• Gregory
    1.7k
    To start: https://www.laphamsquarterly.org/time/blessed-calm-nonexistence

    Aquinas believed that good and being are the same thing. Good and beautiful are the same too, for him. God merely is the most actual of all. He is infinite, says Aquinas. Evil is the absence of good, and God can't be privated of any good. Even something ugly merely lacks some form and proportion. God IS form and proportion (and justice and love). However, there are many times of infinities, as modern people have learned. Aquinas thought there was only one. A consequence of this may be that evil-nothingness (if nothingness is truly evil, as we will assume) may be MORE infinite than God. It could be even more powerful. If evil overpowers good, than evil is the form of good, making it ugly as the process evolves. So our lives, PERHAPS, may be guided by the necessity, or the randomness, of the evil, the ugly, the privation.

    What do you guys and girls think?
  • Devans99
    2.7k
    I have a simple definition of good and evil:

    - Good is right
    - Evil is wrong

    So Good is more optimal than evil (always better to do the right thing rather than the wrong thing).

    So good overpowers evil.

    I don't believe there are any infinities as I may have mentioned.
  • Virgo Avalytikh
    177
    For the sake of clarity, Aquinas does not believe that God (who is goodness itself) and being are coterminous - that would be panentheism or pantheism. To say, as Aquinas does, that God is ipsum esse subsistens (subsistent being itself), means that, in God, there is (uniquely) no distinction between essence and existence; i.e. between the divine nature and the act by which God exists. So, God must not be thought to be identical with all that is. Rather, God is pure being, in the sense that, in God, it is not one thing to be and another thing to be God. God's very nature is simply to be. This is why he is the I AM of Exodus 3:14.
  • Gregory
    1.7k


    You didn't provide an argument that good wins over evil
  • Gregory
    1.7k
    I was reading Spinoza's Ethics recently (and stopped once he started talking about ethics lol), and it seemed like he said we effect God with our thoughts, instead just of God effecting us. This got me starting on thinking about the power of nothing and evil, and I can't find a single reason why being and goodness should win over evil.
  • Virgo Avalytikh
    177


    Spinoza is certainly departing from Aquinas and the classical theological tradition in that respect.
  • Gregory
    1.7k


    I believe Aquinas was a sophist. He found a Mozartian mode of writing that fools you into think he has proven things and that he knows best. Neither Aquinas nor Mozart have the best products
  • Virgo Avalytikh
    177


    Whether or not that is the case, Aquinas is clear and systematic, at the very least. Whatever else he may be, he is not an obscurantist. When he is wrong, as he sometimes is, it is not at all difficult to isolate the misstep in his argument. If only more philosophers wrote in this style.

    If you want to read someone like Aquinas but with rather more subtlety, I would suggest Duns Scotus.
  • Devans99
    2.7k


    Net pleasure = total pleasure - total pain

    Good/right = net pleasure
    Evil/wrong = net pain
  • Gregory
    1.7k


    Your assertion is not at all obvious. Many say pleasure in life comes from doing wrong. Even if pleasure comes about by good, the evil in the world brings pain too. I see no argument so far that good wins over evil, or being's power wins over nothing (assuming nothingness is bad)
  • Wayfarer
    10.1k
    For the sake of clarity, Aquinas does not believe that God (who is goodness itself) and being are coterminous - that would be panentheism or pantheism.Virgo Avalytikh

    I believe that in pre-modern philosophy, there was an (often implicit) idea that individual beings and other denizens of the sensory domain belonged to a lower order than does God and the angelic intelligences. This understanding is depicted in the medieval notion of the 'great chain of Being' depicted in this medieval woodcut

    Steps.gif

    With the advent of modernity and the ascent of nominalism (and Duns Scotus' doctrine of the univocity of being which was fundamental to it), it was precisely this sense of the celestial hierarchy which was undermined; meaning that the 'being' of the 'divine being' was placed in the same ontological division as the being of individual particulars (whereas in Eiriugena it remained differentiated.)

