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A very brief introduction to the love affair of the mind with reality
By Carlomax47

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It seems appropriate to start this essay by distinguishing the difference between thinking and imagining. Thinking and imagining are not the same thing, though they mutually cooperate in the process of reasoning. Imagining is an aspect that man has in common with animals; but thinking is an essential aspect of man. Imagining is a process that recalls images of the reality a man has experienced in his life. Images are representations of objects which contain all the elements of those objects, a pear with its green color, with its particular shape and weight, with that characteristic taste, etc. We may say that an image is a photographic picture of an object which is stored in that part of man called imagination. Thinking is a process in which ideas are involved. An idea is a product of abstraction that contains only one aspect of the reality, i.e. its essence. In other words the idea of a pear does not contain its color, weight, shape, etc. but only what makes a pear be a pear and not something else, i.e. its pearity. Ideas and thinking belong to the intellect. You may easily conclude that the object of the intellect is not things in their individuality and specificity but their essences. Abstraction means exactly this: the removal, carried out by the intellect, of the individual properties of a material reality with the exclusion of one: that by which something is what it is, and which makes that thing intelligible.

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A typical abstraction is mathematics. Mathematics originates from abstracting the accident quantity from the material reality. Metaphysics is highest level of abstraction in which the actual esse is abstracted, that which makes things exist in reality leaving aside anything else. Both images and ideas do not have esse i.e. that which makes them be in reality and not in the imagination or in the intellect of man. An idea has a very interesting property: it can be applied not only to this, or that pear, but to any pear. In other words it has universality precisely because it lacks individual determinations. An image has also an interesting characteristic: since it does not have esse, it can be reshuffled, dismembered, recombined, such as the cut and paste of computer images. In this way we can produce images such as flying elephants and walking whales and blood-sucking monsters: these do not exist in reality but they can exist in our imagination. While images and imagination do have an organic support - i.e. they depend on specific parts of the brain - ideas are not supported by specific parts of the brain, but by the intellect which is spiritual. That is why a mad man can still think in a logical way but his imagination and his perception of the reality are terribly altered owing to organic alterations of parts of his brain. Most people make a very little use of thinking and a large use of their imagination. Many times the process of thinking is hampered by excessive TV watching, advertisements, billboards, icons, etc. A balance needs to be struck since imagination can take over at the expense of thinking. This is very important in Religion when one tries to imagine spiritual realities that cannot be imagined since we do not have physical experience of them: God as an old man with a long beard, an angel with wings, a devil with goat hooves, etc. An extreme use of the imagination in Religion can be very harmful to faith. Faith that needs the support of the intellect in the science of Theology, and thinking about

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God in general, has to be purified from all those images that may hamper our progress in the knowledge of God. 17. 18. 19. The distinction between thinking and imagining is carried out by philosophy. The considerations made so far come from that branch of philosophy which we may call rational Psychology One of the tasks of philosophy consists in distinguishing the various levels of reality so that they can be approached and studied with their proper tools and methods. Are there various levels in the reality that surrounds us? What do we mean by levels of reality? There is certainly a physical level, and a chemical one and a biological one. Anything else? Physics, Chemistry and Biology need to be studied with their proper tools. These three levels can be reduced to a superior one: the material. There is then a material level of reality. What is matter? This is another pretty philosophical question. We assume all the time that we are surrounded by material entities, but we seldom ask ourselves what matter is or what it means to be material. Yet, this is a very legitimate philosophical question. Another important task of philosophy is to enquire about the natures of things: what is this? What is that? Mind you, these questions are quite different from how does this work? or what is this made of? These questions are better answered by the so called experimental sciences. Is there any other level of reality besides the material one? To answer this question we should first ask ourselves: what are the immediate properties of material things? They can be touched, seen, smelled, heard, and tasted. So, to be material is to be able to be perceived by senses. Therefore, can there be a level of the reality, which is not perceivable by the senses? Obviously this would imply the presence in man of some faculty that is able to perceive this other type of reality. Let us assume, for the time being, that it may be possible for some type of reality other than the material one to exist, and let us call it nonmaterial (or immaterial). Obviously the power in man that would be able 3

