Aquinas’s Third Way

Sorry for the long silence.

The first few weeks were because I was rushing to finish my senior thesis. After that, I was just kind of in a rut where I would write something, find flaws in it, and decide it wasn’t worth posting. Then I would think, “Wait, it’s been a long time since my last post, I should put up some kind of an update on what’s happening and why I haven’t posted for a while.” So then I would try to write that, and then I would start finding flaws and end up not posting that. So finally, I decided, you know what, forget about updates or putting together something “good” or whatever, if I want to keep this blog going, I have to put up SOMETHING.

So in keeping with the title of this blog, I went with some Aristotelian/Thomistic philosophy: Aquinas’s Third Way for arguing the existence of God.

“So your idea of ‘just putting up something‘ is an argument for the existence of God?!”, you might ask. Well, not in the sense that the subject matter is trivial, of course. But in the sense that I’m basically just regurgitating something I’ve gone over many times and memorized already, yes. This is my first time writing about it here, though.

Aquinas said that the First Way is the easiest, but it requires quite a bit of philosophical background just to begin understanding it, plus there are gaps of logic in it that I have yet to figure out how to fill in all the years since I first found out about it. I’m sure they can be filled, and Aquinas probably thought he had filled in all the gaps he needed to, but I’m sorry, I just can’t figure them out. Personally, I find the Third Way the easiest to grasp.

Oh, and by the way, I’m kind of sleepy right now, so sorry if I mess up on grammar, spelling, or

So with all that out of the way, let’s start.

We begin by noticing that all the objects in our experience are contingent. That is, they only exist as they do because of something other than themselves. A computer only functions because it was put together that way. A cat only has a certain pattern on its fur because one of its parents did. Elements heavier than iron only exist on Earth because they were fused in supernovae and blasted out I-don’t-know-how-many years ago.

Similarly, they are also corruptible. The computer can be broken. The cat can die and rot. Atoms can be split.

What does this tell us about these objects? It tells us that to exist is not part of their nature. If it were, then as soon as you understood what a cat (or whatever else) is, you would see that it must exist. But knowing what a cat is tells you nothing about whether or not it exists, and in fact, we see particular cats going in and out of existence (i.e. getting born and dying) all the time. So existing is not part of the nature of cats, and the same thing can be said of any other object we have experience of.

Now, before moving on, let me take a couple paragraphs to say that no, the laws of conservation of mass/energy do NOT prove that mass/energy is not contingent. First, because mass/energy depends on other things for what particular form it exists in at any given moment. Nothing about the nature of energy tells you whether it exists as chemical potential energy, gravitational potential energy, translational kinetic energy, rotational kinetic energy, heat, mass, light, etc.; for that, you have to look at the history of some particular bit of energy, what form it’s in and what processes it’s undergoing. So energy is contingent in the relevant sense.

Second, there’s no reason why energy had to exist at all. Physics could easily have come into being with a completely different set of principles from what it has now, and it would have been no skin off the universe’s nose. So knowing what energy is tells you nothing about whether or not it exists, which again shows us that to exist is not part of the nature of energy.

So nothing in our direct experience has existence as part of its nature. Why, then, do they exist? If they don’t exist by their own nature, then they have to exist by something other than themselves.

So suppose we have something that supports the existence of other things. Then that thing is either contingent itself, or necessary, i.e. it doesn’t depend on anything else to exist as it does. If it’s necessary, then we’ve arrived at our conclusion: there must be something that exists necessarily and not contingently. If not, then it must depend on something else. That second thing in turn is either contingent or necessary. If it’s necessary, then we’ve reached our conclusion. If not, then it depends on a third thing.

Now, can this process continue into infinity? No, and the analogy I like best to explain why is that of a train.

Suppose we have a train that extends infinitely in both directions. Is that train moving, or standing still?

The answer is that it must be standing still, because every car in a train depends on the one in front of it to move. If every car is “waiting” for another one to move it, then none of them will ever move. The only way the train can move is if it has a car that doesn’t depend on any other car to move it, i.e. one with an engine.

