disagreement among scholars about ancient pantheism, we will consider it separately with each of the major thinkers.
Preliminary Note: There were even some libraries found in ancient times. There was one in the Temple of Nabu at Nineveh at least since the time of Sargon II (721-05 BC). But the greatest was that of King Assurbanipal (668-626? B. C. ), the last great king of Assyria, who sent scribes out to copy tablets, including works from the Sumerians and Akkadians. Nearly 30,000 texts have been excavated. The King wrote: "I read the beautiful clay tablets from Sumer and the obscure Akkadian writing which is hard to master. I had my joy in the reading of inscriptions on stone from the time before the flood." (Cited from Jack Finegan, Light From the Ancient Past, Princeton, 1974, pp. 216-17). (There is a king list from Sumer, which gives 8 kings before the flood, with a total reign of 241, 200 years: cf. Finegan, pp. 29-30, 36. To speak of the flood in Mesopotamia is remarkable, for they had annual floods).
For long, no one could read cuneiform writing. But in 1835 military duties took Henry Rawlinson to the area near the rock of Bisotun (Behistun) in Kurdistan, a remote region of Persia. At 400 feet up there was an inscription by King Darius of Persia in Old Persian, Elamite, and Babylonian. With crude scaffolding he clambered all over the steep wall in visits over the next 12 years and copied nearly the entire inscription, which was about 1200 square feet. He began by deciphering the kings' names in the Old Persian text. Then he was able to construct an alphabet and translate sentences and paragraphs. But the Elamite and Babylonian Scripts seemed syllabic rather than alphabetic. He had to find more texts, and did so, and eventually learned to read cuneiform.
Knowledge of Egyptian hieroglyphics was lost for 1400 years, until Champollion on Sept 14, 1822 read the name of Rameses II. The language itself had survived in Coptic, which was still spoken in the 19th century. Before that point, in August 1799 an artillery captain with the army of Napoleon found a stone at Rosetta, with text in 3 forms: Greek, Demotic, and Hieroglyphic. (Demotic was a cursive form of hieroglyphic, done first with brush on papyrus). It was a decree of Ptolemy V from 196 BC. In 1802 Sylvestre de Sacy located the names of Ptolemy and Arisinoe in the demotic part, but could do not more. In 1814 Young, an English physicist worked on the hieroglyphic, and read Ptolmis. Champollion decided that the work of others before him showed the royal names had alphabetic character. By counting the signs compared with the Greek words, he found the signs were more numerous. Therefore not all were word signs. Champollion like Young had read one cartouche as Ptolmis. Now he got two more, which should be Ptolmis and Kliopatra. The names had 5 letters in common PTLOI. Five similar signs were found in the expected positions on the two cartouches.
Thus he found PTOLMIS = 1 2 3 4 5 6 7. KLIOPADRAT (plus a determinative) had signs = 8 4 6 3 1 9 10 11 9 2.
Champollion soon read 79 names, and drew up an alphabet. But all texts were from the Greek and Roman period.
He then tried the more ancient Pharaonic names. He picked a cartouche (a frame, indicating a royalty) with three signs. The top sign was like a disk with a dot in the middle. He guessed it stood for Ra, the sun god. The second sign was something like a three pronged pitchfork with no handle, but some short spikes sticking out the top, almost as if continuing the lines of the tines. The third sign looked like two shepherd's crooks. He recalled that he had seen those signs before, standing for SS. He had seen the second sign at Rosetta in a position corresponding to Greek genethlia (birthday). So he guessed that second sign was not alphabetic, but was equivalent to Coptic MS, meaning "to be born." So, combining all three he read: ra—ms—ss which meant Ra begets him, that is Rameses II.
Now the system became clear. Some signs, like the first one, were for words (Ra), some like the second sign, were for syllables; others, like the third were for alphabetic single letters.
The idea of writing was probably borrowed from Mesopotamia. Pictorial signs are found late in the predynastic period, that is, something recognizable as a symbol, but nothing like a connected sentence. Connected sense with a grammar is not found until 3rd or 4th dynasty.
Greek Education: It was called Paideia, raising children. It included intellectual and cultural things, especially the seven liberal arts. There were few schools in Greece during the classic fifth century B. C. There were some traveling teachers called Sophists, who offered to teach anything for a price. Many of them claimed to be able to argue well on both sides of any question—hence the name Sophists, related to sophistry, dishonest argumentation. The root was sophia, wisdom. The art of oratory was highly prized, especially since one gave his own speeches in court in a lawsuit, which the Greeks seem to have enjoyed.
Especially important is this fact: the sophists rejected the authority of existing institutions of teaching, and substituted the right of private judgment. So they based ethics on relativism. Protagoras said man is the measure of all things. This tended too to skepticism. Plato objected to the fact that they took pay for their teaching—he refused to do that.
The relation of the Greek culture to religion is very different from ours. The whole culture was permeated with religion. One could not be a citizen without being part of the state religion, and in addition, born into it. They would say that an individual needs the help of the gods for his own requirements; but the state as state also needs their help. Hence the state as state must worship. So they would find incomprehensible the American notion of separation of Church and state. Vatican II rejected that, in its Declaration on Religious Liberty §1 :"It leaves untouched traditional Catholic teaching on the obligations of people and societies towards the one true Church."
The religion of Greece was of course polytheistic and largely formalism and externalism. There was an extensive disconnection of religion and morality. The gods were thought to enforce few things, chiefly, worship for themselves, doing one's duty to the state, to a guest in the house, to a suppliant who would come with proper ritual in the name of Zeus. Other matters the gods did not enforce, and in their own conduct acted as if no morality existed. So Zeus was believed to commit adultery often, would have done more had not his wife Hera been trailing him. She had no moral ideas either, was just a jealous wife.
Yet in this second area of morals, which the gods did not enforce, the Greeks were not completely lawless. Athens in the 5th century B. C. even had a law against homosexual acts. Plato in his Republic taught that one should observe justice even if no man or god would catch him in violation.
The Pre-Socratic Philosophers themselves: They were all concerned with the world-stuff, that out of which everything is made. They are sometimes called physicists, but the name is misleading, for they did no experimental work—not having the means.
There was a strong tendency to consider them atheists in their own day, e.g. , in the Apology of Plato we find that Anaximander was charged with atheism for thinking the sun was a red hot stone.
There was science before the Greeks, e.g., in Babylonia there was astronomy; in Egypt, medicine and even a little surgery. But the other peoples tended to explain all by divine causality; the Greek "scientists" tended to seek purely natural explanations, leaving out the gods. That is why many thought them atheistic. Really, they should have said not either the gods or natural causes, but both God and the natural laws He has established.
The Greek world picture had five chief components:
1) The sun goes around the earth: geocentrism.
2) Many thought the world was flat. But Anaximander thought the earth was a cylinder suspended in space. And there are three stories, with the sky the upper, the earth the second, the netherworld below.
3) This form of the universe always has been and always will be. Aristotle thought there were about 50 spheres in the sky, on which the various celestial bodies are fastened. These spheres always have been in motion, and always will be: Physics 8. 1. In Politics 2. 5 Aristotle said that almost everything has been found out, and in Politics 7. 9 he added that most things had been invented several times over in the course of ages, or rather, times without number. But they were lost in great disasters. Plato in Laws 3. 677 has a tradition of deluges and cataclysms recurring. Herodotus in 2. 142 says the Egyptian priests told him that in about 11, 000 years the place of the rising of the sun had changed four times.
4) The idea of recording history has been relatively recent in the history of mankind. The use of writing to make records goes back no farther than about 4000 B. C.
5) The above really imply the eternity of matter. They did not stop to ask what caused its existence, and so on the whole did not reach a notion of creation, even though the principles of Aristotle really require creation.
a) Thales: From Miletus, early 6th century. Miletus was a great sea power, captains were adventurous. Much intellectual ferment on the west coast of Asia Minor, more than in the western section of Greece. Aristotle in Metaphysics 1. 3. 5 said Thales held the world stuff is water. Probably meant that water could take many forms. We have no fragments left of his writing, if indeed he did any.
b) Anaximander: Also of Miletus, born about 610 B. C. An associate of Thales. Said the first element is to apeiron, the boundless, which is eternal and ageless and encompasses all worlds. All things come form it and pass into it again. There is eternal motion, which brought about the world. There are innumerable worlds since to apeiron is boundless. The sun is a wheel 28 times the size of the earth, full of fire. The earth is a cylinder, suspended in space.
By to apeiron he seems to have meant "having no precise characteristics" e.g. not wet or dry, not hot or cold, liquid or solid) so as to be able to take on any forms. He seems to have lacked the notion of privation (the lack of something that should be there). So cold is not just a privation of heat, but the opposite of heat.
c) Anaximenes: A somewhat younger contemporary of Anaximander, also from Miletus. Our information on him comes from later sources (cf. Aristotle, Metaphysics 1. 3 and Plutarch, Stromata. 3). He said the basic stuff is air. It is always in motion, else it would not change so much as it does. When it is dilated it becomes fire, when it is condensed, it becomes winds, when felted, becomes cloud, when further condensed, become water, when still further condensed, it is earth, at maximum condensation, stones. He went back to the flat earth theory.
Philosophical and Religious Society:
a) Pythagoras: No fragments. Most important account is by Aristotle, especially, Metaphysics 1. 5. 2: "Since it seemed clear that all other things have their whole nature modeled upon numbers, and that numbers are the ultimate things in the whole physical universe, they [the Pythagoreans] assumed the elements of numbers to be the elements of everything, and the whole universe to be a proportion [harmony] or number." Founded a religious society, affected Plato. Held reincarnation.
Philosophers of Change:
a) Heraclitus: Flourished c 500 B. C. Did not publish his work, but deposited it in the temple of Artemis. Thinks he has found something that eluded all others. Was called ho skoteinos "the dark [obscure] one".
He makes process the fundamental instead of a stuff. All is fire. Without motion or strife nothing would exist at all. The universe subsists by an attunement of opposite tensions. He seems to have held that hot turns into cold and vice versa—so opposite qualities are really the same.
However there is a Logos, which is God, that regulates this constant change.
He said you cannot step twice into the same river—for they are always flowing. Also: to God all things are right, but people think some things are wrong, some right.—This leads to amorality.
Strong resemblance to process philosophy/theology of today.
b) Parmenides: The opposite of Heraclitus. Said there is no change, everything is one being. He argued thus: the difference between this being and that being is being—but being will not distinguish one being from another being—it is like white lines on a white surface. So there is only one being. In what seems to be a change, before a change it is being—afterwards it is still being: so, no change.
Greeks took this seriously, could not answer until Aristotle showed differences within being, by his potency/act teaching.
Melissus of Samos was a disciple of Parmenides, but made a change: being cannot be spatially finite as Parmenides said, for then beyond being would be nothing, and being would be bounded by nothing. That which is limited by nothing is not limited, but is infinite.
Zeno also defended Parmenides, constructed some paradoxes to prove him right, e. g, , if Achilles races a hare, but gives the hare a head start of perhaps 10 feet, by the time Achilles reaches the ten feet line, the hare has gone farther, and so on: so he will never catch it. For the answer see Aristotle, Physics 7.5 and 6.9.
c) Xenophanes of Colophon: Some say he was the founder of the school of Elea, to which Parmenides belonged. Not too likely. Probably born around 580 BC. He is often charged with being a pantheist, i.e. , sum total of all things equals God. He said the following things about God: The whole of God sees, the whole perceives, the whole hears, but with no effort he sets all things in motion by mind and thought. He always stays in the same place, and does not move at all, nor it is suitable that he should move from one place to another.—But this need not mean pantheism at all. The charge of pantheism rests on a statement of Aristotle in Metaphysics 1. 5. 12: "Looking at the whole material universe, he said that the one was god."
He also said that the poets attributed many immoral things to the gods. He was concerned with this. If one believes in the old gods, and then becomes a teenager, he may think: I think I will go and imitate Zeus. (Plato and others too had similar fears).
Mediators between Heraclitus and Parmenides: They tried to find a middle position between saying no change, and all is change.
a) Empedocles: Of Acragas in Sicily, c 493-433. It is debated, but it seems he tried to reconcile ideas of Parmenides with facts of change and motion. He abandons the notion of a single world-stuff and says there are four elements: earth, air, fire, water. Previous philosophers had proposed air, water, or fire. He kept these, added earth.
He explains process by two things which he calls Strife and Love. They are forces, but material. Love is the unifier, Strife the divider. There are four periods in history: 1) Love is supreme, Strife is outside. All elements are mixed, nothing distinguishable from anything else. 2) Strife invades, the elements are separated but come together in various combinations, 3) Strife is supreme. The four elements are not distinct and separate. Love is out. 4) Love begins to invade, the elements again begin to mingle.—Our world could exist only in periods 2 and 4. We note a resemblance here to the idea of Heraclitus that the state of the universe subsists on an attunement of opposite tensions.
b) Anaxagoras: Of Clazomenae. He came to Athens in 480 , perhaps with the invasion of Xerxes of Persia, was probably about 20 then. He was the first philosopher to settle in Athens, stayed perhaps 30 years. Became a friend and teacher of Pericles. Was accused by the political opponents of Pericles about 450 on charges of being pro-Persian, irreligious. He had taught the sun was a red-hot stone, and the moon was made of earth. So we see that he suffered from the problem we spoke of above in saying we explain things either by the gods or by natural causes. We should say both. He escaped, went back to Ionia, west coast of Asia Minor, settled at Lampsacus, lived about 25 years.
What he taught is not too clear. One fragment says that nothing comes into being or passes away, but there is a mingling and a separation of the things that are. He rejected the four element idea of Empedocles, saying the four elements were mixtures of many qualitatively different parts. He said that in the beginning all kinds were mingled together, were infinite both in number and in smallness. In everything there is a portion of everything.
His special attempt at a contribution was the principle of nous, mind. Only nous would be completely separate from anything else. All nous is alike. Nous is the finest and purest of all things, and has all knowledge about everything and the greatest power.
Not clear if he meant a spiritual reality—the distinction of matter vs. spirit was not generally clear then.
The function of nous seems to be to start the rotatory movement or vortex going. Aristotle, in Metaphysics A. 4. 985 a. 18-21 said he used nous like a deus ex machina, and drags it in whenever he is at a loss to explain why something necessarily is. Elsewhere he makes anything rather than nous the cause. Plato in Phaedo 97 b 8 has Socrates saying he at first had high hopes when he heard of nous, but was disappointed on following through.
a) Leucippus and Democritus: We are not able to know which of these two contributed which part. But together they developed the atomic theory. Leucippus was a contemporary of Melissos. Democritus was born later, about 450 BC.
We can explain the world by supposing two things, atoms and the void. By atoms they meant the "uncuttable", i. e, we slice a bit of matter down and down finer until we cannot get it finer. This has nothing whatsoever to do with the modern concept of an atom, except the word. So they are in no sense forerunners of our atomic physics.
We will number steps to facilitate Comment: 1) There were always atoms falling in the void. 2) As they fell they sometimes swerved, and so some could fall on others. 3) Our world is just a chance combination of atoms, which just fell together and will fall apart. Since atoms have been falling for infinite ages, there has been time for many combinations to fall together and then fall apart. Our world just fell together, and will fall apart, and there will be nothing left: annihilation.
1) The assumption is childish. Matter needed a cause. Further, in a vacuum the uncuttable bits would not fall—there would be no up or down. That comes about only by gravity in which every large body in the universe attracts every other large body with a force proportioned to their masses and in inverse proportion to the distance. 2) They offer no reason for the swerve—it is just that they need it to "explain". 3) This leads to no survival, and no need of the gods. So the Epicureans gladly took on this idea. They made pleasure the goal of life. But to fear a possible accounting to gods could hinder that. So they welcomed annihilation. It was popularized in Rome by Lucretius, in first century B. C. in his On the Nature of Things . In book 3 he gives more than a dozen "proofs" for no survival. At the end he says life is like a banquet. When you have eaten, that is all—go—and be nothing.
II. Socrates and Plato:
Socrates wrote nothing, and claimed he did not teach—though he really did, in the sense that by his questioning he tried to lead people to see things. Our knowledge of him depends on two sources, the works of Plato, and the Memorabilia by Xenophon. Xenophon pictures Socrates as almost cocksure of the answers to all sorts of things—Plato pictures Socrates as groping at times, at other times, pretending to grope, so as to draw answers out of his listeners. Still further, there is debate on whether Plato in all dialogues was faithful to what Socrates really held, or was he faithful only in the earlier dialogues, in which often no answer is reached. The later view seems much more likely to be the true one.
Life of Socrates: Socrates was born in 469 BC, ten years after the battle of Platea, in which the Greeks finally repulsed the second Persian invasion, which had come in 480 (first invasion had been in 490). Socrates fought at Potidea around 432, just before the start of the Peloponnesian War, and at Amphipolis about ten years later. At Potidea he saved the life of Alcibiades, an arrogant young noble. Alcibiades later said that the prize for bravery which he himself got should have gone to Socrates.
The wife of Socrates was Xantippe, famed for her tongue. He had three sons, Lamprocles, Sophroniscus and Menexenus. Lamprocles, according to Xenophon's Memorabilia 2. 2 could not stand his mother's temper, but Socrates rebuked him, reminding him of all she had done for him. Xenophon also said (2. 10) that she had the worst temper of any woman in the world. She was much younger than Socrates, and not in sympathy with what he called his "vocation " (more on it presently). She thought him a lazy loafer. He gave up his work as a statue maker, and went about questioning people in Athens, making them look like fools much of the time. It seems he held no political office until 406, when he was in the Senate of 500. He was for a time a member of a Prytany, a committee that managed the day to day business for a portion of each year, with the Prytanies in rotation. At the trial of the six generals who at the Battle of Arginusae chose to pursue the enemy rather than to rescue sailors who had fallen into the sea, he refused to put the question to a vote. The trial was illegal. He also refused to obey the order of the thirty to arrest Leon of Salamis. The Thirty had been imposed on Athens by Sparta for about 8 months in 405-04 BC. Sending him to arrest Leon was an attempt to compromise Socrates.
Trial: An orator, Lycon, and a poet, Meletus, charged him with atheism and corrupting the youth. He was condemned and died in 399. Xenophon and Plato both say Socrates was punctilious in offering sacrifice in public, and even at home. At times he sounds like a monotheist, but he often speaks like the others of many gods. He did reject the usual myths about Zeus, Chronos and other Olympians. Many educated people then also rejected them. He seems to have had a simple unfailing confidence in the gods: the good man is always under their special care. He thought he had some sort of spirit with him, a daimonion, since boyhood. It often checked him from doing things. So Socrates was not an atheist in our sense. He seems not even to have been an atheist in the Athenian sense: one who will not join in the public worship of the gods. He seems to have joined, perhaps merely out of a sort of compulsion. Perhaps he did not believe in Zeus.
The charge of corrupting the youth was not for homosexuality—though there was a law in Athens against it, probably not enforced.
The Life of Plato: Before going further, a sketch of the life of Plato. He was born at Athens in 429 or 428. When about twenty he became a follower of Socrates. After the death of Socrates in 399, Plato withdrew to Megara on the isthmus, and later visited Egypt, Sicily, and the Greek cities in lower Italy. In Sicily he got to know the Dionysius I, Tyrant of Syracuse, but later had a falling out. One story says Dionysius sold Plato as a slave, but Plato was set free by Anniceris of Cyrene. When Plato got back to Athens he began to teach in a grove owned by Academus. After a time he went again to Sicily, invited by Dion, brother in law of Dionysius I, and tried to win over the younger Tyrant Dionysius II to philosophy—Plato had the idea that a philosopher-king would be the ideal. But jealousy arose between Dionysius II and his uncle Dion, so Plato, with some difficulty, returned to Athens. He tried to continue to instruct Dionysius by letter. Dion went to Athens, associated with Plato there. In 361 Plato was recalled to Syracuse for a third visit by Dionysius. In 360 he returned to Athens, continued to teach until his death in 348/47.
Plato's academy had the goal of investigating knowledge in many fields. Besides philosophy they studied also mathematics, astronomy and the physical sciences, and worshipped the Muses. Students came not only from Athens but from abroad. There was probably also some study of botany.
The "vocation" of Socrates: In Plato's Apology, the speech of Socrates in the Athenian court, he says some friend asked the Oracle of Delphi who was wisest of all men. The reply: Socrates. Since oracles often were deliberately obscure and riddling, Socrates thought he had to explore to see what it meant. So he went about questioning various groups of men who were thought to be wise. He found none of them were. He concluded that the oracle meant: He is wisest who like Socrates knows he has no wisdom. But then he continued what he claimed was his "mission" from Apollo, by continuing to question people, and to urge them to take most thought to making their soul good. Young men watched him do it, then they went and did likewise. This is what was meant by corrupting the youth. It was not a charge of homosexuality.
As to homosexuality: In the Symposium Alcibiades says one night he slept under the same cloak with S, trying to induced him to homosexual acts. But Socrates did not do it. This is in line with other things we know about Socrates. Over and over again, in several dialogues, Plato reports Socrates stressed that the real philosopher, the seeker for truth, must have as little as possible to do with the things of the body. In the Phaedo 65: "Is it not obvious that... the philosopher as much as is possible frees the soul from communion with the body?" Ibid 82-83: "Those who really seek wisdom with determination abstain from all bodily desires and will not give themselves over to them... . each pleasure and pain seems to have a nail, and it nails the soul to the body... and makes it bodily." There are more such statements in the Phaedo 66, and 114. He speaks similarly in the Republic 485-86, 517, 519, 543. Xenophon, though he differs from Plato in many things, agrees on this in Memorabilia 1, 3, 5 and 1, 3, 8. In the latter passage he urges avoiding familiarity with beautiful persons, saying it was hard to do that and retain continence. He gives the same advice in 1. 3. 13.
Therefore when in the Symposium Plato pictures Socrates as describing an ascent to the Idea of Beauty (more on the Ideas presently) starting with loving a beautiful young male body—this is Plato expressing his own tendencies, not those of Socrates. Similarly in book V of the Republic, Plato makes him say that if a man is brave in battle he should have the right to kiss and be kissed by every man in the army.
Socrates' Spirituality: His proposal to have as little as possible to do with the things of the body is really the high Christian ideal of detachment, of which St. Paul speaks in 1 Cor. 7. 29-32. So it is not strange to see St. Justin the Martyr, in First Apology 46, saying that in the past some who were thought to be atheists, such as Socrates and Heraclitus, were really Christians, because they followed the Logos, the Divine Word. (More on how this might work out later in our treatment of St. Justin).
The world of Ideas: Socrates and Plato as we said used to go about questioning men in Athens. Socrates would ask philosophical questions. The man would say he did not know the answer, might add he had not had any schooling. But Socrates would not give up. He would keep at him with many questions, and then sometimes, not always, the man would come out with some sort of answer to a philosophical question. This seems to have led Socrates and P to ask how it could be. Their reasoning could be expressed in a disjunctive argument: The man learned the answer either in this life or in a previous life. He did not learn it in this life, he admits that. Therefore he learned it in a previous life.
What was that world like? We notice what sort things he knows, things about justice, beauty, goodness in themselves. These things of course do not have bodies. So in the previous world he must have seen justice, goodness etc. as they are in themselves. These are Ideas or Forms (Greek eidos or idea). Why would anyone leave that world, for it is so much better than our world? He must have committed some fault, which resulted in his being cast out. He then took a body—so the body is not part of us, but more like a prison. Why would he not remember being in the world of Ideas? He must have taken a drink from a river in the underworld—mythology is brought in here—which causes one to forget everything. But when Socrates questioned him, that stirred up his memory, and so he recalled things. So all learning is really recollection, anamnesis. We do not really teach anyone anything, we merely get him to remember. At the end of this life one dies, but will return. Plato had visited the Pythagoreans who believed in reincarnation. If a man lived several lifetimes as a noble philosopher, he would come back each time as a human being. But if not, he might come back as some sort of animal. However if he lived several lives as a noble philosopher, he would get permission to omit any more reincarnations, his soul w would get wings and fly away, and never have a body again.—We can see why St. Paul had a poor reception in Athens preaching the resurrection.
What was wrong about the argument that seemed to prove a previous existence? It was a disjunctive argument. In that type we should make a complete list of all possibilities, then eliminate all but one. That will be the right answer. But if the list would b e incomplete, or some item was not properly eliminated, the answer would be wrong. Socrates failed in this way: He did not see that we must subdivide learning in this life. The man questioned admitted he had not learned it previously. But he learned it on the spot while Socrates questioned him. Socrates did not realize what he was doing, but he was, by making many distinctions, breaking up the problem into smaller parts, which were easier to manage. Then the man could see. So the theory of the world of Ides was without foundation.
The Fathers of the Church liked Plato. They did not on the whole believe in the world of Ideas, although Origen seems to have had something much like it—he said before this life we were all in a world of spirits. According to the varied merits of the spirits, some became angels, some devils, some human beings, some stars in the sky (they thought they were alive!). Origen did not add reincarnation. But he did think hell was not permanent. Christ had to reign, according to 1 Cor 15. 25-28 (cf. also Psalm 109. 1) until all His enemies would be subjected to Him. But a soul in hell would not be subject. Therefore hell had to release all humans, perhaps also all devils. St. Augustine seems to have believed in the world of Ideas around the time of his conversion, but soon discarded it. Yet he, as it were, "baptized" the notion, turned the Ideas into exemplary cause in the mind of God—before God can say let light be, for example, logically, He has an idea in His mind of what light is (cf. De diversis quaestionibus 83 q. 46. 1-2).
