Sunday, January 29, 2012

Does God Have Any Potential?

(Disclaimer: These are the ramblings of an amateur philosopher and thus these thoughts -- while new and exciting to me -- have probably been answered thousands of times already by real philosophers throughout the ages.  That said, I’m just going to say them anyway!  So here goes…)

Question:  Would something that is pure actuality necessarily have all active potentiality?

Aristotle defined two types of potencies: active and passive.  Active potency is that which is intrinsic to the thing because of its nature – it requires no external source of activation (an acorn has the active potential to be a full grown tree.)  Passive potency requires an external source of activation in that it is not in the nature of the thing to actualize (a tree has the passive potential to be a chair.)

My thoughts on that are these:  When an acorn becomes a tree -- although it exhibits many physical changes -- its nature does not change.  Thus active potency entails no change of nature.  In fact active potency is derived entirely from the nature.  The two are inseparable.  A thing’s nature entails all that it is and all that is in its nature to do or be.  In fact, it can be argued that the nature is the 'being' and the changes are not 'new beings' or 'changes of being' but rather actions stemming from the 'actual being'.  Thus, when an acorn ‘changes’ into a tree, it is not a change of being at all but rather the acorn acting according to the active potency of its nature.  The development into a tree is the nature of the acorn in action.

Now God is shown, through the five ways, to be a necessary, purely actual being whose essence just is to exist.  God is said to have no potential – active or passive.  This doesn’t make sense to me.  While it is certainly true that God can have no passive potential, I think the case can be made that -- because of his purely actual nature -- God necessarily has all active potential.  If active potency encompasses all that a being can do, then God -- who can do anything that is possible -- has the active potency to do all things.  In other words God has pure active potency.  The acorn can only do the things necessary to grow into a tree, it cannot do things to cause itself to play golf, nor can it read a book.  God, on the other hand could conceivably do all these things.  What’s more, if God has no active potency, then his ability to do anything is incoherent unless he is actually doing all possible things at all possible times – which is itself incoherent.  If God is not actually doing all possible things, all the time, his ability to do so when he chooses must be described as “pure unlimited active potential”. 

Thus, I’d argue, the nature of God -- which is purely actual -- necessarily possesses all active potential. 

[Postscript:  I brought this up in a post over at Edward Feser's blog and he confirmed that, not only has this issue been hashed out a long time ago, but none other than Thomas Aquinas himself said the same thing I'm saying!!!  (See Summa Theologiae I.25.1:)  Thank you Dr. Feser!]

Monday, January 9, 2012

US Foreign Policy: More Big Government

Why is the US taxpayer paying for the "defense" of Germany, Japan, and South Korea?  Aren't these all prosperous countries capable of paying for their own militaries?  Why then is the US taxpayer saddled with the bill? 

Well, it turns out the answer is pretty simple: Like every other government program, our military bases overseas (there are around 900 of them!) are just a symptom of a bloated federal government's constant overreach.  Installing military bases all over the globe is nothing more than big government trying to solve the world's problems.  That's right, not content with solving all domestic problems, our wonderful government has decided that it, (and only it), can solve all of the world's problems as well!  If you're for small government, you should be against the ever expanding role of the federal government - including its expansion into the affairs of sovereign nations around the world that are, truth be told, none of its business!  (Just like most of the domestic problems it is "solving".)

Here's the truth about our military bases overseas: The countries who want us there, don't need us there - they can afford to pay for their own defense; and the countries who don't want us are not worth defending anyway!  In fact there's ample evidence that a lot of our terrorism problems around the globe are generated from blowback due to our heavy handed interventionism.  We would actually be safer if we closed all our foreign bases.  If you doubt this, think of Canada: They are not being attacked by terrorist organizations like we are.  And why is this?  They have the same freedoms and lifestyle the world supposedly hates us for - so it can't be that.  The difference is that they have no foreign bases (that I know of anyway) and a non-interventionist foreign policy so they are not constantly inserting themselves into other nation's affairs.  (Even Canadian big government does not stretch to foreign lands!)

If any of the candidates for President are serious about ending BIG government (and only one of them is), they will pull the theiving hand of government out of our pockets, stop the spread of government into foreign lands, and keep OUR money here at home!