    But the notion of an hierarchy of being is what provided for the distinction of 'necessary being' from 'everything that exists' thereby enabling scholastic philosophy to avoid pantheism; because it provided for the notion of different planes or realms of being (i.e. the angelic as distinct from the wordly). And with the erosion of that, for moderns, 'being' is univocal - something either exists or it doesn't; there are not different levels of being - neither religious metaphysics nor ontology is intelligible in this worldview.

    It is precisely this sense of higher truth which has been preserved in philosophical theology (although under constant attack from today's technocratic materialism.) It was even still visible in 17th century philosophy:

    In contrast to contemporary philosophers, most 17th century philosophers held that reality comes in degrees—that some things that exist are more or less real than other things that exist. At least part of what dictates a being’s reality, according to these philosophers, is the extent to which its existence is dependent on other things: the less dependent a thing is on other things for its existence, the more real it is [because, nearer the source of being]. Given that there are only substances and modes, and that modes depend on substances for their existence, it follows that substances are the most real constituents of reality.

    17th Century Philosophy Theories of Substance IEP.
  • Virgo Avalytikh
    177


    Yes, in classical Christian theism there is a fundamental, ontological distinction between God and creatures (including angelic beings), which maps onto the creator-creature distinction. Everything other than God is derived, dependent, conditioned, and so on. God himself is none of these things, hence subsistent being itself.

    One thing I am not sure about in your analysis is the idea that Scotus's doctrine of univocity is somehow a step away from the idea of a 'great chain of being'. As I understand it, the great chain of being, with God at the top, just is ontological univocism. Everything that exists belongs to a common ontological order, with God as the most pre-eminent instantiation. It is precisely the analogia entis, associated with Aquinas, which places God and creatures in an entirely different ontological order (uncreated and created, respectively). So, in both Scotus and Aquinas, both in univocism and an analogy of being, there is a hierarchy. It's just that, in the one case, it is a hierarchy within a common order of being, and in the other, it is a superiority of the divine order of being over the creaturely.

    You are absolutely right that it is precisely the notion of different orders of being which allows for the idea of a 'necessary being'; or in Aquinas's language, a being whose existence is nothing other than his essence. This is certainly something that is undermined once ontological univocism is embraced.

    As a side note, Richard Cross, possibly the smartest living analytic philosophical theologian who works with the medievals, believes that the whole 'univocity/analogy' split between Scotus and Aquinas is totally exaggerated and overblown in the literature. According to him, it really is not so fundamental an ontological chasm as it is often made out to be.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4XGI_TVSu6o

    It's somewhere in there.
  • Possibility
    1.5k
    Aquinas believed that good and being are the same thing. Good and beautiful are the same too, for him. God merely is the most actual of all. He is infinite, says Aquinas. Evil is the absence of good, and God can't be privated of any good. Even something ugly merely lacks some form and proportion. God IS form and proportion (and justice and love). However, there are many times of infinities, as modern people have learned. Aquinas thought there was only one. A consequence of this may be that evil-nothingness (if nothingness is truly evil, as we will assume) may be MORE infinite than God. It could be even more powerful. If evil overpowers good, than evil is the form of good, making it ugly as the process evolves. So our lives, PERHAPS, may be guided by the necessity, or the randomness, of the evil, the ugly, the privation.Gregory

    The confusion is that, for Aquinas, ‘God’ exists in actuality outside time, which is impossible. ‘God’ IS eternally, which is not the same as a dog or a rock IS. What this refers to is potentiality. ‘God’ IS infinite in potentiality, but NOT actuality - Aquinas argues that ‘God’ is purus actus, but this is an error of understanding that began with Aristotle: that pure potentiality is ‘nothing’ without form, necessitating an ‘uncaused cause’ as a ‘something’ in order to exist. The argument is based on an assumption that something cannot come from nothing, and that actuality is possible both in time AND eternally.

    ‘God’ is infinitely ‘good’ only in potentiality, and ‘being’ in the world is the progress of actualising that potential in time. ‘Evil’ is a demonstrated lack of awareness of that potential - the limitations in the world on perceiving this potential for ‘good’, which is necessary for actualising it. We manifest ‘God’ in the world by striving to increase awareness, connection and collaboration with the potential for ‘good’ in what is actual.