This theory of the world of Ideas was useful in pointing out the fact that this present world is of scant account compared to heaven. The Fathers of course liked the insistence of Socrates that the wise man will have as little as possible to do with the things of the body. This was the same as the detachment St. Paul urged, as we saw above. Similarly in Republic 517 Socrates says, "One should not wonder that those who reach this blessed vision [of the Good] are not willing to go down to human affairs, for their souls are always hastening into the upper world where they desire to live."
In book 7 of the Republic he gives a long simile or comparison to explain why those who once have seen the true realities would not like to descend again. He imagines a large cave, in which prisoners are bound, ever since birth, in such a way that they can see only the wall in front of them. They see shadows on the wall from objects passing between them and a fire farther back. Since they were there from birth, and have never seen the true realities, only shadows, they think shadows are the only realities. Suppose then that one of them got loose and went out of the cave and saw the real world, and then came back to tell his friends they had mistaken shadows for reality. They would think him crazy, and want to kill him. This of course is parallel to the case of a philosopher who has contemplated the Ideas, the true realities, and tries to tell others about them.
Similarly in the Apology he insists that no matter what people say, h e must keep on urging them to take more thought for their souls than for things of this life.
Further, Socrates held that the ideal is to be come as much like to God as possible. In Theatetus 176 he says: "We should fly away from earth to heaven as fast as possible; to fly away means to become like God, so far as this can be done; and to become like Him , is to become holy, just and wise... God is... perfect righteousness, and the man who is most righteous is most like Him."
The Good = God?: Socrates and Plato are not clear on the point, but seem to think that the Good, or the Idea of Good is the same as God. In Republic 7. 517: "The Idea of Good appears last of all, and we can see it only with effort; when it is seen, we also conclude it is the universal author of all things beautiful and right, the parent of light and of the lord of light in this visible world, and the immediate source of reason and truth in the intellect." In Republic 6. 509 B he is uncertain whether he should even speak of the Good as an Idea—may be beyond the Ideas: "The sun provides not only the power of being seen for things seen, but... also their generation and growth and nurture, although it is not itself generation... . Similarly with things known... the Good is not only the cause of their becoming known, but the cause that they have being... the Good is not being, but beyond being in dignity and power."
In saying the Good is beyond being he has in mind the analogy of being. When a man addressed Jesus as "Good Master" He decided to teach dramatically, and He said (Lk 18. 18-19): "Why do you call me good? One is good. God." He means that if we use the word good to apply to creatures and to God, the two senses have something in common, but far more that is different. So when Plato says the Good is beyond being, it means that the word good as applied to creatures and as applied to the Good has something in common, but far more difference. Plotinus, who claimed to follow Plato, wrote in Enneads 6. 8. 9: "The One is other compared to all things," and in 5. 4. 1: "He is said to be beyond being." In a similar vein St. Augustine wrote (On Christian Doctrine 1. 6. 6): "He must not even be called inexpressible, for when we say that word, we say something."
Socrates/Plato also spoke of the transcendence of God when in Symposium 203: "No god associates with man." We need to recall here that Plato believed not only the great God, who was all good, and even beyond being, but also that there were lesser gods, composed of body and soul, but the bodies were of matter finer than clouds. In Timaeus 41 Plato represents the great God as telling the inferior gods that being made of two parts, they could die, but he will not allow that to happen. But Plato believed that not even the second level gods would associate with us. To even send up a prayer to them, we needed the mediation of the daimones, beings composed also of body and soul, whose bodies were flesh, of much higher quality than ours. Since the daimones were thought to be immoral or amoral, St. Augustine (City of God 8. 14-18) ridicules this notion—that decent men could not speak to the gods, but the impure daimones could!
Very obviously, he is far from pantheism at this point.
Socrates shows deep confidence in the gods. In Phaedo 62: "It is correct to say that the gods take care of us, and that we humans are one of the possessions of the gods... so a man must not kill himself before God sends him some necessity like that which I now have." (S is under death sentence, must drink the hemlock in prison). Again, in the Republic 613 he says, "The gods... never neglect a person who earnestly desires to be just, and desires to become as like to God as is possible for man to be by practicing virtue." Cf. also Apology 41 :"We must be of good hope in regard to death, and think this one thing to be true, namely, that there is no evil for a good man, dead or alive, and that the gods do not neglect his affairs."
Of course the Fathers of the Church would like this attitude, as also the realization Socrates shows of the brevity of life, in Republic 608, saying that "All the time from boyhood to old age is little indeed compared with all time... do you think an immortal thing [the soul is immortal] should be serious about such a little time, and not rather about all time?"
The main idea of the dialogue called Gorgias is that it is much worse to commit something unrighteous than to suffer it. This of course is the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount. In line with this Socrates is pictured as saying in Theatetus 176-77: "They [evil-doers] do not know that the penalty of wrong doing... is not stripes and death... evil-doers often escape these, but a penalty that cannot be escaped... that they lead a life like the pattern into which they are going." He speaks of the automatic penalties that are part of the very nature of things, e.g. , a hangover after a drunk, or a high risk of a loveless marriage after much premarital sex. The Roman Historian Tacitus in Annals 6. 6 quotes part of a letter of Emperor Tiberius to the senate near the end of his life, when he was holed up in the island of Capri, and was indulging himself in orgies of sex: "May the gods cause me to perish, senators, even more than I feel myself perishing now, if I know what to write to you or how to write it." Then the pagan Tacitus Comments: "His crimes and wickedness had turned into punishment for him. Rightly did the wisest of men [he means Socrates in saying things such as we have just quoted] say that if the souls of tyrants could be laid bare, one could see wounds and mutilations—swellings left on the spirit like lash marks on a body, by cruelty, lust and ill-will. Neither the autocracy of Tiberius nor his isolation could save him from admitting the inner torments that were his retribution."
The Seven Liberal Arts: In book 7 of the Republic he speaks at length of the seven arts. We begin with mathematics or arithmetic. But the important thing, Socrates. insists, is not just knowledge of counting, but the senses must invite the intelligence to probe further, to thinking, to intellectual knowledge. Similarly for plane geometry, solid geometry, astronomy and harmonics all should be aimed at developing the seventh study, which is not rhetoric as it was for the Sophists, but dialectics, philosophy, aimed at coming to see the Idea of Good.
Socrates/Plato on the immortality of the soul: It is really pathetic to see Socrates and other fine minds of antiquity struggling bravely to prove to themselves that there is some survival. At the end of his Apology , when he has been condemned to death by the Athenian court, Socrates reasons thus: Death is either becoming nothing, or going to a better place. As to becoming nothing, think of a night in which you slept so well you did not even dream. Why even the Great King of Persia would think that fine. So if death ends all, it is like that. (Poor man, in sleep we are not nothing, we have some awareness, we enjoy the refreshment when we wake up).
In the Krito Socrates is in prison waiting for death. His friend Krito comes, offers to bribe the jailor to let him go. He could go to Thessaly, and would be appreciated there. But Socrates thinks it wrong. He imagines the Laws, personified, telling him he is trying to destroy them if he escapes. Then when he finally has to meet the Laws in the next world, they will not be pleased with him. So he must stay.—His argument is invalid, for he personifies the Laws. They are not a person, and he would not be really destroying them by preventing them from working injustice.
In the Phaedo, which probably comes from Plato's mature period, Socrates is in prison, soon to die. He holds a discussion with several friends. Socrates shows no fear in the face of death. He thinks he is still obeying a divine command because he had that in a dream (we notice that in the Apology his daimonion gives only negative orders, i.e. , to turn him away from something, never positive commands, to do something). But he will heroically obey. The gods are the best overseers, and he thinks the god has put him into this fix, so he must accept.
He appeals to belief from time immemorial that there is survival. That seems to be true all right. A. E. Taylor (p. 179) says that Socrates like all great religious teachers rests his hope in the last resort on the goodness of God, rather than on a natural imperishability of the human soul.
Further, Socrates says, he has long been "practicing dying" melete thanatou, by having as little as possible to do with the things of the world, even with the pleasure of food, drink, love and clothes. So now it is not hard to die.
After a bit more general discussion, he goes into his proofs for the immortality of the soul in the Phaedo:
First argument ( 70c—77d): a) The world is made up out of opposites, so that hot comes from cold etc. Therefore life must come from death. Comment: This is sad, that notion of the opposites being both equally positive goes back to Anaximander of Miletus, whom we have already seen. So many Greeks accepted it. But heat and cold are not both positive: cold is the privation of heat. Further, hot does not really come from cold, but follows after it, if there is a source of heat to provide the means to speed up the molecular motion (without motion of the whole body—this is what physics now holds about heat, it is molecular motion without the motion of the whole). So, sadly, this first part of the first argument is worthless.
b) Learning in this life is really just recalling what we once knew in the previous life, anamnesis. Since we had a previous life, we will have another life. Comment: In the Meno he saw that a man can be made to give true answers by asking the right questions in matters of geometry. So he must have had the knowledge from a previous life. This is confirmed by the phenomenon of association: when we see an article belonging to a friend, we think of the friend. Still further, in mathematics we speak of equality. But two objects we see are never perfectly equal. Yet we have a concept of equality as such. We did not acquire this knowledge at the moment of birth—for we need to recall it later. So we would ask: When did we lose it so as to need to remember it later? So we were somewhere before birth, in which we saw the Ideas or Forms. So we survive death.——Really, this argument if at all valid—it is not—would prove only a previous life, not also a future life. As Cebes in the Phaedo observes at this point, having had a previous life does not prove there will be a future life.—Behind this seems to be the Orphic belief in rebirth. At the end of the Phaedo Socrates will seem to give up this sort of argument, and to go back to the belief that the final destiny of the righteous is to be with the gods. This perhaps reflects a pre-philosophical tradition that the soul is a fallen divinity, destined to regain its former place among the gods if it lives rightly.
Second argument ( 78b—84b): The soul is most like the divine and immortal and the simple and indissoluble and unchangeable. Therefore the soul should be indissoluble or very nearly so. To enter the family of the gods, the soul must depart entirely pure. So it is for the sake of such purity that lovers of wisdom abstain from all bodily desires. Pleasure and pain as it were nail the soul to the body and make it bodily. Comments: We notice that Socrates is vague, he says the soul is most like the divine and the simple, and so is indissoluble, o r nearly so. He adds that the more a soul avoids bodily pleasures, the more pure it will be and like the gods. But even with this, he gives no firm proof.
Some commentators do think he here makes the soul simple, without parts, and so incapable of coming apart. But the trouble is, as we have said, that he is not firm in saying this. Nor does he at all prove the soul is simple. He merely says it is "most like" what is simple. He could have proved it very easily thus: I have a dog who is neither high nor low, long nor short, pointed nosed or snub-nosed, black or white or brown or mixture. I get this concept by taking away from every live dog all that is individual. Then I have left a concept of just plain dog. Suppose I offered the best artist in the world any sum to make an image of my dog, using any medium whatsoever. He could not do anything, for no material can hold this concept. Therefore, that in me which does hold it is not material but spiritual. This is even more true with the concepts of justice, beauty, goodness etc.
Interlude: ( 84c-85b): Simmias wishes some god would reveal the truth to them. He is not convinced by the arguments thus far. Nor should he be convinced, for they prove nothing. Here we recall our comments on the relation of theology to philosophy as the answers in the back of the book. Simmias also wonders: Could the soul be just like an attunement or harmony on the harp—when the harp is gone, so is the tuning. This is called "epiphenomenalism", which says consciousness is a byproduct of the activities of the bodily organism, a sort of whistle of the steam escaping from the engine.
Cebes thinks Socrates has only proved pre-existence—really, he has not even proved that. But as to later survival, Cebes wonders: could it be like the case of a weaver who makes his own cloak. He wears out many of them (bodies) and eventually wears out himself.
So they now wonder: the arguments seemed so good, yet now they do not. Can we really trust arguments at all?
Socrates' answer to Simmias and Cebes ( 88e-102a): Socrates opens by warning against scepticism.
Then he answers Simmias: Simmias has agreed on reminiscence and preexistence. But if the soul were a harmony, it could not exist before the body of which it is a harmony—but the soul in the previous existence did exist without the body.
Socrates. adds that we see the soul opposing the body in many ways—it would not do it if it were a harmony of the body. Comment: Fails to distinguish moral and physical orders. Simmias meant a physical harmony. The soul opposes the body in the moral sphere, not the physical sphere.
Next Socrates tries to answer Cebes: 1) He recalls his own experiences. He once studied the natural sciences, with the pre-Socratics. He came to doubt all the explanations. 2) He also had trouble with mathematics, could not agree with himself even when one is added to one whether either the one has become two, or the one which was added became two [this is based on the notion of the Form of one]. 3) Then he came upon Anaxagoras, with his ideas of nous . At first Socrates was delighted, then found Anaxagoras himself hardly used nous. So he gave that up. 4) Then he turned to reasoning, and tried to lay down in each case the reasoning which seemed strongest. So he considered as true what ever seemed to harmonize with that. For example, he postulated that there are Ideas of Forms. He said he will shortly show that this proves immortality. He says for example a thing is beautiful not from shape or color but from participating in the Idea of Beauty. Comment: Notice he is only postulating, not proving things, even the existence of the Ideas or Forms. He began with what seemed most likely to be true, judged all else by its agreement or lack of agreement with that. But the base itself was not proved.
Third argument (102—107b): When we say that Simmias is taller than Socrates, but shorter than Phaedo, we do not mean Simmias is both tall and short, or that two opposed Forms are in him. (He only happens to be taller or shorter, accidentally, not inasmuch as he is Simmias).
So we see that a form excludes its opposite. No form will accept its opposite. But, death and life are opposites, incompatible. The soul brings life. So if death approaches the soul, it does not receive death and it is immortal and imperishable. Nothing could escape destruction if the immortal, which is everlasting, could be destroyed. All admit that God Himself cannot suffer destruction. So the soul if it is immortal it is imperishable too.
Comments: the argument rests on that of the Forms or Ideas. But that is not at all proved. Further, we could reason: When death approaches life, death is either destroyed or retreats. But also: when life approaches death, life is destroyed or retreats. Socrates does not consider this last possibility.
At the end, Cebes accepts, but Simmias says that in this momentous matter, he distrusts human weakness and is forced to have a little incredulity. Socrates replies: That is true, and you should still examine our first suppositions to see if you can trust them.
It is sad: Socrates has failed in the Phaedo to prove immortality.
In the Phaedrus Socrates adds this argument: The soul is immortal since that which is ever in motion is immortal. But that which moves another and is moved by another ceases to live when it ceases to move. Only the self-moving never ceases to move.... Now the beginning is unbegotten, for that which is begotten has a beginning. But the beginning is begotten of nothing, for if it were begotten of something, then the begotten would not come from a beginning. But if it is unbegotten, then it is also indestructible. We Comment: he has not proved that the soul is self-moving.
Religion and Morality: In many ancient culture there was a partial disconnection of religion and morality. That is, the moral code for them could be divided into two areas, one small, the other large. The small area included the things the gods would enforce with sanctions, reward or punishment. In Greece there were few things in this area, chiefly: respect for the gods, duty to country and family, duty to a suppliant who comes with a bough of a tree having wool garlands on it and says he comes in the name of Zeus, duty to a guest in the house. But on other things, the gods were thought not to enforce. Zeus did not mind if someone committed adultery—the person would be imitating Zeus himself!. Nor would Zeus mind if someone committed murder. But there were lesser beings, the Furies, who liked to drive a person mad for committing murder.
The word for this second large area was ta ethe, customs. In Latin it was parallel: mores. Did this mean that people considered most points of morality as being merely custom, what society approves? Not likely. St. Paul in Romans 2. 14-16 says that the gentiles who do not have the law, revealed religion, do by nature the things of the law. They show the work of the law written on their hearts. Accordingly , conscience will accuse or defend them at the judgment. Anthropology agrees, for primitives do have a rather good knowledge of the basic moral code—how well they live up to it is a separate question. Aristotle in Nichomachean Ethics 3. 1 asks about the effect of ignorance on culpability. He says that ignorance of particulars may excuse in varied degrees. But he says that ignorance of basic moral principles does not excuse—everyone knows them. However, St. Paul in Romans 1 pictures the gradual blinding of persons who do not live as they should, down to the point where, in 1. 32, he mentions those who once knew that certain things deserve death, but now not only do them, but approve of doing them. They have lost their moral vision by repeated sinning.
Socrates/Plato tried to improve this perception. The Republic by seeking to find what is the nature of justice. Here he uses the Greek dikaiosyne broadly—Aristotle admits the word can be used that way.
In book I, the speakers try in vain to find out what justice is, and wind up nowhere. One of them Thrasymachus, says might is right. Socrates refutes that view. After further consideration of the same things in book II, Socrates suggests they look at justice on large scale, i.e. , in a state, instead of in an individual. Then it should be easier to see. He begins to go into the details of an imaginary ideal state. An essential point, he says, is for each man to have one job only, so as to do it very well. There will be three classes: guardians (rulers and soldiers) and craftsmen. They must carefully regulate the literature people read: for the stories about the misdeeds of Zeus and others are scandalous. They must also control the types of music: for certain types of music resonate with and tend to promote certain interior attitudes. Socrates also makes a start at speaking on physical training. Mentions chiefly simple wholesome food, avoiding excesses. The guardians (rulers and soldier class) must live and eat together, have few private possessions, just the bare essentials, no money at all, to avoid jealousy. Should avoid protracted doctoring: if someone cannot be cured in reasonable time, just give up and let nature take its course.
In book IV, there should not be many laws—people will do well through education. (Socrates thinks that virtue is knowledge, i.e. , if someone knows what is right he will do it. Vice is ignorance). He thinks the state must have prudence, justice, discipline (temperance) and fortitude. Wisdom is especially in the rulers, courage in the soldiers, all classes must have discipline. Now he thinks he is finally finding what justice is: No one can be prudent, disciplined, courageous, without justice. So, justice in the state is founded on the principle of one man one job. But, what is justice in an individual? He works out three parts in a man: First, nothing can have two opposite properties at the same time, e.g., cannot be moving and at rest. But, at times we want to do something, yet do not want to do it—so there are two parts, reason and desire. But we also at times see a conflict in ourselves between desire and disgust—if we see a dead animal we have desire to look at it, yet disgusts. So he exults: we have found three parts in man: 1) the reasonable part—special in the rulers, 2) the spirited part—strong in the soldiers, for courage, 3) the desiring part—common in the craftsman class. But in the individual there are the same three parts: if all play their proper parts and do not interfere with each other, This Is Justice. We note the parallel to the state. (Comment: Socrates is wrong here. He has justice concerned within the man himself, whereas it really concerns his relations to others. Temperance and fortitude regulate his own attitudes, in facing pleasure, in facing danger. Prudence finds the right means. Justice gives to others what is coming to them, no more, no less).
In book V, Socrates was about to go into the kinds of injustice in detail, but the others interrupt: they notice he said the guardians have all in common: so, what about women and children? Socrates reluctantly admits he does mean that. The family must be abolished! No child should know its parents. There should be marriage festivals, which the rulers craftily manipulate, like stock-breeders, to mate the best with the best. He begins to ask: Is such a state really possible? He puts off the question, speaks first of war. In war, take the children along as servants, give them horses to escape if danger becomes great. But no solider will desert, if he does, he is downgraded to the lowest class. If a man is brave in battle, he can kiss and be kissed by all other men, and can have more weddings. But again it is asked: Is such a state possible? Socrates says we do not have to prove it, we used the state merely to get to know what is justice. But we might possibly take an existing state and make it ideal, if the philosophers could be kings, or kings become philosophers. A real philosopher is one who seeks and appreciates truth everywhere, but there some who seem to be philosophers, but are not, just as there are people who like beauty in visible things, but do not seek the Idea of Beauty. Real philosophers seek the Idea of Truth. Opinion (doxa) is neither knowledge nor ignorance, it is in between, if it just happens to be right. Those who welcome opinion instead of truth are philodoxers, not philosophers.
In book VI Socrates says that since the philosopher loves truth he will always be honest, give little time to the body. Will not be cowardly: will have all four cardinal virtues. Adeimantus objects: Good philosophers are useless to society, false ones are villains. Socrates admits it is true, but the fault is in society, for society corrupts the good, favors false things. A ruler ought to have discipline and also be quick to learn—these two things are not often found together. So we might try to get the multitude to accept a philosopher as a king. Possible if we paint an ideal picture of what a philosopher should be. Greatest task is to get the candidate to learn the Good. For there is something even higher than the Ideas: Goodness itself, for it is beyond being. We cannot even say what goodness itself is. But just as sight needs light, so truth needs Goodness itself. He distinguishes between episteme, real knowledge which comes only by deduction, and doxa, opinion, which may just happen to be right.
In book VII comes the cave simile, which we saw above. One who has once seen the true reality would not want to come back to the cave—so Socrates did not want to be involved in Athens. We must get the weights off the soul to see well—again, have little to do with the body. To produce good men we need more than gymnastic (bodily training) and music (the fine arts). But we start with the five branches of mathematics, but not just to learn physical things, but to lead to thinking: they are arithmetic, plane geometry, solid geometry, astronomy, harmonics. But these are to lead to dialectics, philosophy. (There are seven if we put gymnastics first). Women can be put through this training too if they are apt.
Book VIII opens with a reemphasis on communism of wives and children, but then goes to the chief topic: there are four bad kinds of constitutions of the state. The ideal is the aristocracy, ruled by the best men. The four bad kinds are: timocracy (honor is highest value), oligarchy (wealth is highest), democracy (love of money), tyranny (insatiate desire for liberty). With each one he sketches the corresponding types of men: the timocratic, the oligarchic, the democratic, the tyrannical. He imagines how one kind changes to the other, both in states and in men. (The picture of the tyrannical man is saved for book IX).
In book IX: the tyrannical man is one who is ruled by disorderly desires. When the democratic man becomes a father, his son is led into complete lawlessness by total liberty. His evil friends implant in him some "protector" some dissolute passion. It runs wild, he becomes the tyrannical man, ruled by his passions. This man is unhappy: a) he is not free, is ruled by passions b) just as there are three parts of the soul, each with its special kind of pleasure, each group thinks its kind of pleasure is the best. But only the wise man has had experience of all three, and so only he can judge what is best. He says the pleasures of knowledge are best. c) only the pleasures of the just are real, pleasures of the body only seem to be pleasures. And the objects of the pleasures of knowledge are real, the Ideas. Those that are objects of desire are only images. Therefore only the just man is happy. So one should pursue justice even if he could get away with injustice. In fact, he should pursue justice even if he came off worse in this life. Comment: Socrates gives pleasure as reason for pursuing justice, not intrinsic morality. Nor do we say this world is not real—Socrates thinks only the world of Ideas is fully real.
This last thought leads to book X, which opens with a long attack on mimesis (creative imitation). It is the ruin of hearer's minds, unless they know what things really are. In the world of Ideas there is the Idea of bed, in this world, a poor copy, but mimesis makes a poor imitation of the poor copy. Mimesis makes a rebellion within us, of contrary opinions, for things appear different from different angles. also, decent people try to restrain grief, which is contrary to reason. But the poets promote it in tragedy and get us to like it. It leads to perversity, makes people rejoice in ruin of heroes. So when we hear Homer is the teacher of Greece, it is not true.
The greatest reward of virtue of justice is in the next life, for the gods love and care for the just. Even in this life the just are eventually honored. But that is nothing to what they get from the gods. Virtue makes one as like to God as one can be!. (Comment: Socrates here disagrees with the usual Greek notion that the gods are amoral).
Each things has its own natural evil, which destroys it. Injustice is the evil of the soul. But injustice does not destroy the soul, so the soul is immortal. Comment: Mixes categories. Injustice is in the moral category, the existence of soul is in the order of being.
Finally the myth of Er who came back to life, and described what things are like on the other side. Souls come before three Fates, and get the lot for the next lives. Each chooses his own destiny, according to how much of virtue he has. So prepare now. At the judgment the interpreter urges souls to choose well. Some even so choose badly, e.g. , choose to be tyrants on earth. Then souls come to the river of Oblivion, Lethe , and drink from the River of Neglectfulness, Amelete Potamon, and so forget what happened in the other world. They go to sleep , wake up, born in this life again. Some men come back as beasts, some beasts as men.
Does the Republic really reflect the thought of Socrates? Probably yes in the first book and part of the second, where Socrates is still groping, which seems to have been typical of him. But in the rest of the Republic he is usually almost cocksure, and promotes homosexuality, communism of wives and children.
1. Life: Aristotle was born at Stagira, a small town in the Chalcidice, in the northern Aegean. His father was Nicomachus, court physician to Amyntas, King of Macedonia. The fact that his father was a physician affected Aristotle. Probably he learned medicine and biology to some extent at an early age.
In 367 B. C. at the age of 17 he went to Plato's Academy, and stayed for twenty years as a pupil of Plato. This is the first of the three main periods for Aristotle, his intellectual development.