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to perceive this type of reality should also be immaterial. If we can show that non-material realities exist, and that man can perceive them, then it should not be difficult to accept the fact that God and Angels may exist as a possibility, and also to accept the fact that their non-materiality is of a superior level called spirit, i.e. although spiritual realities are immaterial, not all immaterial realities are spiritual. 24. Is there any immaterial reality in the material one? What we ask here is for the possibility of the existence of some immaterial reality closely linked with the material one. Let us go back to some aspects of the material reality: we have said that they can be perceived by the senses. However, material realities, observed closely, present another very interesting aspect: they change; they are not always the same. Trees and animals grow, they become older; they die. Chemicals decay and recombine, etc. In some of these changes though there is a nucleus that does not change: John at 2 is different from John at 20 and from John at 60, and it would be nonsensical to maintain the opposite. However it is also true to say that John has changed, yet John is the same. So he is and he is not at the same time, but (please note this) not in the same way. A leaf changes color but it is the same leaf. The principle of non-contraction is a very demanding one not only in logic but also in reality: something cannot not be and be at the same time and in the same way. If it is not in the same way, so what is the other way? In the types of changes we have just considered we need to distinguish two aspects in the same reality: elements that change (which we call accidents) and an element that does not change (which we call substance). The elements that change are the ones perceived by the senses, while the substance is not perceived by the senses but by the intellect. If the substance is not perceived by the senses is non material, and the intellect that perceives it is also non material. Is the distinction between substance and accidents real? It is, since we extract it from what happens in reality.





We are therefore in the presence of two realities material and immaterial (accidental and substantial) closely linked in the constitution of the material entities. What actually exists is the corporeal entity in its accidental and substantial aspects. It is the corporeal entity that changes accidentally remaining what it is substantially. Please note that in this analysis we have assumed the entities undergoing change to be material; we have not touched on the nature of matter! There are other types of transformation in which some entities disappear to give place to different entities: we call these changes substantial. Take water for example: in certain conditions water disappears to become hydrogen and oxygen two gases which no one would suspect to be forming water, a liquid. Clearly, in this case a substance (water) has disappeared and two new substances have appeared (hydrogen and oxygen). This change would not have been possible unless something common to water, hydrogen and oxygen remained during the change. This point is a little bit difficult to grasp: if there was no common element remaining during this change, then the sudden disappearance of water and appearance of hydrogen and oxygen would be cases of annihilation and creation. We call that which is in common and remains during a substantial transformation matter, while we call forms the realities that appear and disappear at the same time during the transformation. We can therefore give an approximate definition of matter as the subject of substantial transformation. Mind you, it is not a real definition but rather a description. Neither form nor matter are real entities, but the combination of the two gives rise to entities that really exist. Do we perceive forms with our senses? No. We perceive them intellectually. Do we perceive matter with our senses? Yes and no: yes because matter creates the condition for material things to be perceived by the senses; no because matter as 5








matter is perceived by the intellect, though with a very low degree of intelligibility since, as such, is pure receptive capacity, i.e., it cannot be known unless in-formed as a specific way of being. 36. Matter described in this way is referred to as first matter or protomatter. Once this matter is in-formed, i.e. it has a specific form and therefore a specific way of being, it is then referred to as second matter. It is only as second matter that matter becomes fully intelligible. Leaving aside the issue of matter, we can say that also forms are immaterial, and the intellect which perceives them is also immaterial. If there are levels of immateriality in the constitution of material entities, we should not exclude a priori the possibility of the existence of immaterial entities capable of existing independently from matter.If there be such entities, what could their characteristics be? They should be able to perform activities that do not depend strictly on matter such as thinking and loving, in other words they should be intellectual since we have previously seen how intellectual knowledge in man perceives immaterial realities. Because of the absence of matter, - source of corruption and generation they should have a more intense cohesion in being, i.e. incorruptible and immortal. We call immaterial realities of this type spiritual. Do they exist? We know by reason that the human soul is spiritual; we can also know, with Aquinas doctrine of act of being, that the human soul is incorruptible and immortal and capable of existence separated from the body. By Faith we know of other spiritual realities such as Angels and Demons and, of course, by Faith and reason we know of the existence of a God who is pure being, i.e. he whose essence is to be. The human soul deserves a particular consideration. The human soul is the form of a composite we call human being. Soul and body constitute a human substance.