    Nothingness is not evil - what the concept refers to is the ignorance, isolation and exclusion of this potential for ‘good’. The evil, the ugly, the privation isn’t eternally necessary, but it is necessarily the actual limitation of ‘good’ in the world. In our lives, we must always start here, and then increase awareness of the potential for ‘good’ as we interact with the world.

    But even the perceivable potentiality of ‘God’ is limited, because potential energy/information in the universe is finite. The infinite nature of ‘God’ is not in time or even in potentiality, but in meaning: love or pure relation. The universe matters to the universe, regardless of any perceived potential for ‘good’ or ‘evil’. This is a more accurate understanding of ‘God’.
  • Wayfarer
    10.1k
    Aquinas argues that ‘God’ is purus actus, but this is an error of understanding that began with Aristotle: that pure potentiality is ‘nothing’ without form, necessitating an ‘uncaused cause’ as a ‘something’ in order to exist. The argument is based on an assumption that something cannot come from nothing, and that actuality is possible both in time AND eternally.Possibility

    I think you're mistaken here. The reason is, it is impossible to conceive of 'pure being' in empirical terms, so we have to try and fit it into our conceptual framework according to our understanding of what exists, what is real, and so on. The point we miss (and it's a pretty big one) is that the religious sense of 'knowing the true being' requires or implies something like an epiphany or transformative breakthrough into a different mode of being (called in Platonic philosophy metanoia, transformation of mind.)

    I think (tentatively) that time comes into existence with temporal (i.e. 'created') beings. In accordance with many of the perennial philosophical traditions (not only Aquinas) time itself is reliant on a perspective that only exists within the order of created being. Part of the transformation of the understanding that occurs through religious discipline is absorption into a mode of being that is not subject to time (which I understand as the meaning of 'eternal life' in mystical traditions East and West.)

    Nihilism is a consequence of the loss of this domain of possibility.

    One thing I am not sure about in your analysis is the idea that Scotus's doctrine of univocity is somehow a step away from the idea of a 'great chain of being'. As I understand it, the great chain of being, with God at the top, just is ontological univocism.Virgo Avalytikh

    Not an idea of my devising! It's associated with a school called 'radical orthodoxy', John Millbank and Catherine Pickstock. Have a glance at this review. I'm not saying that I agree with it, and have not read right into it (takes a lot of reading!) but it seems plausible.
  • Gregory
    1.7k
    Our views might always be limited, in the sense that the idea of an infinite God is limited by an even more infinite, hidden, meta-nothing. People are debating if in the new Star Wars good and evil are equal and cancel each other out
  • Gregory
    1.7k
    Evil isn't pure absence. It has deformity power. How do we know it doesn't have a meta-infinite power which can deform God? Needless to say, I've been reading about Buddhist logic again
  • Possibility
    1.5k
    Evil isn't pure absence. It has deformity power. How do we know it doesn't have a meta-infinite power which can deform God? Needless to say, I've been reading about Buddhist logic againGregory

    The ‘deformity power’ of ‘evil’ is a limitation of the observable actuality or the perceived potentiality of ‘God’, but not of the possibility of relating to ‘God’. It can certainly deform how we conceptualise ‘God’, but that’s only how we can think about ‘God’, not ‘God’ itself.
  • Gregory
    1.7k


    You seem to hold to Plotinus's idea of good, God, and evil. But you didn't provide proof that good is more powerful. Aquinas took it as an axiom. Did Schopenhauer explicitly say evil ruled this world? I've gotten more joy in life out of evil than good (except for a few years of "good behavior" in my early teens, which grew stale). Being good simply doesn't seem to make you feel better. John Stuart Mill said that he would rather be moral and unhappy than immoral and happy. It's an interesting question.
  • Possibility
    1.5k
    Aquinas argues that ‘God’ is purus actus, but this is an error of understanding that began with Aristotle: that pure potentiality is ‘nothing’ without form, necessitating an ‘uncaused cause’ as a ‘something’ in order to exist. The argument is based on an assumption that something cannot come from nothing, and that actuality is possible both in time AND eternally.
    — Possibility

