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Saturday, April 2, 2011

Knowledge and Reality vs. Modern Philosophical Errors

Knowledge and Reality vs. Modern Philosophical Errors
By Jim J. McCrea

Many philosophical errors have come down through the centuries which have been detrimental to our Catholic Christian Faith. These errors have been antagonistic to the universality of truth which God wishes to give us through divine revelation and the light of natural reason. On a practical level, this has led to relativism (which maintains that all morality depends on the point of view of the subject) and skepticism (which says that the human intellect is incapable of discovering objective truth). This has led us to the point where society has partially broken down because there is no longer a generally recognized absolute truth with which to conform one's conduct, so that society can no longer work towards a common good. As Fulton Sheen said, this leads to societal interactions being nothing but the conflict and crisscross of individual egos, attempting to assert themselves at the expense of other egos. In this state of human activity, there can be nothing but conflict and discord in the world.

René Descartes (d. 1650) is credited with being the father of modern philosophy. It is widely recognized that it was from him that philosophy in the modern era took a new direction. In medieval scholasticism, it was understood that the things outside of ourselves were real. This was the starting point of all philosophy. Descartes was the first major thinker, after the middle ages, to make the *conscious self* the starting point. The first thing he does is to employ a method in which he doubts all previous knowledge. He attempts to wipe the slate clean, so to speak, so that he can build philosophy fresh, and clear out the supposed cobwebs of unexamined authority and intellectual prejudice in the understanding of philosophical truth.

He asks himself, now that the slate is clean, is there any fact that is indubitably true with which to use as a starting point to build philosophical truth from scratch. He says that the fact of his own existence is such a truth. It is infallibly true that he must exist in order to even ask these questions. "I think, therefore, I am," is his famous motto. He then proceeds to question whether the outside world is real. He questions how he knows that he isn't being fooled by some powerful demon who may be infusing a false perception of an objective reality into his consciousness.

To solve this problem, he again appeals to the ideas within his own intellect. He says that he has an idea of an infinitely perfect being in his mind, which is called God. Only an infinitely perfect being can be the cause of this idea which he has of an infinitely perfect being. Now an infinitely perfect being wouldn't allow him to be fooled on something as fundamental as his perception of outside reality. Such deception would denote imperfection in God. He concludes, therefore, that what he sees as real is real.

What we have with the procedure of Descartes is not a direct intuition of the real to let him know that the real is real, but an acceptance of the real from deduction, based on his internal ideas. His whole methodology in philosophy, in fact, is to proceed by way of "clear and distinct ideas," according to the rules of deduction. This overemphasis on deduction, based on internal ideas, to discover philosophical truth, is known as *rationalism.*

The problem with rationalism is that in order to properly find truth in philosophy and metaphysics, it is required that one's intellect feed immediately off the real to determine the attributes of the real (this is the classical methodology). With the methodology of rationalism, one may be following a chain of deductive thought which may be entirely disconnected from the real.

Perhaps the modern philosopher most responsible for the plague of skepticism and relativism we see today is Immanuel Kant (d. 1804). He took Descartes method of starting with the thinking self to a radical conclusion. He turned the entire process of knowing reality inside out. With Kant, our intellect does not perceive an objective reality "out there," which it simply registers and recognizes, as most previous thinkers held, but our intellect actually creates the reality it perceives. If we look around the room we are in, and see tables, chairs, etc, these are not things but merely *impressions* in our mind, which he terms *phenomena.* These impressions are caused by *things in themselves,* of which we have no idea of what their nature is, which he calls *noumena.* Kant reasons that this is so because phenomena exist in an section of space which is the condition of the existence and nature of the phenomena. Space coordinates the elements of sensation. Because space itself is not a sensed object it is an a-priori condition of our intellects created by our intellects.

Kant maintains that space is a structure of the mind, which is a part of what he calls *pure reason.* As a result, it is our intellect which is the cause of the forms we perceive, by the containing space our intellect creates.

