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God's attributes

Re: God's attributes

Postby Bluegoat » 07 Feb 2009, 13:30

mitchellmckain wrote:Pattern YES! mathematical NO! The mathematical and quantitative nature of the physical is precisely what makes the physical what it is - not only subject to destruction and decay but also subject to scientific examination and technological manipulation. Existing in these mathematical and quantitative forms is precisely what makes the physical ONLY what it is because of relationships to the whole structure of the universe. The physical reality is like a symbolic reality; like the way you represent a person in a sentence with a name. The name is not really the person -- it just represents them. Our reality is so much more than a physical representation. Each person is a universe - more literally that you might imagine.



Well, I don't think that mathematics used in the sense I was discussing is just a representation. I think the way we understand it is a representation, derived from the object, or something real which is created by God.

So language is perhaps a good example, and a more traditional one. We say the Christ was the Word of God, or Logos, but also that everything has a logos, and the logos is what moves all creation. Human words and human mathematics are both really a language, but one that expresses a reality. We could equally say that language is mechanical, just a bunch of verbs and nouns expressed in a certain order. But even if it is so for us, that is because of the dimness of our understanding. Gods language must be entirely alive in a way we cannot even imagine, and so would his mathematics. In fact they would be the same thing, and we can really use whichever analogy suits the situation, or our understanding best I think.

Pythagoras said that things are numbers. I think that there is a kind of truth to this.


I for one completely repudiate the traditional idea that God created just so He could show everyone how great He is.


I don't think this is a traditional view. Perhaps it might be true to say it DOES show everyone how great he is, or even it should.


Well if you think energy has some kind of mathematical nature then I certainly don't think your idea of energy has anything to do with what God is either. My metaphysical concept of energy or "primal energy" does not have such a nature, but only physical forms of energy have a quantitative nature. And when I speak of God's infinite nature this is not a quantitative attribute for what I mean by that is that God is beyond every limitation of any kind.


Well, if I compared it to prime matter I don't imagine I was thinking of it being mathematical. I was thinking of more of a form (mathematics or logos) and matter (energy). What I am not sure of and was only contemplating in my lst post is whether mathematics and logos could be equated.


Yes well I don't see us as anything so simple as a union between these two things: body and soul. In my metaphysics there are three independent dualities: mind and body, spirit and physical, energy and form, which makes for eight different categories. Energy and form aside this means we have a physical body, a physical mind, a spiritual body and a spiritual mind. Our real physical self is not the body but the mind, but our true and eternal self is neither physical body nor physical mind but the spirit. But while we can say that we have both a spiritual body an spiritual mind, these cannot be seperated even theoretically.


That's a very complicated view of the soul.

I think you would love it, if you truly understood it. Such is the case for all the things that God has made. Few people really do understand entropy because it is a fairly difficult concept in physics. The popular connection that is made between entropy and disorder is a pretty bogus one frought with misconceptions. Unless you understand the connection with probability and counting then you haven't even come close to understanding what it is all about.


This may well be true, though I always thought that anything where everything ended up as totally homogeneous heat could be described as increased order as well as disorder. :rolleyes:


Well I don't think our spiritual body is biological any more than it is physical and so a spiritual body would only be male or female as a matter of identity and not biology.


Ooh, the people who say that gender is a social construct would love this. : :tongue:
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Re: God's attributes

Postby Bluegoat » 07 Feb 2009, 13:53

postodave wrote:
Or to put it another way, if we can't "get in back of" God's accommodation to us, we should not even be able to realize that there is something to get in back of.


Why not? I can't get inside your mind but I don't conclude that your self-expression is all there is of you.



But we are not different kinds of thing.

A better analogy would be to look at a dog. My dog can see what I do and knows that I exist and feed him. He even hears language and knows some of what I mean - No, sit, come, his name. Does he know that the words he doesn't understand indicate something? Maybe, though he's not a bright dog.

But, I can say for sure that he has absolutely no idea that something like Tolstoy or Thomas Hardy or even PG Wodehouse exists. There is no bridge between his doggy knowing and this kind of rational, human knowing. We can only share what we can bring down to his dog level. As far as he is concerned, Thomas Hardy does not exist.

Similarly, if God's infinity was truly beyond us, we should only be able to see the attributes he creates for dealing with us. If we have no capacity for the infinate then we would not be able to imagine the infinate.

Now, can we see it in this life, I think no. But in the next life, in some way I think we will see him as he is.

As an aside, I always wonder when people want to be undone in the infinite. How could that be satisfying?
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Re: God's attributes

Postby Kolbitar » 07 Feb 2009, 16:12

Dave, Mitch, BlueGoat, and all... My apologies for a long post... I'm going to chop it up more than I'd normally do, hopefully to make it easier to read.

postodave wrote:Kolbytar - I have no idea what you mean by human matter and horse matter. Surely the actual stuff things are made of is ultimately the same...


Well, let's sort out some of these terms. The "actual stuff things are made of" would be what? Atoms, subatomic particles?

Whatever the "stuff" might be, you are really saying it is the physical things that physical "things" are ultimately made of. For example, given this view my physical body is a thing made up of roughly 10^28 things called atoms.