Plato died in 347. There were three candidates for the next head of the school: Aristotle, Xenocrates and Speusippus, Plato's nephew. We do not know who made the decision, but Speusippus was chosen. Both Aristotle and Xenocrates left Athens. Some suggest Aristotle was not chosen because he was not orthodox. He surely did reject the world of Ideas, which was central to Plato's thought. But unorthodoxy is not likely to be the reason. Speusippus also rejected the original form of the theory of Ideas. If the decisive thing were fidelity to Plato, Xenocrates should have been chosen. Perhaps the choice was determined by the desire to keep Plato's property in the family. For there were legal problems of making over the property of an Athenian citizen to a non-citizen of Athens, such as Aristotle. Yet, these difficulties did not prevent Xenocrates, another non-citizen, from becoming head later, the third head, after Speusippus.
We do not know the motives of Aristotle for leaving. Some say relations were strained, but there is no proof. Perhaps an outbreak of anti-Macedonian feeling in Athens after Philip of Macedonia sacked Olynthus in 348 was part of the reason. A circle of friends went with A, chief of them was his pupil, colleague and eventual successor, Theophrastus.
Aristotle went first to Assos in Asia Minor, on the invitation of Hermeias, ruler of Atarneus. This begins his second period, the period of travels. He was in various centers in Asia Minor and Macedonia. It was a period specially important for the development of his interests in the natural sciences. He was on excellent terms with Hermeias. He eventually married Pythias, some say the niece of Hermeias, or his adopted daughter, or sister. After three years at Assos he moved to Lesbos. Two years later, in 342, he was invited by Philip of Macedonia to be the tutor of his 14 year old son, Alexander.
The influence of Aristotle on Alexander, as tutor and later, seems slight. It has been suggested that Alexander collected and sent to Aristotle, during his second Athenian period, specimens of rare animals from Persia and India. Aristotle's nephew Callisthenes went with Alexander to Persia as his historian, but was executed on a charge of "treason" in 327. This must have hurt relations of Aristotle and Alexander. Actually, Aristotle died within 6 years of Alexander's first entry into the valley of the Indus. Callisthenes had flattered Alexander, presented everything Alexander did as heroic. He wrote that when Alexander marched past Mt. Climax on the shore of Pamphylia, the waves withdrew, prostrating themselves before Alexander. He was executed for refusing to follow the Persian custom, which Alexander had adopted, of prostrating self before the king on state occasions.
Aristotle stayed in Macedonia until 335 when Alexander became king. Then Aristotle returned to Athens . This was his third period: 335-323. Xenocrates was head of the Academy by that time. Aristotle taught on his own in the Lyceum, a grove just outside Athens, used also by other teachers. Plato says Socrates used to go to that grove. The school may have been informal under Aristotle. Probably only after his death did it get extensive property and have legal status as a religious association.
Aristotle did coordinate the work of many philosophers and scientists in an unprecedently ambitious program of research in many fields.
When in 323 news reached Athens of the death of Alexander, there was an anti-Macedonian revolution. Aristotle was charged with impiety. He did not wait for a trial, but fled to Chalices in Aoba, and is reported to have said he did it, "to save the Athenians from sinning twice against philosophy." He died there the next year at age 62.
2. Reference System in His works: In 1831 Immanuel Beaker in Berlin brought out an edition of Aristotle with pages numbered continuously throughout all volumes. These numbers are usually used for reference today, that is, after the book and chapter numbers, these marginal number will be given—a help against typos. He wrote broadly, on physics, chemistry of the four elements, meteorology, astronomy, zoology, psychology, logic, ethics, metaphysics, statecraft, the art of poetry, the art of rhetoric, and other things. These works are on the whole extant. We know he wrote some works we do not have now, his literary or exotic works . Many of them were dialogues. Cicero and Quintillion speak of them as a "golden stream."
3. Ancient Editions: Our existing texts may have been A's notes for his own lectures—the more common opinion. Some think they were the work of a careful student who attended his courses. It is certain they were not composed for publication as they stand. Scant literary polish. Many digressions and repetitions.
In the second half of the first century B. C. Andronicus of Rhodes edited and published Aristotle’s works. We do not know for certain what was their fate before this—some reports that his library went to Theophrastus, then to Neleus of Scepsis. But the heirs of Neleus seemed not interested, but hid them in a cellar to keep the Kings of Pergamum from getting them for their library. They were recovered in damaged condition by a bibliophile named Apellicon, who took them to Athens. When Sulla conquered Athens in 88 BC he sent the books to Rome. There they were poorly treated until Andronicus was put in charge. This seems not a very credible story.
4. Nichomachean Ethics:
1. 3. He says Ethics is not an exact science since it is not speculative, but practical, and so does not use necessary deductions, but depends much on finding the (golden) mean between two extremes. That mean is relative also, i.e. , courage should be greater for a soldier than for an ordinary man. And even some good things can be harmful. Yet he did hold to absolute principles, e.g., adultery, theft, and murder are not in the middle—they are always evil.
1. 1. He stresses that all people aim at a goal when they act. Nature does it automatically, we do it consciously. We may seek a goal as a means to something further, or for its own sake. But there cannot be an endless string of things sought for something else: there must be a highest good. Good is what everyone aims at.
1. 2. The highest goal should be self sufficient, making life lacking in nothing. The goal of the state is higher, more inclusive than that of individuals. So statecraft is higher than ethics. Comment: this could lead to totalitarianism. We, not he, can escape it by noting that every one has a goal still higher than that of the state, union with God. He also admired Sparta, a totalitarian state. And he thought the state should do more than just provide for what individuals cannot get by themselves: this could lead in the direction of totalitarianism, but might not.
1. 6. Plato thought the highest good is the idea of Good. Aristotle tries to refute that with some very subtle reasons, that are not conclusive.
1. 5. & 10. 7. The highest good is really happiness, and actually, the happiness of intellectual contemplation of the truth.
1. 7. Happiness is an activity of the highest virtue, intellectual virtue. This makes us most like the gods, for they have it constantly. But moral activity is not the highest, the gods do no practice it.
1. 7 & 1. 10. Happiness is not an habitual disposition, if it were, it could be found in one asleep. But in addition, we need sufficient material goods to make this contemplation possible and a full life-span.
1. 4-5. Both philosophers and common people agree happiness is the goal, but disagree on what is happiness. Some say pleasure is it: but to follow pleasure, the whim of the moment, is a life fit for cattle.
10. 4. He does poorly on analyzing pleasure, says it accompanies and in a way completes the activity of the healthy sense faculty exercised on a good object—compares it to the bloom of health in the young. But he should have said pleasure is a means to the goal of working better afterwards. He does say this of recreation in 10.6, does not broaden it enough.
1. 13. There are two kinds of virtue, intellectual and moral.
2. 1. We get intellectual virtue chiefly from teaching. Moral virtue comes from habit, from often acting in accord with it.
10. 9. Theoretical reasoning moves some, but in general people need good rearing under good laws, such as those of Sparta! (A totalitarian state). The best test of moral virtue is whether we get pleasure or pain from carrying out virtue. Plato says we should be trained from the start of life to find pleasure and pain in the right things. There are three things that move us to act: real good, pleasure, expediency.
2. 6. Moral virtue is marked by the relative mean, the right amount, not too much, not too little. Thus courage is between rashness and cowardice; temperance in pleasure is between profligacy and insensibility; gentleness in anger is between irascibility and apathy; generosity in giving money is between prodigality and stinginess; proper pride is between vanity and pettiness. But, as he said above, there are some things in which there is no golden mean, e.g. , theft, murder, adultery. Comment: These exceptions show that the golden mean is not the real standard. Aristotle did not find it. Nor did he really see that our goal is union with God—he could not have reasoned to the possibility of the Beatific Vision, revelation is needed for that, but he could have seen a natural union with God. Plato did see a likeness to God as possible, and a welcome by the gods in the next life. Aristotle might have used his potency-act theory (cf his Metaphysics 9. 1) to say that moral good in action is the harmonious actualization of all the potencies in such a way that each gets its due, and no one potency gets so much as to hinder the fulfillment of the other potencies in the same person or in different persons.
3. 1. Actions are: willing, non-willing, or unwilling. Willing or voluntary acts are those with the principle of action within the agent—so even animals can do willing acts, according to Aristotle. In non-willing acts, the principle is also from within, but the act is done through ignorance and later when information comes is not regretted. This type is neither fully voluntary nor fully involuntary. Unwilling acts are done either through ignorance which is later regretted, or are done under physical compulsion.
Ignorance of particulars may excuse, in varied degrees; but ignorance of the basic moral principles does not excuse. Everyone who is not blinded should know them. (Thus blinding can develop, as St. Paul explains in Romans 1).
7. 2. Socrates said sin is ignorance, virtue is knowledge. Aristotle disagrees: the law does punish those who sin. Only an incontinent man thinks his behavior is not wrong, when his passion blinds him.
3. 5. Negligence that is part of a man's character does not excuse: he is responsible for developing his character. Similarly ignorance coming from blindness does not excuse, e.g. , in a drunk who does not know what he is doing.
3. 4. In the abstract or in general, we wish for the real good, not the apparent good. But in practice, we go for what seems good. If the one who acts is a man of sound judgment, the spoudaios, real and apparent good will match.
3. 2. Decisions of will made after deliberation are a better indication of character than one's actions. Thus, a man may decide to rob a bank, later give the project up. But he is guilty for that decision.
6. 2-7. The mind has five faculties to reach truth: 1) the mind looks at something, sees first principles, so basic they cannot be proved; this is nous. 2) comparing two items from #1 we can reach a further conclusion; this is episteme. 3) If we gather together all conclusions reached by the above process we have wisdom, sophia, which knows the highest most basic principles of everything. 4) For acting, we need practical wisdom or prudence, which picks the best means for the ends we aim at: this is phronesis. 5) In some kinds of acting, that is, in making things, we need know-how or art: techne.
6. 8. Much experience is needed for prudence, and so young men are weak on it. There is a natural cleverness, which if developed fully becomes full virtue of prudence. The natural, undeveloped form of virtues can grow independently of each other, but in the full virtue all grow together and in proportion. They are bound together by prudence.
8. 2. We all need friends for happiness. Love is required between friends, it must be mutual, and known by both. There must be an exchange of benefits. To love is to will or wish good to another for the other's sake. So love is not a feeling: liking is an attitude of feeling, which is different from love.
8. 3. There are three kinds of friendship, depending on the basis: real good, pleasure, utility. Only the first is real solid friendship.
8. 7. There must be something like equality between the friends. If too much distance, no friendship is possible. So no friendship possible between a god and a man.
8. 9. Friendship and the state both involve having things in common: koinonia, so each has claims and obligations. All forms of sharing are parts of the great sharing, which is the city-state polis.
8. 10. There are three good, and three bad forms of constitutions of states: 1) monarchy is good if the ruler rules for the common good; it is tyranny if he rules for selfish ends. 2) aristocracy is good if the nobles rule for the common good; it is oligarchy if they rule for selfish ends; 3) politeia, constitutional government when all have votes is good if the votes are used for the common good; otherwise if used for selfish purposes it is democracy.
8. 11. In perverted forms of government there is little scope for friendship or justice, for rulers and subjects have nothing in common. It is more like the relation of a craftsman to his tool. A master could have friendship with a slave in so far as he is a man, but not inasmuch as he is a slave, a living tool.
5. Politics: By this word Aristotle means the study of operating a state, or statecraft. He directed the writing of the constitutions of 158 Greek city-states. Probably not all were done before he wrote this work. He himself wrote only one extant part, the Constitution of Athens.
The reason for existence of a state is to provide for things individuals cannot get alone. But it exists not only to provide for basic needs, but for the requisites of the good life. [This opens the way to great abuses, in the direction of totalitarianism as experience shows]. A state must have a moral aim. This distinguishes it from an alliance, which is only for mutual protection.
Comment: Building on this thought, he could have reasoned to a world state: just as nature wants men to form a state to provide for things individuals cannot provide for, so, when the world grows to such an extent that individual states cannot suffice for everything, e.g. , peace and elimination of terrorists—there should be a world state to the extent needed. However, though theoretically it is called for, in practice it is impossible. For no basis of distribution of power within it would be workable. For example, if power depended on population size, China would rule; if money, perhaps the Arabs would rule. Then others would stay out.
States arose when several households formed a village, several villages formed a union (synoikismos) which became a city-state (polis). Man is by nature political. He alone forms societies.
Comment: What of a bee hive?
Nature itself calls for the fact that some rule, others are ruled. Plants exist for animals, animals for man , man's body for his soul. Women are naturally subject to men, and slaves to masters. In 1. 5: "That some should rule and others be ruled is not only necessary but beneficial. From birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule." A slave can follow out rational plans, but cannot make them. Accidentally, some become slaves through war who should be free.
A state is made up of persons dissimilar in birth, wealth, virtue, and yet it is a unity. The state should not try to level all differences. Good government needs the rule of law, as against the rule of men. Individuals can be swayed by emotions. The laws provide general rules: the magistrates should adjust or fill in on the details. Laws should be for the good of all, not just the ruling class.
We already saw the several kinds of constitutions in Ethics 8. 10. Here he adds that the best constitution is one in which every man can act best and live in happiness. Happiness depends on virtuous (intellectual) activity. So the extent to which a man is capable of happiness , depends upon his capability for practicing virtue. Only citizens can practice the virtues of statesman and philosophers, and so only they can be happy. A child is not happy: at his age he is not capable of intellectual contemplation of truth.
Aristotle does not look for the best imaginable state, as Plato did, but the best that would be workable. There should be a natural limit of size, no more citizens than can be addressed at a single assembly . [He has in mind direct, not representative democracy]. If the state became too large, metics, resident aliens, might get rights, would be hard to detect them. Comment: Citizenship depended on religion, and religion by birth. One could not be a citizen without being a member of the state religion. Not enough to be willing to be a convert. Very hard to get citizenship in a state where one was not born. He notes Greek states had a hard time controlling size. This led to poverty, revolution, crime. So he favors abortion and killing deformed children.
The size of the land should be enough to produce all the state needs. Greek cities needed little but timber, stone and metal. It may export and import, but should not become a market center. It needs access to the sea. It should have a healthful climate and good water, and should face east. It should be fortified with walls heavy enough for the new siege machinery.
Democracy and oligarchy are both in error. The democrats consider all are equal—when they are really equal only in free birth. Oligarchs think men are unequal in all because they are unequal in wealth. A state should take into account all qualities: wealth, birth, and especially moral and intellectual virtue. It should give favors and goods according to merit, so that those superior in virtue should get more.
There are many functions within a state: Farmers for food; artisans and craftsmen for manufacturing; merchants for trade; soldiers for peacekeeping; well to do citizens for wealth; priests for religious services; prudent men to rule; serfs to provide leisure for others to engage in contemplation of the truth.
Some occupations are incompatible with the life of a citizen: those of a farmer, artisan, trader. These occupations prevent the leisure needed for the good life. The best arrangement is that some should have functions at varied times of life: In physical prime, they can be soldiers; after the prime, can be rulers, who need wisdom, which comes only after physical prime. In old age they can be priests. Within the ruling class, they should take turns at power.
Education is needed for the ruling class. He who is to rule must first learn to obey. Nature herself made the distinction. The young do not mind being ruled or think self better: they will have the same privileges later in life. The state should set the age for marriage, physical condition of parents, should decide on exposure of infants, and the duration of marriage.
There should be physical training from infancy, to make them fit for military service. Reading, writing, and drawing should be taught for their practical value. Gymnastics [The word stands for any form of bodily training; music means those things that pertain to the Muses. ] Music should be for recreation, but not just as amusement. Good also for moral discipline and rational enjoyment. It makes men better critics. But in ripe age, one should give it up. Men should not be professional musicians or learn difficult instruments.
Some types of music are by nature adapted to promote various interior attitudes. The Dorian mode is best; the Phrygian is bad. The Lydian may be helpful.
Comments: 1. Dr. John Diamond, a New York psychiatrist, according to Twin Circle, July 22, 1979 studied more than 20,000 recordings of various types of music, and found that rock music with a stopped, anapestic beat could be stressful and depressing. He said it was found in over half the top record hits in any given week. It consists of two short beats and one long beat. He found that muscle strength drops more than half while a person listens to records with that rhythm. Also that beat interferes with brain wave patterns and causes mental stress. Sounds that are too loud can cause permanent damage to ears, which cannot be repaired.
2. Aristotle shows limitations and narrowness from fourth century beliefs, when he says that slavery is natural, that the life of a farmer, craftsman or trader is not suitable for citizens. He shows bias against barbarians who naturally should be slaves. The actual city-state of the 4th century is his model. He has no world vision like Alexander.
3. He did not foresee much progress in political institutions or in the crafts. In 2. 5 he said that almost everything has been found out. And in 7. 9 he thinks that things have been invented several times over in the course of ages, but lost in great cataclysms. This reminds us of Plato, Laws 3. 677 which speaks of traditions of deluges. Herodotus in Histories 2. 142 says that the Egyptian priests told him that in a span of something over 11, 000 years, the place of the rising of the sun had changed four times. This reminds us of I. Velikovsky, Worlds in Collision, who thought what is now the planet Venus was a celestial body that strayed into the solar system, made a close pass at the earth, causing its rotation to reverse, and finally settled down as a planet.
4. The chief merit of his Politics is seeing how political science can be studied empirically, and stressing the fact that states exist for the common interest, and the need of moral character for states. In 1. 2 he said that man when perfected is the most noble of animals, but without law and justice man is the worst, the most unscrupulous and bestial of animals, going beyond other animals in lust and gluttony.
5. He tended toward totalitarianism in his admiration of Sparta, and in saying in Ethics 1. 2 that the goal of the state is higher and more inclusive than that of individuals. Similarly in Politics 8. 1 he says, "we should not suppose that any one of the citizens belongs to himself. They all belong to the state, are part of it, and the are of each part is inseparable from the care of the whole."
6. Physics and Metaphysics: (Because of the close connections, we will make a synthesis of his thought on both Physics and Metaphysics. The name Metaphysics was given by Andronicus of Rhodes, the first editor, who put the Metaphysics after the Physics, i. e, meta.—We will indicate the source of each item with P for Physics, and M for Metaphysics).
M 2. 1: The search for truth is in a way hard, in a way easy. No one gets it all, but collectively we do not miss altogether. It is difficult because our eyes are dazzled by what is in itself most evident, most true [the self-evident things].
M 1. 1: The joy we find in sensation shows we naturally desire knowledge. There are degrees of understanding: 1) Sense perception; 2) memory: memory plus sense perception makes animals more able to learn. In men, memory leads to experience; 3) Experience is formed in men out of repeated impressions. It leads to true knowledge, episteme. Animals instead must use imagination plus memories; 4) True knowledge, episteme, arises out of experience. It is a more general knowledge, speculative and practical; 5) art, techne is practical know-how, coming from many experiences.
P 1. 1: There are two ways to begin to search: a) with what is most evident to us, the data of perception, or b) with what is most knowable in itself, the basic principles, self-evident things. He says he will chose the former, as most practical. Actually he chooses b.
M 6. 1: There are three related sciences. Physics deals with all material things, all of which are capable of change. Mathematics deals with objects that are incapable of change, and that are only mentally, not actually separable from matter. Metaphysics has objects that are incapable of change, and are actually separable from matter. Note: He repeats this in M 6. 1. and adds that to show what a thing is (its essence), is part of the same inquiry as to show that it is (its existence). Sadly, Aristotle did not follow up to see that essence and existence are related as potency and act—more on those soon.
M 4. 2 and 5. 8: He is unclear and confused. He first says that the word being is used in several ways, in analogous senses to apply to substances or concrete things , modifications of substances, things on the way to being substance, corruptions or qualities or privations of substances, things productive of substance. He adds that the word ousia [can mean either being or substance] has two chief senses: 1) the ultimate subject which cannot be predicated of something else; 2) whatever has individual and separate existence, having its own shape and form. Comment: This is part of his problem coming from not having recognized that essence and existence are a special case of potency and act. He should have said: Everything that is, is being. Logically, there must first be the capacity for being (potency, essence) then could come the fulfillment of that capacity (act, existence).
P 1. 8: Parmenides said all is one being, and there is no change. But he missed the distinction between a) absolute nonbeing, nothing and b) incidental nonbeing, which is privation, the lack of something that should be there. By this means Aristotle showed there is a difference within being, and implies the solution to the dilemma of Parmenides.
P 4. 11: Time is a special kind of change. It is a measure of change, on a scale of before and after.
P 1. 2: The basic principles of physical things are more than one, and their number is either finite or infinite. Physics takes for granted, from observation, that there is more than one being, and that there is change—against Parmenides. Also, if everything were one, there could be no principles, for principles cover many things. Comment: Here he clearly rejects pantheism, in which there is only one being, God.
P 1. 4: The principles are pairs of opposites, such as hot/cold, wet/dry. This works well for the basic principles should not be derived from anything else, nor from each other, but all else should be derived from them. A pair of opposites fills this bill. Heat comes from cold; but cultured does not come from cold but from uncultured.
P 1. 6: The basic principles cannot be infinite in number—then nature would be unknowable, but we do know it. [He misses a point. Our knowledge of nature is real but not entirely complete. So the principles are not infinite for that reason, not for the reason he gives]. So there is more than one principle, but the number is not infinite. It seems there should be more than two, for opposites, such as heat and cold, do not act on each other, but on a third thing, a substrate. [Here he is thinking of heat and cold as both positive, and does not think cold could be the privation of heat]. But we could also make them only two by saying there is a substrate plus heat, and make cold the privation of heat. [Here he shifts framework, and treats cold, rightly, as the privation of heat]. Comment: He has two ways of exploring—via pairs of opposites, as he has just done, or by the four causes and potency/act, which he now begins.
P 2. 3: The four causes: [He uses the Greek word aitia, which covers whatever should be mentioned to give a complete explanation. English is narrower, would include only items 3 and 4, not 1 and 2). 1) Material cause: that out of which something is made, e.g. , the steel of a saw; 2) formal cause, the distinguishing characteristics of a saw that are given to the steel. This cause generally includes all factors that make up the definition of a thing, i.e. , the saw shape; 3) efficient cause, the immediate propelling factor, which pushes or pulls, i.e. , the smith who makes the saw; final cause, the purpose for which it is made, a saw is made to cut wood.
He notes further that causes can be mutual, can work on each other, but in different modes, e. g, health and exercise in which health is the goal or final cause, exercise is the efficient cause.
Further, there are 3 pairs of causes: 1) prior or posterior: the more inclusive is prior, e.g. , expert is a more inclusive term than physician, who is one kind of expert; 2) essential or incidental: a statue is made essentially by a sculptor, i. . e, the man inasmuch as he is sculptor, not in as much as he is a man. As man he is the incidental cause. Essential can also be called proper; 3) actual or potential. A house is made by an actual builder, not by a potential builder.
P 2. 7: Causes can coincide with each other. Formal and final causes can coincide, for the nature or form indicates what a thing can be used for. Efficient and formal causes can coincide in physical things, e.g. , a rabbit can beget a rabbit, since the rabbit has rabbit form. A rabbit never begets a chipmunk, for rabbit lacks chipmunk form.
P 2. 4-6: Luck and Chance: Aristotle uses luck to mean something that serves a human purpose, or what would have been a human desire if thought of. Chance covers the same sort of thing in relation to the unconscious purposiveness of nature. Chance in Greek then always means a favorable outcome—in English it could be either favorable or unfavorable.
Both chance and luck come from their causes incidentally, not properly, in the sense that there is no cause programmed to produce chance or luck events.
M 6. 2. Accidentals: Somewhat similar is the accidental, that which just happens to happen. Accidental things do come from potencies, but there is no potency programmed to produce an accidental. That would have to be a random potency, and there is none. Comment: This implies a denial of causality: the accidentals have no cause, he would think. Einstein reacted against this sort of proposal, which quantum physics also makes, by saying: God does not roll dice.
P. 2. 8: Nature does aim at a goal, hence it is called purposive or telic (Greek telos means purpose). Empedocles tried to say nature acts by necessity, and is not aimed at a goal: rain falls because vapor rises, is cooled, falls back as rain. But rain may help or may ruin crops, and so, he says, nature is not aimed at a goal. Aristotle replies: there is still so much regularity and constancy in natural things that nature does aim, unconsciously, at a goal, even though there are some failures. Were Empedocles right, it would be a matter of random chance what would come up if we planted an apple seed.
P 1. 7: Matter and form; substance and accident: there are two kinds of change , deep change or substantial change, and accidental or shallow change. In each, something stays, something shifts. In substantial change, first matter stays, substantial form is changed, e.g. , I eat hamburger which has cow form, the cow form is replaced by my form, but I keep the first matter. In accidental change substance stays, the accidents shift, e.g. , if we change the color of something.
M. 9. 1: Potency and act: If we travel from one place to another, we first have the capacity, or potency; then if the trip happens, the potency is filled, fulfilled, actualized. But the same pattern shows when any change is made: first potency, then act or perfection of the potency.
Potency and act are metaphysical components of things e.g. , in substantial
change, first matter remains, but it keeps its ability to take on new
substantial forms. Special cases are: a) first matter, which is 100% potency,
with no actuality at all, and substantial form;
He at times speaks of active potencies, which can produce change; passive potencies receive change. Above, and ordinarily, we mean passive potencies.
P 2. l: Motion is the functioning of a changeable thing in actualizing the potency a thing has inasmuch as it is potency (or: qua potency). This is his language. It is simple: change or motion (he has one word for both) is the actualizing of a potency, inasmuch as it is still not fully actualized, or, is still potential. For there can be degrees of actualization.
M 9. 9: There are good and bad potencies. A good actuality is better than a good potency. But in bad things, the actuality is worse than the mere potency to be bad.