Likewise, if everything in the universe depends on something else to exist, then nothing should exist at all. The only way everything can exist is if there is something that doesn’t depend on anything else to exist, something whose very nature is to exist, i.e. something necessary.

So we’ve arrived at the conclusion that there must be a necessary being. But what does that have to do with God? Is this necessary being God? Well, let’s see.

First of all, we can see immediately that there can only be one necessary being. If there were two, then to distinguish them, one of them would have to have something that the other lacks, and this would make the “necessary” beings contingent as to whether or not they have this extra thing. This contradicts the hypothesis that they are necessary. So there can only be one necessary being. Hence, for the rest of this article, we will capitalize “Necessary Being.”

Second, the Necessary Being cannot have come into existence, and It cannot go out of existence. If there were a factor that could be removed so that the “Necessary” Being would go out of existence, then the “Necessary” Being would be contingent on that factor by definition. Likewise, if there were some factor that, once present, caused the “Necessary” Being to come into existence, then the “Necessary” Being would be contingent on that factor by definition. Again, this is a contradiction, hence the Necessary Being cannot have come into existence and cannot go out of existence.

Third, It cannot be subject to change at all. If It were, then Its current state would depend on whatever has the power to change It, which would again make It contingent.

A corollary of this is that It cannot exist in time. Time, as Aristotle says, is simply the measure of change. An entity that does not change at all has nothing for time to measure. Again, if the Necessary Being were subject to time, then Its current state would depend on when you observed It, and this would make it contingent.

But as we saw, the Necessary Being ultimately supports the existence of all the other beings in the universe (because everything else is contingent). This would require It to act in time, as other beings exist in time. How can something not subject to time act in time?

The answer, as it turns out, is that the Necessary Being sees all of time laid out before It all at once, as it were, and acts in all the moments in which It acts in what It perceives as a single moment.

A corollary of all of the above is that the Necessary Being cannot be made of matter, as matter is inherently subject to certain kinds of causation, contingent as to where it exists at any given time, and always able to be broken apart or put together again. In fact, in light of the last point, we can go even further and say that the Necessary Being cannot be made of parts at all.

Fourth, the Necessary Being must have some kind of mind of Its own, whether or not that mind is anything like what we know as “mind.” If nothing is able to cause the Necessary Being to do anything, then the Necessary Being must act of Its own accord, which means It must have some kind of will. Hence, for the rest of this article, we will refer to the Necessary Being as a “He.”

Further, if the Necessary Being has a will, then He must also have knowledge, as a person cannot “will” anything if he doesn’t know what he wills.

One might suggest that it’s possible that the Necessary Being just does whatever He does at random and not by knowledge and will. But the problem is, what we call “random” is really just the interaction of several deterministic threads of causation that are too complicated to predict for normal people. If a person had perfect knowledge of physics and the current states of all the people and all the particles in the universe, then he would easily be able to predict any draw of the lottery, dice roll, coin flip, or stroke of good or bad luck. If the Necessary Being were random in the same sense in which these are random, then that would simply be another way of saying He is deterministic, and that would mean that He is simply moving as He has been caused to move. Hence He would be contingent.

Interestingly enough, combining this point with the preceding point on how the Necessary Being experiences time, we find that the Necessary Being must have knowledge of all of time at once.

Fifth, the Necessary Being must have no flaws. If He were flawed, then there would have to be some factor that determines in what areas He is flawed and by how much, and this would make Him contingent.

Particularly noteworthy cases of this are power and knowledge.

If the Necessary Being had only some powers and not others, then there would have to be some factor that determines which powers He has and which He lacks, and this would make Him contingent on that factor. Nor can He have no powers at all, as that would mean He wouldn’t be able to support the existence of all the contingent beings in the universe. So the only remaining possibility is that He has all powers.

Again, if the Necessary Being did not have complete knowledge, then A.) there would need to be some factor that determines what He knows and what He doesn’t, and B.) it would be possible for Him to learn something, and either of these would make Him contingent.