If this is true, however, then my physical body is not objectively a physical thing; thing, in reference to my physical body, would only be a subjective designation referring to a collection of physical things called atoms that act a certain way.

The same would have to be said of everything we assumed was a distinct thing: individual horses, trees, insects, etc.; these are only patterns of collections of atoms (or basic particles), which our minds then categorize -- our minds, in other words, would be imposing forms (horse, tree, etc.) and qualities (hard, soft, color, etc.) upon these collections; these forms and qualities would be thus purely subjective.

The reality that meets my senses and is known by universal concepts, therefore, would be all illusion; moreover, since atoms and subatomic particles are made by inference from the reality which meets my senses, and since that reality is illusion, therefore atoms and subatomic particles would have to be, to reverse a well known phrase, dreams of which stuff is made.

To correct this reductionist view which leads to solipsism, let's further look at what we mean by terms like "physical" and "thing."

If we define a thing as a substance, and substance as that which exists in itself, then we can call a physical thing a substance whose nature is "such that three dimensions can be designated in it." A physical substance, therefore, is a thing with extension.

Now, this doesn't completely exclude what Mitch said "is the discovery of modern science", that "the elemental composition of matter remains constant in all chemical and biological processes and so they remain precisely the same no matter what organism whether human or horse they happen to be found in at any particular moment"; it simply interprets "elemental composition" as virtually present, present as part of the substance "no matter... [the] organism".

The elemental substance, however, does not remain but is taken over by the human or, say, horse substance. In this way it has an internal unity, and is not then a subjectively imposed illusion (which gives us warrant, incidentally, to believe in elements in the first place).

Earlier I said "we can call a physical thing a substance whose nature is 'such that three dimensions can be designated in it.'" What I meant therefore by "human matter" and "horse matter" is a human substance and horse substance with extension in three dimensions.

The interesting thing about this, which may be the point at which Mitch and I can find agreement if he would concede "virtual presence", is that since "carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, etc..." are not substances of which our bodies are composed, but are potentialities which exist as part of our human substance, it may very well be that, as potentialities, they would cease to exist in our new bodies.

In other words, our new bodies would be eradicated of all virtual potentialities, simply never able to be broken down into seperate parts which would otherwise become the substances of carbon, oxygen, etc. or even atoms and subatomic particles.

The thing is, if, in Mitch's view, Christ walking on water with a physical body is an event that, though unlikely is none the less inherently possible; well, can't the same be said for the absence of potentialities in an extended substance? Weren't Daniel and his friends temporarily denied the potentiality of being consumed by fire in the furnace?
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Re: God's attributes

Postby Kolbitar » 07 Feb 2009, 16:30

postodave wrote:The word psychikos which Paul uses here is occasionally translated 'physical' but this is misleading and more recent translators have often reverted to the KJV's 'natural'...


Dave, this is an excellent post!
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Re: God's attributes

Postby postodave » 08 Feb 2009, 13:25

bluegoat said:
A better analogy would be to look at a dog. My dog can see what I do and knows that I exist and feed him. He even hears language and knows some of what I mean - No, sit, come, his name. Does he know that the words he doesn't understand indicate something? Maybe, though he's not a bright dog.

But, I can say for sure that he has absolutely no idea that something like Tolstoy or Thomas Hardy or even PG Wodehouse exists. There is no bridge between his doggy knowing and this kind of rational, human knowing. We can only share what we can bring down to his dog level. As far as he is concerned, Thomas Hardy does not exist.

It's an interesting analogy. Lewis uses it to make some very interesting points for those who accept the analogical theory of religious language which I personally do not. The key point for me would be that when the dog thinks about say his master's goodness he is thinking about what the master is in relation to him. He does not care whether his master pays his income tax or treats his wife fairly. In fact a very bad man can still be a dog lover. When you speculate about what God must be in himself you are speculating about something in God which is analogous to our human world complete with Thomas Hardy and income tax. It is this world which I would say has no knowable analogy in God.
Similarly, if God's infinity was truly beyond us, we should only be able to see the attributes he creates for dealing with us. If we have no capacity for the infinate then we would not be able to imagine the infinate.

I don't think we can imagine the infinite; we only define it apophatically as not finite. As soon as we try to give the word a positive content we falsify its meaning. Blake said if we could cleanse the doors of perception we'd see everything as infinite - that's just nonsense though very evocative nonsense. If ever there was a lie breathed through silver . . . well you'd find a lot of them in Blake.
Now, can we see it in this life, I think no. But in the next life, in some way I think we will see him as he is.

There is that scripture that says we will know him as he is - I think this is more talking about moral and covenantal knowledge. So in the analogy of the dog there would be many human actions that were for his own good that he would not see that may - Lewis gives the example of getting a thorn from a dog's foot - but we unlike the dog will get to see that in spite of appearances God has been good to us.
As an aside, I always wonder when people want to be undone in the infinite. How could that be satisfying?

Well I think the mystical experiences that are analogous to that are satisfying.My friend said his only hope was to transcend all limitations by becoming one with God. I said that a knife is limited by not being a fork and a fork is limited by not being a knife by losing their limitations they would lose their identity. He said was my message in relation to God know your place i.e. know you are a creature and I said yes pretty much.
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Re: God's attributes

Postby postodave » 08 Feb 2009, 16:42

Well, let's sort out some of these terms. The "actual stuff things are made of" would be what? Atoms, subatomic particles?