Similarly, for Kant, morality is not based on a right and a wrong "out there," (such as an externally given Ten Commandments) but proceeds completely from within our intellect. "I am never to act otherwise than so that I can also will that my maxim should become a universal law," Kant maintained. Morality is not derived from the nature of man himself and his circumstances, as the Christian natural law would maintain. This source of morality is a structure in the human intellect and will, which Kant calls *Pure Practical Reason.* According to his system, to have one's actions determined by a morality "out there," one would be to be tethered to an alienating influence. This alienating influence, Kant terms *heteronomy.*

We can see the fruit of Kant's philosophy today. "One must not impose one's morality on others," is an often heard phrase. This implies that morality is purely subjective and not objective. The practical result of this, of course, is that it is deemed permissible to do anything you think is right (which really reduces to doing what you want), provided you have the power to do it, and won't suffer severe consequences for your actions. This perception was the basis for Hitler's actions. The tendency to impose morality, in the worst sense of the word, is the logical consequence of morality being subjective. Without an objective guide, might makes right. If morality comes entirely from within oneself, the moral code can be manipulated any way that one wants to justify anything. The mind is able to rationalize anything to quiet the conscience if the mind is the creator of morality. It is a known fact that evil doers almost always justify themselves by appealing to some moral code that they themselves have devised.

Objective morality, on the other hand, is the basis for peace and freedom. To be just, one must be able to recognize claims "out there." This is because everyone's actions would be in accordance with a common system, and work according to a human nature which is common to all human beings. In the intellectual sphere, we often hear the phrase "this is true to you, but not true to me." This is also a consequence of Kant's subjectivism. "Freeing" the mind from objective reality, he has trapped the mind within itself. According to Kant, the mind is unable to do precisely what it is designed to do - to grasp reality! If the proper function of the mind is to grasp what is real, something is either true or it isn't. It isn't true to one person and false to another. Different subjective impressions may contradict one another, but the nature of objective reality is that it does not contradict itself. It is one!

How do debunk the thinking of Descartes and Kant, to establish the existence of an objective reality which we can perceive directly. First of all, to meaningfully deny something, we must first have an valid concept of the thing we are denying. For example, to meaningfully say that A does not exist, we must have a proper idea of what A is in order to deny its existence. If we say that no vase exists on this table, we must have an intelligible idea of what a vase is, in order to say that it is not there.

An analogous principle holds with the notion of "objective reality." If Kant says that we have no direct knowledge of objective reality - that all we have knowledge of is the impressions of things - it has to be asked, where is he getting the concept of objective reality to deny that a direct intuition of it can be had.

What we call "objective reality" is a metaphysical moment of our phenomenological perception. For this, I appeal to the common natural operation of the human intellect, as we find it in practice. Any normal person knows that what is called solipsism is an absurd doctrine. A solipsist believes that the only thing in existence is himself, and that everything he perceives is nothing but a creation of his own mind. Now to demonstrate the falsity of solipsism, we must appeal to a fundamental intuition which is operative in all normal people. When I perceive the table, chair, or person, "out there," or as an "objective reality," there is a specific quality of "out-there-ness" or "objective-reality-ness," that the table, chair, or person has which makes them distinct, in our perception, from any mere idea that may be generated within our mind.

It is a fundamental ability of the intellect to be able to recognize "out-there-ness" or "objective-reality-ness." It is the most basic ability of the intellect to transcend itself and grasp the "other." The common ordinary person realizes this implicitly. The notion of objective reality, relative to our mind, is a basic metaphysical moment which is simple and irreducible. It cannot be given in terms of something else. This is because any mere idea, no matter how perfectly formed or coherent, is still only an idea in our head - it needs this "extra" of being "objectively real," to be a percept of something real.

