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Moore's Metaphysics
The Poetry & Writings of Richard Sansom  
Published by The British Sansom Society
          A Very Distant God    


In reading Garys post [click here] I see him laying out a problem that I have pondered for a long time: Is there any real difference in the way we approach problems in life be they technical, scientific, philosophical, practical or religious, etc? I say in the most fundamental way there is scant difference, if any. I believe there are only really two kinds of problems we deal with:

physical problems
and
knowledge or abstract problems.


     But even in the case of knowledge problems, there is an ancient connection with the physical. In Aristotles famous introduction to his *Metaphysics,* he says:


*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.*


[The most irritating but most profoundly important question the five year old can ask is: WHY? i. e. evidence of the instinctual urge to know what is behind something]

      I agree with Aristotle, with some caveats that he might have found curious. First, all men by nature desire to live, to exist, to survive, and in that urge toward survival, that all organisms seem to possess, they are bound to face problems dealing with survival and to solve those problems, they must know things. Early man mainly dealt with what I call physical problems; obtaining food, constructing shelter. building weapons and tools, defending himself and his tribe, and it was only later, perhaps during the so-called axial age, did man begin to deal with knowledge/abstract problems. But those problems grew out of the physical ones.

      The Egyptians, in the need for demarcating land for planting, devised certain geometric tools that eventually grew into abstract ones. The need for counting and accounting eventually grew into an interest purely in the way numbers seemed to behave. [Pythagoras]. The use of the lever, no doubt a very ancient devise, was eventually seen as a mathematical construct, apart from its physical utility and so on. I believe that there is no knowledge or abstract problem, however obscure or arcane, that cannot be traced to some physical analog, if one has the patience to dig deep enough.

In Garys last sentence he says:

*.there are conundrums between the material world and the theological world and the theological world always has to be abstract which gives us a hint that maybe abstractions always leads back to theological thinking in some way.*


I like to go back further to pre-religious thinking. Religious thinking grew out of the perception of causality in the world or the universe. All phenomena was seen to have a cause, even though that cause was unseen and mysterious, thus deities were invented to supply the cause. As for abstract thinking being traceable to theological thinking, could it have been the other way around? An abstraction has no material representation. The unseen and unknowable causes of natural events [earthquakes, flooding, disease, etc.] were pure abstractions and eventually led to religious systems.

       I believe that men like Bacon, Scotus and Ockham, especially the latter, constructed a very distant God who had little or nothing to do with arranging and managing the natural world, thus starting the intellectual revolution around what is and what is not an act of God and how close man can be in understanding the world they inhabit if they but choose to cast off religious dogma. [especially the kind practiced by Pope John XXII and his adherents.] and open their eyes and minds. I think Ockham was probably the first deist!

      Benetto Gaetani
,[1] later Pope Boniface VIII, said, speaking of the teachers in Paris: * Rather than revoke this privelidge [of Medicants to hear confessions] the Roman Curia will destroy the University of Paris. We are called by God not to acquire wisdom or dazzle mankind, but to save our souls.* This kind of language and thinking must have driven the likes of Ockam, and the Spirituals in general, up the wall. The power of the Catholic church must not be challenged by suggesting that wisdom and knowledge of the world might be a better path to God than the iron clad dogma of the Church. Believing that God creates and manages everything, moment to moment, removes from one the need to investigate and understand the world God, or more to the point, the Pope will take care of everything.

[1]
The above quote by Gaetani came from Friedrich Heers *The Medieval World,* a most excellent survey of the Western world, 1100-1350. I highly recommend it!

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