Whatever the "stuff" might be, you are really saying it is the physical things that physical "things" are ultimately made of. For example, given this view my physical body is a thing made up of roughly 10^28 things called atoms.

If this is true, however, then my physical body is not objectively a physical thing; thing, in reference to my physical body, would only be a subjective designation referring to a collection of physical things called atoms that act a certain way.

Firstly I can see no general problem about one thing being made up of other things so I am sure this is not what you mean. I can see that your argument would be valid if I was saying a physical thing were only a physical thing and not qualified by any other type of identity - even then however I think I would still be able to recognize the other properties such as biotic ones as emergent realities so this:
The same would have to be said of everything we assumed was a distinct thing: individual horses, trees, insects, etc.; these are only patterns of collections of atoms (or basic particles), which our minds then categorize -- our minds, in other words, would be imposing forms (horse, tree, etc.) and qualities (hard, soft, color, etc.) upon these collections; these forms and qualities would be thus purely subjective.

would not necessarily follow because our mind would recognize these emergent properties as real properties. But I don't take the view that all other properties can be reduced to the physical or have emerged from the physical and I don't know how helpful it would be to proceed with this as if I did - just to note that there are many metaphysical systems that could be defended; yours is one of them.
If we define a thing as a substance, and substance as that which exists in itself, then we can call a physical thing a substance whose nature is "such that three dimensions can be designated in it." A physical substance, therefore, is a thing with extension.

I am not sure what you mean by 'in itself'. I don't believe there are self-existents other than God. You might have more common ground with Mitch here since he believes that once created the cosmos becomes self-subsistent. There is a problem with saying that a physical thing has three dimensions. We know there are three spatial dimensions unfolded in our cosmos but initially it had the potential for more dimensions to unfold spatially. I am told life could not exist in a universe with an even number of spatial dimensions but it could apparently exist in one with say 5 or 7 and such universes even the ones without life would certainly have been physical.
Now, this doesn't completely exclude what Mitch said "is the discovery of modern science", that "the elemental composition of matter remains constant in all chemical and biological processes and so they remain precisely the same no matter what organism whether human or horse they happen to be found in at any particular moment"; it simply interprets "elemental composition" as virtually present, present as part of the substance "no matter... [the] organism".

I can see what you mean I think. Instead of saying say water is made of a combination of hydrogen and oxygen you would want me to say hydrogen and oxygen are virtually present in water. It stops me from assuming water must have all the properties of oxygen and hydrogen such as being a gas at room temperature so I do not need to assume that a human being has all the properties of the substances that are virtually present including corruptibility- yes? Then it would follow in principle that an incorruptible body could be composed of or as you would say virtually contained substances that were themselves corruptible.
The elemental substance, however, does not remain but is taken over by the human or, say, horse substance. In this way it has an internal unity, and is not then a subjectively imposed illusion (which gives us warrant, incidentally, to believe in elements in the first place).

Just as I suppose the oxygen and hydrogen could be said to be taken over by the water substance and the hydrogen and oxygen are virtually present in the water. But if wetness is a property of water I see no reason why we should say it is unreal because it is not a property of hydrogen and oxygen and has emerged from their combination. So I don't see the epistemological problem you are raising as a valid objection to reductionism as long as it is recognised that emergent properties are real. But as I said I am not a reductionist.
Earlier I said "we can call a physical thing a substance whose nature is 'such that three dimensions can be designated in it.'" What I meant therefore by "human matter" and "horse matter" is a human substance and horse substance with extension in three dimensions.

As a Calvinist I would talk about different aspectual qualifications rather than different substances. This has the advantage that a thing can have multiple aspectual qualifications. So for example if I take the case of the Ship of Theseus where you would say its physical substance has become tree substance and its tree substance has become ship substance I would say that the question of whether it is the same ship would depend on whether you consider it as an artefact or under its biotic aspect or under its physical aspect and you will get different answers in each case.
The interesting thing about this, which may be the point at which Mitch and I can find agreement if he would concede "virtual presence", is that since "carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, etc..." are not substances of which our bodies are composed, but are potentialities which exist as part of our human substance, it may very well be that, as potentialities, they would cease to exist in our new bodies.

This has a nice feel to it. I am sure there is something useful in this approach which seems to have some similarity to the Calvinist notion of Enkapsis.http://www.dooy.salford.ac.uk/enkapsis.html
Dave, this is an excellent post!
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Re: God's attributes

Postby Bluegoat » 08 Feb 2009, 23:57

postodave wrote:It's an interesting analogy. Lewis uses it to make some very interesting points for those who accept the analogical theory of religious language which I personally do not. The key point for me would be that when the dog thinks about say his master's goodness he is thinking about what the master is in relation to him. He does not care whether his master pays his income tax or treats his wife fairly. In fact a very bad man can still be a dog lover. When you speculate about what God must be in himself you are speculating about something in God which is analogous to our human world complete with Thomas Hardy and income tax. It is this world which I would say has no knowable analogy in God.