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It seems that forms in general and the human soul in particular (as the form of the human body) do not have in themselves anything that points to corruption and therefore they are immortal. Immortality though is not the same as capacity of subsisting (or existing by itself). Here is the difference between the soul of man and the forms of animals, and in general of living beings). The forms of animals are totally dependent on matter and therefore incapable of subsisting. It is true that the act of being is proper to the form; however, in corporeal realities, except man, the act of being pertains properly to the composite (matter+form), so that its corruption leads to the reversal of the form to the potentiality of matter. In man, owing to the spiritual operation of knowledge, the act of being pertains properly to the soul as the subject of those spiritual operations which, by their nature are free from the limitations of matter. Hence at death, the soul is capable of subsisting independently from the body. Therefore we may conclude that the human soul, being the form of the body, is immortal, and having the act of being as its own is capable of subsisting independently from the body. The considerations made so far belong to that branch of philosophy which we may call Philosophy of Nature. The science of Metaphysics studies the particular characteristics of the immaterial realities at various levels the highest of which is the study of being as being. It is because of this that we may call philosophy of nature the Metaphysics of the corporeal being. Of anything that exists in reality it can be said that it is and that it is something specific, which makes it different from other things. We say that something is, as opposed to its possibility of not being. Things do not exist necessarily. Nature is contingent in its being. This means that natural things do not have in themselves the capacity of putting themselves in existence: a cat exists not because it is a cat. For anything to come into being, a cause different from the thing itself is required: we call it efficient cause. A ball will start moving if kicked by someone, a living organism will come about from its parents, etc. 7




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An efficient cause can only produce effects that do not exceed its powers. Conversely, effects require adequate causes in order to be produced (not any cause can produce any effect). In the order of created realities (predicamental) an efficient cause can only change the way of being of another entity which already is (either accidentally or substantially); it cannot produce the being of other entities because this would be an effect disproportionate to is capacity since it cannot even account for its own being. Only a being which is being by essence (God) can cause the being of anything that exists (what we call creation) (See Below Aquinas). Besides the efficient causality, matter and form can also be considered as types of causes. We have already seen matter and form as co-principles of the corporeal entities. Matter is what causes an entity to be corporeal, form is what makes an entity to be what it is in a specific way. But there is a fourth type of cause, the final one which we will find very important in Ethics. Everything acts in view of a purposes, whether this is known by the agent itself (case of spirits) or not (case of non-rational creatures, whether animate or inanimate). Whereas material, formal and efficient causes work in the present, the final cause works from the future: the target which is the aim of the arrow, the good which is the aim of all beings. TO BE (to exist in reality) means to have ESSE (the act of being) which is received by any existing reality by the one who is ESSE by essence (God). Important to note: in English the word being has two meanings: being, as a noun, is the same as entity (ens in Latin), i.e. anything which is in existence; being, as a verbal, form indicates the actual act of existing. The infinitive of the verb TO BE is expressed in Latin as ESSE. Therefore ESSE is that by which a being exists, i.e. the condition for anything to exist; ens (being in English) is that which has the conditions for existing, i.e. it has a specific way of being what it is (ESSENCE), and it has ESSE. To exist therefore is not exactly the 8