Now, the very concept of objective reality can only come from objective reality itself. It cannot come from something which is not itself. Now the notions of "concept" and "objective reality" need not be completely different from each other - one being a concept and the other being a reality. Ideas themselves necessarily involve the intellect's direct contact with elements of objective reality. The intellect does not work in a void - that is, separately from objective reality - but has a vital and necessary contact with it at all times in its operation. For example, if we consider an imaginary construction, such as a gold mountain, our intellects have a real contact with the essence of "gold-ness" which exists in all gold things, and a real contact with the essence of "mountain-ness" which exists in all mountains. The only purely ideal part in this is in the combining of them and in how we combine them into a particular form of the imagination. The philosopher David Hume used the example of the gold mountain to say that every idea we have, must be composed of things we have experienced. I will go further and say that with any memory of something there is a real and mysterious contact with that thing remembered. We cannot know something by an idea which is completely different from that thing. The idea must have some element which is identical with that thing in order to make the connection between the mind and that thing.

Now the concept of objective "reality" is like that. If the metaphysician ponders the concept of objective reality as such, the concept must include a direct and dynamic connection with the essence of "objective-reality-ness," which is common to all objectively real things, in order for that concept in his mind to constitute a valid consciousness of it. One reason why man must have a spiritual soul, is that only a soul transcends space in this way so that the intellect can make a real and dynamic contact with other things in its consciousness of other things.

Kant, and the Buddhists who say that our perception of reality is an illusion, must initially have in their intellect the concept of objective reality in order to deny it. They can only get this from the objective reality that they observe all around them. They do not explicitly realize that they are experiencing objective reality while they are in their philosophical mode. One wonders how such error could be possible . We see it all the time today. Goodness, evil, truth, and falsity are denied constantly as valid realities by intellectuals today. Yet these same intellectuals would recognize them in their practical thinking and acting that they engage in at all times. Everyone does. Certainly, one sign of false philosophy are systems of ideas which contradict natural, normal, common sense, everyday reality. Part of the problem with why philosophy has something of a bad reputation as an intellectual discipline, is that people have the notion that this is what philosophy is essentially about - that it is just a game to combine concepts in interesting and bizarre combinations that have nothing to do with actual reality. One of my aims as a philosopher is to debunk this type of notion. The main reason why philosophers come up with ideas which contradict the natural perceptive powers of the intellect is mainly due to some sort of intellectual vice. It can either be pride or curiosity which is at fault. Pride, in that the philosopher contradicts natural knowledge because he wishes to imagine himself on a superior plane to the common lot of humanity; curiosity, in that he is a slave of novelty so that the service of his intellect to the truth is suppressed. The worst motive for philosophical error is that the philosopher has no interest in the truth whatsoever, but simply says what he says in order to manipulate other intellects to his own selfish ends.

It may be objected that someone who is dreaming or having an hallucination may be certain that the dream or the hallucination is real. This, however, can only occur if there is some shrinking or retraction of the intellect from the universality of being which is proper to it. In these cases the ability for the intellect to properly grasp both the subjective and the objective together and to make proper judgments about them, is hampered. The light of the intellect (during a dream or hallucination) is mainly focused on the subjective so that the subjective is mistaken for the objective when it is seen. A certain trace of the objective must remain in the intellect, however, for the intellect to make such an confusion. The objective is confused with the subjective because the intellect is unable to make the proper distinctions between the two. One of the fundamental characteristics of intellectual impairment is the loss of the ability to distinguish that which should be distinguished and identify that which should be identified. Even the very notion of the idea of a dreams or hallucinations demonstrates the intellect's capacity to grasp objective reality. The very idea of a dream or hallucination as something being falsely attributed to objective reality can only validly exist if there is a proper idea of a valid grasp of objective reality as a frame of reference.

** footnote - Phenomenology which uses the contents of the conscious mind as a starting point for philosophy is not necessarily subjective. If Catholic, rather than Kantian phenomenology is used, the content of our consciousness includes the elements of objective reality. The value of phenomenology is that it helps us to sort out, in our conscious awareness, what is subjective vs. what is objective. It helps us to get rid of erroneous suppositions in our search for philosophical truth.