    I think you're mistaken here. The reason is, it is impossible to conceive of 'pure being' in empirical terms, so we have to try and fit it into our conceptual framework according to our understanding of what exists, what is real, and so on. The point we miss (and it's a pretty big one) is that the religious sense of 'knowing the true being' requires or implies something like an epiphany or transformative breakthrough into a different mode of being (called in Platonic philosophy metanoia, transformation of mind.)

    I think (tentatively) that time comes into existence with temporal (i.e. 'created') beings. In accordance with many of the perennial philosophical traditions (not only Aquinas) time itself is reliant on a perspective that only exists within the order of created being. Part of the transformation of the understanding that occurs through religious discipline is absorption into a mode of being that is not subject to time (which I understand as the meaning of 'eternal life' in mystical traditions East and West.)

    Nihilism is a consequence of the loss of this domain of possibility.
    Wayfarer

    I follow you here, but it’s the stated claim that ‘God is merely the most actual of all’ which I’m disputing here. It’s a common false claim derived from the reasoning of both Aquinas and Aristotle (whether or not that’s what they originally meant). The confusion this creates is the misunderstanding that ‘God’ is ONLY what is actual, or only what is actually ‘good’.

    I recognise that this religious concept of God as ‘pure being’ separates temporal (‘created’) and atemporal (‘creative’) modes, and that human capacity incorporates BOTH/AND through increased awareness, connection and collaboration. This atemporal mode of being is not exclusive to religious/mystical transformation, though. Recognising that human experience interacts with an understanding of five-dimensional reality that is not subject to time may be sufficient to ‘breakthrough’ into this different mode of ‘being’.

    FWIW, I understand ‘God’ not simply as a mode of ‘being’ outside time, but as pure relation not subject to value: as love. And Nihilism, for me, was a clarification process that enabled me to rebuild an understanding of ‘God’ beyond the limitations of religious moral values.
  • MathematicalPhysicist
    45
    What is "right" and what is "wrong" in life?
    And who decides it?
  • Gregory
    1.7k
    That's a dilemma, mathematicalphysicist. Sometimes it seems to take courage to do "evil" while it's pleasant and "selfish" to do the "good". I'm thinking of Ockham now
  • Possibility
    1.5k
    You seem to hold to Plotinus's idea of good, God, and evil. But you didn't provide proof that good is more powerful. Aquinas took it as an axiom. Did Schopenhauer explicitly say evil ruled this world? I've gotten more joy in life out of evil than good (except for a few years of "good behavior" in my early teens, which grew stale). Being good simply doesn't seem to make you feel better. John Stuart Mill said that he would rather be moral and unhappy than immoral and happy. It's an interesting question.Gregory

    The way I see it, ‘good’ and ‘evil’ are subjective evaluations that we assume to be universal. So I’m not trying to argue or prove that ‘good’ is more powerful (I don’t think it is), but that you’re focusing on a limited perspective of reality.

    What you seem to be recognising here is that a positive interoception - what I experience as ‘good’ for my ‘self’ - doesn’t correspond to what I believe to be ‘good’ for society, or humanity, or the world. There is a relativity to what is deemed ‘good’ or ‘evil’, and so the way we understand ‘God’ as infinitely ‘good’ is suddenly on shaky ground.