Sixth, the Necessary Being must always will whatever is best. The will is the faculty by which someone judges that something is good and acts to bring it about. If a person does not always will what what he perceives as good, then this means that his will is flawed somehow (and this is why Catholics believe in Original Sin). The Necessary Being has no flaws, and hence must always will what He perceives as good. And since He also has perfect knowledge, He must always know what is objectively the best.

Further, the main cause we see of people not willing what is good is selfishness. But the Necessary Being cannot be selfish because He has no needs, as needs imply contingency (if you don’t get what you need, then something about you will not be able to function at its best).

So we have a unique personal Being, Whose existence depends on nothing outside of Himself, Who is not subject to time, Who has no flaws and has unlimited power and knowledge and always wills what is objectively best.

I’d say that’s about close enough to God, wouldn’t you?

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The Myriad Colors Phantom World Fallacy

myriad-colors-phantom-world

A while back (around Easter, maybe?) I saw a couple episodes of Myriad Colors Phantom World. I stopped quickly because it had way more fanservice than it was worth. I might be willing to put up with that for Monogatari, but this show didn’t convince me it was worth it.

Anyways, this line really annoyed me:

reality

Alright, then. Let’s say reality is an illusion created by our brains.

But how do we know we have brains in the first place?

By observing them through dissections, X-rays, fMRI’s, and so on.

And how do we take in the data from dissections, X-rays, fMRI’s, and so on?

Through our senses.

And what do our senses depend on?

Our brains.

Do you see the problem here? The claim is that our perception of reality is illusory because it’s just projected by our brains. But the only way we know we have brains is by observing them using our brains. So if reality is really an illusion projected by our brains, then all our sensory observations are invalidated, and therefore we have no reason to believe we have brains at all—and now we’ve lost our reason for believing reality is an illusion. It’s a self-defeating argument.

This is why you should never trust anime for your philosophy intake (as if anyone needed me to tell them that). Rather, I would highly recommend Ed Feser’s books. If you’re interested in philosophy of mind in particular, then he’s already written just the book for you.

… I was planning on ending the post here, but it just occurred to me, someone could turn this argument on its head and argue that the proposition that our senses are trustworthy is self-defeating.

If we trust our senses, then we come to the conclusion that our senses depend on this thing called the brain. But we can observe that the brain is flawed and frequently misleads us. So by trusting the senses, we come to the conclusion that the senses are untrustworthy.

The problem with this argument is that the only way we know that the brain makes mistakes is by observing that the brain sometimes draws conclusions that differ from reality. But it’s impossible to know that the brain’s conclusions differ from reality unless we already have a way of knowing reality to begin with. And how do we know reality? Through our senses. Thus unless we trust our senses, we have no reason to mistrust our senses. Once again, we have a self-defeating argument.

Further, this argument claims that because we see that the brain makes mistakes sometimes, we can’t even trust it for the most part. But any finite intellectual being will be liable to make mistakes. So if we take the stance that if something makes mistakes sometimes then it’s unqualifiedly untrustworthy, then that means that any finite intellectual being is untrustworthy. This is essentially equivalent to arguing that no one other than God can know anything. Not only is this conclusion outrageous, it’s also, yet again, self-defeating—if every finite intellectual being is untrustworthy, then the argument that finite intellectual beings are untrustworthy becomes untrustworthy, and therefore we no longer have any reason for thinking finite intellectual beings are untrustworthy.

In a word, what all this tells us is that it’s impossible to argue rationally that people can’t know reality, because any such argument would be self-defeating; it would depend on known truths and would therefore presuppose the proposition it’s trying to disprove. On the other hand, it’s also impossible to argue rationally that we can know reality, because any such argument would be circular; it would depend on known truths and therefore presuppose its conclusion. So there’s nothing for it but to make a choice—either you believe that you can know reality, or not.

Incidentally, it seems noteworthy that the contradictions and difficulties only start popping up once you start supposing that reality is unknowable. If you assume that reality is knowable from the beginning, then you can just go on your merry way without any problems. Almost makes you think we weren’t meant to question reality to begin with.

