Thursday, April 30, 2009

Pinball and Jet Planes...'s time for that inevitable "reflection" post, where I give all sorts of insight about my experience here in Gaming, and all that. It's currently 22:44, an hour and fifteen minutes to go until midnight Mass. Three more hours, and we start a bus ride to Wien (Vienna). Three more hours, we get to Vienna, and then I get to wait with some other great people for five hours, until our plane leaves for Washington. With a nine-hour flight ahead of us. After that, some flights here and there, until I arrive on terra firma for good, ready to spend a summer in Minnesota, helping with a student film.

So what do I have to blog about? There's all sorts of things, and I'm never going to be able to recap all of them. They say that this semester is supposed to be a formative experience. I could be cliche, and say the same thing, but it's not really cliche, because it's true. I can't quite pin down what it was, but there were just so many ways in which I was indeed shaped and when I grew...or, more properly, opportunities for God to shape me more. I could talk about the classes, I could talk about the travel, I could talk about the closeness with my fellow students. Really, it would have to be the experience itself, fully conveyed through some miraculous means, which would give you the whole story...which means that there'll be parts of the whole story that nobody else will ever manage to hear, simply because I'm not capable of conveying them.

But most importantly, I feel that this was not only an important step in my life, but a necessary step. I've been learning. Learning to hope, to believe, to love, to serve, to pray, and to live. Anything which I knew how to do before, I've learned how to do even more so, in an even fuller force, a far greater manner. I feel far more prepared to face life than ever before. And now I'm setting foot on the next section of my journey. I'm going back home, in a sense. Ever onward, and finding new ground. It's time for me to bring back everything which came to me, and it's time for me to spread it to the people I know and love. It's a task, I suppose, you could say. Yet not one which I am loath to do, obviously. It's a joy.

Am I sad to leave Austria? I suppose so. Yet in another sense, I'm happy. Austria was where I was supposed to be for a semester, but only for a semester. Now, I have other places to be. I have other people to know. Better ways to know the people I already do. New places to apply my knowledge to. Old places to apply my new knowledge to. But most importantly, my direction is always love. I'm just learning more and more what that means, and my departure to the States is another step on that road of learning. God wanted me to be in Austria. God also wants me to be back in the States in the days to come. And I follow, knowing all too well the sage advice of an old and possibly slightly quirky hobbit...

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Why I Study Metaphysics

So, I've often heard a lot of people say one sort of thing or another about philosophy. The general consensus, however, seems to be that it's something reserved for the intellectuals, those people who like to think deep thoughts, and that it really has no place among the more practical. There's others who feel discouraged by what they feel is philosophy's confusing nature, and its plays with language. Still others thing that philosophy throws intellectualism where it doesn't belong, taking the beauty out of life. In all honesty, I think these are indeed valid objections to a degree. Why? Because there are those who profess to follow philosophy and who do all of these things. You have the intellectual snobs, the argument sharks, and the overexplainers in philosophy. But I'd like to posit to you that there is far more to philosophy than those select few. (They're just the ones who make the most noise)

I'll also note that my studies of philosophy never really went a whole lot of anywhere cool until I got to metaphysics. People, if you ever have to study any one field of philosophy, study metaphysics. It is literally the entire underpinning of life, and probably the most beneficial of all of the philosophies that I have come across. All of the others seem to have some degree of heavier systemization, putting things into categories, which makes them prone to the argument syndrome. And I could really stand to have less of that, because I don't care that Joe Schmo's Essential Proposition states that you are a dog. Philosophy isn't about digging up a piece of evidence to support your position. It's about thinking. You can perform philosophy regardless of how much knowledge you possess. In fact, you probably have. And metaphysics is the easiest to embark upon, because metaphysics is the study of Being itself.

If you've read my more recent posts, you'll be familiar with the many topics that I've covered. I've talked about infinity, perfection, freedom, and God Himself. Earlier on, I've talked about JPII's metaphysics of Love. And all of this leads up to Being itself, what it means to be. To be is to experience these things, to touch infinity, perfection, love, in some way, shape or form. And really, metaphysics is all about learning in regards to these things, to learn how we can experience them, and understand them even though we can't get a handle on them. There's no way we'll be able to analyze love, or freedom, and truly understand it. No possible way.