    That’s okay. There doesn’t have to be a universal morality that we either comply with or rebel against. Understanding BOTH ‘good’ and ‘evil’ as limitations, and that there is more to ‘God’ and to life than the morality and/or happiness of the individual, can be liberating. Continue to question the assumptions that limit our ability to interact with the world as it is. Don’t assume that you’re compelled to choose between ‘good’ and ‘evil’, but rather ask why we assume this duality exists in the first place. Aspire to what Schopenhauer describes as ‘genius’:

    genius is the power of leaving one's own interests, wishes, and aims entirely out of sight, thus of entirely renouncing one's own personality for a time, so as to remain pure knowing subject, clear vision of the world; and this not merely at moments, but for a sufficient length of time, and with sufficient consciousness, to enable one to reproduce by deliberate art what has thus been apprehended, and “to fix in lasting thoughts the wavering images that float before the mind.” It is as if, when genius appears in an individual, a far larger measure of the power of knowledge falls to his lot than is necessary for the service of an individual will; and this superfluity of knowledge, being free, now becomes subject purified from will, a clear mirror of the inner nature of the world. — Arthur Schopenhauer, ‘The World as Will and Idea’

    This is not as unique as he makes out, nor as necessarily pure, but is within our capacity as humans. The ‘art’ part of it is simply a specific practical knowledge of the potential in a medium of expression. But a ‘clear vision of the world’ may be achievable without ‘artistic’ skills of any kind - it’s simply being open to relating to the world, life or even ‘God’ in a way that is both/neither ‘good’ and/nor ‘evil’ on any level, but rather transcends the dichotomy altogether. You might just find that both Schopenhauer and Mill were limiting themselves in this respect.
  • Devans99
    2.7k
    Your assertion is not at all obvious. Many say pleasure in life comes from doing wrong. Even if pleasure comes about by good, the evil in the world brings pain too. I see no argument so far that good wins over evil, or being's power wins over nothing (assuming nothingness is bad)Gregory

    What is "right" and what is "wrong" in life?
    And who decides it?
    MathematicalPhysicist

    It is misleading, decisions that are right (=maximise net pleasure) in the long term can be painful in the short term (eg think exercise, learning to drive).

    And decisions that are wrong (=minimise net pleasure) in the long term can be pleasurable in the short term (eg think eating sweets, laziness).

    In general, making wrong decisions weakens a person whereas making right decisions strengthens their position, so good wins out over evil.
  • Gregory
    1.7k
    Maybe so many people do evil that their dark force takes God and His and puts them in hell, with the evil victorious. I don't see Aquinas countering this with logic
  • Gregory
    1.7k
    In the Catholic Church there is much debate about morality right now. Before it was said that someone can do something objectively wrong while not being fully culpable subjectively. Now some are saying that acts which the Church considers evil (like lesbianism) can sometimes be subjectively virtuous, although always objectively evil. Old Ockham said that God could have commanded us to hate instead of love, and that hate would then be good. Many progressives in the Catholic Church say this truly happens in our reality. This debate affects us all
  • EnPassant
    432
    Good is life an being. Evil is the loss of being. It tends towards nothingness. Evil is not absolute, it must have some being in it if it is to have any potency; therefore God allows evil. Absolute evil is nothingness. Evil depends on being and therefore on good. It is inferior.
  • Gregory
    1.7k


    Evil is not mere absence, but absence as it distorts the good, says Aquinas. So why couldn't evil totally deform the good?
  • Gregory
    1.7k
    Let me put it this way: Aquinas says all sin is infinite. So maybe all the sins of the devils and humans create a meta-infinity that cancels the initial infinity of God
  • 3017amen
    2.6k
    The confusion is that, for Aquinas, ‘God’ exists in actuality outside time, which is impossible. ‘God’ IS eternally, which is not the same as a dog or a rock IS. What this refers to is potentiality. ‘God’ IS infinite in potentiality, but NOT actuality - Aquinas argues that ‘God’ is purus actus, but this is an error of understanding that began with Aristotle: that pure potentiality is ‘nothing’ without form, necessitating an ‘uncaused cause’ as a ‘something’ in order to exist. The argument is based on an assumption that something cannot come from nothing, and that actuality is possible both in time AND eternally.Possibility

    Great analysis P!

    My thought there would be that, isn't the concept of God-being outside of time-and thus logically impossible, consistent with other logically impossible phenomena associated with consciousness itself? Like various existential phenomenon including; contradiction, unresolved paradox/self reference, resurrection, love, metaphysical will, and so forth(?)

    Or asked in another way: is creation ex nihilo logically impossible? And if so, is that consistent with conscious existence and timelessness(?).

