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 Post subject: all acts have an end: proof?
PostPosted: Wed May 20, 2020 8:23 pm 
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What is the proof for:

1) that there are no end-less acts
2) that the end of all human acts is the same

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 Post subject: Re: all acts have an end: proof?
PostPosted: Thu May 21, 2020 12:59 pm 
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The first is self-evident, or should be unless someone has taken too many bad philosophy courses and grown stupid. People always have a reason for what they do. Even someone who says, "I did that for no reason," is not credible, even if they think it's true.

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 Post subject: Re: all acts have an end: proof?
PostPosted: Thu May 21, 2020 2:37 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: all acts have an end: proof?
PostPosted: Thu May 21, 2020 4:21 pm 
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To add to Obi's point, it's so self-evident that it's the basis of both physics and even psychology. Ask a physicist "why" something happens and you'll get an answer -- ask why again, and you'll get another answer, and so on, and so on. All of there answers can be, and ultimately must be, understood in terms of actualities and potentialities, of acts and ends. And just so with behavior (human or otherwise). It's easiest to see, intuitively, with rational behavior. I have a reason for doing this rather than that. Sometimes my reasons aren't known to me, or I'm self-deluded as to what my reasons are. So there can be "subconscious" reasons for why we do what we do, but there are still reasons why we do them. There reasons I feel the emotions I feel, which is why cognitive behavioral therapy actually has a degree of efficacy. Animals act, likewise, for reasons, for ends, whether they are aware of them or not.

As far as all being for the same end, that depends on what you mean. Not everything has the same final cause, just as not everything has the same efficient cause. But on an ultimate level, just as everything has the same Primary Efficient Cause, so everything has the same Ultimate Final Cause. That's just because any causal event rests on another causal even that is itself either caused or uncaused. If the former, then that causal event is either caused or uncaused. Since there must be a true First Cause (and by the same logic, a true Final Cause), then all causes must eventually terminate in a First and Final Cause. And from here, you just do the standard reasoning to show that there can't be multiple First/Final Causes because there would be nothing to distinguish one from another, and so you see there is only one First and Final Cause. And that, of course, is God.

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 Post subject: Re: all acts have an end: proof?
PostPosted: Thu May 21, 2020 5:51 pm 
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Can you explain what are primary, ultimate, efficient etc causes ?

And why there can't be an infinity?

I'm not well-versed in causation.

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 Post subject: Re: all acts have an end: proof?
PostPosted: Thu May 21, 2020 11:15 pm 
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I don't know that you have to be that well versed in causation. I suspect you know enough already. Have you read Feser? You might remember the four basic types of causes: formal, material, efficient, and final. The first two of important, but the latter two are really fundamental. So to get to the bottom line immediately, the final cause is intimately associated with the potentiality of a thing. The traditional example here is an archer shooting at a target. The arrow has the potentiality to hit the bullseye -- if that potentiality didn't exist (perhaps the bow isn't strong enough to make the distance), then the attempt is in vain. It also has the potentiality to hit elsewhere on the target or miss altogether. But that doesn't mean anything can happen. The archer can't loose the arrow and it go back in time, hit some primordial bit of matter, and start the Big Bang.

So the archer's final cause here is hitting the bullseye. The efficient cause is the archer himself loosing the arrow. Absolutely all causality, even of non-volitional things, can and actually are understood in these terms. So you give an antibiotic to a patient in the hopes of stopping the growth of some bacteria. The final cause of your prescribing the medicine is the health of the patient, because you know that azithromycin, for instance, has the real potentiality for inhibiting protein synthesis in Streptococcus pneumoniae. But notice the same type of analysis is possible on the more mechanistic level. You have a cause-effect relationship between the azithromycin and the Streptococcus pneumoniae (as just mentioned). The final cause need not be intentional in terms of an intellectual goal. We're really just speaking of the natural end of an act, which must, of course, be a potency of the thing. So because azithromycin has the potentiality to inhibit protein synthesis in our strep bacteria (if Wikipedia does not lie to me, by binding to the 50S subunit of the bacterial ribosome, thus inhibiting translation of mRNA). That potency becomes actual when the drug is administered. You can also analyze this in the appropriate material and formal causes, but that's not necessary for our conversation. The point is just that any time you have any cause/effect relationship whatsoever, whether it is intentional or not, act A is "towards" effect B. That "towardness" is the things final cause.