Not to mention, if reality is unknowable, then that raises the question of what it means to “know” something, and hence what it means to deny that anyone “knows” reality. We can’t really talk about whether anyone “knows” anything unless we have experience of beings that actually know things, and for us to have experience of them, such beings would have to exist in reality. For that matter, what are we claiming is unknowable when we say that “reality” is unknowable? And if you claim that reality is unknowable, then aren’t you claiming to know something about reality?

… OK, now I’m done for sure.

This has been my exposition of the philosophical ramifications of a single line in a harem anime. Tune in next time for more quality content.

Random Thoughts 2

The past few weeks were pretty hectic because I had to put my senior thesis together. But now I’m pretty much done, so I’ve started taking it easy lately (maybe too easy). I was hoping to come up with something “smart” to write, but I keep finding problems with all my ideas before I can get them into a post-worthy form, so I thought I’d just put up some random thoughts.


An idea I got yesterday: My brother wants me to try out Monster Hunter because he thinks I didn’t give it a fair chance before deciding it was boring. So it just occurred to me that maybe I can make a deal with him; I’ll give Monster Hunter a chance if he’ll give Clannad a chance. Of course, there’d be no point if each of us just played for like two minutes and then quit, so maybe we can say that he’ll have to play Clannad until he gets a good ending, and then I’ll have to play Monster Hunter until I get a good suit of armor (I’ll let him define “good”). If he refuses, then I can say, “Oh, so it’s OK to be prejudiced, then? In that case, you can’t fault me for refusing to play Monster Hunter.”

Well, maybe “prejudiced” is the wrong word. What I mean is, as we grow up, we all get an instinct for when we think we’ll like something or not. My instinct said that Monster Hunter wouldn’t be fun for me, so I didn’t bother toughing it out after the first signs of tedium. My brother is thinking in exactly the same way when he follows his instinct that tells him he won’t enjoy visual novels like Clannad. I just want him to be aware of that when he tells me, “You didn’t give Monster Hunter a chance, so how can you know for sure whether you like it or not?”

And then if he accepts, well, then that would just be an interesting development in itself. Before playing the game, I had read all the Steam reviews saying that Clannad would make you cry, and I went into it thinking, “Eh, I might tear up a bit, but I doubt I’ll cry.” I was wrong. Also, my cousin who watched the anime said that he cried at every episode (probably an exaggeration, but still). So I’m curious how my brother would react to it. Plus, Key (the developer of Clannad) is actually really good at comedy, so I’m curious if their sense of humor would appeal to him. Somehow, I get the feeling that both the comedy and the tragedy would fall flat with him, though…

… And I also get the feeling that if I say he can’t fault me for being prejudiced, he’ll come out with some smart reply I wasn’t expecting. He tends to do stuff like that.


I watched the first couple episodes of Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles recently after seeing it mentioned on Medieval Otaku’s blog.

koizumi-and-yuu

It’s funny, and I like the music. But I have mixed feelings about Yuu; her unfailing optimism is always amusing, but I can’t help feeling irritated at how she assumes she knows well enough to experiment with / talk about things she doesn’t really know. If you’re an amateur to something, just be honest and ask questions, don’t make assumptions… Maybe character development will fix that.

While watching that, I saw a link to another show called Hinamatsuri in the sidebar, so I tried that too on a whim, and it turned out to be really funny.

hinamatsuri-3

It’s over-the-top in just the right ways. I recommended it to my brother; it seems like something he might like too.


I’ve had the Kagerou Project on my mind lately.

Mekakucity Actors

One of my aforementioned ideas that I found problems with was a post on how the writing in Kagerou Daze is full of informed attributes. The problem was, I couldn’t think of enough examples off the top of my head, and I don’t have my copy of the manga with me right now. But actually, while drafting that post, I went on a tangent that I thought might be worth making into a post on its own, so maybe I’ll put that up soon. I don’t know, I keep going back and forth on whether I think my argument is convincing or not.

