I offer this for your edification.
The Problem with Aristotle & Aquinas
As words are not the things we speak about
, and structure is the only link between them, structure becomes the only content of knowledge. If we gamble
on verbal structures that have no observable empirical structures, such gambling can never give us any structural information about the world. Therefore such verbal structures are structurally obsolete
, and if we believe in
them, they induce delusions
or other semantic disturbances.
-Alfred Korzybkski, Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics
. “The Old ‘Matter’” (p. 697, 4th Ed)
Dhamma is right there in the body, in the mind. It's not in the words of the talk. One of the Pali terms for a Dhamma talk, dhamma-desana
, literally means pointing to the Dhamma. In other words, the words aren't the Dhamma. The words point to the Dhamma
that can be found in the breath, in the mind, in this area of awareness where you experience the body from within….
So right here is where you want to look. And get used to looking again and again and again, so that you can see things more precisely and accurately. Now, words are useful to help you to discern and distinguish some of the things you might be experiencing here. It's like people who are trained to be professional tasters. Part of their training lies in learning how to notice very carefully what their taste buds are telling them, but an equally large part is learning a vocabulary that helps them make precise distinctions. This is the purpose of these words pointing to the Dhamma: to help you notice subtle things happening right here that you might have overlooked or glommed together. You might have missed some subtle distinctions
-Ajaan Geoff (Ven. Thanissaro), Meditations 5
, "The Body from Within"
The self is a process, not a thing. (Summary Paraphrase of the Buddha).
-Daniel et al
From Alfred Korzybski’s Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics
(384-322 B.C.) was born in Stagira, Greece. He was the son of a physician and had
marked predilection for natural history and a distinct dislike for mathematics
. Plato, who is considered the 'father of mathematicians', was his teacher. Early in his career Aristotle reacted strongly against the mathematical philosophy of his teacher, and began to build up his own system, which had a strongly biological bias and character. Psycho-logically, Aristotle
was a typical extrovert, who projects all his internal processes on the outside world and objectifies them
: so his reaction against Plato, the typical introvert, for whom 'reality' was all inside, was a natural and rather an inevitable consequence. The struggle between these two giants was typical of the two extreme
tendencies which we find in practically all of us, as they represent two most diverse, and yet fundamental psycho-logical tendencies. In 1933 we know that either of these extremes in our make-up is undesirable and un-sound, in science as well as in life. In science, the extreme extroverts have introduced what might be called gross empiricism, which, as such, is a mere elementalistic
fiction - practically a delusion. For no 'facts' are ever free from 'doctrines': so whoever fancies he can free himself from 'doctrines', as expressed in the structure of the language he uses, simply cherishes a delusion, usually with strong affective components
. The extreme introverts, on the other hand, originated what might be called the 'idealistic philosophies', which in their turn become elementalistic
delusions. We should not overlook the fact that both these tendencies are elementalistic
and structurally fallacious. Belief in the separate existence of elements
,and, therefore, fictitious, entities must be considered as a structurally un-sound semantic reactions and accounts in a large degree for many bitter fights in science and life....
Now we shall be able to understand why Aristotle
, the extrovert, and his doctrines have appealed, and still appeal, to those who can 'think' but feebly
. The fact that the fuller linguistic system of the extrovert Aristotle was accepted in preference to the work of the introvert, Plato, is of serious semantic consequence to us. It is evident that mankind, in its evolution, had to pass through a low period of development; but this fact is not the only reason why the Aristotelian
doctrines have had such a tremendous influence upon the Aryan race. The reason is much more deeply rooted and pernicious
. In his day, over two thousand years ago, Aristotle inherited a structurally primitive-made language
. He, as well as the enormous majority of us at present, never realized that what is going on outside of our skins is certainly not
words. We never 'think' about this distinction, but we all take over semantically from our parents and associates their habitual forms of representation involving structure as the
language in which to talk about this world, not knowing, or else forgetting, that a language to be fit to represent this world should at least have the structure
of this world.