And that's one of the major problems of some philosophies. When Keats wrote that "Philosophy will clip an angel's wings," this is what he meant. That we use philosophy to dry out reality, to explain it away, and to make up a sterile world where everything fits into our own definitions. And I see this as totally contrary to philosophy. In fact, it should enlighten our lives, infuse us with a greater grasp on reality, and help us to understand everything in the light of Truth. To me, metaphysics is the poetry of life, that which is a light shining on the wings of angels.

Even farther, I'm reminded of something which Aristotle wrote, when discussing metaphysics. He said that metaphysics was the "divine science". And that, to me, is one of the most profound things you can say about metaphysics. I'm sure you could notice it working as I wrote out my posts, that as I continued my metaphysics, I drew a conclusion closer and closer to God Himself. And really, that's the ultimate reason why I metaphysicize. It's a way in which I can contemplate God as all that is good, a way in which I can essentially delve into the great Infinity, a way to enter into God's presence by learning about Him.

I go back to something which the thinker Gabriel Marcel stated, something we learned on the last day of metaphysics class. It was the difference between a "problem" and a "mystery". In his distinction, a problem is something which man seeks to solve and overcome. He places it outside of himself, so as to study it objectively, and he then tries to figure it out, to dominate it, through his actions. A problem's very end, then, is to be solved, and to be completed. This is the unfortunate approach that many take to metaphysics itself. They want to figure out reality, and reduce it to something beneath humanity. This is the materialist thinker, who believes that the solution is that only material things exist, and that everything else is a fabrication of our minds. This is the systemist, who believes that all reality falls into categories, definitions, and syllogisms. These are the true clippers of angels' wings.

A mystery, on the other hand, is far different. A mystery is something which we know is beyond our bounds, and so it cannot be examined from the outside. It must be examined from within, because it is greater than us. We must enter into it, instead of forcing it to enter into us. And so we enter, and we contemplate, and we think, and as we do so, we continue to discover more and more and more about the thing. We sit there, and engage it, and the insight pours in, and we come closer and closer to a grasp of Truth itself!

It is as if we were standing on the edge of a canyon, feeling the wind rise higher and higher, until finally it drew us up into it, and we ascended to still greater heights. That, that is why metaphysics is the poetry of life and being. When you enter into metaphysics, it's not just an abstract examination of things outside of you. No, on the contrary, it is the least abstract thing you could possibly do, because everything you study there is something which you experience through life! It is the understanding which peeks through in bits and pieces when you learn something new. As you pursue the understanding farther and farther, connections form between what you know, and everything starts to fit into a coherent whole that makes sense. You discover the meaning of being itself, and you discover that there is still far more to discover. And, in fact, there was a very important phrase which I ended my metaphysics notes with, when we finished the last of the lecture. It was a phrase written by C.S. Lewis, one which shows just how much of a grasp on the concept of "mystery" that he had. And if you don't recognize it, do yourself a favor and at least read the Chronicles of Narnia. Because these words that follow, in a sense, completely sum up my prayer, my life, my very being. It is something that I began when I was born, and something which I will continue after my death. Five simple words.

"Further up and farther in!"

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Perfect Post (Part V: Evil, or the Lack Thereof)

So, we come at last to one of the fundamental questions of philozophy. What is evil? This is in particular a concern for theologians, for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the perennial problem of evil, particularly of pain. We experience it in human existence, and wonder what it could possibly be. And why it happens to us. By answering the question of what evil is, we can understand why it is, perhaps. After that, we also have the question of how God can allow evil, and also the question of sin. Because sin proceeds from evil, understanding what evil is can shed a light upon what sin is.