In the meantime, since I’m on the topic, and I’m just putting up random thoughts anyways: My personal favorite song in the Kagerou Project would probably be “Kuusou Forest.”

I like how it’s just, well… nice. Not cool, not cutesy, but nice. It’s stood up the best to repeated listens, too, probably at least in part because the instrumentation is more nuanced than just “DRUMS AND GUITARS CONSTANTLY AT MAXIMUM VOLUME!!!” Also, I find it amusing how sometimes the vocaloid sounds like it has a cold.

“Kisaragi Attention” is also pretty darn catchy, though I have to wonder why Jin felt the need to throw in that thing that sounds like he’s just wiggling his fingers on the keyboard (I think that’s the instrument) in the background. The instrumentation and pacing might be a bit too frantic, too. And it bothers me that there’s a scene change in the middle of the bridge. “Otsukimi Recital” is similar—catchy melodies, but it’s a bit too frantic, especially when it jumps up to the next octave in the chorus. I still like them depending on my mood, though.

Besides those, my favorites are the really electronic-sounding ones, like “Ene no Dennou Kikou,” “Outer Science,” and “Jinzou Enemy.”

(^^ Disclaimer: Not the official music video ^^)

… Yeah, I know I just criticized those other songs for being too frantic, but I feel like it’s more tolerable somehow with electronic instruments than with actual drums and guitars. Maybe the instruments are easier to tell apart or something?

I was initially most interested in the up-tempo rock songs, but those got old fairly quickly. At this point, whenever “Mekakushi Code,” “Konoha no Sekai Jijou,” or “Losstime Memory” comes up on my iPod on shuffle, I just skip it.

“Gunjou Rain” sounds really nostalgic to me, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out what it reminds me of. My only problem with it is that the crescendo leading up to the chorus is WAY too abrupt.

The garden path sentences in “Yuukei Yesterday” are funny, and I like that stuttering thing in the chorus. “Mitsuketa-ta-ta-ta-taiyou o niramitsukete…”

I don’t understand why “Kagerou Days” is the most popular song in the project. It isn’t bad, but I don’t find it that remarkable.


Recently, I discovered Sandi Metz’s programming talks, and they really turned on a light bulb in my head. I had always thought the whole idea of object-oriented programming was overrated, but she has some really interesting ideas. It just goes to show you, it doesn’t pay to assume you know better than other people.

These four in particular were the best ones:

I’m debating whether I should get her book, 99 Bottles of OOP. It’s pretty expensive—$50. It’s not as if I can’t afford it, but it just sounds like a lot for a book nowadays, and I’m not sure how much I would learn from it that isn’t already in her talks.

Merry Christmas

Deck_the_Halls_Jesus_Christ_Is_Risen_Today-1

Can you spot what’s wrong with this picture?

It turns out that the tunes and lyrics of “Deck the Halls” and “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today” are more or less musically interchangeable.

Incidentally, the beginning of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” works as well, if you’re willing to throw in a “falalalala” at every caesura.

The_Raven-1

Just a random observation.

Merry Easter to all, and to all a good April Fool’s Day.

Thomistic Psychology and Madoka Magica

madoka

Today, we’re going to address the question you’ve all been wondering about… Yes, that’s right, it’s…

How does Puella Magi Madoka Magica square up with Thomistic psychology?!?!

Well, don’t get too excited.

For the full story, go ahead and check the Wikipedia page, or even better, watch the show. For the purposes of this post, we only need to know a few little details.

Part of the plot of Madoka Magica involves a mysterious creature called “Kyubey,” who appears to teenage girls (for reasons explained near the end of the show) and offers to grant them a wish. In exchange, he gives them a crystal that bestows its owner with magical powers, and asks them to use these powers to fight malicious beings called “Witches.”

kyuubei

… Or so we’re led to believe. In a horrifying plot twist (of which the show has several), it’s revealed that in reality, Kyubey isn’t just “giving” them magical crystals at all—he’s actually taking their souls and transforming them into magical crystals, leaving their bodies as lifeless husks that are then operated by the crystal as if by remote control. This secret is exposed when the title character, Madoka, takes her friend Sayaka’s crystal to stop her from using magic to hurt someone, and without the crystal Sayaka’s body falls limply to the ground.

sayaka

This raises some interesting questions, and to answer them, we’re going to need psychology in the Aristotelian/Thomistic sense—the philosophical study of the soul.