Let me illustrate this by a structural example: let us take a man-made green leaf. We see that in it green colour was added
. Now let us take a natural green leaf. We see that the green colour was not added
to it, but that the natural green leaf must be considered a process, a functional
affair which became
green without anybody's adding green colour. In the old savage mythologies, there were always demons in human
shape, who actually made everything with their hands
. This primitive mythology
built up a 'plus' or additive language which attributed to the world an anthropomorphic structure. This false notion of the world's structure was, in turn, reflected in the language. It was a subject-predicate, 'plus' language, and not as it should be, to fit the structure of the world, a functional language
Here we come across a tremendous fact; namely, that a language, any language, has at its bottom certain metaphysics, which ascribe, consciously or unconsciously, some sort of structure to this world. Our old mythologies
ascribed an anthropomorphic structure to the world, and, of course, under such a delusion, the primitives built up a language to picture such a world and gave it a subject-predicate form. This subject-predicate form also was closely related to our 'senses', taken in a very elementalistic
, primitive form....
nor his immediate followers realized or could realize what has been said here. They took the structure of the primitive-made language for granted
, and went ahead formulating a philosophical grammar
of this primitive language, which grammar - to our great semantic detriment - they called 'logic'
, defining it as the 'laws of thought
'. Because of this formulation in a general theory, we are accustomed even today to inflict this 'philosophical grammar' of primitive language upon our children, and so from childhood up imprison them unconsciously by the structure of the language and the so-called 'logic', in an anthropomorphic, structurally primitive universe.
Investigation shows that three great names in our history have been very closely interconnected: Aristotle, who formulated a general theory of a primitive language, a kind of 'philosophical grammar' of this language, and called it 'logic'; Euclid, who built the first nearly autonomous 'logical' system, which we call 'geometry'; and, finally, Newton, who rounded up these structural systems by formulating the foundations of macroscopic mechanics. These three systems happen to have one underlying structural metaphysics, in spite of the fact that Newton corrected some of the most glaring errors of Aristotle. Such first systems are never structurally satisfactory, and, in time, it was found that these systems contained unjustified structural assumptions which their followers tried to evade. It was natural that the innovators should meet with a strong resistance, as these old systems had become so elaborated as to impress the 'thoughtless' with their finality. So the revisions went very slowly and very shyly. In the case of Aristotle, revision was still more difficult because the current religious 'philosophies' of the Western world were inextricably bound up with the Aristotelian-system. The religious leaders took a strong stand, and as late as the seventeenth century threatened death to the critics of Aristotle.
Even today a revision of Aristotle is extremely difficult, for these three systems have a tremendous semantic hold upon us
From Bertrand Russell’s A History of Western Philosophy
(Simon & Schuster 1972 Ed.)
, roughly speaking, may be described as Plato diluted by common sense, lie is difficult because Plato and common sense do not mix easily. When one tries to understand him, one thinks part of the time that he is expressing the ordinary views of a person innocent of philosophy and the rest of the time that he is setting forth Platonism with a new vocabulary. It does not do to lay too much stress on any single passage, because there is liable to be a correction or modification of it in some later passage. On the whole, the easiest way to understand both his theory of universals and his theory of matter and form is to set forth first the common-sense doctrine which is half of his view, and then to consider the Platonic modifications to which he subjects it....
God does not have the attributes of a Christian Providence
, for it would derogate from His perfection to think about anything except what is perfect, i.e. Himself "It must be of itself that the divine thought thinks (since it is the most excellent of things),and its thinking is a thinking on thinking...." We must infer that God does not know of the existence of our sublunary world. Aristotle, like Spinoza, holds that, while men must love God, it is impossible that God should love men.
God is not definable as "the unmoved mover
." On the contrary
, astronomical considerations lead to the conclusion that there are either forty-seven or fifty-five unmoved movers
The relation of these to God is not made clear; indeed the natural interpretation would be that there are forty-seven or fifty-five gods
. For after one of the above passages on God Aristotle proceeds: "We must not ignore the question whether we are to suppose one such substance or more than one," and at once embarks upon the argument that leads to the forty-seven or fifty-five unmoved movers.