I'm sure many of you are familiar with what is considered by many Catholic thinkers to be the first, foremost, and ultimate explanation of the existence of evil. It is the Privation Theory of St. Thomas Aquinas. Simply put, he states that all evil is merely a lack of the good. A place where the good is not. A disease is a privation of health. Lies are a privation of truth. Ruthlessness is a privation of mercy. What is most appealing about this theory is the fact that it answers all of those questions. If evil is a lack, then it exists because we miss God, turn away from God, do not will God. God allows evil because he allows us our choice. When I learned this theory, I thought it made the most sense that anything had ever made to me, and I latched onto it wholeheartedly. I had good reasons for why it worked, too.

For example, I would argue that if evil were substantial, it would necessarily have to be equal to good, or else perish, because good and evil are opposites. And obviously, because I don't believe in Yin and Yang, I don't believe that good and evil are caught in a balance. The idea of balance also implies that it is possible for evil to tip the scales and win. I certainly don't believe that. Also, if evil is substantial, how do you answer the fact that it exists in the same world as a good God? There's no possible way around that.

I've been starting to question the position, though, based upon what I've been learning. Because I see that evil itself, though a lack, must be a lack based in an origin, and that really, there's just something about it that speaks of substantiality. There's also the question of how a being can be irredemably evil, or indamnably good. Is a permanent choice really all that keeps them there? Or is there rather something about its nature that also makes a being so? And to my mind, the privation theory is incomplete. Now, though, I start to see a possibility for how it can be filled in, drawing in the previous knowledge which I discussed.

We will first go back to that discussion of pure and mixed perfections, and determine if evil can be either. Obviously, it cannot be a pure perfection, because the pure perfections inhere in one another, and are also better for a being to possess than not to possess. Evil meets neither of the criteria. But what if it's a mixed perfection? There don't seem to be any obstacles in the way of this. Just as you can have the concept of a perfect hatred, a perfect pain, a perfect injustice, you can also have a perfect evil. They are all mixed perfections, which means they are not always compatible with the pure perfections. In fact, these mixed perfections, in the end, are only compatible with pure perfections if both the mixed and pure perfections exist in imperfect form.

Read: human nature, or indeed nature itself.

Yet can evil be a mixed perfection? We left the last post with the question of what a mixed perfection truly was. We determined it was a mixture of a pure perfection and something else. One potential answer to the something else would be "evil", which would then obviously exclude evil as a mixed perfection, because then it would reference itself and degrade into a recursion of absurdity. Evil cannot be this something else, though, because look at the relation of a mixed and pure perfection. Aesthetics is not the mixture of Beauty and evil. Aesthetics on its own is neutral. In fact, it is subjective. But wait a second. It can only be subjective if a subject is relating to it.

The first thing when I think of "subject" is a single word: "I". The self. "Ego". A person! Hold on a sec, and let's look at this definition of a mixed perfection. Let's say that a mixed perfection is a mixture of a pure perfection and of a subject...a person, even. I think we have our solution! The difference between Beauty and aesthetics is that aesthetics depends on the subject possessing the aesthetics. Beauty has no dependency on subject. Justice and lawfulness are differentiated in that lawfulness is only Just insofar as the subject possessing the lawfulness is Good. See a pattern here?

The only question here, then, is what the mixed perfection of evil truly is. And it is here that I think we have a clear answer. "Evil" as mixed perfection is a mixture of the subject with "good".

That's right. The pure perfection behind evil is Good itself.


Think about it. This is the very point where the original privation theory returns, in noting that every evil has reference back to a good. Furthermore, all evil is intended by the author of the evil to be a personal good. A terrorist destroys a building because perhaps he believes he is on a divine mission. A hacker crashes a database because he believes the government has no right to its authority. But does this mean that even Satan has a good in mind? In a way, yes. The good that Satan has is his "I". And if you think about it, that's the root behind all evil. When we put the "I" higher in importance than the pure perfections, then we become evil, because the "I" is the master.

It in fact makes the most sense if you think of a mixed perfection in terms of a pure perfection plus a subject. The pure perfection of Beauty vs. the mixed perfection of aesthetics, for example. If I properly possess aesthetics, it is because Beauty comes upon the subject (me)...and the Beauty is dominant. If I improperly possess aesthetics, it is because I come upon Beauty, and I make myself dominant! The subject is the important part, and not the pure perfection...and this is an inversion of the proper order. Evil, in fact, enters into any mixed perfection whenever the proper order is inverted, whenever "I" is considered above the pure perfection. The most complete evil is when the pure perfection of good mingles with the "I", and the "I" is held dominant.

