« Philosophize This!

Episode #021 ... One God - St. Thomas Aquinas

2014-05-05 | 🔗

On this episode of the podcast, we learn about the Christian Aristotelean philosopher St. Thomas Aquinas. We begin by examining a song by The Postal Service which sets the stage for a discussion about how often humans mistake correlation with causation. Next, we learn about Aristotle’s conception of God as “The Unmoved Mover” and his thoughts on the nature of infinity. All of these ideas lead us to St. Thomas Aquinas’ quest to reconcile Aristotelianism and Christianity, which he approaches by arguing that the Christian belief that God created the universe and the Aristotelean belief that the universe has always existed are not mutually exclusive ideas. All this and more on the latest episode of Philosophize This!

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
For more information about this or any episode of the podcast Chow The website at philosophize, this start org. We have additional content further reading trance scripts of every show, all three of course But if you value the shows an educational resource and you want to help, keep it going, you can find That more about how to do that at patriarch, dot com, slash philosophize this or alter if you're buying something from Amazon. This week anyway, clicking through our banner. It's at the bottom centre of the landing page philosophize, this dot, org small percentage goes back to the show. It may just be a click for you, but every little bit adds up there. Key for wanting to know more today than you did yesterday, and I hope you have the show. There's a song by the musical group, the postal service called sleeping it that's, not approach. I ve never heard it before. The important part is the lyrics to the sun because they illustrate a concept. It's very important well for many things when looking back at any point,
History, when you're trying to understand what a particular philosopher was thinking at a time period, And really, when you're, trying to understand yourself better, the purse Speaking in the song is telling the listener about a really weird dream. They ve been having lately quote again last night I had that strange dream where everything was exactly how it seemed Our concerns about the world getting warmer. The people thought that they were just being rewarded for treating others as they like to be true. For obeying stop signs and curing diseases. Four mailing letters with the address of the sender. Now we can see, any day in November, end quote another Trees. Painting in this song is of an alternate reality he's having a about a world where everything around us is exact we have had initially seems to be to us as humans. being a modern human that has studied philosophy up until this point in history. We know
but that there are certain things that, although we perceive them with the tools we have as a human being, we perceived them inaccurately because our tools are not perfect. For example, your wife long enough in the Sahara desert. Your eventual Start hallucinating things in the distance. You're gonna see the oasis of Gatorade, far off into the horizon, Her senses are failing you at that time, and this has been common criticism of empiricism up until this point that our senses are flawed. They deceive us, so how Can we realistically rely on them to find the truth about anything while the picture painted in the song is alluding to another type of human failure when trying to arrive at the truth. This alternate reality in this dream of his is full of people that measure and see that the global temperature is heating up and instead of looking for a scientific explanation of what is causing it
they assume that it's an intervention by a god. They assume that God looked at the planet was like look. You guys are going pretty good, you're. Following all the rules, I've laid out your obeying stop signs and during diseases actually know what you guys deserve a reward for all this hard work. You've been doing we all know that everyone loves summer way more than they like winter. Why do we eat Need to have a winter, I hereby I extend your summer by a few weeks. Maybe if you guys keep it up, we'll have a son. In a few months and will see if we can extend it to a year long summer. Keep it up guys what are? They in this alternate reality. This was perfectly reasonable. I mean, let's that you believe that this planet is a m crafted for us by a supernatural god. The life on this path and especially humans, are his creatures that he's very interested in and heavily regulates him and then every now, and then he intervenes. Causes certain things to happen that shift the direction that the world is going it now, if you believe that
What reason do you have to anticipate any kind of cataclysmic event? on the horizon, yeah, you have worry every now and then about God, get mad and now flooding the earth and shaking the ETA sketch and starting over If you saw the universe is put here for you and governed by an all powerful infinitely intelligent thing Why would you even have an inkling that it was your response Nobody to effect things like the temperature of the terrorism that your living in. The people in the song or a classic example of mistaking correlation with causation. We ve talked about it before this is another type of failure human beings run into when trying to find. The truth of this has been a common Chris, tourism of rationalism. Up until this point, the use of human reason to arrive at truth, you gotta be very therefore when using reason to arrive at truth, because remember you're still a human, your look, it everything with a lot of biases that are at such a fundamental level,