In Aristotle and Aquinas, the soul is defined as the form of a living body, where “form” refers to whatever it is that makes a thing what it is. So “to have a human soul” essentially means the same thing as “to be a human,” and “to not have a human soul” essentially means the same thing as “to not be human.”

So this has a human soul.

human

This doesn’t.

rock

This doesn’t either, but it does have a cow soul.

cow
Easy, right?

Now, here’s the million dollar question. We all recognize that there are certain characteristics that belong to humans—walking on two legs, talking, seeing, having consciousness, having intelligence, and so on. But does a person have these characteristics because he’s human, or is he human because he has these characteristics?

The Aristotelian position is that, while in the order of inference we might go from characteristics to what a thing is, in the order of being, an entity has its characteristics by virtue of what it is and not vice versa. The reason we have to take this position is to explain defects in living things.

For example: As I mentioned a couple paragraphs ago, there are certain characteristics that belong to humans. But suppose we include any of them in the definition of a human. Then we’ll always find people who don’t fit the definition, but are human anyway.

Suppose we include walking on two legs in the definition of humans. Then what do we do about paralytics?

Suppose we include talking. Then what do we do about mutes?

Suppose we include seeing. Then what about blind people?

Suppose we include consciousness. Then what about comatose people?

Suppose we include intelligence. Then what do we do about the government? Or the internet?

And don’t even get me started on babies and fetuses.

So from all this, it’s obvious that we cannot define humanity in terms of characteristics. But at the same time, we can’t simply say that having sight or speech or consciousness or intelligence has nothing to do with being human, either, considering that A) the vast majority of people do have them, with those who lack them being the obvious exception,  and B) people who lack them are at a clear disadvantage with respect to certain activities compared to healthy people. So how do we reconcile these facts?

The answer is that rather than use properties to define humans, we see properties as “following” or “flowing” from human nature. In a healthy human, this flow is unimpaired, and the person shows all the usual properties of humans. But in a person with a disability of one kind or another, the flow is blocked and only some of the properties are observed. Both cases are equally human because they both have the same nature as the source of all their faculties; it’s just that in the latter case, some of those faculties are hindered in their expression. So if we observe what looks like a human with non-functional eyes, then rather than draw the conclusion, “This isn’t a human,” we can tell by their other characteristics (walking, talking, etc.) that they’re human and attribute the lack of the sight that ordinarily follows from being human to some sort of accident or the like. This is how we’re able to understand defects in living things.

A clear consequence of this is that we cannot deny that people who lack certain faculties are experiencing a real deficiency. The simple fact is, that person’s human nature is not different from other people’s, but is actually the same nature being hindered in its expression—it lacks something that it should have. And in fact, this is exactly how we define wellness and illness; a healthy body is one that is able to exercise all its faculties easily, while an ill one is one whose faculties are hindered in one way or another, culminating in the complete inability of the body to function, at which point the body ceases to be a body at all—in other words, death.

Another corollary of this is that the idea of “wellness” is relative to species. A human’s idea of wellness is different from a spider’s, which is different from a lion’s. A spider that can’t spin a web is fatally crippled, whereas a human who can’t spin a web is perfectly fine. A lion that can’t chase down its prey is incompetent, whereas a spider is OK as long as it can spin a web and wait. A woman that doesn’t eat her husband’s head after mating is perfectly normal, but a female black widow that doesn’t eat its mate’s head after mating has psychological problems.

Incidentally, the Aristotelian contention is that morality functions in the same way—the morality of lions or spiders, if they had a morality, would be fundamentally different from human morality. So in a way, morality is both more absolute than people think (because within a species, it is absolute), and also more relative than people think (because between different species, it could potentially be completely different).