And ultimately, this is why all evil proceeds from Satan, because he is the ultimate "I" asserter. He subjects every possible thing to his own "I", because this is the one value which he takes upon himself, the one thing that he ultimately believes in. This is also the epitome of arrogance, and so in a way all intentional evil involves an arrogance of sorts. Think about it. Every single evil committed by persons. Every single evil. It all boils down to that simple inversion of the order in mixed perfections. No evil can truly be committed through a pure perfection, but only through a mixed perfection. The mixed perfections are almost the channels between the "I" and the pure perfections, the ways in which we can reach to them...and yet at the same time, they are also the ways in which we can create evil, if we forget that the "I" is not the absolute value. God is.

And that's what's wrong in so many modern societies! What has been one of the greatest mistakes of modern thought? The "I" is asserted beyond all else! We are told that license is the most important virtue, that you should be able to do what you want, that you should be able to choose your life, choose your circumstances, choose whether you have a child as a result of sexual intercourse, choose whether you marry a man, woman, or....other, and even choose how you will die. And in the end, the primary virtue which is encouraged is choice and "I". Is it any wonder, then, that there is so much evil in the modern culture? The reason why corruption is so widespread is because the very process behind evil is the driving force behind secular societies!

And that, in the end, is what I believe evil is, how it works. There remains only one thing to answer, and that is the question of non-personal evil. When you are hurt, when a tree falls on your car, when hail destroys crops. There's obviously no personal intention behind this evil; it comes about through purely natural processes. This is also why we can't say that these things are intrinsically evil; they do not possess the mixed perfection of evil. Rather, this truly is a case of imperfection, as the privation theory points out. Which brings up the question, how does a mixed perfection become less perfect?

It's quite simple. A divorce of the subject and of the pure perfection inherent in it. An imperfect literacy is a literacy which does not lead the subject immediately to Wisdom. An imperfect affection is one which does not lead the subject immediately to Love. Why is this sundering in existence? Because a mixed perfection is kind of like a relationship. You have the pure perfection, and you have the subject, and they have to get along, otherwise they get driven apart. And when the proper order of a mixed perfection is thrown off-kilter, all manner of stuff goes wrong. Including the divorcing of the subject from the pure perfection.

All that's left is to answer the objection about God allowing evil. And here is my answer. God allows evil because He is good, and respects our ability to pursue Freedom. He will not deny us access to any of the pure perfections, because that would make us lesser beings. And as far as the question of "Can God commit evil?", that's an impossibility, because Freedom as a pure perfection must inhere in Good, and vice versa, so to commit evil would actually be to diminish Freedom, thus making God a less Free being, and so not the Absolute Perfection of Perfections.

And that, my friends, is my current conclusion about evil, and the conclusion of this post, as well as my conclusion for "The Perfect Post". We've been all over, going from perfection to infinity to God to all sorts of places. And to be honest, I didn't expect it to end up here. Even the last part, about the nature of what mixed perfections truly are, I only just came up with in Eucharistic Adoration. So, yeah. Ad majorem Dei gloriam!! And Hail Holy Queen.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Perfect Post (Part IV: The Perfect Vocation?)

So, then, I'm finally back on the topic of perfections again, considering how they yet again apply to life, this time in a profoundly practical way, and one which actually comes into play with regards to theology, in a fascinating manner. It's the issue of personal goods. I'm sure you've all come into contact with it in one form or another, so I'll tell it to you in the way I arrived at the whole thing.

It all started with discussions I've had about people on this topic or that topic, about something which we know is good, such as reading books, for example. At some point or another, I see this good highly encouraged in a very enthusiastic manner, such that something feels off to me. I will hear them exalting this good so far that it almost seems (to me) that they want every single person to be completely immersed in the good. And yet, I can't ever seem to quantify a reason why this is bad. I mean, it's a good thing, right? And honestly, "too much of a good thing" can always be knocked down by things such as "you can never have too much good", or "you can never have too much wisdom".

