What do y’all think about this? If we assume that Aristotelian ethics and Augustine’s understanding of evil (ie good is both a teleological end and the absence of privation), then is a “pointed” metaphysics the answer? In other words, does that which exists exist because it’s going somewhere? What are the implications of this?


12 thoughts on “ummm….metaphysics?

  1. Nick-

    I will exhibit my blazing philosophical ignorance with a series of questions.

    1. Do you think there really is a good reason to adopt either of the two; if so
    2. Do you think that they are mutually compatible?
    3. Could you get to a pointed metaphysics simply by positing Aristotle’s ethics or Augustinian theory of the good?

  2. 1. I think that Aristotle’s teleological approach fits cleanly with a broadly Biblical sense of ethics (particularly with Paul’s construct in 1 Cor 15…though I am relying on Tom Wright’s exegesis here). I’m not as sure about Augustine’s understanding of evil, but I like the idea of creation being good (though I think it’s too simple to make sense of the Biblical cursing).

    2. I’m not sure if they’re compatible or not. And since I don’t know much about Aristotle, Augustine or Aquinas, I’d hesitate to go too far in any direction here. But I do know that Aquinas is far more intelligent that I will ever be and he seemed to assume that Augustine and Aristotle played nicely together. Who am I to argue. There’s certainly infinitely more than this, but I’ll settle for less (for the moment).

    3. I think you can (if one whittles their huge ideas down to simplistic little overly simplistic factoids like I did in trying to understand them). Perhaps something like this:

    Aristotle:Pointing to Good makes something good
    Augustine:Existing means something is good.

    Assuming that “good” is the same in both sentences, then the other parts of the statement are equal. Thus something exists because it points to Good. It exists because of where it’s going.

    And if you throw in a bit o’ theological mumbo jumbo, teleology=eschatology, creation vs new creation becomes a whole new monster.

    What do you think? You’ve probably read more of Augustine and Aquinas more than I have. Am I wrong to think that Augustine was equating good with existence?

  3. And if there is a place to demonstrate blazing philosophical ignorance, I would certainly hope that my blog is it.


  4. I don’t pretend to know a thing about Aristotle or Augustine…but this has been an interesting conversation.

    This idea hints of existentialism, which appeals to my desire for meaning and context. From what I’ve seen of what we call God’s creation however, He’s not constrained by any such limitations. In other words, maybe things exist because they are going somewhere, but maybe they also exist just because He got a kick out of making them. Or, because He enjoys watching them do what he designed them to do, whether they are time dimensions, platypuses, growing infants or galaxies.

    Obviously, these ideas contain a host of pointedly un-philosophical presuppositions. However much I enjoy dabbling in esoteric metaphysics, my ventures into this realm must necessarily be brief and somewhat tainted by these assumptions.

    And, let me assert that we must come back to something solid, something of substance, some THING at the end.

    How’s THAT for displaying blazing ignorance….

  5. I would certainly hope that we come back to something solid in the end, as to do otherwise would….well, it would really annoy me.

    Essentially, though, I’m not sure why both of the “causes” you mention can’t be the same (or at least coexist peacefully). One is the efficient cause and one is the final cause. Think about it this way. If I cause x to cause y because of z, what is the cause?

    The efficient cause is that I caused x, the final cause is z (ie it was the purpose or reason of my doing it). There are other causes (which is why asking the question “Why x=>y” can be so complicated. So these limitations are inherent in action itself.

    Which brings up a good question (well, maybe not a good one, but a question anyway), this differentiation of causation is inherent to time itself. Perhaps all I was getting at was that purpose (ie an end to move towards) is contingent existence because existence is contingent on time. But this is no good as it would suggest that whatever is outside of time is outside of existence…am I screwing around here too much with the nature of God?

    So, who wants to vote? Is God in time or not?

  6. I agree… God is not constrained to our conception of time, and weirdly, His purposes don’t necessitate time either. (Neither are they contingent on time). Strange to think about.

    I’m glad though, because if I could trap Him (or His purposes) in time, who knows how else He might be trapped….

  7. Looking back on my argument, I would probably say that since Aristotle’s notions of the causes seem to imply a time-based understanding of existence. Since God has traditionally (at least since Augustine, anyway) been understood to exist outside of time, Aristotle’s causes would not apply to God proper, though one might be able to argue that God’s involvement in creation takes place on that level. Basically, I don’t think the argument needs to go to God’s timelessness vs God’s timefulness and I’d rather leave the characteristics of God shrouded in philosophical mystery and humility.

    Jim: My point was simply that actions necessitate time. This would apply to God’s actions/purposes (within creation, anyway) as much as it would to anyone else’s actions. I have to wonder, though, why God being in time implies God being “constrained to our conception of time”. I’d probably argue both with the constraining and with the “conception of” bit. Why must time be one more barrier that should be broken? Now this should probably be assumed if time is considered to be one more part of creation (thus Augustine), but that puts the cart in front of the horse (for this discussion anyway). Since I never gave any particular characteristics or description of time, your “conception of” bit seems a bit too skeptical (I’d just as likely try to question one’s conception of faith, or God, or etc… as improperly constraining existence). Do you see where I’m going?

    Ben: I’m not exactly sure what you’re saying no to (the first no), but I’m looking forward to “later”.

  8. I see where you’re going with His actions/purposes within creation. And I am skeptical about the popular conception of time, just as I am about the popular conception of faith or God or etc. Not that I’m challenging or calling into question God or faith, but what people believe /think they know about God and faith. I say “conception of” time because we probably understand time as well as we understand God.

    I guess what I was trying to communicate was that God is both in time and out of time. At the same time. In time because He has chosen to be, and out of time because He created it in the first place.

    Amazing, to have a God willing to play within His own rules when He designed the game. And with stakes as high as those on Calvary … it blows my mind.

  9. Jim: I completely agree. In a discussion on Gen 1-12 last night we talked for a few minutes about the idea of God using his agents within creation (ie us) to reconstitute it, even though we’re often the problem. It is a powerful concept.

  10. Wow…you guys are pretty deep…

    …and I’m not sure I even understood Nick’s initial question, but it was interesting reading all your thoughts.

  11. After reading a couple things, I realized that I was making a false assumption. I was assuming that for something to be in time, it must change. So, whether or not God is in time, he is the fulness of his telos always. In other words, an arrow’s only pointing somewhere if you’re not already there. Existence for creation is pointed, whereas existence for God just is.

    Note that I’m still not convinced that God is, or is not, in time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s