Now we turn to the philosophy of *empiricism,* which is a form of skepticism. This is the belief that the mind can come to the grasp of no universal truth at all. A major figure who supported this was David Hume (d. 1776). He claimed that the only truth that the human mind can know is that which is perceived through the senses or deduced mathematically. According to him, we can have no knowledge of metaphysics (the science of being as such) or theology (the science of God). Metaphysics or theology would, for him, come under the category of pure opinion which is not real knowledge at all. In the material realm, Hume maintains that there is no real knowledge of causality as a power going from cause to effect to make the effect occur by the efficacy of the cause. For example, when we see one billiard ball conferring momentum upon another, it is not as if we have discerned something (called momentum) going from one ball to the other, but that we only expect the second ball to move upon impact with the first because we have experienced such a thing in the past. Causality, as the human mind understands it, therefore, is simply a matter of the mind working according to the laws of association, based on past experience. Our expectation of the workings of causality in something, according to Hume, is not a judgment of the intellect, but more of a regurgitation, much like Pavlov's dog salivation when he hears a bell.

To refute the theory of empiricism we utilize a powerful tool of philosophical analysis, known as the transcendental argument. With the transcendental argument, any theory can be deemed false if a supporting premise or idea of that theory contradicts that theory. This is one of the prime tools used by the metaphysician in order to arrive at philosophical truth. For example, we used the transcendental argument above to show that those who attempt to say that we cannot have a valid knowledge of objective reality must be using an idea of objective reality to attempt to do that - that is, the very idea of objective reality that they are refuting must come from objective reality itself. Now for Hume, when he maintains the theory of empiricism, that the only valid knowledge can come from sense experience or mathematics, he implicitly contradicts himself. The theory of empiricism, itself, is not an object of sense experience or mathematics. It is a metaphysic. Hume, therefore, (not known to himself) is doing metaphysics to refute metaphysics. This is what all philosophers do when they deny metaphysics in their philosophical analysis.

This is similar to agnosticism. The agnostic may argue that we can know nothing about God, because he is infinitely above us. But the agnostic contradicts himself because he is basing his argument on something he claims that he knows about God - that he is infinitely above us. Similarly, those who deny that the human mind can know truth are putting this very proposition forward as a truth. If they maintain that this is the only truth we can know, they better come up with an answer as to why this is the only bald singular truth we can in fact know. When pressed, they are inevitably forced to appeal to an entire constellation of other "truths" in order to back up their argument. Agnosticism or any form of skepticism is self refuting. If it were truly correct, that we could only know what our senses tell us, we would be mere animals (animals cannot do mathematics, because mathematics necessarily implies metaphysics. Mathematics necessarily includes the concepts of unity and multiplicity and all their applications to actual and possible realities). Animals do not even have the general notion that all that they can perceive is what their senses tell them – all they do is perceive, without in any way theorizing about it. In fact, they make no affirmations of truth or falsehood at all. They "think" and act according to the laws of association within their mind. The animal use of language, which is cited by some researchers as evidence of animal intelligence, is purely based on mental association. This is because they lack the context of the universal which is the basis of not only metaphysics but all human understanding and moral behavior. It is precisely this ability that humans have, of putting things in the context of the universal, which puts man on a qualitatively higher level than that of animals.

What, therefore, can be affirmed as universal truth that the human intellect can know? The first principle of all reality is the law of identity. This claims that a thing is what it is. This means that it is not necessarily what we believe it to be or want it to be. An affirmation of the law of identity requires us to lay aside all rationalizations and to be docile to the voice of being. Wishing alone is incapable of bending reality one iota. Reality is something which is purely and absolutely given to our intellect. To have integrity - rather than attempting to manipulate reality with our mind in order to arrive at the "truth" we wish, the intellect must conform to being - that is, it must be fluid. It must conforms itself to reality as water conforms itself to the hand being put into it. The principle of identity is based on the fact that it is the very nature of objective reality to be recognized by our intellect and not created by it. This is given in the very essence of objective reality. Objective reality is a world common to all subjects - it is "ours," - whereas subjective experience is particular to a given subject - it is "mine." As many subjective experiences exist as there are persons, but objective reality is one with itself.