P 3. 1: A thing cannot be both actual and potential in the same respect at the same time, e.g. , a glass cannot be at the same time full and empty. But outside these limits, things can act on something, and at the same time be acted on by another thing.
P 8. 3: Some things move at times, at times are at rest. Observation shows that not everything is always at rest, as Parmenides claimed. And observation shows that not everything is always changing, as Heraclitus said. An objection is raised by the followers of Heraclitus: some changes are too small to see, so there could always be change in spite of observation. Aristotle replies: We can see it when a stone dropped off a roof stops falling.
P 8. 1: Eternal motion: Aristotle thinks the stars and other things in the sky are attached to various (about 50 of them) spheres in the sky, which always have been moving and always will be moving. So his use of the word eternal is different from ours, his use implies time. Our use of eternal means the condition of God in which all is present to Him, no change, and so no past, and no future.
First proof: We imagine two slides projected. In the first, we see no beings—they are nonexistent. In the second we see beings in existence and changing. Where is the first change? It might seem to be in frame 2. But no, before frame two the cause that is behind the motion must have started to produce the change. So there is a cause before the first cause—which is absurd. So some beings have always been in change. Comment: Instead of saying there would have to be a cause before the first cause, we should change the numbers and call the two stages first and second stages. So his proof is worthless.
Second proof: All thinkers—except Plato—agree time is eternal. But, time is either motion or the measure of motion. So motion is eternal. Comment: He tries to use an argument from authority—which is inadmissible in philosophy. And he leaves out the greatest authority of the time period!
Third proof: Time is a now or includes a now. But a now presupposes something before and after it—and so on ad infinitum. Comment: A now , a moment, need not have anything before it. Time, the measure of change, started when change started, with creation—of which Aristotle knows nothing.
P 8. 7: Eternal motion must be locomotion: There are three kinds of motion or change: change of quantity, change of quality, change of place (locomotion). Quantitative change presupposes change of quality, as in the assimilation of food. Qualitative change presupposes that the moving cause comes closer. This is locomotion.
P 8. 9: Eternal motion must be locomotion in a circle: We consider: rotation, rectilinear motion, or a combination. Of course, the combination presupposes the two others. But rectilinear motion cannot continue without many turnings back, for a straight line cannot be infinite, since the diameter of the spherical universe is finite. Therefore rotation is logically presupposed to the other two. So eternal locomotion is rotation, motion in a circle, as in the spheres in the sky.
M 2. 2: No infinite regress: There cannot be an infinite chain of causes behind things: 1) Material causes: if a thing is made out of something, there must be an ultimate thing out of which such things are made; 2) Efficient causes: if #1 is moved by #2 and #2 by #3 and so on there must be an ultimate cause to support the movement. Comment: This could lead to proof of existence of God. Aristotle does believe in God, but does not reach it this way. We could do it thus: "Since when a potency is actualized, some emptiness or capacity is filled or fulfilled, there is more being at the end or top of the process. If I cause a change, where did I get the added being that appears? Perhaps I had it some where within me, but if so: where did that part of me get it? So I look outside myself for a source. I may find a long or short chain of sources/causes, but if each had to get up from potency to act, we must still ask: Where did that cause get the added being? No one lifts self off the floor by pulling up on shoelaces. We cannot give ourselves what we do not have. So we have to come to a Cause that does not have to get up to actuality: it is Pure Act. This is God. 3) Final causes: If there were not really a final cause, there would be no intermediate causes, for their goodness and attractiveness have to come from the final cause. The means are means to the end, which that final is. 4) Formal causes: The formal cause is also the essence. And a full definition will list all the things that make up the formal cause. So we can say: since the first definition in a series is the fuller and the truer, if there were no such definition, there would be no later ones. Comment: Commentators disagree on what he means by the fuller definition.
P 8. 5. There is an Unmoved Mover: This means a Mover that does not travel or undergo any sort of change in causing change. So, when an agent moves, it is either the ultimate responsible agent or not. There cannot be infinite regress, as we just saw. So there must be an ultimate mover, needing no other mover as source of its motion. That is the Unmoved Mover, the First Cause, God.
M. 12. 6: Nature of the Unmoved Mover: Something potentially moving would not account for eternal motion, for a potency may not be actualized. Something merely moving as a matter of fact is not enough, if it contains any potency—for the potency may not be actualized. Therefore the Unmoved Mover must have no potency, must be Pure Act. Comment: This is true. We used a better way to reach it above in our addition to his ideas on no infinite regress in efficient causes. We saw it had to be Pure Act, no potency at all in it. We add now: a being with no potency is without limit, for potency is not only capacity but also limit. So the Unmoved Mover is Infinite. Again, since matter is potency, and the Unmoved Mover has no potency, He must be spiritual, not material. Further, since time is a measure of change, and He is incapable of change—potency is needed for change—therefore He is outside time, and all things a present to Him: no past, no future. He is in eternity in the strict sense, not the loose sense Aristotle uses, of something that always has moved, always will move.
Sadly, Aristotle next raises a difficulty: Everything that functions has a potency, but not everything that has a potency functions. So, potentiality is logically presupposed to actuality, and so there need not be any reality at all. He tries to reply by saying: If we accept the statements of Hesiod, who says all came from Night, or Anaxagoras, who says all came from chaos, there would be no actual cause for motion. Comment: This is pitiful, he drags in even a poet Hesiod, and has no answer. Really, he should have said: The only being whose existence is necessary is God—all else is contingent, would not have to exist. But God decided to create. Aristotle knew nothing of creation, although his arguments showing no infinite regress in material causes could have led him to it (we saw it from M. 2. 2 recently above).
M 12. 7. He continues replying to the objection he raised in the second part of 12. 6: So, our answer must be right, otherwise we would have to say things came out of night, chaos, or nonbeing. Comment: Yes, things did come out of nonbeing, were created out of nothing. Here he rejects the possibility of creation. But then he continues: So there is something eternally moving, in unceasing circular motion. That which produces this motion is itself in motion, and so is the intermediate , not the ultimate mover. But since there is no infinite regress, as we saw above, there must be an Ultimate Mover, which is without motion or change—otherwise we would have to regress further. Comment: Here he is quite right, there is an Ultimate Mover, which is God. But he will get into trouble when he now continues:
How does it cause movement? It does so as an a object of desire and thought. It is the final cause, the goal. Comment: Here is a sad mistake. He needs something to account for the movement of everything else, he says it is the Ultimate Mover. But he has been speaking of efficient causes. Only they turn wheels, cause change or movement. But he jumps the track, and says the Ultimate Mover is a final cause. Why did he do this? Because in his world, he could not find or imagine anything that could cause change or movement without undergoing some movement or change itself at the same moment. Even if he could have pictured a God who could cause movement/change by merely willing it, Aristotle would probably have said: There are two moments: first the Mover has not yet willed to cause motion/change; second, He does will it. So there is a change in Him. Hence Aristotle could not have accepted this idea. But we can do what he could not do. God can indeed cause things by merely willing it. But there are not two moments in Him, He, having no potency, cannot change, and so is not in time—for time is a measure of change/motion . So, all the acts or decisions of His will are always there, eternal, identified with His being. He can order something to happen at any point He wills on the time scale. But His act of will simply IS, eternal, without change. He adds a fine sentence:
The life of this Mover is like the best, which we have only at times. For He is always in the state of contemplation of truth, thought. Further, thinking deals with what is best in itself, and the highest kind of thinking deals with what is best in the highest sense, which is thought. So, thought is the object of His thought. He thinks about thinking! Comment: Sad again, then God would know nothing outside of Himself. But in M 12. 10 he adds that the order in an army depends on the General. This would imply that the order in the world depends on God, so He would know all things in the world. Aristotle never resolved this difficulty.—Historically, when people try to find out how God knows things, they run into foolish conclusions. Thus Plotinus says that the One is unconscious: if He had a thought, there would be a duality, He and His thought. Some so-called Thomists says God cannot know anything except by causing it. But that would make Him like a blind man, who knows a chair is moving only if and because he is moving it. St. Thomas Aquinas knew better. When he asks how God can know future contingents, things involving a free decision, he always recurs to eternity, to make the future free decisions present. For as future, they have no existence in advance, nor are there causes lined up to intersect and cause the decision—then it would not be free. Now there would be no need to explain carefully that eternity makes things present if all Thomas would have had to say was: God knows the future because He plans to cause it. For a full discussion, and the actual texts of St. Thomas, with analysis, see Wm. G. Most, New Answers to Old Questions, St. Paul Publications, London, 1971, §§ 458-479.
Really, we must just say God is transcendent, above and beyond all our categories and classifications.
P 8. 6. The Unmoved Mover is eternal, otherwise there would not be eternal motion. But: Could a series of beings, coming in and out of existence suffice? He says: No, a cause would be needed to make them, and they would not account for the continuity of movement. Comment: Yes, God the Unmoved Mover is eternal, but not in the sense Aristotle has in mind, which is a time sense: always has been moving, always will. God simply IS, no past, no future. He continues:
There is probably only one Unmoved Mover, since if a finite explanation suffices, it is better. Comment: This is sad again. He did not know the Unmoved Mover is infinite, and so there could not be two, they would coincide. He was also affected by astronomy, for he says also in M. 12. 6 that the number of movers should be investigated by the aid of that branch of mathematics which is closest to philosophy, i.e. , astronomy. Astronomy in his day held for many spheres in the sky, onto which the sun, moon, stars and planets are attached. It is not easy to be sure what number Aristotle held for, probably 55, perhaps 49. With the requirements has laid down for an Unmoved Mover—must not undergo any movement or change in causing movement—he should have seen that the spheres in the sky are not Unmoved Movers.
P 8. 10. Does the Unmoved Mover have Size? He says he cannot have infinite size, for there is no such thing—he thinks he proved that in Physics 3. 5. But it cannot have finite size either, for a finite agent would not be able to exert unlimited force, or keep things in motion for unlimited, eternal time. So the Unmoved Mover must have no size, be indivisible, without parts. Comment: He is very close here to seeing that the Unmoved Mover is spiritual. We can see that by noting that He has no potency. But matter, first matter is pure potency. With no potency, He has no matter, is spiritual.
7. Beyond Aristotle in Physics and Metaphysics: Aristotle's principles are very fruitful, and can even help in the understanding of Scripture. Here are some further developments beyond what he was able to see:
a) Distinction of Potency and Act: Aristotle did not bring out that they are really, not just mentally, distinct from each other. For a passive potency, a capacity, limits what perfection it can receive. Now if potency and act were really identical, then the more perfect or actual a thing would be, the more limited it would be. That is nonsense, for act is perfection and potency is limit.
b) God is Infinite: With the above conclusion in mind, we can see that God is Infinite. We say, and Aristotle saw it too, that He is Pure Act, no potency. So, no limit, infinite.
c) Essence and Existence: Aristotle saw two special pairs of potency-act, namely, matter-form; substance-accident. But he missed the important pair: essence-existence. (He once had a hint of it in Metaphysics 6. 1, as we saw above). Essence is the whatness of a thing, approximately, its nature. But does that essence reach actual existence? In all creatures, since they do not have to exist—their existence is not necessary—essence need not reach existence, e.g., the case of a centaur.
But a Being that is necessary, that has no potency, will have identification of essence and existence: its essence or nature is to exist. We think of the words of God to Moses in Exodus 3. 14: "I am."
d) First Cause is Efficient, not just Final: We saw above that Aristotle left his reasoning incomplete in speaking of the chain of efficient causes. He did see that a creature-cause that acts must get its power to act from another, for it is not the ultimate source of that power. (In other words: there is a rise from potency to act in which new being appears. Where does the extra come from? It is really from creation). So we come to a First Cause, which is the Ultimate Source. Sadly, he made it a final cause instead of an efficient cause. But a final cause turns no wheels. We saw above how to correct Aristotle's deficiency.
e) Dependence: All creatures need this Pure Act to actualize their potency for existence, e.g. , to bring them into existence.
f) More Dependence: When any creature acts that is, as we saw, a passage from potency to act. But we add: there is a passage from potency to act for the movements of heart, lungs, etc. The same holds for getting a good thought.
g) Free Decisions: When I make a free decision of my will, that too is a rise from potency to act, which must depend, ultimately, on the movement from Pure Act.
Is this compatible with freedom? Yes. We could explain this way: Suppose a movement from Pure Act is offered me (directly or through a chain of causes) to move my free will to a decision. I cannot make an act of acceptance—that involves a rise from potency to act. But experience shows I can reject it, can do wrong. (More on how this happens presently).
So here is the way to visualize things: A movement from the First Cause causes actualizes the potency of my mind to see something He would like to lead me to do or accept. At the same time, almost automatically, it actualizes the potency of my will, not as far up as a decision, but as far as a favorable attitude. But when this is in place, suppose I simply do nothing against it, in the precise juncture when I could reject? Then the Pure Act orders the movement to go into phase 2. In it, it is producing the free decision of my will, yet in such a way that I am acting along with it, by power being received at the same instant from the movement.
So I do control the outcome, but I do it by means of a metaphysical zero, by non-rejection. Some object: This is the same as a good decision. But no: a positive decision involves a rise form potency to act—non-rejection does not. It is merely the lack of a decision, an ontological zero.
We return to the matter of rejecting, which experience shows is in my power. But there is a problem. To reject has to involve a decision, a movement from potency to act. For this I need the First Cause, Pure Act. How can that be done?
Let us recall the picture. At the start, the movement from Pure Act actualized the potency of my mind to see something as good, and actualized the potency of my will, not up to a decision, but only to a favorable attitude. Suppose then, when this has been done, and I see it, it does not please me? Then the favorable attitude collapses, in other words, the actualization of my will as far up as a favorable attitude collapses, falls down to potency . This is enough to serve as a critical condition. If it appears, the First Cause will actualize the potency of my will to reject.
h) Help in understanding Scripture. Many translations weaken 2 Cor 3. 5 and Phil 2. 12-13. They should be rendered, in 2 Cor: "Not that we are sufficient to think anything by ourselves as from ourselves; our sufficiency is from God"; and in Phil 2. 12-13: "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works [produces] in you both the will and the doing." As to the good thought, we saw it needs the First Cause to cause the rise from potency to act. So too for the good decision of will. God will cause this decision in us provided we non-reject, as explained above.
The first part of Phil 2. 12-13 urges us to work out our salvation "with fear and trembling". That phrase, "fear and trembling" is stereotyped, as a comparison with other NT passages shows. It merely means "with great respect."
Why with great respect? Because when we do good, we are using God's own power to act. But, more frightening, when we do evil, we also need the movement of the First Cause. We are actually using His power to do evil. The evil does not come from Him. He provides the power, we provide the specification to evil.
Incidentally the Second Council of Orange in 529 AD, in canons 4 and 7 (DS 374 and 377) defined the sense of these two passages of St. Paul. It was a local Council, but because of the special approbation by Pope Boniface II, its canons are equal to those of a General Council. Most modern translations simply ignore the Canons of this council.
7.1 Psychology: Aristotle means here the study of soul, different from the matter of modern psychology.
1. 1: Why study soul? We study soul because all knowledge is beautiful, and especially that which is more exact and deals with more excellent objects. Study of soul rates high on both counts. It is the principle (arche) of animal life.
We want to know under what class of things soul falls, is it a particular substance, quantity, quality or something else. Are all souls of the same kind? Is there one definition for all souls?
1. 5: Is soul made up of the four elements? The soul is not composed of the four elements, earth, air, fire, water. Some think it is, saying that since like is known by like, the soul needs something of all four elements. But Aristotle replies: Yes, but the soul also knows combinations and proportions of elements, so it should have all these, including a stone and a man. Comment: His argument is invalid, for a color TV tube, having electron guns for the primary colors, can make all colors. That "principle" that like is known by like is false, but it must have been around in his day. He probably does not hold it himself.
2. 2: What is life? Life connotes intelligence, sensation, spatial movement, and ability to take on nutrition. If any of these is present, we call things alive. Comment: He knows what "connotes" life, but does not try to define life itself.
2. 3: Levels of soul: There seem to be various levels of soul: plants have only nutrition, other things add sensation, animals have at least one sense (if only one, it would be touch). (When he tries to specify which is most basic, he sometimes mentions ability to take nutrition, sometimes speaks of reproduction).
1. 1: Survival after death: (We return to this chapter for very different matter). It seems that in most cases soul neither acts nor is acted upon without the involvement of the body. If there is an exception, it is thinking. But if thinking needs mental images, it too will depend on the body. If it needs the body for everything, then the soul might be comparable to the straightness of a line, which cannot exist without the line. (In 1. 4 he will add: If the soul could be destroyed, it probably would be destroyed by the feebleness of old age. But what really happens in old age seems parallel to what happens to eyes in old age. If an old man could get new eyes, he would see as well as a young man. This seems to imply the soul is ageless). Comment: Here he is making an approach to survival after death: is there something the soul can do without the body? But if images are needed, body will be needed. In 3. 7-8 he will return to the point, and say that both speculative and practical thought need images. This would imply no survival is possible. He does not draw the conclusion. He is right that practical thought, aimed at action, needs images, e.g. , a diver taking off from the board must have an image of what he intends to do. But no image is needed for abstract concepts, such as that of justice, truth, goodness, or even that of dog.
2. 1. Soul is the form of the body: There are three kinds of things: matter, form, and the combination of the two. Matter is potentiality; form is actuality. Every natural body has both matter and form. So it is evident that the body is the matter, the soul is the form. So: Soul is the substantial form of a natural body which has the potency for life. Soul actualizes that potency and so makes it alive. Comment: 1) He does not take up the question of whether soul is a different and independent substance from that of the body. If the two differ as potency and act, however, they would seem to be rather different. 2) There is a problem here. First matter has no characteristics at all. But in conception, two living things, ovum and sperm, unite, and each does have characteristics. Only this union brings human life. Could there be one form for the matter following upon another?
1. 1: Body-soul relationships: (Still another, related, problem about soul/body relationship). It seems that all the "affections: [modifications, pathe] of the soul—anger, fear, pity, etc. are always accompanied by bodily counterparts. Evidence: when the body is not aroused or worked up, a thought that might bring fear or anger may cause little or no arousal; but when the body is already worked up, perhaps by a different emotion, small causes may bring emotions. Comment: 1) Modern psychology knows there are two elements to an emotion, the bodily changes (chiefly biochemistry) and the mental interpretation. Very similar or same biochemistry may serve for two emotions, such as fear and anger. But the mental interpretation makes the difference: If I see before me something that is threatening, the interpretation is fear; if something outrageous, the interpretation is anger. So Aristotle can say that when strong chemistry is already present, a small stimulus may bring a large effect, e.g. , if someone is very angry, he may more easily fall into fear if the stimulus for fear appears. 2) Modern psychology also knows of somatic resonance: because we are made of two things, body and soul, and the two are so closely joined as to add up to one person, therefore if there is a condition on either side, there should be—for normal running, not just for survival of the thing—a parallel on the other side, which is called a resonance. When the resonance is on the bodily side (most usual) it is called somatic resonance. For example, love is in the spiritual will, a desire or will for the well-being of another for the other's sake. But normally in human affairs, feeling or chemistry will be the somatic resonance; any feeling from the non-sexual response of parents to their own children, to the overtly sexual response of mates. Aristotle seems to sense something of this sort of relationship too. More on this in the section below on Beyond Aristotle in Psychology.
1. 4: Can the soul be moved? (We return to this chapter for still different matter). He asks: Can the soul be moved? [First he has in mind locomotion, for his word for movement covers both locomotion and other kinds of change]. He says no, the soul does not go from place to place. At most it moves from place to place incidentally, like the color on a ball when the ball is thrown.
[Then he asks about other kinds of changes, and becomes a bit confused, for he does not distinguish feelings from other changes. He says the soul itself does not become angry. But then he asks about thinking, loving, etc. He says these are not movements of the soul but of the organism that has a soul. We reply that since love is an attitude of a soul, willing good to another for another's sake, yes the soul can be changed or moved in that sense].
One of the two information gathering powers: sensation (the other is intellect):
2. 12: Sense and sense organ: In sensation we receive the sensible form without receiving the matter, a wax tablet takes the imprint of a gold signet ring without taking the gold. The sense organ is that which has a potency to receive sense impressions. Sense organ, and sense potency are one in reality, but mentally we distinguish them. The organ takes up space, and is a compound of potency and act, the potency is mere potency, takes up no space.
This potency comes from a certain ratio (logos) in the organ. It is really a balance (mesotes, ) in a middle position between opposite qualities. The potency is not determined in any direction. If it were, it would color what is received. The sense stimulus is like a harmony in relation to the ratio. So, excesses in the objects of sense can damage the sense organ. Excessively loud sounds do damage hearing.
3. 2: Common actualization of two potencies: The potency of the sense to perceive, and the potency of the object to be perceived share a single common actualization.
2. 6: Three kinds of sense objects: 1) Objects special or proper to a particular sense, e.g. , color to sight. Perceived directly and properly, not just incidentally. [A thinks there is a one to one correspondence, each sense has one proper object, and no other sense can pick that object up properly, only incidentally]. 2) The common sensibles, which are perceptible to all the senses, but not proper to any one of them: common to all. These include: movement, rest, number, figure, size etc. They are perceived properly and directly, not just incidentally, not by each individual sense, but by the complex of the work of several senses. 3) Incidental objects: these are not perceived directly, e.g. , the fact that this white object which we perceive is the son of Socrates. Sonship is not perceived directly and properly, but only incidentally.
Each sense in judging its own proper object is not deceived. [in 3. 3. he will say: there is a minimum of error]. The proper sensibles are the most strictly perceptible, being adapted each to a special sense.
3. 1: How we know the common sensibles? We register them only incidentally through each individual sense acting alone. We register them properly through the complex of the five senses. Yet there is no proper organ for the common sensibles. If there were, we would violate the one to one correspondence. But there is an aisthesis koine, a common or joint functioning of the senses. He means not an organ, but a process. The data seems to be integrated by a center. In his small work, On Youth and Old Age 4692) he seems to say the center is in the heart.
2. 5: In sensation is like known by like? To see if this is true, we ask: Why do we not perceive the senses themselves, i.e. , why do they not cause sensation without an external object—for, according to that theory, they contain fire, earth etc. Reply: the faculty of sensation if we consider it as a potency rather than as an organ, has no actual, only potential existence. So just as fuel does not burn by itself without an external kindling agent, so these senses need an outside object. While a thing is being acted upon, it is unlike the thing that acts on it. When it has been acted upon it is like, not just that both are actual or even that they share a common actualization (as in 3. 2) but that the sense takes on the form of the object. Comment: Aristotle is a bit confused here. We can consider the power of sensation either as organ or as potency or as both. If we choose for a time to think of only one, of potency, this does not destroy the reality that there are both. Really, he should have said: This like known by like theory should result in the senses buzzing all the time, since they have the 4 elements in them. They do not do that, so the theory is false.
When we deal with an object proper to two senses, e.g. , a sweet white pill, two senses each handle their proper objects. The data is fed into the soul.
3. 2: How do we perceive that we perceive? That is, how do I see that I see, etc. ? Aristotle says we see that we see either by the sense of sight, or by some other sense. So it must be that we do it by the sense of sight, otherwise two false things would follow: (1) We could have two senses each with the same proper object—Aristotle thinks this cannot be. (2) or we would need an infinite regress, i.e. , something to see that we see that we see, and so on to infinity. So we conclude: We see that we see by the sense of sight. Comment: His argument is a disjunction, but his list is not complete, it lacks the other possibility: We see that we see by the fact that we have reflex consciousness, since we have a spiritual soul. It can as it were bend back on itself and see itself seeing.
3. 3: Error in sense perception:
1) As along as a sense registers its own proper objects, perception is true, or with a minimum or error. 2) When we go further, and perceive that this white object is e. g, , the son of Socrates, there is a chance of error, for this is incidental perception. 3) When we perceive the common sensibles, error can readily occur.
The other information gathering power: intellect:
Two preliminary comparisons:
3. 3: Comparison of thought and sensation: Some think thought is just a higher degree of sense perception. But those who say this overlook the problem of error: the soul spends much of its time in it. More positively, we can show that thinking is not the same as sense perception:(1) All animals have sensation, but not thinking; (2) perception by sense is always true, or with a minimum of error; but thinking is more easily in error. Comments: 1) As to the second point, if thought were merely a higher form of sensation, it could be more difficult, and so more error. As to (1) it needs sharpening. The example we gave above about a concept of dog or justice etc. is the real means of showing. The dog in my concept is not high or low, long or short, etc. So if I hired the best possible artist, gave him a choice of media, he could not make an image—for no material can hold that concept. So that in me which holds it is not material but spiritual.
3. 3: Comparison of thought and imagination: (Note: Imagination in Greek means the power of making and keeping images. English usually implies making up out of nothing. The Greek does not). We see differences: 1) We can imagine things when and as we wish; but we cannot make just any judgment we wish, we must keep to the truth. We could imagine the house is on fire, but not believe it at will. 2) When our mind judges something dreadful is true, we are disturbed. But if we merely imagine it, we may not be disturbed.
3. 4: The passive intellect: This is the intellect inasmuch as it can take on the form of anything whatsoever without taking on the matter, like the impression of a signet ring in wax. So the passive intellect must be unmixed with everything, otherwise it would slant perceptions. And it must have no nature but the capacity to receive. So it must not be mixed with the body. It must be at zero on the scale from potential to actual. When the passive mind has taken on many forms or actualizations it still has indefinitely large potential to take on more. When it has become actualized to some extent in this way, self-knowledge become possible.