It should also be noted that, while certain attributes of humans do flow from human nature, others really are simply “extras,” like hair/skin/eye color or height and weight. Barring extreme cases (e.g. albinism, dwarfism, gigantism, anorexia, obesity, etc.), it really doesn’t matter whether a person has one color or another, or one height/weight or another. In Thomistic terminology, the former are called “properties” or “proper accidents,” while the latter are simply “accidents.”

Alright. Now, 1000 words into the post, we can FINALLY start talking about anime.

So the big question about Sayaka’s situation is—disregarding the question of how it’s possible—in what sense is her soul “transferred” to or “transformed” into the crystal?

On the one hand, if she actually “becomes” the crystal, then all her intuitions of morality and well-being should be rephrased in terms of the crystal—her new idea of pain would be getting scratched, her new idea of hygiene would be staying nice and shiny, her new idea of death would be getting shattered, her new idea of fatigue would be running out of magical energy, and so on.

But this is not what happens; rather, Sayaka’s outlook stays decidedly human. She still experiences romantic love, and after finding out about the soul-extraction situation, she finds she can’t bring herself to confess her feelings to the boy she likes, because that would mean that if the relationship ever got physical, then essentially the guy would be making love to a corpse.

sayaka-body

At one point, after hearing a guy on a near-empty late-night train bragging and laughing with another guy about how he had essentially abused a woman, she gets genuinely angry.

sayaka-angry-2sayaka-angry-3sayaka-angry-5sayaka-angry-4

(^ It’s strongly implied that she kills them.)

These are signs of a very clearly human psyche. If she had really ceased to be human, then she would no longer have human values, or at least she would no longer identify with them on the emotional level. This is not the case, hence her soul must still be a human soul.

And speaking of emotions: Emotions may be more than a simple physical reaction, but they do always have a physical substrate, and when that substrate is removed, the person becomes unable to experience the corresponding emotion. But if Sayaka’s soul has really been cut off from her body, then (unless the crystal has a similar substrate, which I think we can agree it presumably doesn’t) she should no longer experience emotions at all.

So all this raises the question: In what sense has her soul been cut off from her body?

It still moves the body. It still experiences sensations through the body. It still experiences emotions through the body. So how is it different from a normal soul inhabiting a normal body?

What we have here seems to be Madoka Magica trying to have its cake and eat it too. It wants to have the body horror of a girl being turned into something that isn’t human anymore, but it also wants her to agonize over this as if she were still human.

As a matter of fact, according to Catholic theology, angels and devils take on bodies in a way similar to what Sayaka’s soul is supposedly doing in Madoka Magica, sort of like a really complicated puppet. But they don’t actually “experience” any bodily processes or emotions when they do so, and if they seem to it’s only the angel/devil mimicking the external signs of such processes and emotions. In reality, angels and devils have no emotions or sensations (as we understand them) at all.

A more believable portrayal might have been if Sayaka had suddenly started acting “off” (becoming emotionless, not caring about other people anymore, having an abnormal Gollum-like attachment to her shiny new crystal) and Madoka had been the one to get freaked out. Of course, in that case Madoka and Sayaka probably would have gotten creeped out by Mami right at the start of the series, they probably never would have even been tempted by Kyubey’s offer, and the story probably never would have started…

So Madoka Magica is still a very entertaining and well-written series, but from a Thomistic perspective (or my understanding of it), it doesn’t quite hold water.

Incidentally, while the whole soul-transferring thing doesn’t quite “work,” it just so happens that the existence of a creature like Kyubey is completely believable under Thomistic psychology. Morality and emotion are relative to species, so it’s to be expected that a species of aliens would have completely different moral intuitions and emotions from ours, if such moral intuitions and emotions are in line with how individuals of this species use their faculties for their own wellbeing and the continuation of their species.

kyubey-a-few-individualskyubey-betrayal

So there’s some food for thought, I guess.

I should probably start doing my homework now.

Memories of Children’s Cartoons

Just a random thought.

My brother and I had a ton of cartoons on cassette tapes when we were little, but I feel like I never really understood any of their plots, and all I can remember of many of them is that they were vaguely scary.