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same as to be, because for anything to exist it needs to have ESSE, i.e. it has to be. Only in God to be and to exist coincide, because the way of being of God (i.e. his essence) is to be (esse). 62. Is this ESSE a univocal concept? I.e. is it said in the same way of all beings that exist? Certainly it is said of everything that exists because this is what makes them exist. But not in the same way, since to be a dog is different from being a man, or a tree, or God. In this sense ESSE is an analogical concept, i.e. it is said of everything that exists but not in the same way, yet having a common meaning. One of the important functions of philosophy is to put order among the concepts that we have obtained from reality, and analogy and univocity are an example. Metaphysics studies also the properties of being in so far as is being: they are the so-called Transcendentals because they are beyond the 10 predicamentals (or supreme categories) of the reality. They are moreover interchangeable with the concept of being. These are: TRUTH which is being insofar as it is the object of the intellect; GOOD which is being insofar as it is the object of desire; ONE which is being insofar as it is considered in its internal unity; and BEAUTY which is being as object of contemplation stemming from the order of its parts. At the beginning of rational thinking about reality in the Greece of 6th or 5th century B.C. one topic occupies the minds of the philosophers: to establish a unifying principle through which the diversity of reality could be explained: this expresses the characteristic of the human mind that constantly seeks order as a condition for the intelligibility of reality. Thales placed this principle in the water, Anaximander in the undetermined and unbound, Anaximenes in the wind, Pythagoras in the number, Heraclitus in movement, Parmenides in being (esse univocally considered). Parmenides says that there is only one way of being: To Be, while the various ways of being are just appearance. How did Parmenides get there? Simple: all things have being in common; then, what would make them different? Something different from being. However, the only thing different from being is non-being: hence there are no differences because any difference would be non9

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being (that is, it would not exist). Where is the snag in this fuzzy way of reasoning? The fact of considering TO BE (esse) like a genus or a predicament, or a supreme category. However TO BE is above any supreme genus: it is the transcendent condition for any being to exist in reality. 68. The case for a principle is its simplicity: however the early Greek philosophers perhaps with the exception of Anaximander - focused on what was in itself not simple but complex even from the physical point of view. The incapacity of establishing strong foundations for a comprehension of reality led to the rising of the Sophists characterized by skepticism not only about truth but also about morality. Against the Skeptics rises powerful the figure of Socrates. His contribution to philosophy is fundamental: the Logos or the intelligible. Socrates wipes the mind clean from its ghosts represented by superstition, false gods (in those days the stars and planets) and the like. He insists on focusing on what we have around in a way that we can know what something is, and in doing so we define it. And so the definition becomes a verbal expression of the idea of that thing (that which makes that thing intelligible: its essence). Socrates is accused of atheism, and of corrupting the youth of Athens. He is condemned to death. Socrates never wrote anything. His disciples Plato and Xenophon popularized his teachings. Plato changes the points of reference of the previous philosophers in a dramatic way. He elaborates on the idea of Socrates and comes up with an original kind of doctrine. If the material reality is in a constant state of flow (Heraclitus) one cannot say much about things, what they are, what their nature is, blah, blah, blah. On the other hand, the ideas that one has are immutable, do not change, they are permanent. So those ideas are the reality in reality. But, where are those ideas? Are they in my mind? Unlikely since even I am not the real one, but the idea of me is real. The only possibility was to place the ideas in a world apart, separated from the material world, which Plato called hyperuranium where ideas have a reality on their own. This doctrine is the basis of Platos doctrine on participation. A wicked demi-god, the 10




demiurge, chained the ideas to the material reality, so that material things now participate in an imperfect way in the world of ideas. Even man was at one stage in the world of ideas where he contemplated all the ideas present there. This doctrine founds Platos doctrine on knowledge. Every time a man knows something new he actually remembers what he has already seen in the previous world of ideas. All very simple but also damaging the reality we see and touch by denying it on the ground of change and motion and constant flow. Also, if an idea is the mental expression of what something is (essence, form), things may have as many essences as ideas (the idea that man is a man, but also an animal, and also a living being, etc.). In doing so, Plato also takes away the essence of things from the things themselves. Centuries later St. Augustine, deeply inspired by Plato, placed the platonic ideas in the mind of God, and Aquinas used his theory of participation in order to explain the existence of the whole reality as a created reality. 72. Aristotle is the most realist of all. In we experience motion and change, why deny the reality of things? Even motion and change are realities (they are ways of being) and they need to be explained. Moreover, why should we claim the existence of a world of ideas separated from the material realities? Ideas are universal mental expressions of forms that are individualized in corporeal things. The genius of Aristotle now comes in. He introduces the fundamental distinction that there is between act and potency. This doctrine is going to affect the whole of Aristotles teaching and needs to be understood very well. What is potency? A real capacity of acquiring a perfection that something or someone does not have, and which something or someone has the capacity to receive. What is act? The perfection acquired or to be acquired. Example: A man has a real capacity to become an engineer, if he studies for it. To be an engineer is a perfection of man. As long as a man does not study for it he is said to be in potency respect to being an engineer. Once he has studied and passed his exams he becomes an engineer in act. The process that leads from not being to being an engineer is a movement, or a change. What is, then, movement, or change in general? The passage from potency to act. How can, then, movement or change be 11