Over-stimulation weakens a sense's power to perceive; but when the mind has been reflecting on highly intelligible things, it is not weakened. Comment: Right after thinking, there may be fatigue, but in the long run much thinking will not dim the power of the mind to perceive, will more likely develop it.
3. 5: The active intellect: In all nature we find two things, the matter which potentially can take on the form of all things, and the active cause that makes it take on the form. Mind in the passive sense becomes all things; in the active sense it makes all things—as light makes potential colors actual.
Mind in this active sense is separable from the body, it is impassive, is unmixed. It is essentially an activity (energeia).
Only when separated from the body is mind its true self; this alone is immortal and everlasting. We do not remember such a state, because active mind cannot be acted on, and so cannot receive impressions, and the passive mind is not separable from the body. Comment: We do not know what state he has in mind. Cannot be Plato's world of Ideas, for after being in it, the soul can be led to remember it again, so it did take on impressions. We will speculate further in the Beyond Aristotle section.
Mind does not think intermittently, so that at one time it thinks, at another time not. Comment: 1) This seems to be true of the subconscious mind. Aristotle must have had experience of its work in solving problems. But otherwise we are not sure what he means here. 2) Does Aristotle think each one has an active intellect, or does God do the work for us? His friend and successor Theophrastus said he did mean we each have one. That should settle it. Yet Alexander of Aphrodisias (2-3d cent. A. D. early commentator on Aristotle) said there is only one active mind for all, which is God Himself.—When Aristotle says the mind is pure activity, someone might take it to mean it is God, since God is Pure Act. But we must recall that active mind has two aspects, as organ, and as activity. As organ, it is a compound of potency and act, and so not identified with God.
3. 6: How error is possible in thinking: Just as sight is infallible in seeing color, but can be wrong in thinking that this particular white thing is Socrates, similarly the mind cannot err when simply perceiving the essence of a thing, but can err when there is a compounding, when the object is not indivisible e.g., propositions always involve putting things together, so as to say in effect: This is that sort of thing. In this, error is possible. Also if thinking refers to past or future, time is an element, and so error is possible.
8. Beyond Aristotle in Psychology:
a) In regard to soul and body as form to matter: We already saw above the modern concept of somatic resonance. We can see many applications:
(1) In the aged who are somewhat broken down, the bodily debility may damage somatic resonance to judgment. Something similar happens in young children when too tired.
(2) Teenagers usually starting late in High School may find temptations to doubt their faith. There are two reasons: first, the deep physical changes, especially glandular, put somatic resonance to faith (and other things too) into an unstable condition. Second, in addition, they are in the period of changeover from the childhood pattern of accepting things because the elders said so, to the adult pattern where one should be able to give sound reasons for things including faith. Here apologetics is much needed. Many, sadly, never make this crossover completely.
(3) Spiritual growth lies basically in the complete alignment of one's will with the will of God. But that development needs a parallel development in somatic resonance. Somatic resonance grows in a step-graph pattern, not on a continuous line going up. A corollary: Negative mortification, since it affects the body, is helpful to make larger changes in somatic resonance. The same is true of severe trials that affect body and soul, if one accepts them generously as the will of God. (4) In Ethics 8. 2 we saw that love is an attitude of the spiritual will, willing good to another for the other's sake. There is a normal somatic resonance to that in feelings. These feelings are the somatic resonance to love, and so tend greatly to bring love with them. Further, the feelings that arise automatically from the hormones cast as it were a rosy light on someone else, making them seem wonderful. That is a starter for the attitude of love in the will. But this splendid process can be frustrated either by masturbation, which turns one back again to the selfish attitude of babies; or by premarital sex, in which two persons use each other for sensory gratification. They think they have love, great feelings of warmth, tenderness. But that may be only chemistry. And if they are sinning and putting each other into mortal sin—that could result in never being happy again, if death should catch them—real love is very unlikely to develop. But it will seem like love, and so they may be led into marriage, and afterwards find out they had no real love at all, just chemistry.
(4) Science News, Dec. 30, 1972, p. 424 reports research showing a tendency to suppose that physical beauty means beauty of character.
(5) Scientific American, Feb. 1974, pp. 84-91 shows low levels of Serotonin, a neurotransmitter, predispose to high sexual activity and difficulty in sleeping.
(6) Science News, July 16, 1983, pp. 45-46 shows biochemistry can predispose to anxiety. Issue of Nov. 10, 1990, p. 301 reports suicide victims show abnormal levels of serotonin and norepinephrine.
(7) Science News, August 20, 1983, pp. 122-25: A chemist from Argonne Laboratories went to Stateville Prison in Illinois, got hair samples from violent criminals, found high correlation between highs and lows of certain trace elements and criminal behavior. This does not mean no freedom, but does mean a predisposition. Since it is bodily, it could even be inherited.
b) Active intellect apart from the body: Aristotle said in 3. 5 that only when separated from the body is the mind fully itself. He does not say in what way. Let us explore.
Since we in this life can hold abstract concepts , e.g. , justice, goodness , etc. in memory, we have a spiritual memory. This memory comes along with the soul after separation. In the present life, the power to know that is natural to the spiritual soul is held down because it is tied to the material component of the brain, a marvelous thing, but yet far inferior to a spiritual intellect. But at death that link is broken, and so the natural power of the spiritual intellect asserts itself. So the lights go on. The data about God we carry over will be understood far more clearly then—and there will be no distractions from the senses then—and so the lights go on. The soul intensely wants God.
If the will is in accord with God's will, eventually that vision can be had. If the will is turned against Him, the soul will both intensely want, and intensely flee Him—a sort of twisted state that must be permanent, since no substantial change is possible after death. Scripture speaks of fire in hell. The most recent declaration of the Doctrinal Congregation, May 17, 1979 says that hell will have a "repercussion on the whole being of the sinner." The pain in addition to the loss of God must be of an intensity comparable to what fire would give in this life.
To reach the vision of God, two things are needed in addition to the state of grace: 1) complete purification of the soul, of its power to see. If not done fully in the present life, it must be done then; 2) what the soul should have done towards being like Christ in the rebalancing of the objective order after sins will have to be completed then. Thank Heavens there is a means to do this, Purgatory. Otherwise the soul could never reach the vision of God.
There is no time in the next life. We are full of changes (metabolism) and on a planet that spins and travels constantly. Time is the measure of those changes—ahead is a moment we call future, it changes to present, changes to past. This goes on in the present life without stop. But at death that movement is stilled. If a soul goes directly to heaven, it waits only one instant for resurrection, for there is no change. Similarly for a soul in hell. But a soul in purgatory must have the two developments just mentioned, which we assume may be in stages—so there are some as it were markers. Some private apparitions of souls from Purgatory—the Church does not guarantee these, but we may believe if we wish—have souls reporting many years in Purgatory for even small faults. We can picture it this way: imagine a graph with two lines on it, above and below. The higher line represents aevum , the duration in Purgatory. The lower line represents time. We might as it were draw a line from a point on the aevum line, and see where it reaches the line for time. In that sense a soul might speak of e.g. , 50 years in Purgatory.
The suffering in Purgatory comes essentially from the frustrated desire to see God. Yet there is immense consolation, for the soul is certain of its own salvation, and does love God greatly.
The Church teaches that we can and should pray for the souls in Purgatory. They cannot merit or help themselves, but we can help them. Then they pray for us. They would know in general from alleviation that someone is praying, and then be moved to pray for the one who helped them. God probably gives them information on who it is.
When we know things in the present life, we do not take these objects into us, only an image of them. An image can represent them well enough, for images are finite, but so are the objects we see. But no image could make the Infinite known in what S. Paul calls face to face vision (1 Cor 13. 12). So it must be that the divinity will join itself directly to the human soul or mind, without even an image in between—the divinity performs the work an image would do. The soul is as it were a finite receptacle, trying to take in the Infinite. So it never becomes dull. Further, St. Augustine says that souls in heaven participate (we note the Platonic language) in the eternity of God, in which there is no change (City of God 10. 7). Just as God simply IS, so the soul in heaven simply IS unutterably fulfilled and happy. It does not really go on and on and on—it IS. Similar comment for a soul in hell.
Within the Holy Trinity we might say there are streams of infinite knowledge (resulting in the Son) and infinite Love (resulting in the Holy Spirit). Only a being part divine (cf. 2 Peter 1. 4) can as it were plug into those streams. Grace now makes us radically capable of that vision in the world to come.
VI—The Secularized Philosophy of the Hellenistic Age
It might have seemed that an ideal combination was at hand. Aristotle, as we saw, became the tutor of young Alexander the great. A great mind, and great power, might have accomplished so much. Yet there seems to have been small interaction. Aristotle's eyes were limited by his vision of the city-state; Alexander had a vision of empire, and achieved it.
The Greek world and all the Near East was permanently changed. So this age is called the Hellenistic Age, in contradistinction to the Hellenic Age that had gone before it.
The freedom of the city-states was in practice about gone. After Alexander's death, his successors—often called the Diadochi, their Greek generic name—fought for power. At first there were 5 empires, then 4, and finally it settled down into three: Macedonia, Egypt, and Syria as the Romans called the latter. Today we often refer to it as the Seleucid Empire.
Literature took a very different color—no works of the stature of the greatest earlier ones were produced. Religion was affected by widespread disbelief in the old myths, which began around the end of the 5th century among the more intelligent people. (The same thing happened in Rome around the end of the 1st century B.C.)
New philosophies did arise in this age, but there were no minds comparable to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, until Plotinus, several centuries later.
Alexander captured and put into circulation the great Persian treasury. The result was an inflation of everything except wages, and a financial instability. A man might be financially up one day, down the next. People looked for something to rescue them. Some turned to religion. They saw that chance seemed to rule all, and they already had a goddess of chance, Tyche. So some worshipped Tyche to gain stability.
But others looked to philosophy. They wanted philosophy to offer a supreme good, a Summum bonum, which would make a man completely satisfied, which could be had even in this life, by one's own efforts alone, without the help of any man or god.
Chiefly three philosophies tried to fill this request: Cynics, Epicureans, and Stoics.
Cynics had already been around for some time. They went back to Antisthenes (c. 445—c. 365). He rejected Plato's ideas, is said to have said: "O Plato, I see a horse, but I do not see horseness." He held that virtue is wisdom, but the wisdom consisted chiefly in "seeing through" the values of most humans. Riches, passions etc. are not really good, nor is poverty, contempt really evil. Independence is the true good.
Diogenes of Sinope, who died about 324, is noted in the Hellenistic age. He said Antisthenes had not lived up to his own ideas. He spent most of his life in Athens and later in Corinth. He called himself "Dog" and said animals are models for mankind. From this comes the name Cynics, for Greek kyon means dog. Living on so low a level, one cannot be blown over by the stormy blasts of fortune.
Epicurus was born about 342 at Samos. He made pleasure the supreme good. But he did not mean by it what later Epicureans would mean. For him it was the absence of pain plus gentle satisfaction. If someone had asked him to come to happy hour and get drunk, he would have said: "That would be fun. But think of my head tomorrow! Seneca, the later Roman Stoic, reports Epicurus lived a rather ascetic life, thinking that long-running satisfaction was to be had that way.
The Epicureans of course liked the thought of Democritus, according to whom, as we saw above, everything fell together by chance, will fall apart again, so there is no survival, and no need to fear the gods—just have fun! It was promoted specially by Lucretius (91-51 B. C. ) who popularized the ideas of Democritus in his De rerum natura , which includes, especially in book III, numerous arguments to prove there is no survival. When life is over it is like leaving the table after having a good meal. There is nothing more to come.
Zeno of Citium in S. E. Crete was born about 336 BC. He was the founder of the Stoic school, which gets its name from the Stoa or porch where he lectured.
Stoicism borrows its cosmology from Heraclitus, especially the doctrine of the Logos and of Fire as the world-substance. But he took some things from Plato and Aristotle too. His idea of logoi spermatikoi seems to have been a transposition of the theory of Ideas to the material plane. These were the active forms of all things that are to be, which unfold themselves as individual things as time goes on. St. Augustine used this idea to explain how God stopped creating after 6 days, and yet new individuals arise (City of God 11. 9).
Natural beauty in the universe points to a principle of thought, God. But the Stoic God was material. The crasser elements come from God and finally are resolved into Him again, so that all that exists is either the original Fire, that is God in Himself, or God in His different states. While the world exists, God is its soul. But there is an unending series of world-constructions and world-destructions—an eternal cycle.
Fate and Providence are just different aspects of God. So there is no human freedom. Liberty for Stoics meant doing consciously, with assent, what one would do anyway. Thus people would as it were accept God's will.
In Ethics, they held that no act is evil in itself. It is the intention, the moral condition of the doer that makes a thing evil. The act as a physical thing is indifferent. (This sounds like Consequentialism or Proportionalism today!) Life according to nature means life according to the principle that is active in nature, the Logos, a principle in which the human soul shares.
But as to the Supreme Good—it is to live habitually according to reason for reason's sake. This is not only the highest good, it is the only good. So there is only one evil, the opposite of that. All else is indifferent.
This resulted in a marvelous example of painting one's self into a corner. They exalted reason to such an extent that it was impossible to act reasonably. For if I see three courses open to me, I can make a list of the good and bad things about each, and then see the best pattern. But the Stoic cannot make such a list: everything is indifferent except to live by reason: so it makes no difference if one is sick or well, rich or poor, even dead or alive. So they were allowed suicide. In fact, if things contrary to nature would be more weighty, one can be praised for suicide. St. Augustine (City of God 19. 4) laughs at Stoic pretentions. After starting out to make it possible to reach the supreme good by one's own means even in this life, yet the point may come where it is better to commit suicide!
To live according to nature is not positively good, is strictly indifferent, yet some things are preferable or relatively choice-worthy: proegmena , and some are even to be avoided: apoproegmena.
Now since emotions interfere with reason, they cannot be tolerated. So the wise man is without passions. So he is in this way second to none, not even second to Zeus (if one believed the stories about Zeus in mythology, a decent man would be far better).
All virtues are bound together: so one either is or is not virtuous: there are no degrees.
Romans having a more practical mind, saw that their great Roman heroes of the past would not measure up to this ideal, and so would be fools. So they wisely tempered it. And Cicero says that to uproot all feeling would be to pull up all humanity by the roots (De amicitia 13. 48). Yet the sternness of Stoics did agree with traditional Roman temperament, especially before 200 B. C.
The Fathers of the Church were at times influenced by the Stoic sternness and lack of feeling, e.g. , St. Augustine felt a bit guilty for having wept for his Mother's death. The problem was that Christian detachment might seem to go that far. Clement of Alexandria (Stromata 6. 9. 71. 2) said Christ was apathes, without emotion. W. A. Jurgens (The Faith of the Early Fathers, Collegeville, 1970, I. p. 186, note 17 thinks he meant only the lack of immoderate emotions. St. Hilary of Poitiers (De Trinitate 10. 23) said Jesus had no interior reaction of pain.
Appears in a number of authors. Pyrrho of Elis (c. 360—c. 270) seems to have been influenced by the ideas of Democritus and the relativism of the Sophists. So he said we can only know how things appear to us, not their interior nature. The same thing may appear differently to different people.
Sextus Empiricus (c. 250) argued against the possibility of proving any conclusions syllogistically. He said there would be a vicious circle if we argued: "All men are mortal" and then tried to conclude "Socrates is mortal"—we would first have to know that Socrates is mortal before we could state the first premise, "All men are mortal." This means he accepted only inductive proof—not deductive proof. In deductive proof we would say that all are made up of two parts, body and soul, and so the two can come apart, and that is what it means to be mortal.
The Middle Academy founded by Arcesilaus (315-242) was also sceptic. Arcesilaus, according to Cicero, is supposed to have said he was certain of nothing, not even of the fact that he was not certain of anything.
The New Academy was founded by Carneades of Cyrene (214—129 B.C.) He went with Diogenes on an embassy to Rome in 156. He held that knowledge is impossible, that there is no criterion of truth. Cicero spoke with some respect of the New Academy.
St. Paul of Tarsus met Greek philosophers in Athens (Acts 17. 16-34) and after arguing with them also gave a discourse on the Areopagus. He quotes a few lines of Greek poetry—which need not mean he had a Greek education. Jews would in general be averse to that. He said he had seen an altar on going up the Areopagus inscribed "to an Unknown God". Paul said he would tell them about that god. He did not know what they really meant. They believed the gods were jealous, and if someone omitted proper sacrifice to one even by accident, there would be punishment, as we see in the myth of the Caledonian hunt. So that latter really was a way of saying: "In case we forgot someone, please accept this". Paul also tried to preach the resurrection—which did not please the Platonists, who hoped to get finally free of a body.
In chapter 1 of Romans Paul says atheists are inexcusable, since the existence of God is so evident from creation. He then went on the describe in vivid language the progressive degradation of idolaters, who fell into all sorts of sins, the centerpiece of which is homosexuality. In the last verse of the chapter he says that some who used to know these things deserve death, now are so far gone that they not only do such things, but approve of doing them: they say sin is good.
It is very true that a person can enter onto a sort of spiral in the bad direction, which feeds on itself and gets larger as it goes out farther. Imagine someone who has never been drunk before, but tonight he gets very drunk. Since this was the first time, the next day he will have guilt feelings, from the clash of the voice of his beliefs, and the voice of his actions. Something has to give. If he does not reform, his beliefs will be pulled into line with his actions, so that if we tell a confirmed drunk he should not do it, he will not grasp the fact. Not just that belief, but other interconnected beliefs will give way, until finally the person is quite blind, and thinks sin is good. There is also a spiral in the good direction. If someone lives vigorously in accord with faith, which tells us the things of this world are of scant value compared to eternity, then his ability to understand spiritual things grows more and more.
The picture St. Paul gives in Romans 1 has often been misunderstood. Many scholars recognize Paul is painting the Greeks much worse than they really were. This is evident from his own words in 1 Cor 6. 11. After giving a smaller list of great sins and sinners, he says: "Certain ones of you were these." That he said to Corinth, one of the most licentious cities in Greece.
Could we avoid the error by saying Paul is only expressing tendencies, that not all were guilty of all the things he mentions? Some commentators try this. But for two reasons it will not work: 1) The chief thrust of Paul's argument in the first chapters of Romans is to show that all are hopeless if they try for justification by keeping the law—so they must turn to faith. So, if he merely said there was a tendency, or that only some were guilty, there would be gaping holes in his argument. 2) At the start of chapter 2, Paul says that "for this reason" anyone who judges another is guilty "of the very same sins." Commentators have done poorly here. They ignore the connector "for this reason" saying it is a colorless Greek particle. There are such things, but the word used here is not such, it is dio, which means "for which reason." It is strong. Secondly, they say merely that anyone who judges is a sinner in general. They cannot explain how Paul can say the man is guilty "of the very same sins." As we said, since Paul has to call everyone guilty of the very same sins, it is implied that everyone is guilty of every sin. How this can be we will explain in the next paragraph.
We are not charging St. Paul with error. No, there seems to be a remarkable pattern in his writing, in which, especially in regard to the Law, he can take two kinds of views. We could call one of these the focused view (cf. e.g. , Gal 3. 21; 3. 10; 1 Cor 15. 56; 2 Cor 3. 6 and 9), the other, the factual view (cf. e.g. , Rom 3. 2; 7. 12 and 14 and 9. 4) In the focused view it is as though we are looking through a tube, and can see only what is framed by the circle of the tube: the Law makes heavy demands—it gives no strength—so one must fall and be spiritually dead. But in the factual view, the limit of the circle is removed, and we see the whole horizon: the Law still makes heavy demands, and gives no strength—but off to the side, in no relation to the Law, there is divine help, grace, available even before Christ. If one uses this, he will not fall and be dead. Rather, he is enabled to avoid the penalties that are part of the very nature of things (cf. St. Paul 1 Cor 6. 12. For the idea in general, cf. Wm. G. Most, "Focusing in St. Paul" in Faith & Reason II. 4, fall, 1976, pp. 47-70).
We can, when convenient, call the focused view also a system as system view: the setup of being a gentile what does it do? It lets one know what is right and wrong (anthropology as we saw earlier shows primitives do know that rather well). But that knowledge gives no strength. So they must fall. Then in order to let St. Paul say everyone is guilty of "the very same sins" we add: "Each major precept of the law makes a heavy demand, gives no strength, so everyone falls, is guilty of "the very same sins".
Paul needs this, as we said, to work out his argument: everyone is hopeless if he tries to seek justification by keeping the Law—so, we must turn to faith for justification.
But in 1 Cor 6. 11, Paul uses the factual view, in which not everyone, not even in licentious Corinth, is guilty of every sin.
We would add that the Romans were not so bad as the Greeks. Cicero quotes Ennius, the oldest Roman hexameter poet, saying, as against the Greek way, "The beginning of crime to bare bodies in public" (Tusculan Disputations 4. 33. 70). Cicero also tells us (De officiis 1. 35. 120), that according to the custom of his time, once a boy in the family reaches puberty, the father no longer goes to the public baths with him. Still further, Suetonius, writing around 110 AD the lives of the first 12 Emperors, has a section in each biography for the virtues, and another for the vices. He accuses many of them of homosexuality—but it is always listed among the vices. Even Athens in 5th century B. C. had a law against homosexual acts, though it was probably not enforced. Cf. K. J Dover, Greek Homosexuality, Harvard University Press, 1978.
VII—Classical Philosophy as a Preparation for the Gospel
Greek philosophy helped prepare the way for the Gospel in two ways: 1) The positive work starting with Socrates, helped people to see that there are things above sense; 2) This however still left a desire for more.
Clement of Alexandria, in his Stromata 1. 5, written about 208-11 AD) said: " Before the coming of the Lord, philosophy was necessary for justification to the Greeks; now it is useful for piety... for it brought the Greeks to Christ as the law did the Hebrews." This reminds us of St. Paul in Galatians 3. 24 saying the Law was the slave that took the Hebrews towards Christ. Clement added in Stromata 1. 20: "Philosophy of itself made the Greeks just, though not to total justice; it is found to be a helper to this [perfect justice], just as the first and second steps for one ascending to the upper part of the house, and like the elementary teacher for the [future] philosopher." It means that philosophy could lead to justification, the state of grace, for the Greeks, but would not take one to the higher levels of spiritual development. We will see presently that S. Justin the Martyr proposed the very same thing much earlier.
We already indicated that the Fathers liked and used Plato. Thus St. Augustine (City of God 8. 5) says all other philosophies must give way before Plato.
It seems the Fathers on the whole knew little of Aristotle. For example, a careful study, Elizabeth A. Clark, Clement's use of Aristotle (E. Mellen Press, NY, 1977) concludes that we cannot be sure Clement knew any work of Aristotle directly. If any, it would have been his Ethics. Other ideas of Aristotle he could have picked up through Middle Platonism, which had taken over some positions of Aristotle (cf. also, for the period up to Nicea, Jean Danielou, Gospel Message and Hellenistic Culture, tr. John A. Baker, Westminster, Philadelphia, 1973).
Was there philosophy among the Hebrews? If we define philosophy as the body of knowledge that seeks the answer to the most basic and large questions of life and existence, using human reason as the tool—then we would say there is no philosophy among the Hebrews, or in the New Testament either. But if we were to define philosophy as thinking within a religious faith, yes, there is a great philosophy, and one which reaches the true answers to the great questions, which so often the greatest philosophers had failed to reach.
The commanding figure among the early Hebrews is of course Moses. There is debate as to whether and to what extent he can be called the author of the Pentateuch. The tendency today is to deny that he is, even though the first edition of the Jerome Biblical Commentary (I. p. 5) had said: "Moses is at the heart of the Pentateuch, and can, in accord with the common acceptance of the ancient period, correctly be called its author." The Biblical Commission on June 27, 1906 had said the same. It admitted there can be modifications in the original work of Moses, that he used sources written or oral, that Moses may even have given his ideas to secretaries and let them do the actual work of composition. And of course in the ancient Near East author's rights did not amount to much: a later hand would feel free to change, to add, to subtract, and still leave it under the name of the original author.
To Moses God revealed His name, (Exodus 3. 14) :
"I am He who IS". Later philosophers would call Him ipsum esse subsistens, with the same meaning.
There are three kinds of knowledge. We know about sense knowledge and intellectual knowledge; Plato and Aristotle have helped us on these points. But there is something higher, the light God gives to a prophet. There is even a higher kind of light which comes when a soul is given the direct vision of God, the beatific vision.
In the great covenant of Sinai God had promised (Exodus 19. 5):"If you really hearken to my voice, and keep my covenant, you will be my special people." There was at least an implication that refusal to obey could lead to the opposite result. So Moses is reported as telling the people in Deuteronomy 30:15-20 that he was setting before them a blessing and a curse: a blessing, if they would obey, a curse if they disobeyed. This dichotomy would be dominant in the teaching of the early Church, and also in the teaching of the Church today.