Objective reality is the common frame of reference through which we relate to the world and to each other. This is why the often-heard statement "one should not impose one's morality on others" is so fallacious. It assumes that the source of morality is personal subjective experience, when in reality the source of it is common objective reality. Without a common world - and as a consequence of this - without a common nature of this common world with which to conform our moral actions, according to an objective moral law, all we would have is subjective reality. As a consequence, each person would be a god unto himself and, therefore, would make his ego absolute. Other egos, as a result, simply exist for him (or her) to be exploited for selfish gain, or they would have to be eliminated if they stand in his way. If subjectivism were universalized (as many elites are now pushing) we would have hell on Earth.

The second most fundamental principle of reality is the law of non-contradiction. This states that nothing can both be and not be under the same aspect at the same time. The law of change and variety, in reality, allows that things can be and not be at different times, or be and not be under different aspects, but not under the same aspect at the same time. The law of non-contradiction concerns the pure fact of existence or non-existence of a given thing or attribute. Because a ball is red on one side and green on another, this does not constitute a violation of the principle of non contradiction. The red and the green refer to two different aspects - that is, two different sides of the ball. When we say that something is, we are saying that it is not not. When we say that something is not we are saying that it not is. For example, if a man asks his wife if dinner is ready now, he would expect either a "yes" which would mean that he is to come to the table now, or a "no" which would indicate that he would come at a later time. If this "yes" and "no" were confused and one did not exclude the other, no practical information could be gained by asking the question about dinner. Without the hard exclusion of one alternative over the other - that is of the exclusion of the fact of the existence with respect to the fact of the non existence of something - no possible communication or reasoning could be possible for the human intellect. As a technical analogy, a computer would clearly be defective if it were incapable of distinguishing ones from zeros in its memory cells.

** footnote - Sympathizers with the philosophy Buddhists claim a "higher" wisdom in which the Aristotelian law of non-contradiction does not apply to reality. They claim that when things can both be and not be, and this adds "richness" to reality. The law of non-contradiction, however, is not abrogated in this case. If examples were given of such Buddhist wisdom, we could see that the things they refer to, exist and do not , under different aspects. A full analysis of this is beyond the scope of this article. If the law of non contradiction were truly abrogated this would not add richness to reality, but confusion to the point of unintelligibility.

The third fundamental law of reality is principle of sufficient reason. This states that if something exists, occurs, or is true, it must have adequate grounds for this. Something cannot exist, occur, or be true, simply for no reason at all. To validate this we appeal to the principle of common natural practice. The principle of common natural practice has been referred to above, simply, as what everyone does or how everyone thinks in real life in practical situations. As mentioned above we can validate the objectivity of truth, falsity, good, and evil, with this. Even if a philosopher denies the objectivity of these in theory, he always exercises a belief in these in practice. Along with the transcendental argument, the principle of common natural practice is a prime tool of the metaphysician in arriving at philosophical truth. With the principle of sufficient reason, even if someone were to deny it in theory, that person would always appeal to it in practice in his life. It is an innate property of the human intellect to always search for the reason behind an existent, occurrence, or truth. For example, if someone were to ask me to properly validate the principle of sufficient reason, he has just proven my point!

Returning to David Hume we know that the second billiard ball moves upon impact with the first because the motion of the second must have its sufficient reason in the motion of the first. We can say, therefore, that our understanding of causality is based on an intellectual apprehension of the causative mechanism. The sequence of cause and effect is not solely something we expect according to the laws of association within our mind, based on nothing but past experience. Hume denies the validity of the design argument for the existence of God for a reason similar to his denial of the objective reality of causality. He claims that if we come across a watch, we know that it must have a designer because we have prior experience of watches being designed. We have no experience of the universe being designed, so we can not necessarily conclude that it has a designer. The problem with Hume's reasoning is that the principle "design requires a designer" is based on the principle of sufficient reason. It is not based on experience alone. Even though we have not personally experienced the universe being created, from the principle of sufficient reason, we can know that the universe requires a cause for its design and order.