The conception of an unmoved mover is a difficult one
. To a modern mind, it would seem that the cause of a change must be a previous change, and that, if the universe were ever wholly static, it would remain so eternally. To understand what Aristotle means we must take account of what he says about causes. There are, according to him, four kinds of causes, which were called, respectively, material, formal, efficient, and final. Let us take again the man who is making a statue. The material cause of the statue is the marble, the formal cause is the essence of the statue to be produced, the efficient cause is the contact of the chisel with the marble, and the final cause is the end that the sculptor has in view. In modern terminology, the word "cause" would be confined to the efficient cause. The unmoved mover may be regarded as a final cause: it supplies a purpose for change, which is essentially an evolution towards likeness with God.
I said that Aristotle was not by temperament deeply religious, but this is only partly true. One could, perhaps, interpret one aspect of his religion, somewhat freely, as follows:
God exists eternally, as pure thought, happiness, complete self-fulfillment, without any unrealized purposes. The sensible world, on the contrary, is imperfect, but it has life, desire, thought of an imperfect kind, and aspiration. All living things are in a greater or less degree aware of God, and are moved to action by admiration and love of God. Thus God is the final cause of all activity. Change consists in giving form to matter, but, where sensible things are concerned, a substratum of matter always remains. Only God consists of form without matter. The world is continually evolving towards a greater degree of form, and thus becoming progressively more like God. But the process cannot be completed, because matter cannot be wholly eliminated. This is a religion of progress and evolution, for God's static perfection moves the world only through the love that finite beings feel for Him. Plato was mathematical, Aristotle was biological; this accounts for the differences in their religions.
This would, however, be a one-sided view of Aristotle's religion
; he has also the Greek love of static perfection and preference for contemplation rather than action
. His doctrine of the soul illustrates this aspect of his philosophy.
Whether Aristotle taught immortality in any form, or not, was a vexed question among commentators. Averroes
, who held that he did not, had followers in Christian countries, of whom the more extreme were called Epicureans, and whom Dante found in hell. In fact, Aristotle's doctrine is complex, and easily lends itself to misunderstandings
Motion, we are told, is the fulfilling of what exists potentially. This view, apart from other defects, is incompatible with the relativity of locomotion. When A moves relatively to B, B moves relatively to A, and there is no sense in saying that one of the two is in motion while the other is at rest. When a dog seizes a bone, it seems to common sense that the dog moves while the bone remains at rest (until seized), and that the motion has a purpose, namely to fulfill the dog's "nature." But it has turned out that this point of view cannot be applied to dead matter, and that, for the purposes of scientific physics, no conception of an "end" is useful, nor can any motion, in scientific strictness, be treated as other than relative.
Aristotle rejects the void, as maintained by Leucippus and Democritus. He then passes on to a rather curious discussion of time. It might, he says, be maintained that time does not exist, since it is composed of past and future, of which one no longer exists while the other does not yet exist. This view, however, he rejects. Time, he says, is motion that admits of numeration. (It is not clear why he thinks numeration essential.) We may fairly ask, he continues, whether time could exist without the soul, since there cannot be anything to count unless there is someone to count, and time involves numeration. It seems that he thinks of time as so many hours or days or years. Some things, he adds, are eternal, in the sense of not being in time ; presumably he is thinking of such things as numbers. There always has been motion, and there always will be; for there cannot be time without motion, and all are agreed that time is uncreated, except Plato. On this point, Christian followers of Aristotle were obliged to dissent from him, since the Bible tells us that the universe had a beginning.
The Physics ends with the argument for an unmoved mover, which we considered in connection with the Metaphysics. There is one unmoved mover
, which directly causes a circular motion
. Circular motion is the primary kind, and the only kind which can be continuous and infinite. The first mover has no parts or magnitude and is at the circumference of the world
(pp. 162, 168-170, 205-206).
From Bertrand Russell’s A History of Western Philosophy
(Simon & Schuster 1972 Ed.)