I agree that analogies of this type have a limited use. I was really trying to show what I didn't like about the one you had used, by using a similar analogy. But I think that all religious language is analogical really, so it is hard to escape thinking that way. The key point for me, and I'm not sure if you are agreeing with this or not, is that we know that there are aspects to God which have no knowable analogy, which means we can in fact, make an analogy of them, as something not knowable. Dogs are just clueless, they don't know they don't know.


I don't think we can imagine the infinite; we only define it apophatically as not finite. As soon as we try to give the word a positive content we falsify its meaning. Blake said if we could cleanse the doors of perception we'd see everything as infinite - that's just nonsense though very evocative nonsense. If ever there was a lie breathed through silver . . . well you'd find a lot of them in Blake.


What do you mean by imagine the infinite? We can talk about an infinite number, and use it. So I'm not sure what you mean by this. I think, though it's often used improperly,that we could say that we have infinite desire, in that they can't be sated. We can even imagine infinite cheeseburgers. Yes, what we picture in our mind is really just a lot of cheeseburgers, we understand the gap between that and what infinite would mean.
There is that scripture that says we will know him as he is - I think this is more talking about moral and covenantal knowledge. So in the analogy of the dog there would be many human actions that were for his own good that he would not see that may - Lewis gives the example of getting a thorn from a dog's foot - but we unlike the dog will get to see that in spite of appearances God has been good to us.


I don't doubt that will become clear, but it doesn't seem to me that it really fulfills the scriptural promises.


As an aside, I always wonder when people want to be undone in the infinite. How could that be satisfying?

Well I think the mystical experiences that are analogous to that are satisfying.My friend said his only hope was to transcend all limitations by becoming one with God. I said that a knife is limited by not being a fork and a fork is limited by not being a knife by losing their limitations they would lose their identity. He said was my message in relation to God know your place i.e. know you are a creature and I said yes pretty much.


I am not sure that in mystical experiences, people actually lose their identity. I suspect that if they did, they would never regain it. And if identity was lost, what would remain to be satisfied? My understanding is more that people feel connected in mystical experiences, as if all the lines of love and dependence between themselves, creation, and God have been revealed. Like the fork remains a fork, but sees and loves the knife perfectly and sees how they are loved and connected to the silversmith. But haven't had a mystical experience, so I am not really speaking from any kind of knowledge. In any case, even if people do really experience loss of identity, it's after they come back to themselves that they describe it as satisfying.
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Re: God's attributes

Postby mitchellmckain » 09 Feb 2009, 10:02

Bluegoat and Kolbitar,

Bluegoat wrote: Pythagoras said that things are numbers. I think that there is a kind of truth to this.

Well I think he was expressing a perception that the world around him, the physical world, had a highly quantitative nature. But I don't think everything does. Everything has a form but while the form of physical is quantitative and geometrical - all about numerical relationships and geometrical structure, other things are quite different. Spiritual things are different. They still have form and perhaps that is what you are trying to extend to mathematics to describe but I think it is wrong because mathematics would not be mathematics without quantity and spiritual things have a quantitative nature.


Bluegoat wrote:
I for one completely repudiate the traditional idea that God created just so He could show everyone how great He is.


I don't think this is a traditional view. Perhaps it might be true to say it DOES show everyone how great he is, or even it should.

Yes that is exactly what I think what is meant by the Bible verses saying that the purpose of Creation is to bring glory to God. It not the reason why God made them but a purpose they should play in the life of a man of God.


Bluegoat wrote:
Well I don't think our spiritual body is biological any more than it is physical and so a spiritual body would only be male or female as a matter of identity and not biology.


Ooh, the people who say that gender is a social construct would love this. : :tongue:

But I would not say any such thing. Clearly the origin of gender IS biological. But that does not mean that gender passes away when the biology is gone.


Kolbitar wrote:Well, let's sort out some of these terms. The "actual stuff things are made of" would be what? Atoms, subatomic particles?

This is really relative. The table is made of wood. The wood is made of cellulose. The cellulose is made of atoms of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. These atoms are made of electrons neutrons and protons. The neutorns and protons are made of quarks and the quarks are a form of energy. This look at what things are made of (for which I use the word "substance") is really a type of analysis that looks at things in that particular way to see what persists through change. The substance of the table is wood because it is by that would that the table exists but it not the wood that makes the table what it is but the form of that wood. The substance of the table could actually be metal or plastic and it would still be a table.

To compliment this there is another kind of analysis which looks in the opposite direction at what things are a part of seeing the relationships which relates it to those other things and how it fits into a greater whole. Each type of analysis can be pursued to an ultimate degree, the first to the ultimate substance or stuff of which all things are "made of" - namely energy (or "primal energy"), and the second to the ultimate form which which something is a part of, which for physical things is the space-time mathematical structure we call the universe.


Kolbitar wrote:Whatever the "stuff" might be, you are really saying it is the physical things that physical "things" are ultimately made of. For example, given this view my physical body is a thing made up of roughly 10^28 things called atoms.

If this is true, however, then my physical body is not objectively a physical thing; thing, in reference to my physical body, would only be a subjective designation referring to a collection of physical things called atoms that act a certain way.