You may not even realize you're doing it. This problem isn't something that's just reserved for hypothetical people. Laid out in an alternate reality. These bias these are gathered in real life, based on what culture you're born into what time period you're born into what your level of education is and this is incredibly important when moving forward and talking about Saint Thomas Aquinas, this incredibly important when trying to their stand yourself better in modern times. Consider the fact that if you were born in Athens during the time of the ancient Greeks. When you looked around you, or certain things that just seemed obvious. Alright, I mean, if I lived back, then I am one hundred percent certain that I would look around me and see and know that everything was designed. I mean. How could you possibly think it wasn't? If somebody came up to me,
told me that they didn't think all of this was designed for us. It would make me wonder how anybody could be so stupid. I mean look at it. You think it's just a free the accident that I breathe oxygen and Morocco there's oxygen, all around me What a coincidence that I eat all the that grows and lives around me. How could you possibly think that anything else is the case? will eventually Darwin comes along. Then evolution biology, natural selection in though it's over charged issue in modern times. There's one thing about it: the Iccat deny- and that is that, at the very least, it gives us an alternative theory of how things could be seemingly problem actually ordered seemingly designed, but it actually is the by product of the survival of the creatures with genetic traits. That are compatible with the environment, we live in the freak accidents that didn't look designed died off long ago.
We have the luxury in modern times, to see alternative explanations where, if we couldn't see space the space, although it looks like we live in a here put here for us, an explanation for how that might only appear to be the case. Here's an explanation or why it might only appear that God has extended our summer for a couple weeks, so that now we can swim any day in November, just them how wonderful it must have felt living in ancient greek times were. Even people is brilliant. Plato and Aristotle saw this place that they existed in his something very peaceful. You know they called it. A harmonious, ordered cosmos. now we know it's anything but harmonious and ordered a super. Can can go off right next us and were done. Solar flare can go, often exterminate life on the planet instantly, and it's almost funny to think that an average citizen of Greece
time would probably look at the night sky and see a shooting stars and see it as a beautiful light. show being put on for them by the gods, and not a near miss of an asteroid that could potentially exterminate them at any second, while another thing about. If your Plato or Aristotle, specifically Aristotle, because he's one of the stars of today show, is how this harmonious, ordered cosmos came into existence in the first place, Beyond that, they would wonder why is there something rather than nothing, they would continue the question, the most basic aspects of the Harmonious ordered cosmos entry, reason their way to an explanation, one of those basic aspects of the cosmos, Why is everything movie? Why are these celestial bodies the moon, the stars, the other planets why are these things moving more earth just stands at the center
I should things necessarily be moving as opposed to not moving. They certainly don't need to be moving right was we talked about before Ariston was an empiricist. He looked to his experiences. His sense perception. Is present in the sensible world to find the truth when he was thinking about what everything is moving as opposed to not moving. He realized. Something quote that which is in nature, must be moved by something else. Likewise, this something else in so far as it is too in motion must also be moved by something else. Similarly, a two must be moved by another thing, but this chain of events, cannot receive forever, for if it did, there could be no four mover, and thus no other mover for second Europe cannot move unless they are moved by a first mover in the same way that a stick does not move anything unless it is moved by a hand, in
It's way we must reach a prime mover, which is itself not move by anything and all understand that that this is God quote now. That quote: quote: isn't Aristotle Aristotle S by St Thomas Aquinas? He lived in twelve hundreds and he's what is known as a christian aristotelian. He loved Aristotle, so much that when he was kidnapped by his own family and locked in tower for over a year he D practically none with this time, but read and think about Aristotle. Beloved Aristotle, so much that, despite the long history of the church, seeing many parts of Aristotle philosophy is heresy. Saint Thomas Aquinas insisted that if you just interpret Aristotle correctly, it's perfectly compatible with Christianity, quote from Aquinas that I just read, is addressing what's known as Aristotle's prime mover argument or the unmoved mover argument. Basically, what he saying is look around you,
