Friday, July 15, 2011

Aristotle and Aquinas on the true purpose of life

A redated post. 

Aquinas takes Aristotle as far as he can go, but then argues that human life is only really fulfilled in the vision of God. This has relevance to the argument from desire in Lewis.

Some notes from Notre Dame.

18 comments:

Becky said...

Very interesting. I just read a book titled, "The Missing Link" by Drs. Richard & Phylli Arno that also covers 'the purpose of life,' and have come to the realization all I know pertaining to this question is that I was created by Him and that I am unique. He has plans for me and He has given me the temperament that I need to fulfill the call He has placed on my life.

BenYachov said...

The Vision of God also known as the Beatific Vision. Makes existence so worth it.

The Highest Joy of Heaven is the Vision of God. The greatest suffering in Hell is it's loss.

But Saints teach us an existence where you have The Vision but feel every other pain in Hell (sans loss of the Vision) would be preferable to an existence where you have every other joy of Heaven but feel the loss of the Vision.

Papalinton said...

The Highest Joy of Heaven is the Vision of God. The greatest suffering in Hell is it's loss.

You know this is all theo-speak. It's the sort of stuff Deepak Chopra fills his books with or the sort of mystical, ethereal phrases and wordings that New Age spiritualism is redolent with.

Beatific vision is only a theological construct. All religions have them. In Hinduism, the vedic concept of having a visual perception of God is generically called Darshan. But unlike the christian mythos, one can also get darshans when god appears whilst the person is living.

The Sunni Muslims have something similar with Christians in that good Muslims will see Allah in paradise. The Shia, by contrast, have their heads screwed on a little firmer than the others [Sunni and christians]. They believe that it's impossible to see God because if god can be seen then god has a form. And if god has a form then god needs the form and that can't be because god is absolute.
Now why didn't Aquinas think through that problem?
It all sounds soooo ........... anthropomorphic, doesn't it folks?

So Ban Yachov, the Beatific Vision makes your existence so worth it? How so? When you don't even know what it is you are talking about? Other than a mixture of words minced up in your brain.

What is the encrypted 'plain English' sense of the gobbledegook in the para about Saints teaching us? So the Saints have come back and spread the news have they? About the Beatific Vision, that is?

Let's face it, Ben. You read it in a book. You obviously got as much of the warm and fuzzies from reading about the Beatific Vision as I did in watching, "The Never Ending Story".

Aristotle must be writhing in his grave knowing that Aquinas appropriated, no, commandeered his greatest philosophical musings and has applied them to the dead hand of christian mysticism.

Ben, it is now well into the second decade of the 3rd millenium CE. Surely it is time to retire a flogged and tired old donkey that has served its purpose.

kbrowne said...

Victor,

When I try the link I get a message saying the page does not exist.

Arthur Inglewood said...

Papalinton,

you are just producing atheo-speak.

There, I couldn't help it.

It should feel wrong to lash a shallow one-liner at you, but somehow it doesn't. I've been smitten, God forgive me.

I blame you - I think you are deliberately tempting us to lower our standards of discourse.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, a good discussion was starting and the PapaLinton Atheist Troll tried to derail it.

Solution?

Ignore him.


Jeremy.

Victor Reppert said...

Sorry. It does look as if the link is broken. I usually check those before I redate them.

Papalinton said...

I thought I gave a reasonably well-measured account of the notion of the Beatific Vision as it applies to some of the major contemporary faiths.

Yes, I admit, the 'theo-speak' bit was a bit of a dig. But is does underscore a serious flaw in the christian argument. How did Aquinas discover what a Beatific Vision looked like? Did he have an NDE? or was it by a personal revelation? If it was by a personal revelation, then it really isn't worth even being a bumper sticker, given the paucity of evidence usually associated with one's-own say-so.

Arthur Inglewood and Anonymous, I am simply asking the question about what is the verification for supporting such a magnificent claim? Apart from hear-say, that is? Don't get me wrong, it is truly lovely stuff. But it hasn't anything to do with a 'purpose of life'. And as I rightly point out to Ben Yachov, it gives him the warm and fuzzies, as indeed it seems to do for you too, but that in and of itself, doesn't make it a truth-claim. So many people over history have died for principles and causes that would seem bizarre to you as they do for me.
The Vision of god, or the Beatific Vision, is just that, a vision; a dream, a daydream, a reverie of hope; an illusion.
My vision, just as deep and wonderful and all engaging, is that I am one with the universe. I am made from star dust. I am the stuff of stars, literally. But being based in reality and grounded in reason makes it no less beatific [in the blissful sense without theological intent].

[All this, sitting at the right hand of god. Give me a break!]

BenYachov said...

@Paps

>The Shia, by contrast, have their heads screwed on a little firmer than the others [Sunni and christians]. They believe that it's impossible to see God because if god can be seen then god has a form.

Except "seeing God" is not literal here. I'm a Thomist or have you forgotten? As such seeing is merely analogous to the soul having immediate knowledge or direct contact with God vs the mediate knowledge we have in this life.

Gee Paps I don't really care if you make fun of my beliefs but when you spout such ignorance it just makes you look thick.

