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volume II: Synopsis

section IV: Divine Dynamics

page 32: Metaphysics

The word metaphysics entered the language through first century editors of Aristotle's works. They placed fourteen short works on a common theme 'meta ta physica' ('after the physics'). Since then these books have coalesced into one now called Aristotle's Metaphysics. Aristotle himself might have called the work On Theology since he is very much concerned with the First Mover of the world, which he calls God:

If then, the happiness which God always enjoys is as great as that which we enjoy sometimes, it is marvellous, and if it is greater, this is still more marvellous. Nevertheless it is so. Moreover, life belongs to God. For the actuality of thought is life and God is that actuality; and the essential actuality of God is life most good and eternal. We hold, then, that God is a living being, eternal, most good; and therefore life and continuous eternal existence belong to God, for that is what God is.' 1072b25 sqq.
Corpus Aristotelicum - Wikipedia, Aristotle - Metaphysics

Physics centres around the study of observables. Metaphysics centres on the study of the broader structures that make the observables look the way they do. While it seems easy to see what is happening, it is often very difficult to understand why things are happening the way they do. This is the work of metaphysics, to extract useful meaning from physical data. Umwelt - Wikipedia

Metaphysics studies the logical consequences (and non-consequences!) of physics. In the old days, metaphysicians could not see their own conscious existence arising out of the matter described by contemporary physics. Modern physics, however, extends as naturally to metaphysics as any ordinal number (by the work of Cantor's theorem), is transformed into a greater ordinal number. Here lies the power of our theory: it is invariant with respect to complexity, so that we can confidently expect the properties of complex hidden systems to be reflected in simple visible systems.

There are two broad traditions in metaphysics which are distinguished by their perception of the relationship between appearance and reality.

The Eleatics, a school who flourished at Elea in the sixth century BC, held that there was gulf between appearance and reality. In their model, reality was one, eternal and changeless; the moving world of ordinary experience was held to be of inferior quality. There are elements of this view in the Christian position which divides reality into one omnipotent and eternal God and the Universe of human experience controlled by that God. Eleatics - Wikipedia

A more realistic view, typical of Aristotle, held that there were strong links between appearance and reality. Further, appearances pointed to the existence of invisible realities. So there is room for a general science which studies the common properties of reality, visible and invisible. The foundation of this view is the assumption (axiom, dogma, article of faith) that the world is consistent and meaningful.

Aristotle used this assumption to infer the existence of an invisible unmoved mover from the change he observed in the world. Christianity developed these ideas into 'proofs' for the existence of God. Unfortunately the Christian tradition postulated an absolute gulf between God and the World, whereas Aristotle seems to have seen the unmoved mover as part of the system of the world, which included forms both material and immaterial ('separable'). C E D Brookner: Aristotle Metaphysics Book 7

Aquinas, bringing Aristotle into the Christian fold, saw metaphysics as the study of everything, tantamount to the study of God. Theology is by definition the theory of everything. Using the potency-act model developed in Aristotle's Metaphysics, Aquinas developed a detailed theory of God which attempted to reconcile the eternity, omniscience and omnipotence of God with the moving world of experience. He saw the world of experience as proof for the existence of the God he modelled. Thomas Aquinas

Building on Aquinas, Lonergan found the key to metaphysics in the study of knowledge, that is communication with our environment. He saw metaphysics as the general heuristic structure of all being, that is as a generic set of clues to understanding. He limited understanding to human minds, however, whereas we see insight as the human instance of the universal process of encoding and decoding messages that carry communication. Lonergan, 24Theses: Thesis 24

In the present work, the transfinite network stands as a formal canvas for metaphysics, a general space in which to model evolutionary processes finding particular threads of development and growing into the incomplete future. We see appearance is part of reality, a sighting of God. The appearances are the stationary points in the dynamic Universe. They are the interface through which we communicate with the World.