explained in the world we know? Things move or change because in doing so they tend to the acquisition of perfections they can have but they still do not possess. According to Aristotle then the way of being of things is not one in an absolutely rigid way (as Parmenides taught) but there are many ways of being including a way of being in act, another of being in potency, and another of being in act and potency at the same time and not in the same way (i.e. a way of being in movement). 73. For Aristotle, as well as for the ancient philosophers, the world of sense experience, the material world, had always existed; in other words, the problem of a beginning was not posed. Things exist and they do so necessarily. Pay attention to what this means: if things exist necessarily this means that a cat exists because it is a cat..?!?!? In other words, the fact of being what it is (its essence, its nature) justifies satisfactorily why the cat exists. The essence of a cat is the cause of its own existence. Creation in this perspective is not an option: the God of Aristotle is not a Creator, but the first unmoved mover, that keeps other things moving as the first efficient causality. However, a deeper analysis may prompt to ask ourselves whether other beings, besides the ones already existing, could exist. And if they could, why do they not exist, since they have the cause of existence in themselves? The only possible answer is that they are not necessary beings, they are contingent. But then what makes me say that the existing things are necessary? Nothing; it is an assumption. Therefore we can also assume that the existing beings are contingent (they may or may not exist). If the world was made only of contingent beings, nothing would then exist since nothing can give being to itself. But since things exist; therefore there must be a necessary being that is able to cause the being of other beings, i.e. to make other things participate of its being and make them existent. We call this being necessary being, whose essence is to be, God. This reasoning, used by St Thomas (13th Century), not only demonstrates the existence of God but also of God as a creator and the necessity of an act of creation for things to exist. The only necessary being is God, and this is why only God can create because only God can transmit being (esse) to things and draw them to existence out of nothing. 12



Going back to the cat: if a cat is not the cause of its existence, then its existence has being received by God. There is then a real difference between its being what it is (essence) and its being (esse). It is a composition that Aristotle had missed for the reasons explained before. It is not sufficient for anything to be what it is in order to exist. It is necessary for it to have esse or the act of being, which only God can give as a participation of His own being. The deep philosophical speculations of the ancient Greek philosophers flows into the so called Scholastic Philosophy of the Middle Ages where Aquinas shines as a star. The Scholastic Philosophy represents a progress respect to Ancient Philosophy by introducing ideas such as Creation ex nihilo and God as Ipsum Esse Subsistens. These ideas, though extracted from the Holy Scripture, contain deep philosophical implications and characterize Medieval Philosophy as true Christian Philosophy (See E. Gilson). There is continuity and development between ancient thinkers and medieval thinkers. However, in the later stages of Scholastic Philosophy someone starts changing the goal posts of the past. Following a deep skepticism about the real role that philosophy had played, there comes about the feeling that human intellect is not really able to grasp the truth of things. The continuity with the past is being progressively lost and the desire to start philosophizing from scratch and from a different vantage point is born. From then on the world witnesses the birth of system philosophies, where ideologies (-isms) rather than ideas take the stage. In the 15th Century William of Occam takes a different turn. He asks himself what words represent after all. They are flatus vocis (empty air) since they do not make reference to any reality. When I say dogwhat am I actually referring to? Not any dog in particular but to an abstraction that does not have any correspondence in reality. In other words: the idea of dog makes reference to nothing in existence. In doing so Occam is actually asking what the nature of universals is. Ideas are realities that exist in our mind as universals. Do they correspond to anything in reality? The answer of Occam is no, and therefore even words that 13