Nothing moves on its own without the help of something else. That much is obvious sure all things have the potential to move, but for them I actually move require some sort of cause, some thing to change them from potentially moving to actually moving, The example laid out by Thomas Aquinas in the quote is a stick. A stick doesn't move unless someone picks it up and moves it. Joe how we see that process of nature in the world around us, using our human experience, just how We can know that there's no reason necessarily why a stick needs to be moving poster not moving, we can ask like the epicurean did like Democritus did like empedocles did How can we explain the reason why things move in this cause, most at all,. Whatever Aristotle says, is that that process of asking what moved that stick and then what moved that thing that move that stick and so on and so forth? That process
can't go on forever? There must be some thing responsible for all motion. Initially, this thing, that's responsible for motion must be the type of thing. At is unmoved in itself or else we could just ask what moved it and then we'd be going one step back right. He calls this thing. The unmoved mover or the prime mover. It's important to note that movement for Aristotle wasn't just something changing location like taking a stick and throwing it across the yard. It included that but it also included many different changes that things had the potentiality to undergo. The common example given is that would has the potentiality to be fire, but for it to actually become fire, it needs to be moved by something that can be considered movement to to Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, Saint Thomas Aquinas
Thought that, if you take all of this into account, there's no reason why things are moving as opposed to not moving there needed to be a beginning. There needed to be a thing that initially moved everything that wasn't moved itself that thing to Thomas Aquinas was God. This is another example of how you might look at something during an age Before some alternative explanation is laid out and think that it's obvious that certain things that don't necessarily follow. For example, Aristotle talks about a thing which is responsible for all motion that is in itself unmoved when it comes to what causes move. went as far as just the change from one location to another. This concept is compatible. Annabelle with the modern idea of gravity. In fact, the currents scientific narrative is that there was a time during the formation of the universe.
A time very similar to what these early greek philosophers envision. The pre socratically were particles were equally suspended in space. There was a phase where the gas that made up the very early universe was spread evenly across space and then due to me perfections and the law of gravity gravity, wasn't equally pull in every direction and those directions pulling harder and began to coalesce these particles. Together, then, over billions of years those became star then the stars exploded into elements that coalesced into planets, etc. Now again somebody alive and five hundred years will listen to me, giving that explanation for how the celestial bodies initially began, moving and think me. His primitive. As we see the ancient Greeks, but the true significance, is that it offers and other explanation for how we can account for the proximity of everything without their necessarily being a magic wand wave to make it happen. What reason
would you have is an ancient greek to wonder why you state tethered to the earth at all Aristotle recognize that this mover this thing that brought things in motion in the first place was a strange kind of beast it, sir. We wasn't it simple, is just some big, powerful, thing like Arnold Schwarzenegger push and all the planet's really hard into a circle, these planets and stars. Never seem to slow down whatever this forces. That's moving. Them must be constant white gravity, but it's much much more than just gravity to Aristotle. Movement is many different types of change to Aristotle, not just location, this eternal on caused thing that is pure actual. The unmoved mover to Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas- they called God Base, on their respective definitions of it. The significant This is that it's one of Thomas Aquinas, five logical proofs for the existence of God, because
we can prove that there was an initial mover that itself must be on caused them, because we refer to this mover, as God, God thereby exists that really seems to be a fundamental difference between modern laws of physics, like gravity that explain these processes and the concept of God that several philosophers talk about. God is eternal meaning that it has always and will always exist external to time itself. There is no beginning or end to got. The laws of physics do conceivably have the beginning there exist indefinitely into the future as far as we know, but they still are much different than God because they exist within time. Guy, could have created them as a mechanism, he uses to govern the universe, but to talk, Any more about modern science is getting off topic the gene of Saint Thomas Aquinas is that he managed to fuse together the concepts of christian faith and reason