Incorrect. That is the assumption of reductionism - that if a thing is made of something then it is no more than what it is made of. But this is wrong. It simply is not true that a table isn't a thing because it is made of wood, for the table is more than simply the wood. The wood is only its substance (not ousia but more like hule, in the terms of Aristotle). By the wood it exists. It exists because the wood exists, and if the wood ceased to exist so would the table. And thus I define substance as "that by which a thing simply is". But it is not the wood that makes the table what it is. It is the form of the wood that does that. Destroy the form and the table would cease to be a table but it would not cease to exist. It would only cease to exist as a table, for the wood remains but in a different form. And so I define form as "that by which a thing is what it is".


Kolbitar wrote:The same would have to be said of everything we assumed was a distinct thing: individual horses, trees, insects, etc.; these are only patterns of collections of atoms (or basic particles), which our minds then categorize -- our minds, in other words, would be imposing forms (horse, tree, etc.) and qualities (hard, soft, color, etc.) upon these collections; these forms and qualities would be thus purely subjective.

Yes and no. Aristotle's "ousia" are simply these largely arbitary categories, and thus I repudiate Aristotles conclusion that the substance (ousia) or bare particular of a thing is something apart from its properties and matter (hule). I reject Aristotle's categories/concepts of ousia and hule as bound up with these arbitrary artifacts of language.

But while these artificial categories of language that Aristotle identifies with substance (ousia) ARE very subjective, the form and substance (not ousia) of things as I have defined them are not subjective at all. We might see something so completely out of our experience that we would not know whether to categorize it as a tree or a horse and yet it has substance and form which we can measure quite objectively regardless of our subjective confusion.


Kolbitar wrote:The reality that meets my senses and is known by universal concepts, therefore, would be all illusion; moreover, since atoms and subatomic particles are made by inference from the reality which meets my senses, and since that reality is illusion, therefore atoms and subatomic particles would have to be, to reverse a well known phrase, dreams of which stuff is made.

The reality that meets your senses is known by YOUR concepts as you have constructed them as a part of YOUR mind for their role in its process of perception. But we have methods to eliminate the flaws and subjective factors in your perceptual process to establish that there is an objective reality to both the substance (not ousia) and the forms of these things. So although your apprehension of reality may not be entirely accurate, it does NOT mean that it is all an illusion.


Kolbitar wrote:To correct this reductionist view which leads to solipsism, let's further look at what we mean by terms like "physical" and "thing."

If we define a thing as a substance, and substance as that which exists in itself, then we can call a physical thing a substance whose nature is "such that three dimensions can be designated in it." A physical substance, therefore, is a thing with extension.

But physical things do not ultimately exist in of themselves so they are not substances (ousia) by your definition. Physical things ONLY exist as parts of a greater whole and thus by the mathethematical relationships to that whole which makes it what it is. These three dimensions only exist as part of the space-time mathematical structure of the whole universe and have no existence apart from it. These three dimensions are inseperable from the other dimensions and mathematical relationships and equations which are all ways that we describe the form of the the universe as a whole. Extension is not a thing in itself, it is a quantitative relationship only.


Kolbitar wrote:The elemental substance, however, does not remain but is taken over by the human or, say, horse substance. In this way it has an internal unity, and is not then a subjectively imposed illusion (which gives us warrant, incidentally, to believe in elements in the first place).

No the elements are not taken over. They remain exactly the same, following the same physical laws as before and it is because of this that the horse is subject to destruction and decay. Now the horse is different from non-living things because it IS a self maintaining dynamic structure. Like in the simple computer simulation automata game called "life", simple rules allow for the spontaneous development of complex behaviors including self organizing structures. And in far from equillibrium systems the non-linear equations which govern the behavior of matter can have even more complex self-organizing dynamic structures, the most complex of which we know of as living organisms.

In other words, living things like horses are quite different from non-living things like tables. Their substance (not ousia) is in constant motion and it in the shape and patterns of its flow that the horse is seen. The horse is indeed not what it is because of this substance flowing through it but because of the dynamic structure itself which is self organizing and self maintaining. We know for example, that information required for doing this is encoded in the molecules we call DNA, which is NOT only used in the developmental process by which it first organizes itself, but continues to be used throughout the life of the organism in its perpetual self-maintaining process.


Kolbitar wrote:The interesting thing about this, which may be the point at which Mitch and I can find agreement if he would concede "virtual presence", is that since "carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, etc..." are not substances of which our bodies are composed, but are potentialities which exist as part of our human substance, it may very well be that, as potentialities, they would cease to exist in our new bodies.

They ARE the substances (not ousia) of which the body is composed, but they are not substances (ousia) in of themselves any more than is whole horse or the whole human body. We exist physically because, the carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, etc..., which are in are bodies at the moment, exist. If they ceased to exist then so would our physical existence cease. They are indeed that by which we simply are. BUT they are not that by which we are WHAT we are. We are what we are physically because of the form that this substance is in and that form is a living dynamic structure.

Our spiritual bodies are none of this. The spirit is a product of the choices that living things make, both in our body as it grows and develops and in our mind as it grows and develops. The body and mind are FIRST both physical things composed of physical forms of energy, although both are indeed living dynamic structures. But this does not happen without an interaction with spiritual forms of energy in which the choices that these living organisms make give this spiritual energy its form and nature. Thus the spiritual is SECOND growing from the physical like a plant grows from a seed.