Still further, there was a quality about the ancient Hebrew understanding of history that differed from so many others. Mircea Eliade, in The Myth of the Eternal Return (tr. W. R. Trask, Princeton, 1954, pp. 104, 143) said that the Hebrews were the first to discover the meaning of history as the manifestation of God, a concept taken over by Christianity. He said: "For Christianity, times is real because it has a meaning—the Redemption—which orients all of history". This is in contrast to the cyclic theory found in many other ancient thinkers: Anaximander taught an unending cycle of destructions and restorations of the world. Aristotle says Empedocles and Heraclitus held such a theory. (Cf. Aristotle, On the Heavens 1. 10. 279 B). The Stoics had similar views. Even an early Christian writer, Origen, seems to have held cyclic views (Cf. J. Quasten, Patrology (Newman, Westminster, 1953, II, pp. 87-92).
The Hermeneutical Function of Philosophy
Very early, this understanding that history was working towards a goal appears in the prophecies of the Messiah. Some have said we cannot get much from these without hindsight, i.e. , by seeing them fulfilled in Christ. But that is an error, for we have Aramaic Targums, ancient Jewish versions—free, and with fill-ins—of the Old Testament, made by those who did not use hindsight, for they hated Jesus. Further Jacob Neusner of Brown University, perhaps the greatest Jewish scholar of today, in his book, Messiah in Context (Fortress, Philadelphia, 1984) made a great survey of all Jewish literature from after the fall of Jerusalem up to and including the Babylonian Talmud (500-600 A. D). He found no interest in the Messiah up to the Talmud. Then interest returns, but speaks only of the fact he should be of the line of David. In contrast, the Targums see numerous Messianic forecasts in the prophecies. These are the chief ones: Genesis 49. 10; Isaiah 7. 14 (the Targums as we have them today miss this, but since they say Isaiah 9. 5-6 is Messianic, and since all admit the child is the same in both, indirectly they admit 7. 14 is Messianic. Neusner reports, on p. 174 that Hillel, one of the two great teachers at the time of Christ, saw 7. 14 as Messianic, naming Hezekiah as the Messiah. Later, Neusner reports, on p. 190, when the Jews saw Christians using the text, they began to deny it was messianic); Isaiah 11. 1-3 and 53; Micah 5. 1.
The prophecy of the dying Jacob in Genesis 49. 10 said that the scepter would not be taken from Judah until the time of the Messiah. This came true graphically, for the first time some sort of ruler (had they not been so unfaithful, the fulfillment would have been more glorious) from Judah was lacking, for then Rome imposed Herod on them in 41 BC as Tetrarch, in 37 as King. Herod was not from the tribe of Judah, though nominally a Jew by religion. By birth he was half Idumean, half Arab.
The Old Testament even spoke of all peoples coming to the knowledge of the true God. The Jews seem to have thought this meant all would join the Jewish religion. They did not see the more glorious fulfillment in Christ. But a Scriptural writer, being an instrument in the hands of Divine Providence, could write more than he might understand, for the chief Author, the Holy Spirit, could intend much more. In this way all nations would be blessed in Abraham (cf. Genesis 12. 3). The Messiah would indeed be a light to illumine the nations, as Simeon would later foretell (Luke 2. 32).
Jesus as a Teacher in Israel
It helps much to know what the Jewish background of culture and thought was of His time, for He grew up so normally that when in His public life He began to manifest His power and wisdom, the people of His home town, Nazareth, found it too much for them. In Matthew 13. 54-57 when he preached in the synagogue at Nazareth they said: "Where did He get this wisdom and these marvels? Is He not the carpenter's son?" So He must have refrained from showing His wisdom and power until the start of His public life, except for the brief flash among the teachers in the Temple at age 12.
But His Mother knew all along who and what He was. As soon as the Archangel told her that her Son would reign over the house of Jacob forever, she could not help knowing that He was to be the Messiah. For most Jews then believed the Messiah, and no one else, would reign forever. Then all the Old Testament prophecies would open up to her, if not that same moment, at least while she was "pondering in her heart." And from the words of the Archangel telling her He would be conceived when the Holy Spirit would "overshadow" her, she would recognize that word as the one used to describe the Divine Presence filling the ancient Tabernacle in the desert (Exodus 40. 34). And the angel told her that "for this reason" her Son would be called Son of God—a strictly unique reason. At this point she almost certainly knew His divinity. She would at least in pondering in her heart relate this to Isaiah 9. 5-6, which the Targums knew was Messianic, and see that the Messiah was called in it "God the Mighty". (The Jews had trouble with that verse because of the monotheism hammered into them, and so probably tended to distort it. But she, full of grace, would not labor under that obstacle. And there were other texts which the Targums recognized as Messianic, such as Jeremiah 30. 11 in which God said; "I am with you to save you." Or Jeremiah 23. 3 where God said: "And I myself shall gather the remnant of my sheep." Similarly, in Ezekiel 34. 11 God said: "Behold I, I will search out my sheep and seek them out".
Jesus as a Prophet in Israel
Jesus had not only the light the prophets had, but His human soul, from the first instant of conception, saw the vision of God, in which all knowledge is contained. We know this because of repeated teachings of the Popes, especially the explicit words of Pius XII in his Encyclical on the Mystical Body in which the Pope taught that because of this vision, from the first instant of conception, He knew individually every member of His Mystical Body. In fact, even without the help of the Popes, theological reasoning should show us the same thing. For we know that any soul in the state of grace will have the beatific vision if the divinity joins itself directly to the soul without even an image in between, since no image could represent God. Now in Jesus this was inevitable, because not only His human mind and soul, but His whole humanity was joined even more closely to the divine nature in the hypostatic union, so that there was only one Person present, a Divine Person. No wonder then that the crowds were in admiration, as Matthew 7. 28-29 says, for His teaching was with authority, not like that of the scribes. The scribes in a plodding manner said that Rabbi A said one thing, but Rabbi B said another, and so on. But Jesus told them: "You have heard it was said to them of old... but I say to you... . ."
Jesus' Doctrine Concerning God
He taught that the first and greatest commandment was to love the Lord God with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their mind (Mt. 22. 37-40). But He added that the second commandment is like to the first: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself". Leviticus 19. 18 had commanded love of neighbor, but the Jews did not understand that meant everyone, they tended to think of it as including only fellow countrymen.
He spoke often of God as "your Father", but never included Himself in the group by saying "Our Father" except when He taught them to use those words in prayer. For He was gradually revealing who He was, by the mysterious title of Son of Man, which would evoke the figure of Daniel 7. 13-14; by accepting the title of Messiah at times, by claiming to have authority over the sacred Torah—a thing no prophet had dared to claim—by saying He was greater than Jonah, than Solomon, than the Temple, by claiming authority to forgive sins—again, a thing no prophet would have dared to claim—by saying He was to be the eschatological judge. Finally, near the end, as it seems, He openly said: "Before Abraham was, I AM, (John 8. 57). No Jew could miss the import of the words "I am". He also said "I and the Father are one. (John 10. 30)."
He proved He had such powers by means of miracles worked in special frameworks, that is, with a tie between the miracle and the claim, as when in Mark 2 he cured the paralytic and asked: "Which is easier to say, your sins are forgiven, or take up your bed and walk. He meant obviously they could not check to see if the sins were forgiven, but they could see the man take his bed and go—so He did the one to prove He had done the other.
Jesus' Apostles and their Worldwide Mission
Jesus had a smaller circle on the crowds that followed Him—we would expect that. And He spoke more to them of course, and told them to continue His work, His teaching—we would expect that too. Still further, He promised God would protect that teaching, e.g. ,"He who hears you, hears me, he who rejects you rejects me; he who rejects me rejects Him who sent me." Some Protestant commentaries try to devalue this text saying that Jesus identified Himself with the poor, and this is more of the same. Now it is true, He did identify with the poor, but He identified with them as poor. With His teachers He identified with them as teachers. He also said in regard to teaching correct morals: "If he will not hear the church, let him be to you as a heathen and a publican" (Matthew 18. 17). Really, since we know He was a messenger sent from God, it is to be expected He would provide this sort of protection to keep His Church the way He founded it, the way He intended it to teach. Surely he would not allow it to teach a false way to salvation throughout most of 15 centuries, as Luther claimed!
Some Protestants argue that this commission was only for one generation. Strange that God would become incarnate and go so far for just one generation!. His promise to Peter that the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Matt 16. 18) implies continuity to the end of time. In Matthew 28. 20 He explicitly said He would be with them all days, even to the end of the world. The parables of the weeds and of the net clearly imply the same.
The Church from the start understood that He was the Suffering Servant foretold in Isaiah 53 . And they understood His command at the Last Supper, "Do this in memory of me." For they began to carry it out at once.
That was the making of the New Covenant, foretold by Jeremiah 31. 31-33. In the covenant of Sinai, there were two features, a People of God was created, who were to receive favor on condition of obedience (Exodus 19. 5). The same was true of the making of the New Covenant, in which His obedience to the will of the Father that He should die on the morrow, was expressed by the seeming separation of body and blood in the two species. The next day He fulfilled the pledge thus made.
This New Covenant is also a sacrifice. In every true sacrifice, there are two things, the outward sign, and the interior dispositions. The outward sign is there to express, and perhaps even promote, the interior. The interior was obedience, for obedience was the covenant condition. Hence Vatican II in LG § 3 said "by His obedience He brought about redemption." St. Paul said the same in Romans 5. 19. The outward sign on Holy Thursday was, as we said, the seeming separation of His body and blood;, on Friday, it was the physical separation of the same. Today in the Mass the sign is the same as on Holy Thursday. The interior disposition of His heart was obedience on that Thursday evening. That obedience continued on Friday. It continues even today, for death makes permanent the attitude of soul with which one leaves this world. The outward sign is multiplied with each Mass, but the interior is not multiplied as far as the offering of Christ the Head is concerned, it is merely continued. However, the members of Christ are called on to join their obedience to His at the moment of the twofold consecration. This is the essential participation. If one has only the exterior, in answering prayers, singing etc., God might well say what He once complained through Isaiah 29. 13: "This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." Right after that, God announced that because of this emptiness, wisdom would leave the wise. A frightening thought!
Thus we have a sort of fulfillment of the words of the prophet Malachi 1. 11, that from the rising to the setting of the sun, a clean oblation is offered to His name everywhere.
The fact that there was a "deposit of faith" to be transmitted is already clear in what is probably the first book of the New Testament to be written, in 1 Thessalonians 2. 13: "We give thanks to God without ceasing, for when you heard and received the word of God from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but, as it really is, the word of God." Shortly after that, 2 Thessalonians 2. 15 urges: "Then, brothers, stand firm, and hold the teaching you have learned, by word, or by our letter." Second Timothy 1. 13-14 says: "Hold to the form of sound teaching which you have heard from me... . Guard the good deposit through the Holy Spirit who dwells in you." Provision for oral transmission is clear in 2 Timothy 2. 2: "The things you have heard from me through many witness, entrust to trustworthy men, who will be able in turn to teach others."
When the earthquake broke open the jail at Philippi (Acts 16. 25-34) the jailer asked: "What must I do to be saved?" Paul answered: "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, and all your household." (Not much of an RCIA!) Paul baptized the family at once. Similarly in Acts 8. 26-38 Philip gave an instruction to the official of Queen Candace in rather short time, beginning with the passion prophecy of Isaiah 53, and then the convert said: "Look, here is some water, what prevents me from being baptized?" So Philip did baptize him at once.
We must comment on that word saved. It never has in Scripture the meaning used by foolish sect members who ask: "Brother are you saved?" They mean: Have you taken Jesus as your Personal Savior, so you can be infallibly saved, no matter how much you have sinned, are sinning, and going to sin in the future, as Luther made clear in his Epistle 501 to Melanchthon: "Even if you sin greatly, believe still more greatly." Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. In its article on salvation, does not even mention so foolish a notion. Rather, the word save has three senses in Scripture: (1) Rescue from dangers in this life (cf. Mt. 8. 25); (2) Entry into the Church: e. g, Romans 11. 14. Paul knows that anyone could be saved without formally entering into the Church (Rom 2. 14-16). So this must mean entry into the Church. This become seven clearer in Romans 10. 9-10: "If you with your mouth confess the Lord Jesus [i. e, that Jesus is Lord, is divine] and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For by the heart one believes [leading to] justification; with the mouth one confesses [makes a profession of faith] leading to salvation [entry into the Church." (3) Final entry into heaven: e.g. , 1 Cor 3. 15.
Rufinus in his commentary on the Apostles' Creed, at the end of the 4th century gives a charming story (PL. 21. 337). Before the Apostles dispersed they agreed on a creed. In the 6th century we even meet with the tale that each of the Apostles composed one of the twelve articles (PL 39. 2189-90). We can be sure that the content of the Creed goes back to the apostolic age. Hippolytus in the Apostolic Tradition gives us this creed (DS 10): "I believe in God the Father almighty, and in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was born of the Holy Spirit from the Virgin Mary, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and died and was buried, and rose on the third day alive from the dead, and ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father. He will come to judge the living and the dead. And I believe in the Holy Spirit and the holy Church, and the resurrection of the dead ."
Tertullian at the end of the second century was already familiar with this early Roman creed, and it probably goes back much farther. All the doctrinal elements that are found in the Apostles' Creed appear already near the end of the first century in the varied and numerous formulas of faith to be found in early Christian literature.
St. Justin the Martyr in his First Apology 61 says that in his day, those who were convinced of the truth of Christianity and pledged themselves to live by it were taught in prayer and fasting to ask God for forgiveness. The others would pray and fast with them. Then they would go to a place where there was water, and were baptized. So there must have been some sort of instruction then, but we do not know the details. (Cfr. J. Danielou, Gospel Message and Hellenistic Culture , tr. J. A. Baker, Philadelphia, Westminster, 1973, pp. 157-94).
By the end of the second century, the catechumenate seems to have been well organized. Tertullian charges heretics with disregarding it: "It is [with the heretics] unclear who is the catechumen, and who is the faithful. Both come, both hear, both pray." He adds that catechumens among the heretics are initiated before being instructed (De praescriptione 41). Christianity had spread extensively by the day of Tertullian, who boasts in his Apologeticum 37: "We came just yesterday, but we have filled the world and everything: the cities, islands, fortresses, towns, marketplaces, the very army camps... . We leave nothing to you [pagans] but the temples of your gods." He adds that if they wanted to band together, they could easily overcome the pagans, for the Christians fill every place.
We are fortunate in having also complete texts for final instructions by St. Cyril of Jerusalem in his Catecheses, given during Holy Week of 350 A. D. to those who were to be baptized on Holy Saturday. There are also 5 more instructions, given to the newly baptized in the week after Easter. These last five are thought to be by someone other than Cyril, probably John, his successor. We have these since they were taken down in shorthand by a listener.
Interestingly, St. Cyril still seems to be observing the ancient Disciplina arcani, the secrecy about some major doctrines. In the second century, there ere three kinds of popular charges against Christians: atheism [not worshipping the gods of the state], sex orgies, and cannibalism. The last was of course based on garbled reports of the Eucharist. Tertullian in his Apologeticum 2 ridicules this charge saying: "What a glory it would be for a governor who had found someone who had already eaten a hundred infants!"
To return to St. Cyril, he tells those who are soon to be baptized that if some catechumen, who is not yet to be baptized, tries to get out of them what was said inside: "Tell nothing, for he is outside the mystery we have revealed to you... Do not let anyone convince you saying: "What harm is there is I should know too?" Of course, there would be a good psychological reason for the continuation of the old discipline: by making things secret, he increased the appetite of the listeners.
By the time of St. Augustine, the catechumenate was very thoroughly organized, as we can learn from his major work De catechizandis rudibus. The rudes were those merely seeking admission to the catechumenate.
1. Pagan Attacks on Christianity: Paganism was aggressive. Vile rumors were rampant. There were chiefly three charges popularly made against Christians: atheism, sex orgies, and cannibalism.
Atheism had a different meaning then: it meant refusal to worship the gods of the state. The modern idea of separation of Church and state would have been incomprehensible to pagan Greeks and Romans. They would reason thus: 1) I as an individual need the help of the gods for myself, so I worship them. 2) The state as a state also needs the help of the gods: so the state must worship the gods. Christians are traitors, for they refuse to do what is needed for the well-being of the state. We Romans have hundreds of gods; we are broadminded. We might even worship Christ if Christians were not so narrow. The Greeks had the same notions, only still more narrow. One could not be a citizen of a Greek city state without having been born into that religion. It would not be enough to become a convert.
In passing: Vatican II really endorsed this type of thinking. If we substitute the real God for gods in the above reasoning, we would say that the state as a state needs the help of God, and so the state should worship God. And if God makes known in what way He wishes to be worshipped, we must follow it.
This would mean an established Church. It would not have to suppress other religions, but would be supported by the state, and the state as such would worship through it. Vatican II, in the Declaration on Religious Liberty, said in § 1: "It [the Council or document] leaves untouched traditional Catholic teaching about the moral obligation of people and societies towards the true religion and one Church of Christ". When that document taught religious freedom, it defined it narrowly. It did not say anyone has a right to be wrong—some at the council wanted to say that, but it was rejected. And rightly. For a right is a claim, ultimately coming from God, to have, to do, or to call for something. God gives no one a claim to be wrong. But He does give them the right not to be executed or imprisoned for being wrong. That is all Vatican II taught. It added they may do this individually or in groups, and even in public "within due limits". Headhunters think their gods command them to cut off heads. Vatican II would say that is beyond due limits. Pius IX in his Quanta cura had said the best condition of society is not "one in which there is no recognition of the duty of the state to repress those who use violence against the Catholic religion." He wanted the state to do more than just enforce public order. But Vatican II also wanted more, for in the Declaration § 4 it said that other churches must abstain from any action that would involve "improper persuasion aimed at the less intelligent or the poor." and in § 7 it said the state must exercise "due custody for public morality." So Lefebvre is very wrong in charging that Vatican II contradicted Pius IX (we chose his strongest text).
Tertullian in his Apologeticum, written in 197 AD before he became a Montanist, wrote in 2. 5 that torture was used to try to force Christians to confess terrible crimes, e.g., "how many acts of incest a person has committed in the dark? what cooks and what dogs were on hand?" He reflects the pagan charge of sex orgies: Christians, they said, would gather in a large place after dark, with light only from one torch on a lampstand. They would tie a dog to the stand by a leash, and then throw a piece of meat in front of the dog, but so far out he would have to pull the stand over to get the meat. Then the light would go out, and an orgy would follow. The obvious answer is: Why bother to go to such trouble to have sex? And why have a fire hazard?
The third charge was cannibalism—clearly coming from garbled reports about the Eucharist.
Such were the popular charges which the first apologists undertook to answer. Inasmuch as they sometimes argued by reason alone, without appeal to Scripture, they were sometimes working in philosophy. However often enough they did appeal to Scripture, especially using the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament.
But learned pagans also attacked by writings. Lucian of Samosata in his De morte peregrini, about 170 AD. decried brotherly love and the Christians' contempt of death. Fronto of Cirta, a teacher of Emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote an oration against the Christians. Greatest was the Platonist Celsus, who published his True Discourse, about 178 AD. We have many fragments of it, preserved in the reply to it by Origen. Celsus thought Christianity was a hodgepodge of superstition and fanaticism.
2. Quadratus: He must be mentioned because he is the very first of the apologists. We know of him only from Eusebius, Church History 4. 3. 1-2, where he says Quadratus wrote to Emperor Hadrian—that would have been about 123 AD—and Quadratus said that in his day there were some still alive who were healed by Christ, and raised from the dead by Him. This need not have been in 123, but it surely would cover the period 80-90 in which many think Matthew and Luke wrote. So there would have been prime eyewitnesses to Jesus still alive at that time.
3. St. Justin the Martyr: He, the greatest of the second century apologists, was born at Flavia Neapolis, formerly Sichem in Palestine, of pagan parents.
At the start of his Dialogue with Trypho, chapters 2-8 he tells us how he came to Christianity. He looked into the Stoics, Peripatetics, and the Pythagoreans. None of them satisfied him. Stoics gave no explanation of God's being. The Peripatetics (descended from Aristotle) wanted him to pay tuition in advance. The Pythagoreans wanted him to first study music, astronomy, and geometry. After this, Plato pleased him, but he met an old man on the sea shore who told him of the prophets. This led him to Christianity, though he never again saw the old man. The heroic character of Christians impressed him greatly. In Second Apology 12 he said that at one time he liked the teachings of Plato and enjoyed hearing evil spoken of Christians. But when he saw they showed no fear in the face of death and other things, he decided they could not be vicious and pleasure loving. Honest searching after truth, and humble prayer led him to accept Christianity.
He was probably converted in Ephesus . He spent the rest of his life in defending the faith. He wore the pallium, the traditional cloak of philosophers, and traveled about teaching. During the time of Emperor Antoninus Pius (138-612) he came to Rome and founded a school. He was finally beheaded, probably in 165 AD. Among his pupils was Tatian, founder of the heretical Encratites.
We have three authentic works left—though we know he wrote others too—two apologies, and the Dialogue with Trypho. He criticizes the judicial process: it is senseless to punish someone for the name of Christian without proving crimes. He shows the Christians not guilty of the calumnies. He makes much use of the prophecies of the Messiah, both in his First Apology and in the Dialogue with Trypho (supposedly a learned Jew).
He worked, then, both by reason, like a philosopher, and by Scripture, as a theologian should.
Quasten, Patrology I, 208, thinks Justin holds that the Father lives above the sky and does not appear in the world. But the passages Quasten cites do not prove that. He appeals chiefly to Dialogue 60 and 127. But in the latter, Justin says that the Father "is uncontainable by place and by the whole world." Really, Justin seems to hold a view common enough among the Fathers, that all appearances of God in the Old Testament were really those of the Son, the Divine Logos. This view is tied to the fact that Justin says the Father is so transcendent that a bridge is needed between Him and us: the Logos. Some, including Quasten I. 209, think Justin tends to subordinate the Logos to the Father—a move in the direction of Arianism. But really, it seems Justin and others were trying to state two things, without knowing how to reconcile them: 1) God is transcendent, that is, above and beyond all our categories. No words can express Him. E.g. , St. Augustine said in De Doctrina Christiana 12. 6. 6 that "we should not even call Him inexpressible, for when we say that word, we say something". (A number of the Fathers speak similarly. The truth is that when we use the same word to refer to both God and creatures, we use it in an analogous sense, i.e. , the meanings in the two uses are partly the same, partly different. But the sense is mostly different.) 2) God does communicate through His Word, the Logos.
It is simply excellent theological method to hold two conclusions (after rechecking of course) which seem to clash completely, in the hope that sometime someone will find how to put them together. For it is not strange to find mysteries in divine things.
More importantly, Justin uses his teachings on the Logos to answer in advance a claim that Celsus was to make a bit later. Celsus asked: "Did God then, after so long a time, think of making just the life of men, but before He did not care?" (cited from Origen, Against Celsus 4. 7). Really the question was a good one. St. Paul had asked much the same question, and answered it, in Romans 3. 29: "Is He the God of the Jews alone? Is He not also the God of the gentiles?" St. Paul means that if God had made knowledge of Judaism essential for salvation, He would have acted as if He were not the God of all. But He is the God of all. So Paul says that God did make provision, in justification by faith.
St. Justin answers the problem by saying, in First Apology 46: "Christ is the Logos, of whom the whole race of men partake. Those who lived according to Logos are Christians, even if they were considered atheists, such as, among the Greeks, Socrates and Heraclitus." To follow this we compare what Justin wrote in Second Apology 10;8: "Christ... was and is the Logos who is in everyone, and foretold through the prophets the things that were to come, and taught these things in person after becoming like to us in feeling."
J. Danielou, in Gospel Message and Hellenistic Culture (tr. J. A. Baker, Philadelphia, Westminster, 1973, pp. 41-44) thinks Justin the philosopher is borrowing a notion from the Stoics, who said that in each man there is a "seed of the Logos" coming from the action of the Logos, which gives to each one the capacity to form moral and religious conceptions." So Socrates and Heraclitus really did know the Logos, even if dimly.
We would suggest sharpening the concept with the help of St. Paul, Romans 2. 14-16: "When the gentiles who do not have the law [revealed religion] do by nature the things of the law, they, not having the law, are a law for themselves. They show the work of the law written on their hearts." According to whether or not they accept this law, their conscience will either defend or accuse them at the judgment.
In other words: The divine Logos writes the law on their hearts (cf. the prophecy of the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31. 33). That is, the Spirit makes known to them interiorly how they should live (modern anthropology, as we saw, does show that pagans do have a remarkable knowledge of the moral law, if they have not yet blinded themselves by extensive habitual sin). They do not know that it is the Spirit of the Logos telling them this, but yet it is. So if they follow it, objectively they are following the Logos, and so Justin could call them Christians. For in Romans 8. 9 Paul says that if one does not have and follow the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. Then if he does have and follow that Spirit, the person does "belong to Christ" or: is a member of Christ or is a "member of the Church. Not by formal adherence, but substantially. (For much more on this including other Fathers and Magisterium texts, cfr. Wm. G. Most, Our Father's Plan , pp. 241-69).—Interestingly, Vatican II, in LG § 49 seems to reach the same conclusion: "All who belong to Christ, having His Spirit, coalesce into one Church."
We see, Justin's training in philosophy led him to use terminology and images from Plato, probably already in circulation through Middle Platonism. But the content is strictly Christian, not Platonism. In this way Justin and others tried to bridge the gap between Plato and Christianity. In Second Apology 13, Justin says that whatever all men have said correctly belongs to us Christians, for they got it by "the implanted seed of the Logos engrafted in them, through which they could see the truth darkly." Going back further, he claims in First Apology 44 that Plato borrowed thoughts from the prophet Moses, since Moses is more ancient than all Greek authors. In that day the attitude was the opposite of what is found often today. They said if a thing is ancient it must be good; we tend to say the opposite. (Cf. Danielou, op. cit pp. 107-27).