these into Thomas Aquinas was embodied in the works of Aristotle, christian faith, obviously embodied by the church. There was a lot of tension between people in the west between people that used these two different criterion of truth, more importantly, how can someone who accepts things based on faith alone? when an argument against someone who uses, why logical, syllogisms or real evidence to prove what they believe. Many- reason triumphing over faith was met with a lot of hostility, kind of like a certain type of person that we ve all run into some level. You see it times with a very strong, tough guy in a testosterone fuelled And have an argument what that guy, You can really be arguing about anything, but, let's just say your winning the argument and lets say he thinks it. Two plus two equals five and you think it equals for now you're. Obviously right you can be
perfectly respectful and show him the number line and count up to four multiple times and proven wrong over and over again and this time a person will react with hostility, the threatened to beat you wipe. Instead of submitting that you have won this argument, they'll pop up their chatting it all intimidating. Now what this is is them switching the fight, They realise that intellectually, there never gonna win this fight. So what switch the fight into that they know they can win a physical fight, then they never have to give any and a submission, whether they're wrong or not, will for a long time the differences tween Aristotle, the church were seen as erect silence on the church, always had the physical fight to fall back on when things were poorly. In the argument department with Aristotle, we talked a little last time about the various ways. Plato was compassion with monotheism, but there are reasons why Plato's philosophy is particularly similar to Christianity Plato's.
the gory. The cave talks about these lost subjects there tackled to the cave. All they see in front of them are shot of reality on the cave wall and then through a process of reason and enlightenment. They event please find themselves outside of the cave face to face with the sun the mechanism that shines light on everything for us to see how it actually is that journey. Is comparable to the journey of an average Christian during this time period, with God Wrapper cutting the sun or the truth. People like plotting and this in Saint Augustine paved the way for this commission. Ability between between and and reason, if it Aristotle was your definition of what reason was there were a lot of things that seemed incompatible between reason and christian faith but, as I said before, Aquinas didn't think that reason and the Chris and faith were incompatible at all. If you just read them correctly, There are some things that he accepted on faith, but in the most difficult areas he really showed that
he reason are not incompatible Gmos. The launch of which is within where's topples idea of the universe existing eternally? This was by far the biggest point of contention between Aristotle and Christianity. The Bible is clear: God create did the universe. There was a creation date. You can argue tell your blue in the face about when that date was, but they believed that there was a time when it was created. The problem is Aristotle was also quite clear that the cosmos, always existed these two, I he is understandably so for the law. It's time were seen as irreconcilable, not a fully. Understand why we have to look at what Aristotle used as his basis for claiming that it has existed forever. It lies in what his idea of infinity is. I picked out a couple quotes from Aristotle,
physics that give a nice synopsis of the contradictions that he thought were inherent in the idea of anything being infinite, so I'll read them back to back. Here quote: the problem of the infinite is difficult, many contradictions result whether we suppose it to exist or not to exist. If it exists, we have still to ask how it exists as substance or as the essential attribute of some entity, or either way yet none the less- is there something which is infinite or some things which are infinitely. Many the view that there is an infinite body is finally incompatible with the doctrine that there is necessarily a proper place for each kind of body, if every sense,
body has either weight or lightness, and if a body has a natural locomotion towards the center, if it is heavy and upwards, if it is light, this would need to be true of the infinite also, but neither character can belong to it. It cannot be either as a whole, nor can it be half the one and half the other, for how should you divide it or how can the infinity? I have one part up and the other down, or in extremity and a centre to suppose that the infinite not exist in any way leads army. Especially to many impossible consequences. There will be a beginning and an end of time, a magnitude will not be divisible into magnitudes number will not be infinite Clearly there is a sense in which the infinite exists and another in which it does not end quote. What Aristotle, the saying is, does infinity exist, couldn't even potentially exist when you think about infinity,
