Synthesizing Aquinas and the Knowledge of a God

“What are the different ways of knowing God?  Why are some of these mixed with error?  If the error was removed are these properly the highest knowledge of God or is this only achieved through contemplation in the next life?”

The main two ways of knowing God are through general contemplation of life, and all of the characteristics which follow, itself, and contemplation about the nature of God. When observing life itself to come to an understanding of God there are many misconceptions (confused knowledge), as well as an intrinsic error. Man, can either “know” God by almost a sense of complacency while subscribing to the idea of God, or Man can have a confused knowledge of God through natural reasoning itself. The aforementioned at first seems to make sense but after closer examination the way of coming to know God falls apart. If nature is ordered, then it seems that there is an orderer of what has been ordered. The epistemological flaws in the ordered to orderer reasoning lies in that there are works of man that do not go in the order of nature, so by default there is an exclusion of the soul of every man. While it could be argued that the soul does not exists, there then would not be a solid reason for the works of man (both ordered and non-ordered works). There is also a flaw in that it can become easy for man to view himself as the orderer, especially if solely governing a body of people; or even that there is no such order and that everything is controlled by the elements. Now as for knowing God through the reasoning of His nature, while it might not be possible to know God through his Essence, God can be known through what he has done. Excluding the latter, these examples cannot lead to a fuller understanding of God and who He is. Felicity, it is said, can only be reached as an end human act, or before death. Life is a process of coming into relationship and knowledge of God. Therefore, true understanding of God, and all of his glory, as well as ultimate felicity comes in the next life.

“What is the highest good?  What is felicity and how is it attained?  Why must it be connected to knowledge of what is lasting?”

The highest good is not found in just applying reason to any topic but to the topics of God and divine matters. Wisdom is achieved through the discernment of divine matters and ultimate felicity comes from the contemplation of wisdom. Felicity is the happiness and joy that man experiences. These things come from an understanding of what is lasting, because it is God himself who is lasting. All things eventually come to an end, so therefore cannot lead to an ultimate happiness.

“Aquinas quotes Jesus as saying that there is a treasure in heaven, and Paul as saying we will see face to face. In their context, what else might these be about rather than the beatific vision?”

The ultimate felicity of man is found not in a physical reward in heaven, like the Greek dualists, but that coming to know God and to be in union and contemplation with him is man’s ultimate felicity. When Paul is saying that we will come face to face with God it is not to say that we see in the way we understand sight now. It is more of an understanding. There is an essential flaw with the thought of seeing God face to face, in a human form. God is not corporeal, so it is not possible to see an incorporeal person in corporeal vision. Which also then means that then we cannot see God in our own corporeal face, we eventually will see God without a medium, or as Aquinas says “as true as men face to face”.
Contrast the direct vision of God (which is called contemplation or immediate knowledge) with the knowledge of God through the works of God (creation and providence, mediate knowledge).

The ability of direct vision of God is achieved through the contemplation of the nature of God, which cannot reach fulfillment until union with God, whereas to see God through his works is to observe that from all things (God being the only eternal being) there is God and God is behind all that exists; which can refer back to Augustinian thinking.

“In what way is Aquinas an empiricist?  In what way does he continue the assumptions of Greek dualism?”

Aquinas is seen as an empiricist by his understanding that heaven is not in correlation to the Christian’s who had Greek Dualistic thoughts. Aquinas had the understanding that heaven, both the gift Christ promised and seeing God face to face as Paul mentioned, is not in a physical form, but rather that these are a human way of understanding. Aquinas, using reason, could know that being with God is the ultimate felicity of man. It seems that this idea might have continued the Greek Dualistic view by stating that being in contemplation with God is what awaits us in the afterlife. This idea of being one in contemplation loosely relates is reflective of Plato’s thoughts on who God is.



Response to Locke

  1.  Why does Locke think we can know God with certainty? The ability to know God for certain comes from a basic understanding of what is existence and what is nonexistence. After examining what is existing the question of where it came from comes into play. Once we establish what things are in existence, it is clear that the evidence for God is found in the creation itself. Even if all thing, but our mind, were brought into question of actually existing, the fact that we have thought, knowledge, perception, must have been created by one who has equal then or greater characteristics. The very fact that we can reason whether there is a God, shows that we have a given and fundamental understanding of what is eternal. The basic understanding of what is eternal cannot be found in consciousness for the sake of consciousness, in thought for the sake of thought, knowledge for the sake of knowledge, or perception for the sake of perception. All of these attributes of the self and the mind have come from one, the one they come from does have those attributes, but those attributes themselves would not be found to exist if not for the one who is the author of existence.
  1.  What is the argument Locke gives to show that something must be eternal? AND
  2.  What is the argument that Locke gives to show that material being is not eternal?

