The Early Stages

Fortunately, I think I’m still in the early (i.e., naïve) stages – somewhere between studying whatever I want and realizing that no one cares so I probably should listen to my advisor.

The Wit of Socrates

I forgot how entertaining Plato’s dialogues are. Take, for instance, this short quote from Cratylus 399A.

Socrates (to Hermogenes): And you are right in having it; for just at this very moment I think I have had a clever thought, and if I am not careful, before the day is over I am likely to be wiser than I ought to be.

-Plato, Plato IV: Cratylus, Parmenides, Greater Hippias, Lesser Hippias, tr. by Harold North Fowler, LCL 167 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1939), 59.

I don’t know if the Loeb translation is the best (I got it mainly for the Greek), but I enjoyed the line nonetheless. Why can’t modern philosophers be this funny? 🙂

A Ballad of Abbreviations – G. K. Chesterton

A Ballad of Abbreviations

The American’s a hustler, for he says so,
And surely the American must know.
He will prove to you with figures why it pays so
Beginning with his boyhood long ago.
When the slow-maturing anecdote is ripest
He’ll dictate it like a Board of Trade Report,
And because he has no time to call a typist,
He calls her a Stenographer for short.

He is never known to loiter or malinger,
He rushes, for he knows he has “a date”;
He is always on the spot and full of ginger,
Which is why he is invariably late.
When he guesses that it’s getting even later,
His vocabulary’s vehement and swift,
And he yells for what he calls the Elevator,
A slab abbreviation for a lift.

Then nothing can be nattier or nicer
For those who like a light and rapid style,
Than to trifle with a work of Mr. Dreiser
As it comes along in waggons by the mile.
He has taught us what a swift selective art meant
By description of his dinners and all that,
And his dwelling, which he says is an Apartment,
Because he cannot stop to say a flat.

We may whisper of his while precipitation,
That its speed is rather longer than a span,
But there really is a definite occasion
When he does not use the longest word he can.
When he substitutes, I freely make admission,
One shorter and much easier to spell;
If you ask him what he thinks of Prohibition
He may tell you quite succinctly it is Hell.

-G. K. Chesterton, “A Ballad of Abbreviations,” in G. K. Chesterton Collected Works Volume X Collected Poetry Part 1 (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1994), 426-427.

Is God Made of Soap?

Summa Theologica, 1.3.9

We proceed thus to the Ninth Article:

Objection 1: It would seem that God is made of soap. For whatever is highest in a genus must be predicated of God. But the highest in the genus of cleanliness, which the Philosopher says is next to godliness, is soap.

Objection 2: Moreover, Scripture says, “Wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.” But it belongs to soap to wash.

Objection 3: Furthermore, Dionysius says in On the Divine Names, “For the being of the Most High, being beyond Being, which is what is, can only be denied, as of foamy lather that surpasses even the most excellent conception.” But the principle of foamy lather is soap, and where the effect is found, there must the principle be posited.

On the contrary is the opinion of Saint Augustine, who says, “I did wander long among vain fancies, thinking that thou wert as the soap that cleanseth all things, and that evil was a grimy blot on thy purity.”

I answer that, ‘Soap’ can be said in two ways. In one way, soap is the material principle of cleanliness as such. But we have already shown that there is no material principle in God. Therefore, God is not made of soap. But in another way, ‘soap’ is said of whatever is highest in the order of efficient causes directed towards cleanliness secundum quid by an order that is less than formal with respect to the finality of an end, simply as such, without respect of quiddity in potentiality to the sensitive appetite. And in this sense all men say that God is made of soap, and that in the highest degree, as is plain from the definition.

Reply Obj. 1: Soap is not the highest in the genus of cleanliness, as the Saponians heretically maintain, but only in the genus of material ablutions, which is related to cleanliness in the way that principles of natural reason are related to the eternal law, as the Psalmist says, “How shall a young man cleanse his way? By keeping to your law.”

Reply Obj. 2: Scripture also says, “I will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” But soap is an efficient cause of tears, and not of their remotion. Therefore, God is not made of soap.

Reply Obj. 3: In this place Dionysius understands ‘foamy lather’ in accordance with the way of remotion, so that it implies only the lack of such qualities as are inconsistent with foamy lather, as shortness of duration and irritation to the skin.

This lost part of the Summa was discovered by Thomas Williams (Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Iowa) while a graduate student at Notre Dame.