The life of every entity in the Universe depends upon and is expressed by its communication with its peers. As in technological networks, any communication between peers involves all the layers beneath the peers right down to the initial singularity and back. As Aristotle saw, the tree of life is rooted in God, the pure act that drives everything.

(revised 26 May 2013)

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Further reading


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Aristotle, and (translated by H Tredennick and G Cyril Armstrong), Metaphysics X-XIV, Oeconomica and Magna Moralia, Harvard University Press, ; William Heinemann Ltd. 1977 Introduction III Aristotle's Metaphysical Theory: 'The theory of universal science, as sketched by Plato in The Republic, was unsatisfactory to Aristotle's analytical mind. He felt that there must be a regular system of sciences, each concerned with a different aspect of reality. At the same time it was only reasonable to suppose that there is a supreme science, which is more ultimate, more exact, more truly Wisdom than any of the others. The discussion of this science, Wisdom, Primary Philosophy or Theology, as it is variously called, and of its scope, forms the subject of the Metaphysics. page xxv 
Aristotle, and H Tedennick (translator), Metaphysics I-IX , Harvard University Press, William Heinemann 1980 Introduction: "[Aristotle] felt that there must be a regular system of sciences, each concerned with a different aspect of reality. At the same time it was only reasonable to suppose that there was a supreme science which was more ultimate, more exact, more truly Wisdom than the others. The discussion of ths science - Wisdom, Primary Philosophy or Theology, as it is variously called - and of its scope, forms the subject of the Metaphysics' page xxv. 
Carnot, Sadi, and Translated by R H Thurston; edited and with an introduction by E Mendoza, Reflections on the Motive Power of Fire: and other papers on the second law of thermodynamics by E Clapeyron and R Clausius., Peter Smith Publisher 1977 Reflections: Everyone knows that heat can produce motion. ... in these days when the steam-engine is everywhere so well known. ... To develop this power, to appropriate it to our uses, is the object of heat engines. ... Notwithstanding the work of all kinds done by steam-engines, notwithstanding the satisfactory condition to which they have been brought today, their theory is very little understood, and the attempts to improve them are still directed almost by chance. ... In order to consider in the most general way the principle of the production of motion by heat, it must be considered independently of any mechanism or any particular agent. It is necessary to establish principles applying not only to steam-engines but to all imaginable heat engines, whatever the working substance and whatever the method by which it is operated. ... [Here enters the seed of entropy] The production of motive power is then due in steam-engines not to an actual consumption of caloric, but to its transportation from a warm body to a cold body, that is, to its reestablishment of equilibrium - an equilibrium considered as destroyed by any cause whatever, by chemical action such as combustion, or by any other.' pages 3-7. 
Hofstadter, Douglas R, Le Ton beau de Marot: In Praise of the Music of Language, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, Basic Books, HarperCollins Publishers Inc 1997 Amazon: 'In the fall of 1537, a child was confined to bed for some time. The French poet Clément Marot wrote her a get-well poem, 28 lines long, each line a scant three syllables. In the mid-1980s, the outrageously gifted Douglas R. Hofstadter- il miglior fabbro of Godel, Escher, Bach - first attempted to translate this "sweet, old, small elegant French poem into English." He was later to challenge friends, relations, and colleagues to do the same. The results were exceptional, and are now contained in Le Ton Beau De Marot, a sunny exploration of scholarly and linguistic play and love's infinity. Less sunny, however, is the tragedy that hangs over Hofstadter's book, the sudden death of his wife, Carol, from a brain tumor. (Her translation is among the book's finest.) 
Lonergan, Bernard J F, Insight : A Study of Human Understanding (Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan : Volume 3), University of Toronto Press 1992 '... Bernard Lonergan's masterwork. Its aim is nothing less than insight into insight itself, an understanding of understanding' 