These principles of identity, non-contradiction, and sufficient reason are fundamental structures of the human intellect. In truth, they cannot be thought not (even though someone may make an erroneous judgment in this respect). They cannot not be thought, and at the same time they cannot not be in actual reality. A principle exists in scholastic philosophy which states that "the law of the reality is the law of the mind." This is because the proper object of the intellect is being. Error cannot be made in the apprehension - that is, in the direct consciousness of something or in the direct consciousness of an attribute of something. For example, when we see the colour blue, we cannot be mistaken in the fact that we are seeing blue. Error can, however, be made in the judgment - that is, error can be made in the combining or distinguishing of concepts. The fundamental source error in the human intellect is a defect in the ability to distinguish that which should be distinguished and identify that which should be identified. For example, we cannot be mistaken if we perceive the colour blue and know that we perceive the colour blue, but we can be mistaken if we think that that blue we are perceiving is the colour of a monster that we see while under the influence of drugs. One can be mistaken in philosophy in denying the law of non-contradiction, but the error of such a philosopher lies precisely in not realizing that what he is denying (what he calls the principle of non-contradiction) is different from the true principle of non-contradiction which exists infallibly within his intellect. The fact that fundamental structures of knowledge exist in the intellect does not mean that the intellect has innate ideas (ideas that one is born with), but that these principles are abstracted from the being with which one has experience with.


Now we shall build on the above section which discusses how the intellect can understand objective reality. Now we shall proceed to the nature of being itself.

One of the major philosophical errors of this modern era is known as *scientism.* Scientism maintains that the only universal truths that the human intellect can know are those given by the physical sciences - that something is of value as objective knowledge only if it can be measured or calculated. Sciences such as psychology or botany also allow for a phenomenological analysis, in that behaviors (in psychology) or species (in botany) can be classified and analyzed on the basis of similar empirical appearances of the phenomena in question. With scientism, anything spiritual, theological, or metaphysical is denied as valid knowledge. Scientism has its roots with the empiricism of Hume.

We have demonstrated in the last section how universal principles must exist which transcends that which the senses give us, and have demonstrated how the human mind can know such principles. Now we shall establish how, *within material objects themselves,* there are elements which are necessarily non material and metaphysical. This idea of this metaphysical element in material things will be used to validate the Catholic concept of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. It will also be used as a connective to demonstrate the rationality of the concept of angels and human souls, and be a support for a valid understanding of the existence and nature of God.

What many modern philosophers have denied is the concept of the "essence" - or the "what-it-is" of things. Essences, for example, would include "cat-ness," which is in all particular cats and which makes them cats, and which distinguishes them from all other things. Any given thing has its own particular essence which identifies what that thing is. A given essence is identical in all things of a given type, so that all things of that type can be identified as belonging to the same type. Such an essence in such a type differentiates things of that type from things of other types (i.e. because the essences of cats and dogs differ they belong to different types). Many moderns have said that the things that we name such as cats, trees, and tables, are only named because that is how the linguistic functions in our brain react to the various types of phenomena our senses encounter. Again, these modern thinkers are relegating true human intellectual operations to a sub-human status. According to them the operations of our mind and our use of language is based simply on the laws of mental and neurological association. For them there is no proper and vital contact between being and the intellect, and for them there is no virtue of truthfulness in which we communicate to others, the being which our intellect apprehends, through an appropriate sign (i.e. a word). In fact, it was the notorious Bertrand Russell who said that words are simply conventional noises we make to have others do our bidding (as we all know, this is what sociopaths do).