    Or in the alternative, would potentiality/eternity suggest theories of incompleteness that we hold to be true (Gödel), make the signposts for God's potentiality more likely, like time itself? (Meaning the unresolved paradox of past, present and future/being and becoming... .)

    In other words (using logic), embracing the logically impossible is desired, otherwise we would already have a theory of everything and therefore there would be no need to invoke God in the first place.
  • Possibility
    1.5k
    My thought there would be that, isn't the concept of God-being outside of time-and thus logically impossible, consistent with other logically impossible phenomena associated with consciousness itself? Like various existential phenomenon including; contradiction, unresolved paradox/self reference, resurrection, love, metaphysical will, and so forth(?)

    Or asked in another way: is creation ex nihilo logically impossible? And if so, is that consistent with conscious existence and timelessness(?).
    3017amen

    Actuality is, by definition, temporal existence. There is nothing actual outside of time. Everything that we think of as existing outside of time - that is, eternal - we relate to as either valuable, potential or possible, but never actual. Whatever actuality it refers to is either a relation of value or potential, or it’s a relation of imagination or meaning to what has value or potential.

    I don’t use the term ‘logically impossible’ because I don’t think it makes sense. Something can be illogical and still possible (like love), but not both logical and impossible without exposing some level of ignorance. The way I see it, there are two dimensional levels of awareness and existence outside of time that tend to get confused A LOT. And it’s understandable, because we need to be at least vaguely aware of existing outside of potentiality to be able to distinguish it from possibility. Most people tend to experience ‘phenomenon’ as whatever exists outside of a knowledge structure we call ‘logic’, but it’s more complex than that. And ALL the phenomenon you mention I believe are consistent with a fifth and sixth dimension to reality.

    In other words (using logic), embracing the logically impossible is desired, otherwise we would already have a theory of everything and therefore there would be no need to invoke God in the first place.3017amen

    Logic relates to reality from a position outside of time. By quantifying or attributing logical value to all information, we can structure our experiences in a way that enables us to better understand reality and make predictions about future interactions. But logic rests on the assumption that all of reality can be structured four-dimensionally. The biggest problem with this is that WE can’t - not entirely. Our capacity to employ logic, language, mathematics, science and creativity demonstrates that our mind, at least, relates to reality from outside of time, suggesting that our mind must exist, to some extent, outside of time. What that points to is that the universe we experience is at least five-dimensional.

    But we have long demonstrated this with desire, anger, fear, hatred and other ‘emotions’ that are unique to humanity, suggesting hierarchies of value we attribute to internal experiences, memories, events, etc, regardless of when they occur. So there is not only a dimensional awareness beyond time, but this awareness is relative to our unique set of experiences across and even beyond our own temporal existence, and it can’t always be structured logically, let alone four-dimensionally.

    Just as we have found that ‘time’ is not a single variable but consists of a number of interrelated variables relative to the position of an observer as an interrelating event (Carlo Rovelli’s ‘The Order of Time’ gives a useful explanation of this), so, too, ‘value’ is not just a single value structure of ‘logic’, but several interrelated value structures relative to the accumulated events of an experiencing subject. Understanding how these value structures relate to each other requires us to embrace the illogical.

    I think a comprehensive theory of everything would necessarily include a fifth and sixth dimension, such that invoking ‘God’ as a concept would be unnecessary, but understandable - in the same way that talking about ‘time’ as a single concept is unnecessary but understandable.
  • Gregory
    1.7k


    It sounds like you're Spinozian, with a twist from Plotinus. Plotinus thought the ultimate reality was potentiality. Aquinas said actuality was prior to potentiality because otherwise potentiality could not get started. I think this is wrong, and it is part of the flaw in the botched arguments of deists like Devans99 in trying to prove there is a transcendent God. Potentiality being prior to actuality is in a lot of philosophies and theologies. Just think of the traditional idea of Heaven in China! The world flows from potentiality. There doesn't have to be an eternal being of Act. Potentiality doesn't have to "choose" in order for something to come from it
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