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what we are like

What patterns in life does Aquinas see that he thinks the mystery that created it does not share? To answer that, we have to think like a philosopher. So prepare yourselves, because when talking about reality, philosophers (and sometimes theologians) often come up with quite complex ways of describing things that are rather obvious.

As an example of this, let's take a look at the patterns Aquinas recognizes when he looks at the basics of existence. Then we'll see how it relates to what he thinks God is like, or more specifically, what he thinks God is not like.

the obvious basics

1) We don't know why there is not nothing. (We've been over this already.) But there is something, and we fondly refer to it as reality.

2) We know it through our senses.

3) Stuff either physically exists in reality (e.g., me and you, our computers) or it doesn't physically exist (e.g., Mickey Mouse, Hamlet, Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock and the starship Enterprise <sigh>).

4) Stuff in existence is either alive (e.g., people, plants, animals) or not alive (e.g., rocks, cars).

5) Stuff exists as individual blobs of matter that have a specific form (e.g., Jeanne the person, Bunnelda the bunny rabbit, Bailey the golden retriever, a particular rose that isn't given a name).

6) All the various things that appear before us can be categorized, like biologists like to do into genus and species, based on stable, repeatable life forms (e.g., golden retrievers are considered different than labrador retrievers because they have a form that's unique and common enough to have its own identity). Yet individuals maintain their individuality within their genus and species, so you can tell Bailey the golden retriever from Sunny the golden retriever.

7) All things, especially those that are alive, change through time in consistent ways, having beginnings, middles, and endings, with only one phase happening at a time, in a specific order. We all start out when egg meets sperm, get born, become toddlers, then kids, then teens, adults, and geezers, then we die. We maintain our individuality, but the form of our blob of matter definitely changes, as I can attest to, my blob of matter being quite different now than it was when I was a few years younger. And this form change happens in a sequential, irreversible order, so we're never both an infant and a teenager at the same time, and once we pass through the form we can't go back.

Aquinas sees life in the universe as happening by way of unique and individual blobs of matter that keep popping up in various evolving forms that can be categorized. And he says our individual forms change over time in sequential, predictable, and irreversible ways. But that's us, not God.

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Rodin, le penseur (the thinker)

 
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