as either absolutely existing or absolutely not existing. You run into a lot of contradictions when you think of an infinity of anything physical, existing you went to a lot of problems that he lays out, but how about you idea that there wouldn't be enough space for them, I mean- let's say there was- infinite number of dogs that existed, then they would take up every of space imaginable. How could anything but dogs exist, because if they did, then that would create a limit for the dog, and they wouldn't thereby be infinite anymore now, on the other hand, Aristotle, says if we try to prove that infinity cannot exist on that same grounds, That's obviously wrong we already know of certain infinities numbers are infinite, for example, because for every number, no matter how high you go or how far into the negative numbers ago, there was always a next number on the number line. Aristotle says that time must can a very similar way because for
a year or month. There has to be a proceeding year or month just for the record as a human. That thinks of everything in relation to time. You know things have. A beginning. In an end, this is one of the most my numbing concepts to even think about it, so difficult to even wrap your head around eternity. Just thinking about go back to the very beginning of the universe and asking what and before that in realising that you could do that forever would never be a time when you couldn't ask what came before that. I mean that concept just hurts my brain. Well, this speaks to the genius of Thomas Aquinas. He actually had his back up against the wall. He was fully come It had to Aristotle and its centred around the goal of the time that I touched on before, to try to find a link between faith in reason to make them compatible both claimed to have the truth, but the truth said in two different ways: shouldn't contradict itself. It should be true in both cases
So the big challenge for Thomas Aquinas was not just finding a way to interpret Aristotle in a different way or tat his own a day hence onto Aristotle, claiming that this is what Aristotle would have said if we ask him now he's gone? was to show that Aristotle was right. People were just now understanding his brilliance and not brilliance is perfectly compatible with scripture, not that it now, did the philosophical argument, but the idea of the obvious contradiction between God creating the universe. And the universe existing eternally was organised a tremendously unimpressive guy named John US in the sixth century, his hour immense against Aristotle, were bad, but it should be said that a key and this was responding mostly to his criticisms, which were widely touted by the church of his day, what Thomas Aquinas says is that there is a huge flaw in the way of thinking that leads me to believe that the universe existing eternally and God creating it
are necessarily contradictions of each other, a great nineteenth and twentieth century NEO, Thomas Devout Follower of Thomas Aquinas sums it up very neatly in his book Providence YA. Saint Thomas holds that reason alone can never demonstrate that the world had a beginning and why Does this truth transcend the natural powers of our intellect, because that beginning depended on the free will of God. Had he so willed. He might have created the world ten thousand years or a hundred thousand years or millions of years before or at a time, even more remote without them been a first day for the world, but simply dependence of, the world on its creator, just as a footpath, in the sand is due to the foot that makes it so that had the foot always been there, the footprint would have had no beginning all
a revelation teaches us that the world did in fact have a beginning. It does not seem impossible, says Thomas for the world to have always existed in its dependence on God. The creator end quote. Thomas Aquinas says that God is the efficient cause of the universe, if we think of the universe, as a creation of God, comparable to the way that a foot would create a footprint in some sand. Then, if that foot was an eternal foot, if that foot had always existed, then there wouldn't be a time before that footprint existed God could have created the universe and away where there was not a beginning. That does not necessarily mean that humans and animals have existed from the very beginning of the universe. Again reader scripture literally causes people to get confused about what is possible. There is so much more to talk about with Thomas Accord but, like Aristotle and Plato, sometimes learning about it is easier when it's in relation to the person commenting on it years later, the thinkers were about to start
or the type of people where we're going to want to hear what they have to say in response now, it's time for the question of the week, Thomas Aquinas was an aristotelian Aristotle talked about how everything that exists has four causes that we can use to understand their existence. We've talked about these before material cause. What the thing is made out of the formal cause. The shape or appearance of something the efficient cause to oversimplify it. The thing which brought that thing into existence and the final cause the purpose or function of that thing well philosophies this. What is your final cause? What is the final cost? of a human being. Is there some general final cause that might encompass all the seemingly different final causes that people apply to their lives, or is it much much deeper than that? Thanks for listening I'll talk to you soon,.
Transcript generated on 2020-09-30.