express them are empty air. Now, this is a critical stand because if words are empty air all our way of knowing collapses: we cannot know anything. Since the right answer to the issue of universals depends on asking the right question about them it is clear that an endless discussion about it will not produce fruits. The way in which Occam presented the question had already an implicit negative answer. It is true that ideas exist as universals in our mind, but in reality they exist individualized as the forms of the things known. In other words, universals in our mind do not have an act of being on their own, but they have the act of being of the individual things that exist in reality. 82. The late Scholastic discussions on the universals contributed to casting a deep shadow on philosophy and increased a dissatisfaction that led eventually to the appearance of Descartes and the principle of immanence which polluted the whole history of Western Philosophy up to our own days. Before talking about Descartes we should remember an important fact: Descartes was a brilliant mathematician: his love for mathematics is reflected in the philosophy he established. Incidentally even Plato had a special propensity for geometry (see the Platonic solids). This common interest is explained by a simple fact: mathematical entities are perfect in themselves: they are complete and have intrinsic cohesion which is logical and understandable. The conclusions of mathematical propositions are not verified in reality: they are intrinsically evident. It is not surprising therefore that mathematics can become a point of reference for all those who are disillusioned with the material world where many times it is difficult to know what is going on, a reality in a constant state of flux where one can make so many mistakes of assessment, and where there is little or no room for certainty. Descartes tried to know the world after the mathematical fashion and mathematics became the only method to approach reality with clear and distinct ideas, where there is no possibility of error and where one can find complete certitude. The philosophy of Descartes becomes Mathematic-ism. Ideas with the mathematical clarity of Descartes are applied to reality, which is then interpreted with absolute certainty. Unfortunately ideas with mathematical clarity can only reside in the 14



mind. In the philosophy of Descartes these ideas, though, are imposed on the reality, forcing the reality to be what we think they are. 85. The inversion effectuated by Descartes philosophy is clear: in all previous philosophical doctrines the reality molds the mind and truth is the adequation between the mind and things; with Descartes it is the mind that molds reality, it is thought that posits being, it is the mind that decides what is real and what is not real, what is true and what is not true. This is what we call principle of immanence. Reality then is whatever one thinks of it. There is no doubt that many among us are immanentists and relativists, whenever they force reality to be what they want it to be. At the beginning of his philosophizing, Descartes rejects everything said previously and starts afresh with his sentence cogito ergo sum which is the summary of the principle of immanence: I think and therefore I am, not being as the foundation of thinking but the other way around. Starting from the cogito, Descartes assumed that he would be able to establish a demonstration of the reality outside his mind. The fact is that reality cannot be demonstrated because it is evident. Reality is the starting point: either one assumes that there is a reality outside his mind and in this case it needs not be demonstrated or he assumes that it may not exist and in this case it needs to be demonstrated. It is what the Spanish philosopher Carlos Cardona calls The Metaphysics of the Foundamental Option. However, as Etienne Gilson has demonstrated, any philosophy that tries to bridge the reality starting from the cogito is doomed to fail The principle of immanence should not be considered as an extravagant philosophical stand; it has been the cause of much suffering and human misery with two ideologies in power (Nazism and Communism) which practiced a kind of social engineering over millions of people with devastating effects. What someone said some time ago is still true: whoever tries to build a paradise on earth ends up by creating a hell worse than the real one. 15




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Ideologies are the natural offspring of the principle of immanence. Ideologies tend to reduce the whole reality to one of its aspects, making it the whole reality (matter in the case of Communism; race in the case of Nazism). Ideologies stem from a mind which has refused to comply with the whole reality choosing voluntarily one of its aspects and, when in power, imposing it to the rest of reality. It is in this way that the philosophy of Nietzsche (the idea of super-man) fed the Nazi ideology of the super race, and the philosophy of Marx (there is nothing but matter) fed the Communist ideology of materialism. Descartes opened a Pandora box from which all the evils flew away. A mind uncontrolled by the reality becomes the controller of reality, its measurer. And since human mind is part and parcel of that reality, it has suffered a blow whose effects are easily perceived in very sensitive areas of our life. The right reason is vanished in the issue of abortion, of the family, of sexuality and of life. The culture of death of our society has deep roots in that principle of immanence which started as a philosophical play-game. Descartes began a process that naturally shifted further the goal posts of philosophical thinking. An extra-mental reality whose existence was taken for granted by the classic and medieval philosopher becomes problematic with Descartes: its existence has to be demonstrated. In this step the mind is not happy with knowing reality: it wants to be sure that what it knows is really there. Since this demonstration is not possible, there are only two solutions in order to justify what we perceive: it is either God who in a number of ways creates the conditions of our knowledge (Leibniz, Spinoza, Malebranche), or it is our mind that establishes those conditions (Kant). It is in this way that the goal posts are shifted from knowledge (classic and medieval philosophy) to the conditions of knowledge (modern philosophy). In Kant there is still some remnant of the reality which is called phenomenon (appearance). However, what appears has to be given intelligible form by the mind itself: the latter is actually made in such a way that it can dress the phenomenon with properties (a priori categories) that the mind has by itself. 16