That may seem all unnecessary, but it's really essential to account for how the world works. It's the whole reason science works, in fact. All we're really doing is learning what potencies that certain substances have in certain situations and how they are actualized. That's the whole reason that math, for instance, actually works -- because nature is real. Natures are real. They have real potencies, which mean real final and efficient causes. You deny that, then you're stuck in the Cartesian or Kantian problem of ultimate skepticism. But once you accept this basic analysis, you end up having to contextualize efficient and final causality itself. Take our archer or doctor. Those causal events are not happening necessarily in an eternal vacuum. They are all very highly contingent. And those things upon which they are contingent are themselves contingent, and so on. So either you have an infinite regression of contingencies, in which case all is contingent and everything rests on, literally, nothing, or else you have something that is the First (Efficient) Cause and something that is the Final (Ultimate) Cause. These "things" are one and the same. "They" are necessary and of "them"selves. "They" are just God. The word "God" is just what we use to describe such a Principle.

And as far as why the regression of contingencies can't be infinite, imagine this simple thought experiment, which I steal from Feser, if I remember correctly: you want to paint your white wall some color, say red. You have a bucket of red paint into which you dip your brush and use the brush to spread the paint on the wall. So look what is happening. The red paint is on the bristles of the brush and is being moved by them. But the bristles aren't moving themselves. They are attached to and being moved by the ferrule. But the ferrule isn't moving itself. It is attached to and is being moved by the handle. But the handle isn't moving itself. It is attached to and being moved by your hand. And so on. But pause here. You could break the handle down into "parts." The first inch of the handle isn't moving itself. It is attached to and being moved by the second inch of the handle, and so with the third inch, and the fourth inch, and the fifth, and so on. Now suppose the handle was infinitely long. In that case, there would never be an end to the handle, and thus, there would never be a hand holding the handle and moving it, which moves the ferrule, which moves the bristles, which spreads the paint. In other words, if there is an infinitely long instrumental causal chain, if there is no first cause, then absolutely nothing actually ever happens.

So there must be a First Cause. By the same logic, there must be an ultimate Final Cause (after all, there are no efficient causes not directed towards a final cause!).

Does that help?

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 Post subject: Re: all acts have an end: proof?
PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2020 4:33 am 
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0. I've read Feser's blog, but not his books. I can't buy books online. I've been able to get the last superstition for free today.

1. Can you define the four types of causes, please?

2. The analogy of paint gives me the concept. Can that be applied to all situations though? Can't there be some other situations where this doesn't hold?

3. I'm reading Ethica Thomistica, fwiw, if that tells you where I'm coming from.

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 Post subject: Re: all acts have an end: proof?
PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2020 8:12 am 
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You really, really need to stop reading other things and read this first: http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/mcm/p ... outh1.html (It's free.) That will give you the philosophical underpinnings you need to understand what you are reading.

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 Post subject: Re: all acts have an end: proof?
PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2020 10:19 am 
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Oh, that's fantastic.

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Indeed, the Lord Jesus, when He prayed to the Father, "that all may be one. . . as we are one" (John 17:21-22) opened up vistas closed to human reason, for He implied a certain likeness between the union of the divine Persons, and the unity of God's sons in truth and charity. This likeness reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself. ~ Pope Paul VI, Gaudium et Spes 24.3


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 Post subject: Re: all acts have an end: proof?
PostPosted: Sat May 23, 2020 10:17 am 
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Anyway, you asked about the four causes. A short answer goes something like this:

The efficient cause is that which brings the effect into being, or the primary source of the change in question.
The material cause is that out of which the effect is made.
The formal cause is the "whatness" that causes a thing to be what it is.
The final cause is the end or purpose for which the thing made or change brought about.

So I think a bronze statue might be the standard example here. The efficient cause is the artist who sculpts the statue. The material cause is the bronze itself. The formal cause is the form or shape of the statue (the "thing" you grasp when you look at it and say, "Ah, that's a statue."). And the final cause is, perhaps, to remind you of some great figure or to remember something or other.

To expand on that a bit:

For any and all material things, all four causes are found in every cause/effect relationship, be they intentional human acts or subatomic particle interactions. And when you start really analyzing any given cause/effect, you'll always see that you can go "deeper" into what's constituting that part of the change. Again, this is just illustrated really well with modern physics! So take our previous example of you giving an antibiotic to treat pneumonia. So you, the doctor, are the efficient cause. The final cause is the health of the patient. The material cause (depending on the level of analysis) is, say, the chemical compound that makes up the particular antibiotic. And the formal cause is the the nature of this antibiotic and it's natural capacity to inhibit the growth of certain bacteria. But now take that down a level. You've given the drug. Now we are in the cell and we are watching the drug "binding to the 50S subunit of the bacterial ribosome, thus inhibiting translation of mRNA." The same analysis of this cause/effect relationship is necessary. The efficient cause is the azithromycin. The material cause is the particular chemical structure of the interactions. The formal cause is "inhibiting" effect we see going on, the thing we grasp and name. The final cause is the binding of the 50S subunit (not, here, the inhibition of the translation of the mRNA -- that's a resultant effect). But you can take THAT analysis deeper still to an atomic level. My analysis has to stop because I'm not a chemist. But if you start breaking down the actual chemical interactions that are making up that causal effect, you'd need to provide the same sort of thing: what is actually causing this effect (the efficient cause); what is the thing out of which this effect is being generated (the material cause); what is the "whatness" of this effect (the thing we grasp and name as a real effect, the formal cause); what is the end or purpose of goal of this effect (the final cause).