St. Justin is the earliest Father to teach the New Eve theme: Just as the first Eve really contributed to the damage of original sin, so Mary, the New Eve, contributed to reversing the damage: Dialogue 100. Very many of the major Fathers pick up this theme. They stress chiefly her obedience and faith at the annunciation.
Because it took time for the Church to penetrate more deeply into some doctrinal matters, Justin, and a number of other Fathers, think angels have bodies. In Dialogue 58 he thinks they have food in the heavens—thinking apparently of Psalm 78. 25 which said that men ate the bread of angels. Justin and the others at this period did not know of the use of literary genres in studying Scripture.
3. Athenagoras of Athens: He certainly wrote a Plea for the Christians, probably in 177, addressed to the Emperor Marcus Aurelius. In it he shows a profound knowledge of Greek philosophy and literature.
His authorship of On the Resurrection is disputed. It has a definite philosophical character. He tries to prove the resurrection by reason alone: God's wisdom, omnipotence and justice do not conflict but agree with the resurrection. It is needed for human nature, since man is created for eternity; and also, since man is made of body and soul, this unity, destroyed by death, should be restored by the resurrection; still further, the body as well as the soul should be rewarded or punished, since both are subject to the moral order.
4. Minucius Felix: One of the first, if not the first, of the Latin apologists (debated whether he or Tertullian wrote first). We know he was a lawyer at Rome, probably early in third century. We have a rather philosophical type of dialogue from him, the Octavius. It is a dialogue in which Caecilius, a pagan, passionately defends paganism and attacks Christianity. He is answered by Octavius a Christian. It is very interesting for showing the very specific intellectual arguments used against Christianity, and the replies.
Caecilius says everything is doubtful: we get only probability, not truth [New Academy]. The disorder in the physical and moral world is against a providence. Chance rules all. So it is better to accept the teachings of our elders and adore the gods. Our elders won a great empire. The world is formed by chance combinations of elements [Democritus]. The gods have often shown their power by prodigies. People will not allow an attack on the gods. The morals of Christians are bad: they come from the dregs of society, they worship the head of an ass, and do horrible sex crimes. Their faith is absurd. They think there is only one God, present everywhere—but He could not prevent the subjection of the Jews to Rome. Christians hope for an immortal reward, but their present evils foretell what awaits them in the future. We should stop investigating the secrets of heaven and earth, and say with Socrates: That which is above us, does not concern us.
Octavius replies: One should not object if poor and unlearned Christians discuss these matters. All men are able to reason. The rich are inclined to value money more than spiritual things. The order and beauty of the universe prove that God made it and governs it. There is only one God, as shown by the government of the world, His infinite perfection, and the evidence of poets and philosophers. The pagan religion is false; the elders easily believed fables. The pagan gods really were originally men, first idealized, later divinized. [Comment: The Sacred History of the pagan Greek Euhemerus, written c 300 B. C. , said precisely that, that the gods were once just men, first idealized, then divinized. In those days one could see the tomb of Zeus in Crete]. The mystery rites are full of absurd, immoral things. Youths are corrupted by the stories of the gods. [Comment: Xenophanes in the 6th century B. C. said the same thing. So did Plato and many other ancient pagan writers]. Images, of vile material, are thought to have divine nature from dedication. Their rites are often laughable, sometimes wretched. The empire was founded and spread not by religion but by crime and violence. Any truth there may be in the auspices etc. comes from the demons. On the contrary, Christian morals and cult are praiseworthy: the pagans do the things they charge Christians with. As to the Jews, God had threatened them with disaster if they kept on sinning: they did. Christian belief in the future and the resurrection agree with the opinions of philosophers, with nature, with right reason. Christians scorn philosophers who admit they know nothing [the New Academy, which was skeptic]. Christians have real wisdom.
Oddly, Minucius does not once quote any passage of Scripture, and never uses the name of Christ, though he does use the word Christian. The reason was to convince educated pagans, by a philosophical approach.
Hence at the end, when Caecilius announces his conversion, he does not say he accepts Christ. He congratulates Octavius, says he acknowledges Providence, agrees on the concept of God, and recognizes the moral purity of the religion he is accepting.
5. Tertullian: Was born at Carthage around 155, of pagan parents. His father was a centurion in the proconsular cohort. He studied philosophy, literature, medicine, but especially law. He earned a reputation at Rome as a lawyer. Was converted in 193, and settled in Carthage. He became a Montanist, probably around 205 or 207. After some time, his extremism led him to become head of a special sect within the Montanists, the Tertullianists. That sect lasted at Carthage until the time of Augustine, and even had a basilica there.
He was a man of great will power, which turned into hard and bitter stubbornness. He was a fighter by temperament, and so most of his works are controversial—they show closely knit logic, sarcasm, and irony. At times he tries to prove too much.
The most important of his works is his Apologeticum, written in 197 before he became a Montanist. It is a masterpiece of controversial writing, but uses biting sarcasm: in the opening part he says that the reason Christians are hated is ignorance. Then, the procedure in Roman courts is wrong, it is illogical, e.g. , evildoers try to hide, Christians do not. They readily confess being Christian. The procedure is illegal: Christians alone are not allowed to say something to clear their name. It is inconsistent: Trajan wrote back to Pliny that Christians should not be sought out, but punished when brought to court. Also, when ordinary criminals are brought to court, torture is used to force them to confess—Christians are tortured to force them to deny.
But he insists Christianity is not a philosophy but a noble religion. The best teachings of philosophers are just garbled versions of the truth—he thinks they probably got much of what good they had from the Old Testament. He ends with the famous line: "We become more numerous every time we are cut down by you; the blood of Christians is the seed."
In a unique work, The Testimony of the Soul, he notices that two methods used by apologists have not been very successful. (They try to show Christianity is in agreement with many pagan philosophers and poets. Pagans do not accept the argument. Still less is it any use to use Scripture on them. [Comment: If they used scientific apologetics before using Scripture, a great impact could be made]. He says that people often in a very natural way exclaim: "Great God, Good God, May God grant it, etc." He thinks these things show the soul is "naturally Christian."
In The Prescription of Heretics he argues that one can use Scripture only if he can show that the doctrines he holds come down in unbroken line from the Apostles, who got it from Christ. Later, when he became Montanist, of course he could not hold this, it would destroy his heresy. So in De Pudicitia (On Modesty) he says the power of the keys belongs not to the hierarchy, but to the spiritual. He attacks a "peremptory edict" of some bishop, probably Pope Callistus, that says adultery and fornication can be forgiven. Tertullian thinks these cannot be forgiven—as also murder.
He contributed much to the development of Latin theological terminology, especially in his work Against Praxeas. This is the most important contribution to the doctrine of the Trinity before Nicea. He taught one Person in Jesus, but two natures, which remain distinct. Thus he anticipated the conclusions later reached by the Council of Chalcedon in 451. Some charge him with subordinating Christ to the Father, but this is probably only the methodology of dealing with two seemingly contradictory conclusions, which we saw in connection with St. Justin.
His extremism shows in his work On the Flesh of Christ in which he tries to prove too much. To show that Christ was really born he denies Mary's virginity in giving birth, and says the body of Christ was ugly. In his On Idolatry he says a Christian may not serve in the army, be an astrologer, mathematician, schoolmaster, teacher of literature, trainer of gladiators, seller of frankincense, enchanter, magician, or hold any state office.
In his work On the Soul, he likes the Stoic notion that the soul is material, a bodily substance.
6. St. Cyprian of Carthage: He was probably born around 200 AD at Carthage, from a family of some social standing and wealth. He became a famous rhetorician and got friends who had political power. He became Christian about 245-46 under the influence of the elderly priest, Caecilian. He started a life of celibacy and gave away to the poor at least most of his wealth. Soon he became a priest, and probably within about a year, in 248 or 249 was elected Bishop of Carthage. There was some opposition to his election from the clergy, but the people prevailed.
In January of 250 soon after the edict of Decius that all must sacrifice to the gods, and have a certificate proving they did so, he went into hiding. He seems to have felt that he, as a man of distinction would have been a focus for pagan hostility to Christians. He tried to manage his church by letters. The persecution did not last long, but it seems a large number of Christians did sacrifice, or bought certificates saying they had done so.
He wanted to reconcile the lapsed only after suitable penance, but some lax priests were taking them back soon. A letter from the clergy of Rome undermined his position, charging him as a hireling for going into hiding . He seems to have modified his position on the reconciliation: those severely ill and having letters from confessors saying they would offer their sufferings for the lapsed one, led him to allow reconciliation of all who were sick. But then positions hardened and feelings ran high. He could not return to Carthage until after Easter of 251.
Cyprian supported Pope Cornelius against the schismatic Novatian, but quarreled with Pope Stephen I. The latter held, correctly, that baptism received from heretics should not be repeated. Cyprian argued that the heretics could not give the faith they did not have. They did not know that when anyone baptizes, Christ baptizes (St. Augustine, Tracts On John's Gospel 6. 1. 7, cited by Vatican II, On Liturgy § 7). Before the quarrel was resolved, both the Pope and Cyprian became martyrs.
His letters are of special interest for the history of the persecutions and beyond. In his De mortalitate he answered those who thought it bad to die in the plague—wanting to wait for martyrdom after it. He wrote of the need to do the will of God. He also wrote a very famous line by line commentary on the Lord's Prayer. Another major work was On the Unity of the Catholic Church. Unfortunately, he later softened the appeal for unity under Rome by revision of chapters 4 and 5. He seems to have given the Pope only a primacy of honor, not of jurisdiction.
In his Epistle 73. 21 he took an extreme interpretation of the saying, "No salvation outside the Church". He said that even if a heretic died for Christ, he would go to hell. Contrast this with the true doctrine we saw in considering St. Justin the Martyr.
7. Clement of Alexandria (c 160-215) was head of a great catechetical school at Alexandria. However it was not like modern catechesis. Rather it was a school for deeper penetration into the faith. Clement hoped in this way to counter the snob appeal of the Gnostics. He attempted a great synthesis of doctrine in Protreptikos, Paidagogos, and Stromata. Unfortunately, he was not the right type of mind for a great synthesis. He used allegorical interpretation of Scripture much, and, especially in book II of the Paidagogos, tried to give detailed rules for every facet of the life of a Christian—sometimes citing wisdom books of the Old Testament without recognizing the genre.
8. Origen (c. 185-c. 251): He was one of the first scientific exegetes in the Church, a prolific scholar. He meant to be completely sound in his doctrine, but followed Plato excessively and as a result taught, in his Peri archon (On First Principles) that we all existed in a world of spirits before coming into this world; according to the varied merits of souls, some became angels, some devils, some stars in the sky, some human beings. Hell was very long lasting, but not permanent, for all the enemies of Christ must eventually be put under His footstool, and so hell will be emptied. Even so, this work, Peri archon is a remarkable synthesis of doctrine.
Plotinus: the Last Great Pagan Philosopher
He was born in Egypt about 203 or 204. He attended lectures of various philosophers, was finally pleased with those of Ammonius Saccas. Stayed with him until 242, when he joined the Persian expedition of Emperor Gordian—wanted to get to know Persian philosophy. But the expedition ended when Gordian was assassinated. Plotinus went to Rome, arriving at about age 40.
When he was 60 he accepted Poryphry as a pupil, who later wrote the life of Plotinus, and also arranged the writings of Plotinus in systematic form, six books of nine chapters each: Enneads.
At Rome he was a sort of spiritual director for many. H e took into his house orphaned children. Made many friends, and no enemies. His personal life was ascetic. Prophyry (Life 232, 138) says Plotinus reached ecstatic union with God four times in the six years in which he studied with Plotinus. Died 269/70.
Plotinus never mentions Christianity; Porphyry attacked it.
God is The One, and is absolutely transcendent. He is beyond being—i.e. , the word being as applied to others and as applied to Him is part same, but mostly different (Enneads 5. 4. 1). This of course resembles the words of Plato in Republic 509 b 9 where he says that the Good is beyond being—Plato probably identifies the Good with God. So Copleston says (I. 464-65 citing Enneads 3. 8. 8): "The One cannot be identical with the sum of individual things... . if the One were identical with each individual thing taken separately, then each thing would be identical with every other and the distinction of things, which is an obvious fact, would be illusion. 'Thus the One cannot be any existing thing, but is prior to all existents. '" So it is quite clear: Plotinus is at all a pantheist.
Sadly, Plotinus says that we cannot legitimately attribute thought or will or activity to the One, for these would imply a distinction between the One and his thought, his will, his activity: Enneads 3. 8. 8. We Comment: Other thinkers have had trouble dealing with the knowledge of God. Aristotle said that He "thinks of thinking": Metaphysics 12. 9. Some who think they are following St. Thomas Aquinas make God like a blind man: He could know only what He causes. We saw above that this is not true, for then Aquinas would not need to have recourse to eternity, which makes things present to Him, to explain God's knowledge of future free decisions. He would simply say: He knows them because He intends to cause them.
How do things come from God? We cannot attribute activity to Him, as we saw. But creation would be an activity. So they come from Him by emanation, which does not mean that He in any way becomes less through the process of emanation. Plotinus uses words like rhein and aporrein [flow, flow away] for emanation.
The first emanation form the One is Thought or Mind: nous, which is intuition, with a twofold object: the One, and itself. In the Nous exist the Ideas, not just for classes of things, but even for individuals: Enneads 5. 7 1. All Ideas are in the Nous: Enneads 5. 9. 9. So it is in Nous that multiplicity first appears. For the One is above all multiplicity, above even the distinction of noein and noeton. Nous is eternal and beyond time. Time only mimics that eternity: Enneads 5. 1. 4.
From Nous proceeds Soul, which is like the World-Soul of Plato's Timaeus. The World-Soul is incorporeal and indivisible. But it is the connecting link between the world that is beyond the senses, and the sensory world. Plotinus, unlike Plato, held for a twofold World-Soul. The higher is nearer to Nous, and has no immediate contact with the material world; the lower is the real soul of the phenomenal world. The lower can be called physis.
Individual souls come form the World-Soul, and have two elements: a higher element that belongs to the sphere of Nous, and a lower element directly connected with the body. The soul existed before its union with the body, which is a fall. It survives the death of the body, but seems not to have memory of the time of its existence on earth. So there is transmigration of souls. This does not mean a denial of personal immortality.
Below the sphere of soul is the material world. Light proceeds from the center, passes outwards, getting gradually dimmer, until it shades into total darkness, which is matter. Matter is the privation of light: Enneads 2. 4; 3. 67; 6. 3. 7. But matter in a way is not complete darkness, for it is illumined by form, and enters into the composition of material objects.—Here we se a combination of Aristotelian and Platonic themes. Matter is the substrate of form.
He also took on the Orphic and Neo-Pythagorean notion of matter as the principle of evil. At the lowest grade, an unilluminated privation, it is evil itself. But this is not a dualism, for matter is a privation, and not a positive principle. He was opposed to the Gnostic contempt for the world, and instead praised the world as the work of the World-Soul.
The individual soul is rooted in the intelligible world, but it is contaminated with matter insofar as it enters into real union with the body. So there is need for an ascent whose goal is likeness to God, even as Plato had taught. The first stage of the ascent is katharsis, purification, freeing self from the dominion of the body and the senses, so as to rise to the practice of the four cardinal virtues, which Plotinus calls politikai aretai. Secondly, the soul needs to rise above sense-perception, turning towards Nous. Now the soul is occupying self with philosophy and science. In the third stage the soul rises above discursive thought. Here the soul still keeps its self-consciousness. But the final stage is mystical union with the One, in an ecstasy in which there is no such separation from the One. In this life, such an ecstatic union is brief, but it can be permanent in the future, when we are freed from the hindrance of the body, as Dodds poetically translates it, in the "flight of the alone to the Alone": Enneads 6. 9. 11.
It is obvious that this ascent is far above the so-called ascent in Plato's Symposium, which begins with homosexuality. This too seems higher than the contemplation St. Augustine had at Ostia—which we will discuss later. This ascent may have included infused contemplation, especially since Plotinus lived a very noble life, with much asceticism, which forms a receptivity to such a grace—which God gladly gives when a soul is prepared.
St. Augustine and Christian Philosophy
He was born at Tagaste in the Province of Numidia, in North Africa, on November 13, 354. His father was a pagan, Patricius, of slender means, but a member of the local senate. His mother, Monica, was a Christian, who later would be St. Monica. She did not at first display special sanctity, Rather she postponed baptism for him as was so commonly done then—without the Church's approval. But he was made a catechumen.
When young he became dangerously sick, and seemed likely to die. Monica arranged to have him baptized, but the danger passed, and baptism was not given.
It is interesting to trace the early influences of his life, and their development later on. From his mother he learned a belief in God, and a love of the name of Christ that was practically irrational—in view of some later things as we shall see, for he considered no book satisfactory if it did not have the name of Christ, yet for so many years he lived with a mistress. His intellectual situation was this: He could not picture to himself anything that was not corporeal, bodily, and so for him, even God and the soul were corporeal, and evil was positive—it really is a privative negative, i.e. , the lack of something that should be there, considering the type of being. On the moral side, he had no satisfactory code of conduct. In his Confessions 1. 11. 18 he tells us that when other saw him sinning, they would say: "What difference does it make? He is not yet baptized." Even so, his mother did not arrange a marriage for him: she feared it might hinder his profession of rhetoric: Confessions 2. 3. 8.
He learned the essentials of Latin from a schoolmaster at Tagaste, but he preferred play to study. He hated Greek. He did learn some of it, but not enough to read the Greek Fathers easily. This had enormous consequences, for most of the Latin theologians up to that time were in contact with the thought of the Greek Fathers who were more advanced. Thus be broke the continuity, and, being a very original mind, the break was made even greater.
In about 365 he went to the town of Madaura, where he learned Latin literature and grammar. Madaura was a pagan city, and the general atmosphere there and his study of the Latin pagan classics helped detach him from the faith of his mother. this detachment was made worse by a year of idleness at Tagaste in 369-70—while funds were gathered to send him on to further schooling. His father died in 370, after becoming Catholic. Then Augustine began the study of rhetoric at Carthage, the largest city he had yet seen, which he described as a sartago (frying pan) of vices. It was a great port and center of government. He also would see there the obscene rites of the cults imported from the East. So before long he took a mistress, and lived with her for more than ten years, and had a son, Adeodatus, in his second year at Carthage.
In spite of this, he was a very successful and brilliant student. He did not neglect his studies, though in his Confessions he often speaks with disdain of rhetoric as the wordy school.
At age 19 at Carthage he came upon Cicero's Hortensius (now lost). It contained a great exhortation to philosophy. So he developed an interest in philosophy, but yet was not satisfied with Cicero's works on philosophy, or other pagan sources, for he did not find the name of Christ there, a strange attachment for a man living with a mistress.
He thought the word philosophy meant love of wisdom. That is true. But Augustine added that Christ is the wisdom of the Father (cf. 1 Cor 1. 24) and so philosophy was really love of Christ. This was very unfortunate, for to say that rubs out the line between philosophy and theology. Both seek the answers to many of the basic, great questions, but they work with vary different tools: philosophy uses only human reason (so that authority is not to be employed); theology uses the sources of revelation, as interpreted by the Church (if one is Catholic—otherwise, as understood by private interpretation).
Since the books without the name of Christ did not satisfy him, he turned to Scripture. But he was offended by the poor language of the existing translations, and he considered them crude. These were older Latin versions before St. Jerome's Vulgate, not yet made at the time. They used rather slavish translation, thinking respect for the sacred text called for that. So they would use even Greek constructions in Latin , e.g., the genitive absolute instead of the ablative absolute, the genitive of comparison instead of the ablative. Further there were even a few very unfortunate things in them. In Isaiah 58. 8 after Isaiah had urged the corporal works of mercy, he then promised rewards, and said: "Tunc erumpet temporaneum lumen tuum, et vestimenta tua cito orientur." It meant: "Then your light shall break forth early, and your garments shall rise up swiftly". This was nonsense—though Augustine later, in Confessions 13. 8. 9, would find an allegorical way to make sense of it—with allegory anything is possible.
Further, his bad spiritual state left him in poor condition to understand Scripture. He was far on the way to spiritual blindness because of his habitual grave sins.
Precisely at this point he found the Manichees, whose ideas fit him like a glove. Both he and they believed God is corporeal, and evil is positive. Also, they flattered his pride by saying that they would prove everything and not call for faith (cf. his De Utilitate credendi 1. 2). They also taught we have two souls, one good, one evil. When we sin, it is to be blamed just on the bad soul. Again, this fit his bad habits.
We get a lot of information on the Manichees from his writings. Today some original Manichean works have been discovered: C. Schmidt, Manichäische Handschriften der Staatlichen Museum , Berlin. In Kephalaia 1. 16 Mani says: "... the holy church to which I was sent from the Father... . No one of the Apostles has ever done such... . [When his] disciples had heard all this from him, they were glad. Their mind was enlightened and they said in joy: 'We thank thee... we have... believed that you are the [Paraclete] who (come) from the Father, the Revealer of all mysteries." Did he mean he really was the Paraclete? The quotation seems to have the disciples saying it that way, and Mani does not correct them. Further, in Kephalaia 67. 165-66 Mani says he is like the sun, and the Elect, the rays, and that he will not allow any of the Elect to go into darkness, that his wisdom is anointed upon them all. Augustine in his Acta cum Felice Manichaeo 1. 9 quotes Felix as saying: "This we believe, that he is the Paraclete." Cf. also R. Cameron and A. Dewey eds. and trs. The Cologne Mani Codex: "Concerning the Origin of His Body" (Missoula , Scholars Press, 1979).
Mani was born on April 14, 216 in southern Mesopotamia. At age 12 Mani claimed revelations from his "heavenly twin". Visions led him to question the baptismal practices of the sect to which he belonged. He disputed with the elders, and at age 24, on April 19, 240 he received a heavenly call to become the "Apostle of Light."
At first he got some support form the Persian royal court, but when Bahram I came to the throne (274-77) a Zoroastrian priest got persecution started against him. He was imprisoned and died a martyr in the spring of 276, Manichaeism responded to persecution by christianizing its structure.
The Manichees held that God is corporeal, evil is positive, and they promised to prove everything. They did speak of Christ.
Their teaching is the following: In the beginning there were two kingdoms, that of light and of darkness, each eternal, each infinite except in one direction where they border on each other. The God of Light rules the one kingdom: incorruptible, unchangeable, holy, magnificent in power. He is surrounded by a bright array of countless eons.
The ruler of the kingdom of darkness is Hyle (matter). Augustine sometimes charges they had two gods. In this kingdom there are five provinces, corresponding to the five evil elements: darkness, evil water, evil wind, evil fire, and smoke. But some inhabitants looked up and saw the kingdom of light, and decided to attack. God saw the five evil elements and their forces and was terrified. He sent out Primal Man (not the same as Adam) who was part of the divine substance, and had as armor the five good elements. God permitted Primal Man and the five good elements to be beaten, imprisoned in matter, for a greater victory later—which never came.
At the request of Primal Man, God sent out the Friend of Lights, who evoked the Great Architect, who evoked the Living Spirit. The latter rescued Primal Man, and took him back to the kingdom of light. But he had lost some of his light, and good elements were now mixed with evil elements. So, to recover the lost light, it was necessary to make a universe. The Living Spirit and his five sons formed ten heavens and eight earths out of the mixture of good and evil elements. Everything in it is arranged, higher or lower, according to the amount of light it has. The sun is of pure fire, the moon is of limpid waters. Since the sun emanated from God it is to be adored. The sun and moon are light ships, and contain holy virtues. These virtues can assume either male or female appearance to attract others. Thus concupiscence is aroused, and the light of the soul which is held captive in matter can be set free. Light ships can then carry it back to the kingdom of light. That is why the moon varies, depending on the load of light it is carrying.
Below the heavens are eight earths, four of them filled with darkness , four with a mixture.
The large animals on earth originated thus: in the land of darkness there are five caves, containing evil elements. Within each element trees sprang up. From the trees came the bodies of the princes of the caves. The ruler of the cave of darkness is a dragon, from whom come serpents and all creeping things. The ruler of evil water resembles a fish, and from him come all swimming things. The king of evil wind resembles an eagle, and is the origin of flying things. The king of evil fire is like a lion, and is the source of all four footed animals. The cave of smoke is the source of all bipeds, including man.
Females in the dens were pregnant when the third phase of the war started. Then the Third Messenger (the Exalted One, of the Second Father) came to war, and set in motion the three wheels of Rex Gloriosus (one of the five sons of the Living Spirit). The motion caused the females to abort. Their offspring fell down onto the earth, was not killed, but propagated, and thus imprisoned more light in their flesh. The large animals have rational souls, since there is a part of the divine substance (light) in them. So it is wrong to kill them.
The smaller animals are made by an evil mind in the Kingdom of Darkness, as also things that have roots in the soil. Each plant has a part of God in it (light), as indicated by color and brightness. So they can feel pain, so plants must not be harvested, or fields weeded.