So it leaves me with the question, "What's wrong here?" Well, it finally came to me. The answer lies in the idea of perfections. And what I realized is that there's a fundamental lack of distinction here between mixed perfections and pure perfections. There are indeed certain goods of a human person which are good, but not absolutely good. There are mixed perfections which a human person can attain. For example, a human person can be well-read, incredibly athletic, highly visually attractive, witty, and many other things. Ought a human person to be any of these things? It depends. These are not pure perfections, and so it is not necessarily better for a person to have these than not to have these.

It becomes even clearer if we look at the relation of mixed perfections to pure perfections. I've found, by analyzing them, that it seems for every pure perfection, there are mixed perfections that are mistaken for it. For example, transparency is mistaken for Truth, aesthetics is mistaken for Beauty, and lawfulness is mistaken for Goodness or Justice. Now I ask myself, what is the relationship between them? Quite simply, the mixed perfection is a means by which we find the pure perfection. Look at the term "mixed perfection" itself! It is a mixture of things. A mixture of what, you may ask? My only answer is that it is a mixture of a pure perfection and of something else. The only remaining question? What is that something else?

I don't immediately have an answer to that, but I do believe that it will play an important role in the final part of this enormous post. For now, suffice it to say that the mixed perfections can be a means, a ladder, to the pure perfections. That is, through aesthetics we can reach Beauty, through lawfulness we can reach Justice. That's not guaranteed, though. Because we can also reach other things through them. Something may be visually appealing, and yet at the same time be so empty and so devoid that it does not show Beauty. (Case in point: JPII's remark that pornography is not wrong because it shows too much, but because it "shows too little", that the visuals do not lead to what they ought to, that sexual pleasure is placed above Beauty; the same can also be said of some nude art, that which does not seek to lead to Beauty, or to any of the other pure perfections) Thus the mixed perfection can only truly have value insofar as it relates to a pure perfection; otherwise, it is empty and practically meaningless. Flat.

So these personal goods which I spoke of, these are all things which may be good for one, but not necessarily good for everyone. Being well-read, for example, is a mixed perfection, but it relates to the pure perfection of Wisdom (intellectual growth through the gain and application of knowledge). If one is well-read but it is not in pursuit of Wisdom, or does not lead to an increase in Wisdom, the reading is futile. Furthermore, one may gain Wisdom without being well-read, in many ways, including life experiences. The same could be applied to many of these personal goods. That's not to say that it's wrong to do any of them if they don't absolutely lead you to a pure perfection; rather, it may be more beneficial for one to not partake of these goods in a large manner, if they can get to pure perfections through a better-suited route, or if partaking of those goods would interfere with their existing pursuit of pure perfections.

This also applies to another interesting part of life, which is Vocation. That's right, the concept of Vocation. The calling from God. What you're supposed to do with your life. And here's the deal. You look at all of the vocations, and you see, there's married life, which is good. There's religious life, that's also good. There's priestly life, that's good too. But you can't choose them all! (Well, okay, maybe you could get married, then your spouse dies, and you get a dispensation to join a religious order, and then to get ordained a priest, but that's a rather extraordinary circumstance...) This is when we see the difference of perfections take place. In a way, a vocation is a mixed perfection, in that it is not always necessarily better for you to have than not to have. The same vocation is not destined for every person, because a vocation is not a pure perfection. Rather, the vocation is what gives you assistance to seek the pure perfections in a higher, greater, stronger manner!

The entire purpose of a vocation is to bring you closer to God, right? Well, we already established that God is the perfection of perfections, the perfect being qua being, so it's the same as saying that vocation is designed to bring you closer to the pure perfections...and if we look at the relationship between the mixed and pure perfections, that's self-evident! The only question remains, why are vocations special? Well, among the mixed perfections, there is a hierarchy of sorts. First come the mixed perfections common to humanity, those characteristics which are better for a human to possess than not to possess. Next come the mixed perfections which pertain to males and females. There are certain mixed perfections which are better for females to possess than not to possess...and which are most definitely not better for males to possess. After that, you start to work up through mixed perfections which get more and more specific. Ethnicity, state of life, career...and at the very top is vocation. Our specific calling from God.