Therefore, those aspects of reality (substance, accidents and even causality) which were taken as belonging to the corporeal reality in the classical philosophy, are now categories of the mind. This obviously excludes any possibility of a metaphysics open to the spirit and ultimately to God. The Philosophical premises established by Occam down to Descartes and the Rationalists and Empiricists of the 17th and 18th Century strike a deadly blow to the possibility of knowing God, and they fully blossom in Kants philosophy. From Kant to absolute Idealism the steps are quite easy: having stripped the reality and reduced it to phenomenon, who can prevent someone to state that even phenomena are products of the mind? The whole reality is what I want it to be (Hegel and the contemporary Philosophy). Cannot we see in all this history of philosophy a cycle that begins at the time when Adam and Eve, enticed by a diabolical temptation (eritis sicut Dei, you shall be like God), rejected Gods sovereignty over the whole creation in the presumption of replacing Him, and ends with the philosophical, nay diabolical, pretension of being creators of all that exists?




100. The philosophers after Descartes stop being philosophers and become ideologues. God for Feuebach becomes the idea into which man projects himself as a being free from all miseries and limitations. The world of Schopenhauer becomes the prisoner of the Will to Life, characterized by an incessant necessity totally opposed to the freedom that characterizes human will. Man therefore becomes a miserable passive subject to a necessity that he cannot change. Nietzsche Superman and the morality of the Strongest opposes the Christian morality which is the morality of the weak. For Marx there is no other reality but matter and economic forces that shape the life of people and of nations. Freuds repressed sexual instincts explain mans neurosis and everything else. And so on and so forth until our own days passing through Rationalism, Empiricism, Idealism, Positivism, Phenomenology, Existentialism, Structuralism, Logical Neo-Positivism, etc. 17

101. True philosophy is wisdom, and wisdom necessarily anchors to the reality which is not in our mind but outside it. Wisdom therefore is based on the reality of things which the mind knows and respects in what they are and in what they do. 102. So far we have seen this wisdom (sophia) in action in the attempt to find a rational explanation of the constitution of reality. It has been a purely theoretical exercise, i.e. knowledge of the reality for knowledges sake. 103. However, knowledge obliges, in other words it commits us to behave in a certain way towards it. How should then we behave towards a reality that we find given to us? This is the task of practical philosophy which leads us directly to the issue of ethics. 104. The same wisdom that led us to investigate the constitution of reality will be the basis for our investigation in ethics or morality; this requires a rational foundation based on a sound metaphysics of being. 105. Central to ethics is the issue of good and of evil as its counterpart 106. The problem of evil has always been a favorite topic of philosophical speculation: what is good? What is evil? Can objective criteria be established, valid for all men, in order to establish what is good and what is evil? Why should we do good and avoid evil? 107. A philosophy based on the principle of immanence will necessarily lead to a conclusion in favor of a relativist type of ethics. A philosophy based on the metaphysics of being will reveal ethical objectivity because based on the nature of things. 108. We may tackle the issue of ethics or morality (actually the two terms are different) from the point of view of movement. It sounds unusual, but let us see. 109. We have seen how the peculiar characteristic in common with all physical corporeal entities is movement, and the analysis of movement has enabled us to make important discoveries about the metaphysical constitution of such entities.