So you've reached the end, right? You've gotten to the atomic explanation. But that turns out to be insufficient on an ultimate level. What is causing those atoms to act in those ways? So we give a subatomic explanation. But that turns out to be insufficient. So we end up with something like a quantum explanation. But that turns out to be insufficient. And this is where I think physics is proving Aristotle right more than he could have ever dreamed. At the absolute bottom of physical reality Heisenburg reigns. Uncertainty, or better indeterminacy, is the rule. At this level, things exists as probability distributions. They really are capacities, and they remain so until acted upon. That's just Aristotle's language! And it's all subject to the same level of assessment we've been provided.

And yet it's still insufficient. Because what is causing even that?

At some point, you get to a Principle, a First and Final Cause, that itself is not being caused. The moment you get to the bottom where you point to something and say, "X is being caused by Y, but Y is not being caused by anything -- it just Is," you are at a very holy place. The "deeper" we go into physical reality, the "abstract" it gets precisely because it gets more and more analogical. This isn't to say that God is a physical being. He isn't. It is to say that all of physical reality gets more and more "abstract" (from a human perspective) the more fundamental it gets. And ultimately, if anything is to be explained, then you must get to something that is so "abstract" that it has no physical reality -- it has no hylo- to the hylo-morph. We get to reality operating the way it does because that's the way it was made . . . that's the way it just is. But then you have that big, last question. Under all that, there is no material cause (because there's nothing at this level anything is made out of). So when you get to the very, very bottom, when you ask about the final cause of that bottom effect . . .why is it what it is? You get to something that just is for Itself.

No, without revelation, we get stuck there. We're left with Aristotle's Prime Mover, disinterested in us. And he was right as far as he could go. You understand, I believe, the claim that you can't reason from God's nature to what He would do (including to care about us). But because of revelation, we understand that this same Prime Mover, this same Final Cause, really does care about us. "It" really is Personal, even more Person that we are. That's a matter for other study, which good philosophy can help us conceptualize. But now we are way, way down the road from the four causes.

So to sum it all up, especially as it relates to final causality: as a scientist in training, you are taught to ask, "Why is this happening?" What you don't realize, I think, is that you are just asking, "What is the final cause of this effect?" But then, if you are patient and interested, you'll find that whatever answer you give will itself require the same question be asked. This is true of all effects any and everywhere. This is why, eventually, you must come to a Final Cause that is not an effect. It rather just is the "Why" for which it Itself, and by extension, for which all things it is causing, just is.

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Indeed, the Lord Jesus, when He prayed to the Father, "that all may be one. . . as we are one" (John 17:21-22) opened up vistas closed to human reason, for He implied a certain likeness between the union of the divine Persons, and the unity of God's sons in truth and charity. This likeness reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself. ~ Pope Paul VI, Gaudium et Spes 24.3


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 Post subject: Re: all acts have an end: proof?
PostPosted: Sat May 23, 2020 11:59 am 
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:shock:

I’d hate to see the long answer!

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 Post subject: Re: all acts have an end: proof?
PostPosted: Sat May 23, 2020 4:43 pm 
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The long answer was supposed to start at "To expand on that a bit:" :-P

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Indeed, the Lord Jesus, when He prayed to the Father, "that all may be one. . . as we are one" (John 17:21-22) opened up vistas closed to human reason, for He implied a certain likeness between the union of the divine Persons, and the unity of God's sons in truth and charity. This likeness reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself. ~ Pope Paul VI, Gaudium et Spes 24.3


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 Post subject: Re: all acts have an end: proof?
PostPosted: Sat May 23, 2020 5:59 pm 
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Thank you very much.

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 Post subject: Re: all acts have an end: proof?
PostPosted: Sun May 24, 2020 1:54 pm 
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Why can’t there be an infinity?

Since my brain has forever been fried from college, I’ll just simply say...

If you posit an entire realm of caused-causes, then what must the cause of that entire realm necessarily Be? Caused or Uncaused?

Also we can say that things without reason act for an end because Something, God, Reason Itself, moves those things towards its natural perfection as a good and reasonable end.

St. Thomas starts with premises which are self-evident to us regarding these questions btw


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