Sunday, May 22, 2011

Blogging the Summa Theologica

   The Summa Theologica was a great philosophical work and really the pinnacle of medieval philosophy and theology. I've been reading it for a while now, (not without some difficulty) and I've come across what seems to be a contradiction. I would like to solve this by saying that I simply don't know the meaning of the word, "principle" or that the word Being is being used equivocally,  but perhaps someone else in the ether of the net could help me with this problem:

    According to Aquinas, Being is not a genus. But he also said that,"If God were in any Genus, He would be in the Genus 'being'". So the problems here are ones of confusion and contradiction. The confusion is from saying that Genus is not Being and yet, implying that Genus is being. The contradiction is that if Aquinas said that No Being is Genus,  and that God would be Being, then it follows that God is in no Genus and therefore, God is not the principle of any Genus. So if that is true, doesn't that mean that since all causes are principles, that God is simply not a cause of things -by simple Modus Tollens? Later on, Aquinas also wrote that God was the principle of All being. If that's the case then by Universal Instantiation, shouldn't God be the principle of some Genus? Again am I simply using the word principle wrong? 

This is all in Question 3, Article 5 of the Summa -"Whether God is Contained in a Genus?".

Monday, May 16, 2011

Are People Naturally Equal or Unequal?

Now this question is difficult but I believe that reason can at least clear up the question for us.

Now, if people are naturally equal, that is, incapable of anything but having the same qualities as their fellow men, then how does one explain the idea that "there is always someone better than you"? If the latter is true, then there must, at all times, be someone who has a certain quality that is superior to yours, and indeed, since this cannot go into infinity, it implies a God who has the quality of Personhood at its highest perfection. So equality is not consonant with knowledge of natural inferiority.

But perhaps it can be objected that "there is always someone better than you", can be taken to mean not that "there is naturally always someone better than you" but "given the nature of the universe, it is not absurd, that there is always someone better than you". However this last interpretation would still contradict equality, since given that someone is better than you (as we know is true), then there can be no time where people are equal. To clarify, "given the nature of the universe, it is not absurd that there is always someone better than you" translates into, "Given this particular state of the universe, if it exists, then for every time, person, and you, there is some person better than you." But we know that this (unequal) state of the universe, does indeed exist and so it follows that at all times we are in no sense equals.

However several problems appear when we accept this conclusion as well. The first is that if all people were unequal all the time, then assuming that there exists some God at some time, then there must be someone superior even to God since if it were not so, then at some time, there would be someone (God) who didn't have someone better than Him. A further contradiction occurs when we examine how we use the word quality. If everyone always has different (unequal) qualities, then since contradiction is a quality, then something exists which is contradictory par excellence, and if that is true, then that something is not contradictory par excellence. Hence a contradiction is derived. The same reductio ad absurdum may be reached, by using the quality of equality instead of contradiction. And again, if everyone is inherently unequal, then how do we account for political revolutions where one person overthrows another, since to overthrow someone means to oppose them with at least equal force?

So it would seem, that reason has revealed a particularly disturbing conclusion: that we are not all equal and we are not all unequal. In that case what are we -I certainly don't know.