OTOH I give a carrot now that I have just gave the stick. The diverse exposition of different religious views on knowing God is an improvement. It shows you are actually doing some learning & hopefully moving away from your "once size fits all" standard Gnu polemic of just calling religious people stupid. Well done.

But you are still far from actually offering any real argument.

You still need more improvement I'm afraid.

Anonymous said...

The PapaL Atheist Troll derails every discussion, and that is his intent.

Please do not feed the troll.


Jeremy

Papalinton said...

@ Ben Yachov
"The diverse exposition of different religious views on knowing God is an improvement. It shows you are actually doing some learning & hopefully moving away from your "once size fits all" standard Gnu polemic of just calling religious people stupid. Well done."

I try Ben. But I notice you have not budged one inch.

The real bummer of yours in the quote above is this superlative clanger: "The diverse exposition of different religious views on *knowing* God is an improvement." There is no knowing god. Nobody knows god, because there is nothing to *know*. A more reasoned statement, one that does not misconstrue and conflate 'knowing' with 'imagining' would be:

"The diverse exposition of different religious views on stereotyping [or characterizing] God is an improvement".

Why I am not surprised with your response that 'seeing God' is not meant to be literal? Another theological hedge to hide behind. Another, of a long list of, equivocation.

"As such seeing is merely analogous to the soul having immediate knowledge or direct contact with God vs the mediate knowledge we have in this life."
In plain-spoken English, what are you talking about here? Sounds like Middle-Earth rune-speak from Lord of the Rings, to me.
You need to do some real science, dude.

" ... merely analogous to the soul ...." Sheesh

Papalinton said...

@ Anonymous
"The PapaL Atheist Troll derails every discussion, and that is his intent."

How can one derail something that has already de-railed, Anonymous?
I try most earnestly to bring some element of cogency into the debate, while you guys have this driven desire to float off into some faeryland about the Beatific Vision on the 'true purpose of life'.

You seem so unhappy in this earth as to warrant a question of your general state of health.

The Carrot: The Vision of God also known as the Beatific Vision. Makes existence so worth it. The Highest Joy of Heaven is the Vision of God.

The Stick: The greatest suffering in Hell is it's loss.

All manufactured in the exact same factory. Religion creates a hell, damns everyone to eternal torture and and fire and brimstone, and frightens the existential bejeebus out of everyone. Then, it creates a heaven, as Chris Hitchens notes; But wait, all is not lost. We can save you. All you have to do is propitiate to the right god and you will be spared; all is not lost.

Doesn't this sound very much akin to the Mafia protection business practices?
Without hell there would be no christianity. Hell, Satan, the devil, evil spirits, demons, fallen angels are all sacred and inextricable figures in the christian pantheon. Without them christianity would perish.

The pagan Aristotle tried to lift humanity out of the mud. Aquinas ensured we stay there.

BenYachov said...

Paps you could have saved a lot of typing by simply saying "There is no God because I say so".

Of course one day you may make a rational argument. Worthy of a William Rowe, a Graham Oppy, Quintin Smith or even Stephan Law would be in improvement.

Your channeling of a downunder P.Z. Myers OTOH is just not working for ya.

Sorry guy.

BenYachov said...

If mindless anti-intellectual ridicule where equivalent to logic then Paps would be a modern Socrates.

BenYachov said...

Paps you where once a fundamentalist religious person.

Even among Catholic converts from fundamentalism to Catholicism Ex-fundies tend to be militantly anti-fundamentalist(in contrast with converts from Evangelicalism who style themselves completed Evangelicals).

It is interesting as a Fundamentalist turned Atheist you have become just as anti-fundamentalist. Yet you have not changed.

What is strange too is like the Fundamentalist you believe spouting platitudes are the same as argument.

The religious fundie believes if he shout enough bible verses at people who reject the bible somehow magically that will produce converts.

You in a like manner feel if you can just spout enough ridicule somehow we will abandon our reasons for believing in God and embrace No-god as our lord and personal non-savior. It's both weird and eerie.

The fundie Christian who rants "You are unsaved!" vs the fundie Atheist who rants "You are deluded!". I really can't tell the difference.

Papalinton said...

Victor
You really should refrain from repeatedly dropping in these 1,000 year-old characters as if they had just dropped something new in the contemporary theist bucket.

Poor young Ben Yachov, simply can't take all the excitement, being as he is, you know, a Thomist, a Five Ways man, a Classic fundamentalist, a good Catholic, and a collector of Il Papa cards. And I might add, is an inside purveyor of what constitutes literal and analogous readings of Aquinas' literature.

C'mon Victor, you've assessed his responses to my queries. They aren't even a patch on what would normally constitute a half-academic retort. You are a cruel man in overly exciting him in 'beatific visions' with mention of Aquinas in the OP.

BenYachov said...

Paps you remind me of the movie character Benson from TIME BANDITS.

EVIL ONE: Oh Benson you are so completely void of the ravages of intelligence.

BENSON: Oh thank Master! Thank you! Say more nice things!

EVIL ONE: Late......

Fun film. Portrays the Supreme Being as a floating white head.

Marvelous! I highly recommend it.

Anonymous said...

Feeding the Atheist Troll just encourages him.

Like a stray cat, if you quit feeding him he will go piss somewhere else.


Jeremy