These moderns do, however, grant an objectivity to the abstracted physical properties of things, apprehended by the senses or discerned by scientific instruments. They grant as real those attributes of things which can be measured, weighed and counted. They also grant the objective reality of certain phenomenological properties such as shape, colour, hardness etc. How do we, in the face of this, establish the objectivity of essence and how do we properly explain what essence is. First of all, a thing is not simply its parts (modern science discerns the nature of things by examining what they are made of). A jumble of car parts, lying in a heap, is not a car. Only when these parts are properly assembled do we have a real car. The car parts can be termed the *matter* of the car. The overall arrangement and interconnectivity of those parts, properly assembled, is the *form* of the car. Both matter and form are required to constitute a real material object. Form is simply a "multiplicity-as-unity," with all the parts being simultaneously considered, but being arranged and connected so that they make one thing. With both matter and form, we have a "something," and the "what" of that thing the intellect understands as its "essence." Each essence is derived from a particular type of matter and form.

This is precisely the stumbling block for many moderns. Since an understanding of form involves a consideration of all parts simultaneously, it escapes the methodology of the physical sciences which views things in isolation and "under the microscope." Form is rejected by many moderns because it escapes his ability to intellectually dominate it from a superior vantage point. Essence is the same way. It involves a certain depth of mystery - a certain impenetrability - which cannot be completely grasped by the human mind. The issue of why a given matter and form render a given essence - and the degree of latitude allowed in the variation of this matter and form to render a such an essence - definitely involves mystery (for example, men come in all shapes and sizes. A mystery would be involved in the question of how far could the alteration in shape and size and other characteristics go, before a man would become something else - that is, before he takes on a different essence. A mystery would be involved in determining the exact boundary of such a transformation).

For many intellectuals, the existence of such mystery simply is not tolerable. Some sort of intellectual vice is usually involved in this lack of tolerance. This intolerance can involve the vices of either pride or intellectual avarice: pride, in that such a thinker wishes to fancy himself above all things, refusing all legitimate subordination; intellectual avarice, in which he wishes to "own" all things with his mind. It is a just punishment, in the order of human nature, that those intellectuals who seriously aspire to this type of illicit greatness are actually very much impoverished in their understanding of the real world and real life. A real stupidity demonstrates itself with such thinkers as they attempt to deal with other people and practical situations of life. The common opinion, that the extreme specialist is socially inept, may have its basis in fact after all. It was G.K. Chesterton who said that in the past, man wanted to get his head into the heavens. Now modern man wishes to get the heavens into his head.

We may again appeal to the principle of common natural practice to defend the notion of essence and form. Even the scientist who holds that the only objective knowledge constitutes that which is measurable or observable, according to the senses or scientific instruments, treats essences as objective realities in his practical day interaction with things. If he did not do this at all, he would be entirely unable to function in life. Working with things in their essences and working with how things in their essences interact with other things in their essences, is the natural and primary way that man, guided by his intellect, interacts with things. The scientific method, used by the material sciences, abstracts certain physical details and measurements from things, for study. These physical details and measurements, thus abstracted, involve no or very little depth of mystery, so that they are palatable to the materialistic scientist. Since the material scientific methodology involves this type of abstraction from a full reality, which involves both matter and form - essence and existence - this full reality, even of material things, must necessarily escape the scope of the understanding of the material sciences, which means that this full reality of physical things necessarily involve mystery.

We have demonstrated above, from the point of view of essence, how material objects must involve something non material, or extra-material. There is another way in which material objects involve a non-material principle. This is in its *ontological content* -that material objects have real being, not simply physical characteristics.

An error made by modern philosophers is to reject the Aristotelian distinction between accident and substance. Substance is the thing itself, while accidents are the characteristics that that thing has. For example, substance is the man himself, while the accidents of the man are things such as his height, weight, hair colour, etc. This would seem very straight forward and common sense, however, it has been challenged by modern philosophers who say that there is no such distinction between accident and substance. This challenge has also been used to denigrate the idea of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist in which the accidents (physical characteristics) of bread remain, while the substance of bread has been transformed into the substance of Jesus Christ.