All I remember of Pigling Bland (which, until I looked up the Wikipedia page a second ago, I was getting confused with Peter Rabbit) is a scene at night where the title character finds his brother’s ID in his own pocket and realizes that that’s why his brother didn’t have it and got arrested or something. All I remember of The Velveteen Rabbit is the rabbit getting abandoned and sitting outside and getting dirtier and dirtier as the days go by. All I remember of Looney Tunes is a scene of a female duck angrily yelling, “I want a divorce! I want a divorce!” I had no idea what a “divorce” was, but I knew she was angry and angry people are scary. All I remember from Larry-Boy and the Fib from Outer Space is Larry telling more and more lies and the Fib (represented by some kind of alien) getting bigger and bigger.

Well, maybe that’s not entirely true, at least for The Velveteen Rabbit and the Looney Tunes episode. I remember the velveteen rabbit ends up becoming a real rabbit, and one day, its former owner sees it in the woods and thinks something along the lines of, “That rabbit looks familiar.” And in that Looney Tunes episode, the reason the wife duck wanted a divorce was because Daffy had been using their egg to perform a magic trick but at one point, after making the egg disappear, he couldn’t make it appear again; then at the end of the episode, he gives it one more try and this time the egg finally reappears. But these details feel secondary to the ones I mentioned in the last paragraph. The stories don’t feel “resolved” in my mind, and the main emotional impression I get from these memories is a vague unease.

I wonder what that says about me.

“Jews for Judaism”

Earlier today, while searching for a Hebrew Bible, I came across a site called Jews for Judaism, and particularly a page claiming to disprove all the arguments Christians make that the Old Testament predicts the New: https://jewsforjudaism.org/knowledge/articles/jews-jewish-christianity-proofs-christianity-hebrew-bible/

I won’t really answer most of the author’s objections, because, in a sense, they’re right. He basically spends the article arguing that the Old Testament passages Christians use to argue for Christianity are clearly referring to things that were in the immediate context of those passages, not to Jesus. But that’s the thing; the Christian claim isn’t that those passages refer to Jesus to the exclusion of the things in their immediate context, but rather that they prefigure Jesus in addition to referring to whatever they were referring to in context. That’s the beauty of the Bible; it tells historical facts, but those facts themselves then symbolize spiritual truths. Like how the Israelites’ escape from Egypt and wandering in the desert are literal historical events, but simultaneously illustrate the bondage of the soul to sin, its escape by God’s grace, and its weakness that causes it to want to go back. It’s God speaking through history itself.

Anyways, the passage I’d like to hear him explain isn’t any of the ones he actually brings up, but rather Ezekiel 34:15: “And I myself will tend to my sheep, and have them lie down, says the LORD.” Which Jesus then references directly when He says, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11).

But there is just one thing I’d like to point out in response to one of his objections, which is about the passage in Genesis where God says, “Let us create man in our image.” Christians have long pointed to this passage as evidence of the triune nature of God. The author of the article replies that, while the plural pronoun here is odd and merits explanation, the Trinity is probably the least likely explanation for it; it could be a royal we, or it could be like when people say “let’s go” or the like even when talking to themselves, or it could mean that God was consulting with the angels at that moment.

I won’t hesitate to concede this point. A single first person plural pronoun is hardly conclusive proof for the Trinity; it isn’t so much a proof as a reassurance for someone who already believes in the doctrine. But what I find particularly interesting is that God says, “Let us create man in our image”………..

…………… and then proceeds to create TWO humans. And He then tells them to be fruitful and multiply, which would entail the two becoming one flesh and producing a third.

Now, this isn’t something that can be explained away by grammatical arguments; it’s a concrete reality. And while it is true that every analogy fails at some point and not everything about humans mirrors God, it seems hard to doubt the significance of these particular facts when you consider that Genesis juxtaposes them in a single verse: “in the image of God He created them; male and female, He created them” (1:27).

So I’d be curious to hear what the author of that page thinks of this.