Now, we can analyze a vocation as a mixed perfection, and see why vocations are unique. One reason why a mixed perfection is only better for some people to possess rather than others is because of conflicts with other mixed perfections. One of my friends had gone on a discernment retreat for religious life, and decided very concretely as a result that she was not called to be a religious sister, because it conflicted with what she already knew about herself. That particular mixed perfection was not suited to her own personality, abilities, and identity. The other reason why a mixed perfection is not necessarily best is because the person possesses a better way to arrive at the pure perfection. This is the more common example for those who discern a vocation. Two options may be attractive, but only one of them is the one which best fits the person. For example, someone might note that they would fit both within the context of marriage or as a consecrated virgin. They see the goods of both, and recognize that they could serve God through both. What in the end the decision hinges upon is which way enables them better to find the pure perfections, that is, to follow God.

Hopefully that was decently insightful...I will wrap things up tomorrow, examining the mixed perfections...and touching upon the question of what evil actually is. Substantial? Privation? (I guess I'll leave you on a cliffhanger now...)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Perfect Post (Part III: Infinity...and Beyond?)

So, then, I left off last post with something about proving God, which has always been a hot-button topic. Well, now that I've covered perfections of the pure and mixed varieties (read my previous posts if you haven't already), I'm ready to move on to one of the philozophical epiphanies which I had after a metaphysics class.

But first we have to start with infinity. Discussing just what infinity is and isn't, and what sort of infinity God (as the perfection of being) would possess. So, then, the first thing which we want to distinguish between is infinity and indefiniteness. An infinite thing possesses everything, and is defined infinitely. In fact, it is the opposite of an indefinite thing, which possesses no definition. In fact, there can be no such thing as an indefinite being, because something which truly is indefinite possesses no essence (the what-ness of a thing, that which defines it; for example, a dog possesses the essence "dogness", it is defined by "dogness") An infinite being, on the other hand, perfectly possesses essence (it is defined to the infinite degree), and so possesses being perfectly.

The next distinction to be made is between absolute and finite infinity. Finite infinity is an infinity limited in some respect, while absolute infinity is unlimited. A finite infinity would be an infinity like the infinity of numbers. There may be an infinite amount of numbers, but the infinity is limited, because only numbers exist in that infinity. The infinity of numbers cannot, for example, contain the letter "B", or the idea of "dog". Absolute infinity, on the other hand, contains infinite infinities, and is totally full.

Where the link, then, comes from infinity to perfections is that pure perfections are infinite. Thus, it is out of pure perfections that absolute infinity must be comprised. But how can we say anything about this? Are we not still merely left with a collection of infinite perfections? Not in the least. We need to think back to an important property of pure perfections: they inhere in one another.

Where there is infinite Truth, there must also be infinite Beauty, infinite Justice, infinite Reason, etc. Because these pure perfections exist infinitely and therefore fully, they fully exist in and through one another. A key pure perfection here is infinite Unity. Because the other perfections exist in this, they are united and one! In addition, Being itself is a pure perfection, because it meets all the requirements. And so these infinities also are part of infinite Being! And infinite Being is the perfection of Being.

Thus, this infinity of infinities, this perfection of perfections, is the perfection of Being, the infinite Being, which metaphysics calls God. We don't have to stop there, though, because we can continue to learn many important things about this God, by examining what we now know about Him. First off, that He is personal.

Personhood is formed from the pure perfections of Reason, Will, Good, and Love, among others, and in fact is a pure perfection itself. It is absolutely better to be a person than not to be, and to be a person exists in perfect harmony with the other pure perfections. So, God, this completely and fully defined Being, infinity of infinities, is truly a person, and is fully a person, and possesses personhood far more than any human ever could.