The argument that something(s)- or even all things- must be eternal is an essential, as well as fundamental, concept to understand. To argue that nothing is eternal, in this instance referring to without beginning rather than to say everlasting- without end-, shows a lack of fundamental understanding of basic scientific and philosophical concepts. To say that nothing is eternal is to say that all things came from nothing, which it is known that something cannot come from nothing. For instance, someone does not get an apple from nothing, but rather from an apple tree, and that tree from a seed and that seed from an apple from a tree and so on. It can become possible to assert the question of where the first seed or tree came from, and it is possible to go all the way back to the beginning of time tracing down the origins of the tree, but notice that to origin does not come out of nothing; it derives from something, even if a previous ancestor. The basic and most fundamental unit of all things that exist, matter, did nothing. After accepting this first true and justified belief, it then becomes possible to explore in more understanding the implications of both something(s) are eternal or all things are eternal. Locke, himself, would argue that only something is eternal, The Creator. Locke can deduce that something is eternal because he knows that it is not possible for nothing to be eternal, which then leads him to contend against the notion that all things are eternal. Now, to say all things are eternal is a big assumption, as it could mean that someone thinks that all things material and immaterial have always existed, as state of being co-eternal. Now it can safely be said that matter cannot be co-eternal because matter cannot come from nothing, which means it had to be brought into being by something. It would seem to be that if matter was created by a being that it is by definition not co-eternal and therefore not as powerful as The Creator. The notion that there is only the material cannot be supported by this understanding, as even the material things that forms a person is not the same as the thinking thing that anybody is, just as much as an idea on a piece of paper houses and represents the idea but is not itself the idea.

  1.  What is the argument to show that God is immaterial? AND
  2.  How does Locke deduce the nature of God?

Whatever The Creator is, it is the most supreme being. The Creator is the most powerful being even if only a singular atom, it is still responsible for creating all that is, it would be the most powerful being, by nature, due to the fact that all thing derived from it. An atom, however, does not have thought and thought has to come from one who has thought. The material cannot produce thought, whether it being a single particle, group of particles or a working system or particles; nor can the material produce the immaterial, whereas the opposite does have that capacity. It could be asserted that, however, that man creates ideas and dreams. The very fact that man can do that is proof enough, then, that man does have a part of them that is immaterial; seeing how in the last question it was outlined that a piece of paper with a thought written on it is not the thought itself. Man then, and their bodies, is much like the piece of paper, it has a material part that houses the immaterial, intangible being. All of this should be followed by the argument that shows how God himself is immaterial. If God created all things, including the material then God himself could not be material as that would mean he created himself, which would be as much a paradox as saying that matter is eternal; which as stated before is not the cases as we can contemplate and illustrate the origin of all mater. Because God then is not able to be material, God himself must be immaterial.

  1.  What is the argument to show that incognitive being cannot produce cogitative being?

We can, perhaps, elevate our minds to answer and identify the creation of all things material and incognitive (how it is done) but we would be remised to think we could do the same to the soul, presumably cognitive, and its creation. Locke continues to argue that something cognitive cannot come from something incognitive because if cognition did come from an incognitive being then that would mean instead of there being one infinite and eternal being, there would be there would be an infinite number of finite beings. This ultimately does not lead to the level of complexity and organization found in the natural world.

  1.  How does Locke show that there are two kinds of being, cogitative and incognitative?

Locke illustrates his concept of there being the cognitive and incognitive that exist by showing that there are things that exist that are purely material and are without sense or perception, much like hair trimmings, these are the incognitive material beings in life. Whereas the cognitive beings are those that do have some sense of perception and sense, even if minimal; they are not the tool in perception but rather they themselves perceive.

  1.  How does Locke show that the material world is not co-eternal with God?

The material world can be shown to not be co-eternal with God by going even further in depth about why matter itself cannot be eternal. Matter cannot be eternal because if it were, when a new thing was to be formed that would mean that matter is created- which it has been stated that this idea goes against natural science- or then that there is an infinite amount of matter where all things are made, which then cannot be; this because the infinite supposes continuous creation. If it is to be such a way then what is a thing before it was created, if not matter. Locke illustrates this point by posing the question of what a human is before it was conceived. Therefore, all things material, at least in the most basic form of matter, were created at one definitive point- Ex nihilo. It seems imperative that another point, which after contemplation of Locke comes to mind, must be addressed. If matter is eternal what about scientific hypothesis such as the Standard Cosmological Model- the Big Bang Theory? It would seem that if all matter was eternal, which could be seen as an attempt by those who would be considered materialists to disprove that there is a God, then the Big Bang itself does not serve to answer the question of modern physics and that the Big Bang only address a middle step in the process of an evolving universe rather than a start to the universe. Therefore, the Big Bang cannot be used as a proof to disprove the ultimate existence of God.

  1.  In Locke’s view is there any excuse for not knowing God?

There is no reason for anyone person to not know that God exists. Locke supposes that God has given man a sufficient amount of knowledge about himself and that with this knowledge people have the capacity of faith. Not only has God given an abundance of special revelation but he can be observed in the natural world through general revelation. How can something so complex have organized itself by a series of accidents? This also ties back to the question of whether or not something cognitive can come from something incognitive. How can all of life in its great complexity and grandeur have originated and come into existence through an incognitive being? Since God has given so much, and reveled so much of himself, it comes down to either a lack of understanding on man’s part or a general sense of arrogance and the unwillingness to adapt one’s lifestyle.