Popper, Karl Raimund, Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge, Routledge and Kegan Paul 1972 Preface: 'The way in which knowledge progresses, and expecially our scientific knowledge, is by unjustified (and unjustifiable) anticipations, by guesses, by tentative solutions to our problems, by conjectures. These conjectures are controlled by criticism; that is, by attempted refutations, which include severely critical tests.' [p viii]  
Aristotle - Metaphysics Internet Classics Archive | Metaphysics by Aristotle 'ALL men by nature desire to know. An indication of this is the delight we take in our senses; for even apart from their usefulness they are loved for themselves; and above all others the sense of sight. For not only with a view to action, but even when we are not going to do anything, we prefer seeing (one might say) to everything else. The reason is that this, most of all the senses, makes us know and brings to light many differences between things. ' back
C E D Brookner Aristotle's Metaphysics Book 7, translated by Moerbeke 'Chapter 1 Being as substance Chapter 2 Opinions as to the meaning of substance Chapter 3 Substance as substratum Chapter 4 What things have essences? Chapter 5 Have coupled terms essence or definition? Chapter 6 Is a thing the same as its essence? Chapter 7 Analysis of generation Chapter 8 Only the compound of form and matter comes into being Chapter 9 Production: spontaneous and in categories other than substance Chapter 10 Does the definition of a whole contain that of its parts &c Chapter 11 Parts of the form and concrete whole Chapter 12 The unity of definition Chapter 13 The universal is not substance Chapter 14 The forms are not substances Chapter 15 Individuals and ideas indefinable Chapter 16 Two errors concerning substances Chapter 17 The true view of substance' back
Corpus Aristotelicum - Wikipedia Corpus Aristotelicum - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 'The Corpus Aristotelicum is the collection of Aristotle's works that have survived from antiquity through Medieval manuscript transmission. These texts, as opposed to Aristotle's lost works, are technical philosophical treatises from within Aristotle's school. Reference to them is made according to the organization of Immanuel Bekker's nineteenth-century edition, which in turn is based on ancient classifications of these works.' back
Eleatics - Wikipedia Eleatics - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 'The Eleatics were a school of pre-Socratic philosophers at Elea (now Velia), a Greek colony in Campania, Italy. The group was founded in the early fifth century BCE by Parmenides. Other members of the school included Zeno of Elea and Melissus of Samos. Xenophanes is sometimes included in the list, though there is some dispute over this.' back
Metaphysics (Aristotle) - Wikipedia Metaphysics (Aristotle) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia ' The Metaphysics is considered to be one of the greatest philosophical works. Its influence on the Greeks, the Arabs, the scholastic philosophers and even writers such as Dante, was immense. It is essentially a reconciliation of Plato’s theory of Forms that Aristotle acquired at the Academy in Athens, with the view of the world given by common sense and the observations of the natural sciences. According to Plato, the real nature of things is eternal and unchangeable. However, the world we observe around us is constantly and perpetually changing. Aristotle’s genius was to reconcile these two apparently contradictory views of the world. The result is a synthesis of the naturalism of empirical science, and the mysticism of Plato, that informed the Western intellectual tradition for more than a thousand years. back
Thomas Aquinas Commentary on the Metaphysics: English translation by John P. Rowan 'COMMENTARY ON THE METAPHYSICS by Thomas Aquinas translated by John P. Rowan Chicago, 1961 html-edited by Joseph Kenny, O.P.' back
Umwelt - Wikipedia Umwelt - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 'According to Jakob von Uexküll and Thomas A. Sebeok, umwelt (plural: umwelten; the German word Umwelt means "environment" or "surrounding world") is the "biological foundations that lie at the very epicenter of the study of both communication and signification in the human [and non-human] animal." The term is usually translated as "self-centered world".Uexküll theorised that organisms can have different umwelten, even though they share the same environment.' back is maintained by The Theology Company Proprietary Limited ACN 097 887 075 ABN 74 097 887 075 Copyright 2000-2018 © Jeffrey Nicholls