Quite interestingly, this meditation dovetails nicely onto Anselm's ontological argument. Anselm argues that God is a being greater than which none other can be conceived. Take a step back, and look at this concept of the infinite being, the infinity of infinities. It isn't even possible to conceive of anything greater than that, because to be the infinity of infinities is beyond human comprehension, and so humans cannot possibly conceive of greater than that! This helps to confirm Anselm's use of that as the definition of God, and the two arguments, combined, make quite a formidable duo.

I'm fully aware that this is a bit of a summary, and I'll clarify if needed. But hopefully you found this an interesting read.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Perfect Post (Part II: The Serendipity of Serenity)

Okay, so, now that we got all that stuff about perfections down and taken care of (see Part I if you missed it), it's time to start applying it. We'll begin with something quite fascinating that I just stumbled upon in class. Well, really, it was just a random recollection of a little ditty that I know at least some of y'all are familiar with...

Take my life, take my land,
Take me where I cannot stand.
I don't care, I'm still free;
You can't take the sky from me.

Take me out, into the black,
Tell 'em I ain't coming back.
Burn the land, boil the sea;
You can't take the sky from me.

There's no place I can be
Since I found Serenity;
But you can't take the sky from me.

What made me think of this, you might ask? Well, it just so happened that we had gotten to the topic of Freedom in Metaphysics. We were discussing the fact that Freedom itself was a pure perfection, a perfection closely linked to being itself. It was at that point that I made a link back to something I had learned in Christian Moral Principles (henceforth to be called CMP).

It was regarding the connection between morality and freedom. What we had been taught in CMP was that we become more free by choosing the good, by making moral choices. Therefore, because God is the most good being, He is also the most free being. And it kinda made sense to me, but kinda still felt a Almost as if there was something missing. I mean, yes, it made sense, but there were a few logical questions remaining there. If you can't choose evil, does it really mean anything to choose the good?

Enter Metaphysics class. It began with the discussion that Good and Being are intrinsically connected. Why? Because Good and Being are both pure perfections. As pure perfections, they demand and call upon one another. If something is, then it immediately becomes good, and the more real it is, the more Good it is. Furthermore, Professor Seifert drew a connection between Freedom and Being, that we have forgotten that Freedom itself is intrinsic to us. Even a slave, a prisoner, has freedom from within, which manifests itself in the ability to pray, to think, to love. Interestingly, those are all ways by which humans access pure perfections! Freedom as a pure perfection is intrinsically intertwined with them. And so we come to the last conclusion drawn.

There is a specific connection between the pure perfection of Freedom and the pure perfection of Good. Something gives us Freedom only if it enables us to become more Good. That is why freedom itself is a good. Because the more free we are, the more good we are. The more true we are. The more wise we are. And it's all connected! So the real answer, then, to the question of "if God cannot be evil, how can he truly be free?" is that evil degrades Freedom, and if an infinitely Free being were to commit evil, that would make them less than infinitely Free. And that's why God can be both infinitely Free and infinitely Good. Because Freedom and Good actually are substantial, if you think about it. Freedom is not merely ability to choose, it is the enabling of the person to be more Good.

And now is where we get into my connection with the above song. For those of you who don't know, it's called "The Ballad of Serenity", and was written as a theme song for the sci-fi TV show Firefly. The central theme of the song is that it's about the main characters, who fly a space transport around, in the sky, where they can truly be free. And it got me thinking. I arrived at the conclusion that it can be seen as a metaphor of sorts. If you look at the song, it talks about the removal of all sorts of material, tangible things, the imposition of all sorts of restrictions. "Life", "land", "sea", all very concrete things. So what's left? The immaterial things. Now, space itself is kinda empty, but it's also big, and in a way, it's full, because in space, there's things that can't be seen. In all that empty space, the central characters experience hope, fear, love, courage, cowardice, and all manner of things.

So what if we look at "sky" as a metaphor for the human soul itself? Look at the song in this light, and it becomes a very profound philosophical insight. You can take away someone's life, their possessions, the ground from under their feet. Nowhere for them to go, but yet they have something. They have a home. They have their soul. And it's within the soul that Freedom truly resides. It doesn't matter what you can do with your body, the achievements you have, the recognition you've received. That can't give you freedom. All of those are good and well, but they're only mixed perfections. The true Freedom, the pure perfection of freedom, is found within.