Kolbitar wrote:In other words, our new bodies would be eradicated of all virtual potentialities, simply never able to be broken down into seperate parts which would otherwise become the substances of carbon, oxygen, etc. or even atoms and subatomic particles.

No. I am not carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen, etc... These have nothing to do with who and what I really am. They have no part in me, because they are just the soil from which I have grown. They are indeed the substance (not ousia) of the physical form of mind and body which I have "chosen" and in the choosing I have taken their form upon me as a spiritual being in both mind and body. But when the physical forms die as they must, and all that is left of them is dust, but I am eternal, and I cannot escape what I have made of myself.

I have put the word "chosen' above in quotation marks because I certainly do not mean that we have chosen our body like a shopper selects a suit of clothing in a clothing store. It is an incremental choosing that is part of the developmental process by which our body grows. Our choices may be limited but we nevertheless do have choices in the process because we are living things not machines. Furthermore they are certainly not like the conscious choices that we usually mean by the word "choices" because they are occurring before we are even conscious as human beings. Nevertheless it is process of life and growth and not one of design and manufacture and thus it IS something which we are a part of as living creatures responsible for their own life processes - it is just not exactly what we would call human because it is a part of the process of becoming human.
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Re: God's attributes

Postby Bluegoat » 09 Feb 2009, 13:19

mitchellmckain wrote:
Bluegoat wrote: Pythagoras said that things are numbers. I think that there is a kind of truth to this.

Well I think he was expressing a perception that the world around him, the physical world, had a highly quantitative nature. But I don't think everything does. Everything has a form but while the form of physical is quantitative and geometrical - all about numerical relationships and geometrical structure, other things are quite different. Spiritual things are different. They still have form and perhaps that is what you are trying to extend to mathematics to describe but I think it is wrong because mathematics would not be mathematics without quantity and spiritual things have a quantitative nature.


Do you mean they don't have a quantitative nature, or am I confused?

I don't know if that's what Pythagoras was really getting at, he actually tried to say what numbers things were, and got quite specific about it. He also said "number is the ruler of forms and ideas and the cause of gods and demons." Which is not to say that I agree with him, he seems very esoteric to me.

Do we not, though, find both quantity and relationship in the Trinity?
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Re: God's attributes

Postby mitchellmckain » 09 Feb 2009, 19:17

Bluegoat wrote:
mitchellmckain wrote:
Bluegoat wrote: Pythagoras said that things are numbers. I think that there is a kind of truth to this.

Well I think he was expressing a perception that the world around him, the physical world, had a highly quantitative nature. But I don't think everything does. Everything has a form but while the form of physical is quantitative and geometrical - all about numerical relationships and geometrical structure, other things are quite different. Spiritual things are different. They still have form and perhaps that is what you are trying to extend to mathematics to describe but I think it is wrong because mathematics would not be mathematics without quantity and spiritual things have a quantitative nature.


Do you mean they don't have a quantitative nature, or am I confused?

Physical things DO have a quantitative nature but spiritual things DO NOT. While physical things are numerically defined and described as well as divisible and measurable, spiritual things are none of these.


Bluegoat wrote:I don't know if that's what Pythagoras was really getting at, he actually tried to say what numbers things were, and got quite specific about it. He also said "number is the ruler of forms and ideas and the cause of gods and demons." Which is not to say that I agree with him, he seems very esoteric to me.

Well I think Pythagoras became really enthusiastic about his own discoveries and saw the whole world through that lens. But I do not take his turning this one good idea (whose merit is seen clearly in the discoveries of modern physics) and turning it into a religion all that seriously. This is but the usual foibles of human kind.


Bluegoat wrote:Do we not, though, find both quantity and relationship in the Trinity?

Perhaps you find quantity in this doctrine, but I do not. Trinitarian doctrine as I understand and accept it has NOTHING to do with the number three. It has to do with God being beyond the limitations of singular personhood and embracing all of the scripture of the canon. In the Scriptures, we encounter God in three persons and so like the eccumenical councils I refuse to alter scripture to make a simpler picture of God, BUT I do not limit God to the picture that we do see or make Scripture into a box in which God must be contained. I believe in one God who is infinite NOT a God who is in any way defined or described by the number 3.
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Re: God's attributes

Postby postodave » 09 Feb 2009, 23:21

Mitch said:
Physical things DO have a quantitative nature but spiritual things DO NOT.

But also said:
I believe in one God who is infinite NOT a God who is in any way defined or described by the number 3

Am I to conclude from this that you reckon three is a number but one is not?
If it helps St. Basil said
God is one in nature but not in number
And Aquinas said
God has that oneness which is convertible with being
. It has been suggested that Basil was taking an Aristotelian view of number as existing only where there are physical things. But he could have been saying that God has the oneness of simplicity but not unity. Or that there could be no second beside him so that he is not the one that is the first of number. Basil also denies the denumerability of the persons of the trinity. I have no idea what Aquinas meant.
It brings us nicely back to the question of attributes though. What are we to make of God's apparent denumerability. We may be somewhere near agreement on this one Mitch. At least we both see the problem of identifying God in Himself as opposed to for us as three. I would also want to insist following pseudo-Dyonisius that in Himself God is neither one nor oneness.
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But the lamb ran away with the crown
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Re: God's attributes

Postby mitchellmckain » 10 Feb 2009, 07:25

postodave wrote:Mitch said:
Physical things DO have a quantitative nature but spiritual things DO NOT.