110. It is appropriate to ask now: why movement? Why do things change? The answer has already been given: because in doing so things acquire a perfection (a new act) they did not have before, yet they have the capacity of acquiring. 111. The perfection acquired is therefore something fitting the nature of thing and as such it represents a goal by which the thing is drawn and towards which the thing tends. Everything then moves (consciously or not) towards those goals that keep them in their existence and perfect them: this is what the philosopher calls GOOD. Good is that which all things strive for. 112. The opposite is EVIL which all shun because nothing would put its being in danger by striving for it. 113. It follows that true freedom in man is not the capacity of choosing between god and evil, but the capacity of choosing between different goods; no one would choose evil for evils sake but for the good that is contained in everything that is. 114. To live in an ethical way means to respect the nature of things that speak to us, and primarily to respect our own nature which is rational. Therefore ethical life consist in always doing what is in accordance with the right reason, i.e. a reason illuminated by what things are and by what they are meant for. Example, a reason that concludes that sex is for pleasure is not the right reason, since the purpose of sex is procreation. 115. The fourth cause after the efficient, material and formal, is the final. In order to know anything corporeal, we need to know how it came to be (efficient cause), what makes it to be what it is (formal cause), what makes it be material (material cause) and what it is made for (final cause). Everything exists in view of an end; everything has a purpose. 116. Nothing is completely intelligible without the knowledge of the final end, i.e. its purpose, whether that be practical or esthetic. 117. I would say that probably the final end (finality) is what makes things really intelligible and probably best explains what a thing is. The mission of Christ makes the reality of Christ more intelligible: it was convenient 19

that Christ be true Man and true God at the same time in order to carry out the Redemption of mankind in the way in which He did. 118. Is there an ultimate purpose for everything that exists? When we speak of the ultimate purpose (or end) of anything we actually imply creation, i.e. the call to existence out of nothing done by God. The question is therefore: for what ultimate purpose did God create all that exists? A hammers purpose is to drive nails. But its purpose is there insofar as the hammer exists. And it exists insofar as someone made it. And he who made it did so because a hammer is a good. In other words, the goodness of the hammer, not yet existing as such, moved the will of its maker to produce it. The goodness of things moves the will of man. In the case of God, there is nothing that can move His will except his own will. God creates because he wants and not because things that he makes are good. Things are good because God wants them to be and so to express the goodness that He is. This is the ultimate end of everything: to manifest the goodness of God and, by doing so, to direct everything towards Him. The desire that man has for good is ultimately the desire for an infinite goodness that is God Himself. The ultimate end of everything is God Himself. 119. We can now understand better the reality of movement as a circular process that begins in the eternity of God with the creation of the world out of an act of love and continues in time, where the created things return to God through the pursuing of goods that are the expression of the essential goodness of God. As Dante, the Italian poet said: lAmor che muove il sol e laltre stelle (..That Love that moves the sun and other stars). 120. Practical philosophy deals also with Beauty (which is a transcendental of being) and Art, which is the good habit (virtue) of making, as opposed to Prudence which is the good habit of doing and which directly affects ethical behavior. Thomas Aquinas identifies the three main characteristics of beauty: integritas sive perfectio (integrity or perfection), consonantia sive debita proportio (harmony or due propotion), and claritas sive splendor formae (clarity or splendor of the form). While Aristotle likewise identifies the first two characteristics, St.


Thomas conceives of the third as an appropriation from principles developed by neo-Platonic and Augustinian thinkers. 121. Philosophy of Law deals with the nature of Justice which is the virtue that perfects the will in its constant determination of giving everyone what is his due, and the nature of Law which should always reflect the natural moral law inscribed in mans nature. 122. Philosophy of History deals with human events of the past; it asks whether history moves to an end, and in a circular way and therefore without goal, or in a linear way, from a beginning therefore towards an ultimate goal. If linear, are the wills of men really free? Does then history move by an inner necessity (as postulated by Hegel), or is there a will outside History that directs mens wills in a necessary way? The Christian answer is as usual not either/or but and/and: History moves towards its final goal by the cooperation of the free will of men with the Providence of God.