Basic Presupposed Questions in Regards to Plato

Below are some Basic Questions that I will seek to answer throughout the coming weeks:

  1. Can we know?
  2. Can we doubt?
  3. If we cannot know, then is it possible to doubt?
  4. How can you doubt what you claim to not know?
  5. Is there a truth, or truths?
  6. If there is a single truth, then can we know it?
  7. Does perception change truth?
  8. Does having knowledge of the truth affect our perception?
  9. Is knowledge to that of truth?
  10. If knowledge is to that of truth, then isn’t it that we cannot have one without the other?
  11. If we cannot have knowledge, then is it possible to have truth?
  12. How does knowledge apply to all people?
  13. Does knowledge apply to everyone?
  14. If knowledge is that of truth, then can knowledge ever change?
  15. Does everyone have some knowledge?
  16. Is there an answer?
  17. What is perception?
  18. Can perception be in truth?
  19. Is there self-existence?
  20. If the self does exist, when does a “person” fully attain “self-hood”?

Background Understanding:

-Plato’s Theaetetus

-Aristotle and the LNC

First blog post

Hello! The blog, The Thoughtful Hipster, is dedicated to publishing various thoughtful thoughts (however redundant that might have seemed). It is encouraged for others to suggest topics for discussion, however it is important to remember that everyone has a different world view. This Blog is intended to be an open platform for various philosophical, and the like, conversations. Happy thinking!



Thoughts on Aristotle- The Highest Good

  1. What does Aristotle think is the highest good and why? Aristotle thinks that the highest good is that of the best of us, the ability to reason. If happiness is in correlation to living in virtue, the happiest anyone can be is the one who lives in the highest virtue. So, the question is then asked, what is the highest virtue? Aristotle explains how common virtues of bravery, justice, and temperance is not in comparison to the virtue to reason, which is done through contemplation. Since reason is the best within us, then it is the highest virtue or the highest good. This leads to Aristotle’s next point, that happiness in itself is not the best, but philosophic exploration is the most pleasant of all virtuous activities.
  2. What brings lasting happiness? Philosophic exploration brings to lasting happiness, this is because, according to Aristotle, philosophic wisdom is more pleasurable than all other virtuous activities. The understanding that those who pass their time and know, rather than inquire, live more pleasantly. Happiness for the sake of itself is not lasting and does not lead to the truest form of happiness, because in itself it cannot contemplate.
  3. How does Aristotle define the terms virtue, good, happiness, God, and human nature? Virtue is each persons’ natural ruler. Whatever is found in each person to be good is a virtue (bravery, humility, just, honest). That good leads to some form of happiness, war, even though its intention is to bring peace, is not a good because it does not lead to happiness. War is exhausting and does not lead to a higher state of contemplation. The highest happiness is The Good. The idea of God is the highest governing authority over all things that exist and that do not exist (governs over the nonexistent, in so far as a God governs what is new that is to be created) so if the highest good (the element which is each persons’ natural ruler), and if that highest natural ruler (which is a virtue) is to contemplate, then God is reason as opposed to nonreason.
  4. What is contemplation? What are practical activities?  Which does Aristotle think are superior and why? To pursue philosophic exploration is to undergo contemplation. Contemplation is notably different than meditation such that contemplation is to think and use reason on a topic, heavily; whereas meditation is the process of thinking on and recalling a written work (such as the Hebrews for religious texts- chants). Practical activities are those that a person has to do in order to live their life. Seeing how humans are not immortal and cannot spend every moment in contemplation, practical activities, too, cannot lead to ultimate happiness. It is also important to note, that the philosopher can contemplate by themselves rather than needing to be with other philosophers, whereas the brave man needs to be with the brave. Seeing how happiness is thought to be dependent on leisure, to be absorbed in practical activities is then to contradict the very concept is proposes. The preposition, again, is that happiness is dependent on leisure, but if that is the case then, seeing how practical activities are not necessarily leisure in nature, practical activities therefore do not lead to true happiness. Therefore, contemplation is superior.
  5. Why is the life of contemplation too high for humans? The life of contemplation is not, necessarily, too high for humans because we are mortal but rather because the life of contemplation is divine, therefore because we cannot be divine and mortal at the same time, this life is too high for humans to fully reach. That being said, it should be our every effort and strain to make ourselves immortal (leading to what is immortal: the life of contemplation).
  6. What is the relationship between leisure and work for humans? Leisure is typically associated with happiness whereas work is associated to the opposite. If leisure is truly associated to happiness then the question must be asked, what is truly leisure. All other activities besides reason have some alternative goal or point behind the work, whereas to reason and contemplate is completed for the pure sake of contemplation, because contemplation leads to knowing and one who lives life knowing is a person who spends his time at the highest state of happiness.
  7. How can we know if we have lived a good life? We can know that we have lived a good life if we have dedicated ourselves to contemplation, because contemplation is the best and most pleasant of virtues, so therefor there is nothing more human then to contemplate.

Background Understanding:

-Plato’s Theaetetus

-Aristotle and the LNC