But also said:
I believe in one God who is infinite NOT a God who is in any way defined or described by the number 3

Am I to conclude from this that you reckon three is a number but one is not?

No. Nor do I mean that you cannot count human spirits as if it were all one thing and inseperable from one another. On the contrary, I believe that spirits highly individual to the degree of being separate and independent universes. This is very much unlike physical things which are merely parts of a single whole, though their quantitative nature may make this seem otherwise. Unlike physical things whose relationships are imposed from the outside by their participation in the whole, the relationships between spirits must come from within them. This is why our period of physical existence is so critically essential, for that is when relationships can be internalized. This is also why it is so critically essential to have a relationship with God before physical life is ended.

By quantitative I do not mean numerable. Physical things are quantitative forms of energy because their nature and properties derive from quantitative characteristics and relationships. First and formost they are a quantity of energy. But they have a quantifiable extension, position and motion in space. In more generality their parts have a quantitative relation to them and they have a quantitative relationship to the rest of the physical universe. A direct consequence of all this that these characteristic and relationships are measureable.
Last edited by mitchellmckain on 10 Feb 2009, 21:22, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: God's attributes

Postby Bluegoat » 10 Feb 2009, 13:53

postodave wrote:It brings us nicely back to the question of attributes though. What are we to make of God's apparent denumerability. We may be somewhere near agreement on this one Mitch. At least we both see the problem of identifying God in Himself as opposed to for us as three. I would also want to insist following pseudo-Dyonisius that in Himself God is neither one nor oneness.



I would not personally get hung up on the numbering of God, I don't think that is really the point, except for how we interact with him personally or affectivly. (That being said, I am hesitant to ignore the trinity because it is not really God or doesn't really define him. If we accept it as a Christian doctrine, then just saying that it doesn't really mean anything seems, arrogant, I guess.)

To my mind what I find important it that inside the Godhead there is relation. I think that is what makes the existance of creation explicable. It is no wonder to me that the pagans could never figure out how The One could create, since a perfect unity could not give rise to multiplicity.

I'm going to have to go, I may edit this later.
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Re: God's attributes

Postby mitchellmckain » 11 Feb 2009, 04:54

Dave,

postodave wrote:It's an interesting analogy. Lewis uses it to make some very interesting points for those who accept the analogical theory of religious language which I personally do not. The key point for me would be that when the dog thinks about say his master's goodness he is thinking about what the master is in relation to him. He does not care whether his master pays his income tax or treats his wife fairly. In fact a very bad man can still be a dog lover. When you speculate about what God must be in himself you are speculating about something in God which is analogous to our human world complete with Thomas Hardy and income tax. It is this world which I would say has no knowable analogy in God.

So goodness is only relative? What you say here means that goodness is not about who you are but about the quality of particular relationships which you have with others. I completely reject this idea, to assert the opposite: Goodness is completely about who you are. This is a consequence of my being a virtue ethicist. Who you are will tend to have a large impact on your relationships with others but not necessarily. Relationships depends on more than just one person, and they can get ugly because of only one of those two persons. Someone can be lucky in love and yet be a complete ass. Goodness is not about how well things go. Your assertions here suggest that you are a consequentialist when it comes to ethics.


postodave wrote:
Similarly, if God's infinity was truly beyond us, we should only be able to see the attributes he creates for dealing with us. If we have no capacity for the infinate then we would not be able to imagine the infinate.

I don't think we can imagine the infinite; we only define it apophatically as not finite. As soon as we try to give the word a positive content we falsify its meaning. Blake said if we could cleanse the doors of perception we'd see everything as infinite - that's just nonsense though very evocative nonsense. If ever there was a lie breathed through silver . . . well you'd find a lot of them in Blake.

God is infinite actuality and man is infinite potentiality. In this way we are the finite image of an infinite God. I think we can imagine the infinite, just as we not only imagine mathematical infinity but acually find ways to make calculations and proofs involving mathematical infinity all the time. It is just a matter of understanding what it means for a finite being to imagine something infinite. I does not mean that mind can ever contain an infinite God any more than our mathematical manipulations of infinity mean that we count to infinity or write down all the digits of an irrational number. Instead what we do is point in the direction of the infinite: we point to God just as in mathematics we define a proceedure that gives all the infinite digits of an irrational number. Likewise we imagine an infinite God when evision the process of getting to know God as a neverending one.


postodave wrote:
Now, can we see it in this life, I think no. But in the next life, in some way I think we will see him as he is.

There is that scripture that says we will know him as he is - I think this is more talking about moral and covenantal knowledge. So in the analogy of the dog there would be many human actions that were for his own good that he would not see that may - Lewis gives the example of getting a thorn from a dog's foot - but we unlike the dog will get to see that in spite of appearances God has been good to us.

I agree with dave here. I think the scripture does indeed refer to a shedding of our misunderstandings, and thus to seeing Him without distortion rather than encompassing His entirety within our awareness or anything like that.


postodave wrote:I am not sure what you mean by 'in itself'. I don't believe there are self-existents other than God. You might have more common ground with Mitch here since he believes that once created the cosmos becomes self-subsistent.