Man originated in the den of smoke: when the third phase of the war started, and the Third Messenger (the Exalted One) came, Sin was captivated by the beauty of the Exalted One (Sin had sprung from the evil archons). So Sin made a tree, came forth from it as its fruit. In the fruit was the image of the Exalted One. The light of this image was given to one of the evil princes, Saclas who was the father of Adam and Eve. So Adam was made in the image of the Exalted One. Adam and Eve had more light in them than people today, and so lived longer. Man has a body of matter, which is evil. He also has two souls, one from God, which is good, the other from the Kingdom of Darkness. All sins are due to the evil soul.
There is a twofold Jesus: 1) The Jesus of the Gospels. He had no real flesh, was not really born , only appeared to be crucified. So the genealogies in Matthew and Luke are false. So the Manichees made little of Easter, but they did exalt the feast of the Bema, the day on which Manes was killed. For he really was killed, though Jesus was not. On a platform was put the chair of Manes, representing his teaching. 2) The suffering Jesus. This is that part of God which is held bound and defiled in demons, animals, vegetables, and is cleansed in the meals of the Elect. The earth conceives and brings forth this suffering Jesus, the salvation and life of men, hanging from every tree.
At the end of the world there will be a final conflagration: all evil will be bound up in a globe of fire. The outer part of the globe will be whatever parts of God have not been liberated by then. So the greater victory will never come.
The Manichees attacked the Old Testament. Faustus, a Manichee Bishop, called its God "a demon of the Jews and no God." Faustus said if you consider the Old Testament sacred, you must accept Jewish ceremonial law. He said the misdeeds of some of the great men of the Old Testament proved the book could not be of God.
There is a Manichean hierarchy. There were two general classes of Manichees, the Hearers and the Elect. Among the Elect there were twelve called Masters, and a thirteenth, their Chief. Next were 72 Bishops ordained by the Masters, plus Priests, ordained by the Bishops, and also Deacons. But they did not think it any good to baptize anyone. The Elect were expected to be perfect, to live out all moral laws, including no marriage, no planting or harvesting of crops. They would starve, but the Hearers were not expected to be perfect. They could even eat meat and have wives. They furnished vegetable food for the Elect. Then the Elect, in eating these things, set free gods, light particles. Augustine said in Confessions 3. 10: "Gradually and little by little I was led to such nonsense as to believe that a fig weeps when it is picked, and that its mother tree sheds milky tears. But if some (Manichaean) Saint would eat that fig—plucked not by his fault, but by another's—he would mix it with his entrails, and breathe forth from it angels, or rather, particles of God as he groaned and burped in prayer. These particles of the supreme and true God would have remained bound in that fruit, unless set free by the tooth and stomach of a Holy Elect one... . . But if someone who was not a Manichee in hunger would ask for the fruit, it was like condemning it to capital punishment to give it to him."
Augustine returned to Tagaste in 374 both morally and intellectually not accepting Christianity. He taught grammar and literature for a year, then opened a school of rhetoric at Carthage. He lived with his mistress and child there. During this time he won a prize for poetry and published his first prose work, De pulchro et apto. He stayed at Carthage until 383.
But Augustine began to read books on astronomy and saw they did not fit with the Manichean tale of the phases of the moon. So he consulted the local officials. They could not solve the problem, but told Him Bishop Faustus would come. For nine years he waited. Then he found Faustus had read some classics, less than Augustine himself, but Faustus admitted he could not solve the problem.
So Augustine decided to go to Rome. The students at Carthage were ill-mannered, and he heard things were better in Rome. In Rome he stayed with some Manichees, and he opened a school of rhetoric, but although the students behaved well, they would desert him just before the fees were due.
During this period he came into contact with the New Academy, who professed Skepticism. Augustine thought that was only a false front. If one would join, they would reveal their true ideas. But providentially—for he did not know what to believe then—he did not join them.
At Rome he became dangerously ill—he later said his recovery was due to the prayers of his mother.
Symmachus, the pagan Prefect of Rome, received an application to furnish a professor of rhetoric for Milan, with a public salary. Augustine applied, and with the help of Manichee friends, got it.
At Milan he went to listen to St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, for professional reasons, for he heard Ambrose was a fine speaker. He found Ambrose was, though less so than Faustus. But in hearing Ambrose, gradually he began to see that the Manichean objections to the Old Testament could be answered. We read in Confessions 6. 4. 6: "Joyfully I used to hear Ambrose saying in his sermons to the people, as though he were most diligently teaching a rule: 'The letter kills, but the spirit gives life' (2 Cor 3. 6)—when he opened up in a spiritual [allegorical] sense ... those things which, taken literally seemed to teach perversity." St. Paul really was not urging allegory. He meant the old regime of the Law brings only death, while the new brings life. So the reasoning of Ambrose on these things was invalid, but yet served the purpose of getting Augustine out of the Manichean objections to the Old Testament. However, he still held his early errors: God, the soul, and evil are bodily. (Later on, in his De mendacio 10. 24 he would say: "What Jacob did at the urging of his mother, so as to seem to deceive his father, if we consider it diligently and faithfully, is not a lie, but a mystery." He meant: Jacob putting on goat skins stood for Christ taking on our sins. (More examples in his Contra Faustum 22. 1-98).
Augustine wanted a long talk with Ambrose, but found it hard to see him.
But it was at Milan that he came onto certain "Platonic works" translated into Latin by the famous rhetorician Victorinus. Most probably it was the Enneads of Plotinus. Reading this solved his remaining intellectual difficulties: he gained the concept of a spiritual substance. God is spiritual, so is the soul, and evil is a privation. He admits in Confessions 8. 5 that all his intellectual difficulties were gone. But his bad habits of sex held him back.
No intellectual arguments could bring him across that line: grace, working through good example did it. He heard first from an old Priest, Simplicianus, of the conversion of the famed rhetorician Victorinus, who lost his position as rhetor when Julian the Apostate Emperor ordered Christians to give up teaching rhetoric. Augustine began to read St. Paul. One day a friend, Ponticianus, came to see him, and noticed the copy of St. Paul. That led Ponticianus to speak openly. He told Augustine of St. Anthony and the monks of Egypt, and of a monastery near Milan, and how he and three other imperial agents had been walking two by two near Trier. Two of them came upon hermits cells. They gave up their position at court at once, to follow the life of hermits.
Hearing this raised an immense emotional storm in the soul of Augustine. Alternating sets of images began to float before him. On the one hand, these heroic men and women: they, uneducated people, took heaven by storm: he with all his learning, could he not do what they did? The other images were those of his old girl friends: could he do without them forever?
He got up from where he was, leaving his dear friend Alypius, and began to weep. Then he heard a child singing, "Pick it up and read, pick it up and read." He recalled there was no child's game in which they would sing that. So he took it as a sign from heaven. He went back to the copy of St. Paul, opened it at random, saw the verse: "Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambers and debauchery, not in quarrels and jealousy, but put on the Lord Jesus, and make no provision for the flesh and its desires." He read no more. The darkness of doubt was gone. He went in and told his mother: her tears were changed to joy.
It was really her prayers and penances that had gained this grace for him, which came by way of the heroic examples. For he was spiritually hardened. Only an extraordinary grace, one comparable to a miracle, could rescue him. But his mother's heroic, extraordinary work gained that for him. Otherwise he would be in hell today.
He resigned his position as professor of rhetoric—it was not needed, but Augustine was an extremist, and always seemed to have had misgivings about the permissibility of teaching rhetoric, which included teaching how to argue dishonestly—which could be used to unmask errors.
With his mother, his brother Navigius, his son Adeodatus, his good friend Alypius and a few others, he retired to a country villa owned by a friend Verecundus at Cassiciacum. It was the end of the summer of 386. On the next Holy Saturday he was baptized by St. Ambrose.
During this sort of retreat he wrote On the happy life, Against the Academics, On Order. About the same time he wrote his Soliloquies. In his Confessions 9. 4 he said these works were "still panting from the school of pride."
After Baptism he started to return to Africa. While waiting at Ostia to sail, he and his mother one day had a special experience of contemplation. As he describes it could not have been infused contemplation. Still less did it resemble at all Plato's ascent as in the Symposium. It resembled more some things in Plotinus.
His mother died at Ostia. He felt guilty about weeping a bit for her—influence of Stoicism.
Then in the fall of 388 he went back to Africa. His illegitimate son Adeodatus soon died. He set up a monastic community of laymen, in which he lived for three years. But his fame was spreading. One day on a visit to Hippo, the people seized him and insisted he be ordained, in 391. For 5 years he was a helper to Bishop Valerius, preaching in his place, working in controversies with heretics, especially the Donatists. (In the persecution of Diocletian, some clergy had handed over sacred books to the persecutors. Donatus said they were traitors, and claimed sacraments were invalid if given by an unworthy minister. Also said only holy persons are members of the Church). Augustine's struggle with the Donatists took up much of his time until the Conference of 411. Soon after, Donatism died out. Through all this he continued his monastic life so far as possible.
In 395 he was consecrated Auxiliary Bishop to Valerius. Valerius died the next year, and Augustine became Bishop of Hippo. He still continued a monastic life.
Detractors who remembered his wicked youth tried to smear him. To answer them, and to correct the exaggerations of his admirers, and to praise God, he wrote his Confessions , which was published by about 400 AD. In them he stresses seeing the hand of Divine Providence in his own life, and the need of humility.
In 410 Alaric and the Goths took Rome. The cry went up that the lack of pagan worship caused it. Augustine decided to answer it, wrote his City of God, between 413 and 426. In it he pictured two cities, that of God, and that of the world, each including both angels and people. He was not just following Plato's Republic , for in it there was only an earthly, ideal, imagined, city. Nor did he follow the two kingdoms of the Manichees, of which one is evil by nature.
About the same time the British monk Pelagius sought the help of Augustine. Pelagius greatly exaggerated the role of the human will in salvation, and minimized that of grace. He denied original sin. At first, Augustine was occupied with the Donatists. But after that he turned attention to Pelagius, and wrote many works against him. These were the chief source of his theological fame, and his title of Doctor of Grace. We will examine his theology of grace presently.
Another work of major importance was his fifteen books On the Trinity, begun in 400, completed in 417.
In 426, sensing that he had not much time left to live, Augustine recalled that the Gospel says we must give an account of every idle word. He had written so many, so he made a great critical review of them, in his Retractations, in which only small part consisted of retracting ideas. Basically it was a review of all his works except his letters and sermons.
In 429 Genseric led the Vandals from Spain into Africa. In late spring or early summer of 430 the Vandals laid siege to Hippo. Augustine died during that siege, on August 28, 430.
His literary output was immense. Against the Manichees he wrote: On the Morals of the Catholic Church and the Morals of the Manicheans; Disputation against Fortunatus the Manichean; Acts (of public debate) with Felix the Manichaean; Against Faustus the Manichean, 33 books; On Free Will; On Two Souls; On the Nature of Good (This latter is the best summary of his writing against the Manichees).
Against the Donatists he wrote: Psalm against the Party of Donatus; Against the Epistle of Parmenianus; On Baptism.
Against the Pelagians he wrote, in the first phase: 411-418: On the Merits and Remission of Sins; On the Spirit and Letter; On Nature and Grace.
Then against the Pelagian Bishop Julian of Eclanum he wrote: 419-30: On Marriage and Concupiscence; Against Julian; Uncompleted Work against Julian.
Against the Semipelagians he wrote: On Grace and Free Will; On Correction and Grace; Letter to Vitalis; On the Predestination of the Saints; On the Gift of Perseverance
He also wrote many works outside these groups. We have already mentioned Confessions and City of God , and On the Trinity. Besides that, of special importance is his work On Christian Doctrine, and On Catechizing the Ignorant. There were also many commentaries on Scripture.
St. Augustine's Theory of Knowledge
We noticed earlier that Augustine telescoped theology and philosophy in saying that philosophy really is love of Christ. In this broad trend he has much company in the writers of this period. They tend to look at man as a whole, and to say that both reason and faith have a role to play. Reason has a role to play in bringing one to faith, i.e. , in apologetics, in showing that it is reasonable to have faith. Then reason has a further role in helping to penetrate more deeply into the truths of revelation, as we indicated above, and saw specially in using the principles of Aristotle to understand better human interaction with grace.
There is a very special example of this sort of thing in his theory of knowledge. Augustine noted, rightly, that we manage somehow to know that some things not only happen to be true, but are necessarily and eternally true. This happens not because a man sees the divine essence. Rather, Augustine takes his start from Matthew 23. 10 where Jesus said: "One is hour teacher, Christ." Hence in his Retractations 1. 12 he wrote: "In this we find that there is no teacher who teaches men knowledge except God, according to that which is written in the Gospel: 'One is your teacher, Christ. '"
There have been many debates about what he means here. The chief proposals are these:: 1) The Divine Word is the giver of the forms, that is, it is the separate active intellect which supplies intelligible species to the mind on the occasion of sensation.—This view is clearly false, for Aristotle, as we did see above, did believe we each have our own active intellect. 2) All intelligible things are known in God, through an immediate vision of God Himself.—Again, very false. We do not see God in this life. 3) The illumination is just the creation of the human mind with its ability to confer intelligibility upon the contents of sensation. 4) God in some may that is not clear, enables the mind to discern the elements of necessity, immutability and eternity in the relation between concepts.—This seems more likely what he meant. Copleston, II. 67, says well: "... it does not seem possible to obtain a definitive interpretation of his thought which would adequately explain all the statements he made."
Actually, we see the necessity of necessary truths by way of abstraction.
St. Augustine's Theory of Grace and Predestination
He is rightly called the Doctor of Grace because of his great achievement in seeing our total, utter dependence upon God, far more than other writers, more than the Eastern Fathers. He arrived at this in his debates with the Pelagians. He did make a splendid advance, but at the same time, fell into a regrettable error. We shall see both facets.
There are two distinct questions: 1) human interaction with grace; 2) predestination.
First his work on predestination. Predestination means an arrangement of Divine Providence to see either that a person reaches heaven, or reaches full membership in the Church. Sadly, we must admit that Augustine and the other Fathers, and theologians for centuries later, tended to telescope the two questions. This has led, historically to a dreadful impasse.
Scripture seldom uses the word predestination. When it does it means always and only predestination to full membership in the Church. Never does it speak explicitly of predestination to heaven, or reprobation to hell. It does, however contain implications in this second sense. We mean to explore Augustine's thought on that subject.
Later theologians use terms that are helpful, even if Augustine did not employ them. They say predestination to heaven could be decided either before or after God's looking at human merits and demerits. Of course, the words before and after do not apply: there is no time in God. Yet there is a real sense: it means: Does God decide predestination or reprobation with or without looking at the merits or demerits of a person?
All theologians have taken for granted—wrongly—that if God makes the favorable decision, predestination, without looking, He must also make the unfavorable, reprobation, without looking. As we shall see, this is not true. We can separate the two. However, Augustine did not see this fact.
His basic position was that both predestination and reprobation are decided by God blindly , without looking at merits and demerits. We shall see the details presently.
Factors that predisposed Augustine to his solution:
a) Allegorical interpretation :We already saw that he was much impressed with Ambrose's use of allegory. Really, most Scripture scholars then used it. It is really arbitrary: this stands for this, and that stands for that. One can make things mean almost anything. In the matter of predestination, Augustine looked at the comparison of the potter in Romans 9, and said that the large mass of potter's clay on the table stands for the whole human race. By original sin, it became a massa damnata et damnabilis. God could throw the whole race into hell, without waiting for anyone to sin personally. This is, of course, horribly untrue.
b) Augustine wiped out the line between the ordinary and the extraordinary, both in the natural and in the supernatural order. In On John's Gospel 1. 6. 1: "Because... His miracles, by which He rules the whole world... had become commonplace by constant experience... . He reserved to Himself certain things which He would perform at opportune times, beyond the usual course and order of nature, so that they for whom the daily things had become commonplace, might be amazed in seeing not greater, but unusual things." And similarly (Sermon 142. 1. 1): "That so many men who were not, are born daily, is a greater miracle than that a few rose [from the dead] who had existed [before]."
In the supernatural order (Sermon 141. 1. 1): "... who would dare to say that God lacked a way of calling, in which even Esau would apply his mind to faith, and join his will [to that] in which Jacob was justified?" He means that from Romans 9 he sees that God hated Esau before he was born, and destined him to hell. God could have sent a grace that would have saved Esau. God did not do that, because He did not want to save Esau. We Comment: The passage in Romans has a very different meaning: it deals with the question of who will or will not get the special advantage of being a full member of the people of God. And God did not hate Esau at all: it is a Hebraism really meaning: God loved one more and the other less. But even if we stay within Augustine's framework of thought, which is false, we would still say: If God gave Esau plentiful graces of the ordinary kind, which could save Esau, then God cannot be said to not want to save Esau. To not give Him an extraordinary grace, a miraculous type, does not show God did not want to save Esau. The text from Enchiridion 103, to be cited below, shows the same error coming from the erasure of the line between ordinary and extraordinary.
c) His views on God's salvific will: This refers to 1 Tim. 2. 4: "God wills all men to be saved." We have just seen that Augustine was driven by his lack of the right distinction to think God does not want all to be saved: (1) Enchiridion 103: "When we hear and read in sacred Scripture that He wills all men to be saved, we must... so understand [it]... as if it were said that: no man is saved except whom He wants [to be saved].... Or certainly, it was so said... not that there is no man whom He is unwilling to have saved, He who was unwilling to perform the wonders of miracles among those whom He says would have done penance if He had done them: but in such a way that we understand 'all men' to mean the whole human race, distributed into various categories: kings, private citizens, nobles, ordinary men, lofty, lowly, learned, unlearned...." Comment: Here Augustine offers two interpretations of 1 Tim 2. 4, both of which reverse its meaning. The second one refers to the passage of Matthew 11.20-24 where Jesus said that if the miracles He worked in Bethsaida, Corazin, and Capernaum had been worked in Tyre and Sidon, they would have done penance in sackcloth and ashes. Here again is the fatal lack of distinction of ordinary and extraordinary. (2) De correptione et gratia 14. 44: "And that which is written that 'he wills all men to be saved, and yet not all are saved, can be understood in many ways, of which we have mentioned some in other works, but I shall give one here. It is said in such a way... that all the predestined are meant; for the whole human race is in them." (3) Ibid 15. 47: "That 'God wills all men to be saved' can be understood also in this way: that He causes us to wish [that all be saved]."
The massa damnata theory: The basic thought is this: By original sin, all men are a massa damnata. God could throw the whole mass into hell without waiting for anyone to sin personally. But He wills to show mercy, and so rescues a few; to show justice, He lets the rest go to hell. Now since to love is to will good to another for the other's sake, in this theory God would not love any one—He would merely use some to make a point. So, to say He does not will all to be saved is to deny God's love. In several places, such as Sermon 294. 3. 3 he follows his logic relentlessly, and says unbaptized infants go to hell. (We will see the true solution later on) a) Explicit texts: (1) Ad Simplicianum 1. 2. 16: "Therefore all men are... one condemned mass [massa damnata] of sin, that owes a debt of punishment to the divine and supreme justice. Whether it [the debt] be exacted or whether it be condoned, there is no injustice." (2) City of God 21. 12: "Hence there is a condemned mass of the whole human race... so that no one would be freed form this just and due punishment except by mercy and undue grace; and so the human race is divided [into two parts] so that in some it may be shown what merciful grace can do, in others, what just vengeance can do... . In it [punishment] there are many more than in [mercy] so that in this way there may be shown what is due to all."
b) Exclusion of foreseen merits: (1) On the predestination of the saints 17. 24: "Let us, then understand the call by which the elect are made [elect]: [they are] not [persons] who are chosen because they have believed, but [they are persons] who are chosen so that they may believe. For even the Lord Himself made this [call] sufficiently clear when He said: 'You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you. '[John 15. 16] ... . This is the unshakable truth of predestination and grace. For what else does that mean, that the Apostle says, 'As He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world. [Ephesians 1. 4]. For surely if it was said [that they were chosen] because God foresaw that they would believe, [and] not because He Himself was going to make them believers—the Son speaks against that sort of foreknowledge, saying: 'You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you. ' [John 15. 16]. So they were chosen before the foundation of the world by that predestination by which God foreknew His own future acts: they are chosen out of the world by that vocation by which God fulfilled that which He had predestined. 'For those whom He predestined, them also he called" [Romans 8. 29].
Comments: 1) Augustine here takes texts out of context, and thus changes their meaning. John 15. 16 was said to the Apostles: They had not chosen to be His Apostles: He chose them. It has nothing to do with predestination. Ephesians 11. 4 and Romans 8. 29, if read in context, mean God's call or predestination to make some full members of His Church—not to predestination to heaven. We speak of full membership, since there is a lesser, but substantial membership, of which we spoke in connection with St. Justin Martyr.
2) He does well in stressing our total dependence on God. But this does not lead to massa damnata. Rather, God offers grace to all: those who do not reject it, get it, including faith.
(2) Enchiridion 99: For grace alone distinguishes the redeemed from the lost, whom a common cause from [their beginning] had joined into one mass of perdition... ."
An Implicit Rejection of Massa Damnata in Augustine: Augustine never explicitly abandoned his massa damnata theory. In the last years of his life, he still referred readers to the text of Ad Simplicianum 1. 2. 16: cf. De dono perseverantiae 21. 55.
However he did imply a contrary theory, that is one that rejects reprobation without consideration of demerits. There are six such texts. We will consider only the first here, from On 88 Different questions 68. 5:" For not all who were called wanted to come to that dinner, which as the Lord says in the Gospel, was prepared, nor would they who came have been able to come if they had not been called. And so neither should they who came attribute [it] to themselves, for they came being called; nor should those who were unwilling to come attribute [it] to anyone but themselves, for in order that they might come, they were called in free will." Comment: We note that they must attribute their loss only to themselves: in the massa damnata the first decision that sends them to ruin is made by God, not by themselves. Other texts are to be found in: De correptione et gratia 13. 42; De peccatorum meritis et remissione 2. 17. 26; De Actis cum Felice Manichaeo 2. 8; Tractatus in Ioannis Evangelium 53, 6; and De Catechizandis rudibus 52.
These texts are written at intervals over practically the entire span of his writing career: 395; 398; 399;411; 413-18; 426. So there was no change of mind. We already mentioned that late in life he referred back to one of his first works on this topic.
A Note on the Other Fathers on Predestination
The Greek Fathers before and after Augustine all disagree with him: they firmly reject reprobation without considering demerits. So also do the western Fathers before Augustine. He found little support after writing , much opposition. St. Prosper of Aquitaine is often said to be his great backer, but even he rejected the massa damnata. For example, in his Responsiones ad capitula obiectionum Gallorum 3: "They [those reprobated] were not deserted by God so that they deserted God; but they deserted and were deserted and they were changed from good to evil by their own will, and as a result... they were not predestined... by Him who foresaw them as going to be such." For fuller details on Augustine and all the other Fathers cf. Wm. G. Most New Answers to Old Questions, London, 1971, §§ 183—213. That book drew many favorable reviews in European journals, only one unfavorable one, which used objections already answered.
St. Augustine on Human Interaction with Grace
It is here that he did great service, by showing our total dependence upon God.
1) De Gratia Christi 15, 16: "For God not only has given our ability and aids it, but also, He 'works both the will and the performance' [Phil. 2. 13]. Not that we do not will, or that we do not act, but that without His help, we neither will nor do any good."
2) Epistle 194. 5. 19: "What then is the merit of a man before receiving grace, in accordance with which he receives grace, since it is only grace that makes every good merit of ours, and since when God crowns our merits, He crowns nothing other than His own gifts."
If we ask how grace fits with human will, Augustine has a theory of the delectatio victrix, the victorious delight. If God gives us greater pleasure in a good thing than temptation offers, we go for the good thing. On this cf. his On John's Gospel 26.4.
The deficiency is that Augustine speaks only of the goal or final cause that attracts. But such a cause gives no internal power. That would take an efficient cause. Further, when temptation comes, the pleasure it offers is often stronger than what grace offers, yet often enough, a person resists the temptation.
New Proposals to Solve the Above Problems
In the work mentioned above, New Answers to Old Questions, in §§284-306 and §§344-357, new answers are proposed:
On predestination: There are three logical steps in God's decrees:
1) He strongly wills all to be saved
2. He looks to see who resists His grace gravely and persistently (to such an extent that he cannot be saved). These He lets go, in negative reprobation, in view of such demerits.
3) All others not reprobated in step 2 are predestined. Not because of merits, which have not yet appeared, not even because of the lack of resistance, but because that is what He wanted in step 1, and the soul is not blocking Him.
Therefore we have predestination without merits (which Augustine also held) and reprobation in view of demerits.
The Father analogy in the Gospel shows the same thing: 1) In the normal human family, the parents want all the children to turn out well; 2) The children do not say: I must help around the house, and so I will get them to give love and care. No. They get that because the parents are good, not because the children are good = Predestination without merits. 3) Yet a child could be punished for being bad, and if bad enough long enough could be disinherited: = reprobation in view of demerits.
Hence our Lord said: "Unless you become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven": Matthew 18. 3.
On human interaction with grace: A grace comes to me. Without my help it causes me to see something as good (2 Cor 3. 5) and makes me favorably disposed, but there is still no decision. At this juncture where I could reject, if I instead make no decision against grace, then it goes into phase two, and in it two things run in parallel: It works in me both the will and the doing (Phil. 2. 13), and my will, with power being received at the same instant from grace, really cooperates.
We saw this in a philosophical form in the section on Beyond Aristotle in Metaphysics.
Copyright (c) 1994 William G. Most
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