Aquinas, unlike his predecessors, had a really competent knowledge of Aristotle. His friend William of Moerbeke provided him with translations from the Greek, and he himself wrote commentaries. Until his time, men's notions of Aristotle had been obscured by Neoplatonic accretions. He, however, followed the genuine Aristotle, and disliked Platonism, even as it appears in St. Augustine. He succeeded in persuading the Church that Aristotle's system was to be preferred to Plato's as the basis of Christian philosophy, and that Mohammedans and Christian Averroists
had misinterpreted Aristotle. For my part, I should say that the De Anima leads much more naturally to the view of Averroes than to that of Aquinas; however, the Church, since St. Thomas, has thought otherwise. I should say, further, that Aristotle's views on most questions of logic and philosophy were not final, and have since been proved to be largely erroneous; this opinion, also, is not allowed to be professed by any Catholic philosopher or teacher of philosophy
St. Thomas's most important work, the Summa contra Gentiles
, was written during the years 1259-64. It is concerned to establish the truth of the Christian religion by arguments addressed to the reader supposed to be not already a Christian; one gathers that the imaginary reader is usually thought of as a man versed in the philosophy of the Arabs, He wrote another book, Summa Theolgiae
, of almost equal importance, but of somewhat less interest to us because less designed to use arguments not assuming in advance the truth of Christianity. What follows is [part of] an abstract of the Summa contra Gentiles
“Let us first consider what is meant by "wisdom
." A man maybe wise in some particular pursuit, such as making houses; this implies that he knows the means to some particular end. But all particular ends are subordinate to the end of the universe, and wisdom per se
is concerned with the end of the universe. Now the end of the universe is the good of the intellect, i.e. truth. The pursuit of wisdom in this sense is the most perfect, sublime, profitable, and delightful of pursuits. All this is proved by appeal to the authority of the 'The Philosopher,' i.e. Aristotle...."
In its general outlines, the philosophy of Aquinas agrees with that of Aristotle, and will be accepted or rejected by a reader in the measure in which he accepts or rejects the philosophy of the Stagyrite
. The originality of Aquinas is shown in his adaptation of Aristotle to Christian dogma, with a minimum of alteration. In his day he was considered a bold innovator; even after his death many of his doctrines were condemned by the universities of Paris and Oxford. He was even more remarkable for systematizing than for originality. Even if every one of his doctrines were mistaken, the Summa would remain an imposing intellectual edifice. When he wishes to refute some doctrine, he states it first, often with great force, and almost always with an attempt at fairness. The sharpness and clarity with which he distinguishes arguments derived from reason and arguments derived from revelation are admirable. He knows Aristotle well, and understands
him thoroughly, which cannot be said of any earlier Catholic philosopher.
These merits, however, seem scarcely sufficient to justify his immense reputation. The appeal to reason is, in a sense, insincere, since the conclusion to be reached is fixed in advance
Take the arguments professing to prove the existence of God
. All of these
, except the one from teleology in lifeless things, depend upon the supposed impossibility of a series having no first term
. Every mathematician knows that there is no such impossibility
; the series of negative integers ending with minus one is an instance to the contrary. But here again no Catholic is likely to abandon belief in God even if he becomes convinced that St. Thomas's arguments are bad ; he will invent other arguments, or take refuge in revelation
The contentions that God's essence and existence are one and the same, that God is His own goodness, His own power, and soon, suggest a confusion, found in Plato, but supposed to have been avoided by Aristotle, between the manner of being of particulars and the manner of being of universal. God's essence is, one must suppose, of the nature of universals, while His existence is not. It is difficult to state this difficulty satisfactorily, since it occurs within a logic that can no longer be accepted. But it points clearly to some kind of syntactical confusion, without which much of the argumentation about God would lose its plausibility. There is little of the true philosophic spirit in Aquinas, he does not, like the Platonic Socrates, set out to follow wherever the argument may lead, He is not engaged in an inquiry, the result of which it is impossible to know in advance. Before he begins to philosophize, he already knows the truth; it is declared in the Catholic faith. If he can find apparently rational arguments for some parts of the faith, so much the better; if he cannot, he need only fall back on revelation. The finding of arguments for a conclusion given in advance is not philosophy, but special pleading. I cannot, therefore, feel that he deserves to be put on a level with the best philosophers either of Greece or of modern times
(pp. 454-455, 461-462).
Reference links (which do not correspond to hard copy page numbers citations).
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http://ia700200.us.archive.org/23/items ... 502mbp.pdf
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(all bolds and underlines are mine; all italics are original to authors)