One main challenger to the substance/accident distinction was John Locke (d. 1704). He too was an empiricists who rejected classical metaphysics. He had rejected most of what he had been taught about scholastic philosophy (the Christian philosophy of the middle ages). He said that all we see when we see a man, for example, are his physical characteristics. His physical characteristics are all that the senses can register. We see nothing extra about him which we can call "substance," in addition to these characteristics. Similarly, a detractor of the real presence would use such an argument to say that if all that is seen, tasted, and felt in the Consecrated Host is bread, it is bread, since according to this detractor, the Host is nothing but these physically discernible qualities.

The error of this, is that it totally ignores the ontological content of the man or the Host in question - ignoring the fact that they are *beings,* not just collections of qualities. If, for example, you perceive something, if all you perceive are physical qualities of sense, all you would perceive are subjective sensations. Unless there were an "extra" of being or reality that these sensed qualities are a part of, you would be a solipsist, which would mean that nothing would exist except yourself and your subjective consciousness. I think that most of us can agree that this is absurd. For things to be objectively real, this extra - "being" - must necessarily be a part of them. Establishing that, we can say that substance is the being of a particular thing - that substance is the embodiment of being in a particular concrete thing. The real distinction between substance and accident is based upon the fact that this or that being has this or that set of characteristics.

The being of a thing is intuited with the intellect, while physical characteristics are primarily perceived by the senses. The intellect reaches out to embrace the being of a thing, in that being's true reality, so that the intellect grasps it objectively. This involves far more than mere sensations being impressed on the senses. We can say that Christ truly exists in the consecrated Host, because while the Host has the physical characteristics of bread, its being is that of Christ. Many modern thinkers have rejected the substance/accident distinction, because the principle of substance, as embodied being, also involves mystery. Such a thing is intolerable to the proud intellectual who wishes to dominate everything from above with his mind. This is precisely why the validity of metaphysics, as the science of being as being, has been rejected in this day and age.

** footnote - Modern materialistic thinkers hold that intelligence is information processing ability (holding that the mind is nothing but operations of the brain and the brain is nothing but an information processor). If this were true, even modest computers would be far more intelligent than we are. True intelligence, in reality, is something completely different. It is the capability of intuitive penetration into the nature being with the intellect.


From what has been established, we can now proceed to discuss the rational coherence of the concept of spiritual entities such as human souls, angels, and God.

If there is a real distinction between the being of a thing and its physical characteristics, it is possible for entities to exist apart from physical characteristics. These "separated substances" using the Thomistic term, are spiritual beings which include human souls, angels, and God. How do we rationally discuss the characteristics of each?

Material things are limited in a two fold way. First of all, each material thing has a certain essence, which means that its being and its operation is limited to a given type. For example, a rose does not have the attributes of an opossum, and vice versa. Secondly, material things are vastly limited because they are enclosed in a finite section of three dimensional space. This is why many material things of a given essence can exist. Innumerable material things, of the same type, can be enclosed in innumerable sections of three dimensional space.

Angels do not have this second limitation of being enclosed in three dimensional space in such a way. They are independent of space. They do have the first limitation, however, of being limited to being of a certain species. Angels are "one step up" in the hierarchy of being, relative to material entities (and this includes man). All that distinguishes one angel from another is the fact of the essence it possesses. Each angel, therefore, is a distinct species in itself.

Human souls are spiritual, because they have an intellect and will which is related to the universal. The human act of understanding is the consciousness of how something fits into the universal scheme of things. Morality involves an understanding of how a proposed action fits into the universal scheme of things. If the intellect were not spiritual, the science of metaphysics (the science of being as being) would not be possible. Animals cannot conduct or understand metaphysics.

When we move to the top of the hierarchy of being, which is God, He has neither limitation. He is neither enclosed in a given section of space nor confined to a given species. Species denotes a limitation of being, in that it contains certain aspects of being and excludes certain other aspects. In the terminology of scholastic philosophy, essences are composites of act and potentiality. God, on the other hand, is pure being. Being self-existent, He contains all that being can possibly imply and, therefore, has all possible positive perfections. He is not a composite of act and potentiality, but is Pure Act.