Equivocation! That God is self-exitence is the answer to the question of where did God come from. But this is NOT the case for created things. So I TOO don't believe there are self-existents other than God. So since you draw some connection between the term self-exitent and the fact that I don't agree with your idea that God is acutually incapable of creating anything but can only dream figments of His imagination, I must wonder what you have changed this term, "self-exitent" to mean.

Yes I do indeed believe that God can actually create things that really exist by themselves without God constantly making them do so like an image in His imagination. That is the whole purpose of all these mathematical laws of physics these are the automation by which things operate without Him making them do it. Wow God can even do the same sort of things that we humans can do with computers. SHOCK. I still think postodave is a closet pantheist or panentheist.

The difference with Kolbitar is that I only believe this only true of whole forms of energy and not just parts of them. An angel's "wings" has no existence apart from the angel and likewise atoms and stars have no existence apart from the physical universe.


postodave wrote:I can see what you mean I think. Instead of saying say water is made of a combination of hydrogen and oxygen you would want me to say hydrogen and oxygen are virtually present in water. It stops me from assuming water must have all the properties of oxygen and hydrogen such as being a gas at room temperature so I do not need to assume that a human being has all the properties of the substances that are virtually present including corruptibility- yes? Then it would follow in principle that an incorruptible body could be composed of or as you would say virtually contained substances that were themselves corruptible.

This may suit Kolbitar's philosophy but it has no validity in science. We can see all the elements for what they are in whatever they find themselves by nuclear magnetic resonance. This is how an NMR scanner works. If you say that they just measure the potentialities or some kind of virtual presence but not the elements themselves, this has become a battle of meaningless rhetoric, where you can ignore reality and call it whatever you want just because you choose to.
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Re: God's attributes

Postby Kolbitar » 12 Feb 2009, 04:08

Dear Mitch, Dave, Blue, and all,

I will be losing my Internet connection indefinitely, so this may be my last post for a while (though I'm hoping to sneak in one more after this, to complete my thoughts -- just a matter of finding the time, which is just about up). I will still be able to read replies at work, however, so please reply to anything you wish.

postodave wrote: So for example if I take the case of the Ship of Theseus where you would say its physical substance has become tree substance and its tree substance has become ship substance…



Though I would say the ship is composed of physical substances called wood, I certainly would not say the tree substance has become a ship substance. There is an important distinction.

A substance has intrinsic unity, and exists in itself, not as self-existent, but as distinct in its being, i.e., a tree is not a man and a man is not God. An easy way to isolate the meaning of substance is to consider any property and point out, for example, that we do not say, "there is a blue," or "there is a round," or "there is a smooth"; instead, properties inhere within something, and this something we call substance so that we say "there is a blue bird", "there is a round leaf", "there is a smooth flower" -- thus we have bird substance, tree substance and flower substance (As an aside, Descartes mistook the property called quantity, or extension, for substance; but extension is always some thing extended, some substance with extension).

A ship made of wood substance, on the other hand, has extrinsic unity, a unity imposed upon it from without. A ship is an artificial collection (of wood substances), as a lake is a natural collection (of water molecules); both have merely a nominal unity, not an ontological unity; types of unities which would be subsets, I think, of what you would call "aspectual qualifications".

Ultimately there's no real epistemological problem, as you say, if "emergent properties" exist in substances. For example, wetness is a property emerging from the substance water, and I would agree this poses no problem for the study of how we come to know things. We must keep in mind, however, that it is the different ways water molecules, and isolated hydrogen and oxygen molecules, act on our senses -- aided or not - that we infer both their existence, and their existence as different substances. The epistemological problem does present itself, however, the instant we either directly deny that man is one substance, or indirectly deny it by reducing all substances to the smallest substance known to exist.

Earlier I mentioned the difference between nominal unities (collections of things we give a single name) and ontological unities (distinct things, a.k.a. substances); it might be helpful first to examine these types of unities respectively at their extremes.

A nominal unity, used to signify objects of sense perception as collections, at its very extreme, would signify no substances (objects) at all, but would merely signify sense perceptions themselves - this is the scepticism to which I claim reductionism leads. Ontological unity, at the opposite extreme, would take the view of panentheism; that is, everything with which we come into contact through our senses is a property of the same substance. The first says properties don't inhere in anything because they're actually sense perceptions themselves; the second says properties inhere in a single substance which is the same for all.

Now, between these two extremes lies a common sense view, which says water is water, grass is grass, and a man is not a donkey -- though he acts like an ass (sorry). This view proceeds from man's experience of himself as an individual applied to the things which meet his senses, much in the same way he spontaneously knows a thinking, feeling subject like himself lies hidden within physical bodies, like his own, which meet his senses. This is not to say common sense cannot be refined, as, for instance, we come to know that a mountain is not one substance, but a name for a collection of many substances. It is to say, however, that if you reduce all unities to extrinsic unities, you soon have nothing but properties, which are ultimately unified either by a name (naming your sense perceptions themselves), or by the same substance that you share (panentheism); in either case they will be properties of your substance, thus in either case we've arrived at a position hardly distinguishable from solipsism.
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