So, a somewhat disjointed post, and I may be reading a bit more into that song than was intended, but I think it went rather shiny. Next up, I'll probably be tackling the existence of God, more specifically, the ontological argument.

The Perfect Post (Part I: Groundwork)

So, then, I've decided that, after a series of philozophical epiphanies, (and yes, I spelled that with a "z"'s intentional) I will be doing a few blog posts based off of a very intriguing concept which I found in my Metaphysics class, and that is the concept of perfection, and the applications which it presents. You may not really be into philosophy much, but I'll be making every attempt to break things down into the easiest level possible, because my only purpose in writing these is to share what I've found, and hopefully shed some light on topics which are pertinent to all of us as Catholics, Christians, or even simply as human beings.

So, then, I begin by introducing the concept which will be the most key to understanding my following posts (so that I don't have to explain it every time I talk about it). This is the concept of perfections, that is, "mixed perfections" and "pure perfections". We use the term "perfect" for a lot of things. Sometimes we use it incorrectly, but many times, we still use it correctly and run into some contradictions. We speak of perfect truth, of perfect goodness, but also of the perfect day, the perfect meal, and even the perfect man or woman. Do we mean the same thing when we say this? Quite evidently not. But what do we mean, then, and how do we tell the difference?

The answer is that some of these, such as the perfect day or meal, are mixed perfections, while others, such as perfect truth, are pure perfections. The two types have different properties, even while they are also similar. First, though, let's look at the characteristics of each type.

A pure perfection is truly infinite. Absolute goodness, absolute truth, absolute beauty, freedom, justice, etc., these are all infinite things. They are also all pure perfections. On the other hand, a mixed perfection is always finite. The perfect meal, for example, is limited by a number of factors. A meal can only be so big before it begins to be unenjoyable. A meal can only be made out of food which exists in reality. A meal can only be cooked in physically possible ways.

A pure perfection is always better to possess than not to possess. It is always better to be true than to be false, to be good than to be bad, to love than not to love. On the other hand, you can't say the same for mixed perfections. It is not always better, for example, for a thing to perfectly be gold, as King Midas found out in a rather painful manner. While gold should possess the perfection of gold in some degree, we cannot say the same about a human being.

A pure perfection is completely compatible with other pure perfections. Truth, for example, is perfectly compatible with beauty, and with wisdom, and with freedom, and with justice. There is nothing in any of them which actually contradicts the others. If something is really true, it can also be really beautiful, for example. On the other hand, mixed perfections are not always compatible with other mixed perfections. An easy example: the perfect man and the perfect woman. It is impossible for a being to be both the perfect man and the perfect woman, because they are contradictory perfections. Also, mixed perfections are sometimes incompatible with pure perfections. For example, a perfect dog cannot also be perfectly wise, or even begin to approach perfect wisdom, because wisdom requires rationality, which contradicts the perfection of dog.

Finally, while there is no general intrinsic connection among mixed perfections, the pure perfections actually draw towards each other. In a way, they "call" for one another. Let us take Freedom, for example. In order for one to be truly free, one must also possess Truth. In order for one to possess Truth they must also have Unity. To have Unity they must have Being. It also goes in the opposite direction. And, really, it's like a giant network of perfections, because every perfection draws upon every other perfection, and in some way, the other perfections exist in it. We can look at Beauty and also see Truth, Wisdom, Justice, and Goodness in it. This is hinted at, for example, when Keats says "Beauty is truth, and truth beauty.", and what Dietrich Von Hildebrand says when he makes the claim that when Truth is removed from Beauty, you have neither Truth nor Beauty in the result.

So, then, you can hopefully start to see the difference between the two. When we think of the "perfect day", we mean the finite, mixed perfection of day. When we speak of "perfect beauty", we speak of the infinite, pure perfection of Beauty. Where am I going with this?

You'll just have to wait a little while whilst I start work on my next entry, which struck me in Metaphysics class today.