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Monday, January 18, 2010

0105: Actus Essendi: Newton, Einstein, Aristotle, and Aquinas

Entry 0105: Newton is to Einstein what Aristotle is to Aquinas



The contribution to the development of modern physics by Newton and Einstein is similar to the contribution of Aristotle and Aquinas to the development of the “philosophy of being.”

Despite the fact that the realm of their intellectual activity is quite different, it is possible to draw a parallelism between the two pairs of thinkers.

Just as Newton’s physics can be said to have been superseded by Einstein’s physics, similarly Aristotle’s “philosophy of being” can be said to have been superseded by Aquinas’ “philosophy of being.”

While it is true that Newton’s physics is contained in Einstein’s physics, one must say, however, that Einstein’s physics is something entirely new.

Similarly, Aristotle’s “philosophy of being” can be said to be contained in Aquinas’ “philosophy of being” but one must say that Aquinas’ “philosophy of being” is something entirely new.

The fact that Newton did not become aware that his mathematical formulations for the phenomenon of motion would not apply to objects moving at or near the speed of light, does not mean that there were no objects moving that fast when Newton made his contribution to physics. (It is well known that Newton’s second law is slightly inaccurate for calculations involving Mercury’s orbit.)

Similarly, the fact that Aristotle did not catch a distinction between “essence” and “actus essendi” in the “things of nature” does not mean that the “things of nature” were not always made that way.

The question then of how did Einstein come up with a new mathematical formulation for the phenomenon of motion -- a more general formulation than that of Newton and a formulation that did not invalidate Newtonian physics, -- is similar to asking how did Aquinas come up with a new set of metaphysical principles, the metaphysical principles of “essence” and “actus essendi,” -- a more foundational distinction than any of the distinctions discovered by Aristotle and a distinction that did not invalidate Aristotelian metaphysics.

Most likely the role played by revealed truth in the emergence of insights in Einstein’s mind was small, to say the least. But in the case of Aquinas, there is no question that revelation played a significant role in his mind to be able to come up with a new and extremely well defined metaphysical distinction, the distinction between “essence” and “actus essendi.”

The “essence” and “actus essendi” distinction applies to all creatures without exception (including purely spiritual creatures) and reaches beyond the created world allowing the human intellect to approach and “define” the essence of God as “pure unparticipated actus essendi.” Aristotle did not come this far.

In Einstein relativity, the ‘equation’ for ‘momentum’ is

[p = (gamma)(m)(v)],

where ‘p’ is ‘momentum,’ ‘m’ is ‘rest mass,’ ‘v’ is velocity, and ‘gamma’ is a ‘factor’ derived by Einstein from mathematical ‘transformations’ and formulated as

[(gamma) = 1/(√(1-(v²/ c²)))],

where ‘c’ is the speed of light. Newton did not come this far.

However, when ‘v’ (velocity) is small, the factor ‘gamma’ in Einstein formulation is approximately equal to ‘1’ and the ‘equation’ for ‘momentum’ becomes

[p = (gamma)(m)(v)] = [p = (m)(v)],

which is precisely the Newtonian equation for ‘momentum’ still valid for motions observable with ordinary instrumentation. Einstein did not invalidate Newton.

Newton’s second law states that

[F = (dp)/(dt)],

where ‘F’ is ‘force,’ ‘p’ is ‘momentum,’ ‘t’ is ‘time,’ and ‘d’ is the sign for ‘first derivative.’

And because, as indicated, ‘m’ -- the ‘rest mass’ -- is a ‘constant’ for ordinary observations where ‘momentum’ is [p = (m)(v)], the equation for ‘force’ in Newton’s second law amounts to

[F = (dp)/(dt)] = [F = (m)(dv)/(dt)].

Now, the ‘term’ [(dv)/(dt)] is simply the mathematical description of ‘accelaration’ which has the formula

[a = (dv)/(dt)],

where ‘a’ stands for ‘accelaration.’ Thus, the final equation for ‘force’ in Newtonian physics is

[F = (m)(dv)/(dt)] = [F = ma].

To conlude, a number of similarities can be established between the contribution of Newton and Einstein to the development of modern physics and the contribution of Aristotle and Aquinas to the development of the “philosophy of being.”

I have directed attention to some of these similarities.


Note on Translation: The expression "actus essendi" is translated into English as "act of being," into Italian as "atto di essere," into French as "acte d'être," into Spanish as "acto de ser," and into German as "Akt des Seins" ("Seinsakt.")

Monday, January 11, 2010

0104: The Actus Essendi Way of Proving the Existence of God

Entry 0104: The Actus Essendi Way of Proving the Existence of God

Commentary on "Does God Exist?"



In the Helium article "Does God Exist?" I wrote:

The discovery of the notion of 'actus essendi' equipped Aquinas with the metaphysical principle he needed to formulate an original and incisive argument for the existence of God. The 'Actus Essendi Way' developed by Aquinas sets him apart from all other philosophers, including Aristotle. (1)

The article also reports the following line from the writings of Pope John Paul II (1920-2005.)

The transcendental value of the 'actus essendi' paves the most direct way to rise to the knowledge of subsisting Being and pure Act, namely to God.

(For the interested reader, in endnote [2] of this post, I provide the original source of the quotation.)

Confirmation of the above can be found in the statements by Stephen Pimentel who explicitly addresses other issues closely related to the 'Actus Essendi Way' in his article “Thomas’s Elusive Proof: A Reconstruction of the ‘Existential Argument’ for the Existence of God,” in Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association, vol. 78, 2004, pp 94-106.

John Haldane adds important support too. Haldane considers the 'Actus Essendi Way' to be the “most original contribution to the search for theistic proofs.” (3)

Similar pronouncements have been expressed in Italian by Battista Mondin. (4)

For formulations of the 'Actus Essendi Way' in the originals, see, for example, (a) Saint Thomas Aquinas, "Summa Theologiae," I, 3, 4; (b) Aquinas, "Summa Theologiae," I, 44, 1; (c) Aquinas, "Summa Contra Gentiles," I, 22, 6; (d) Aquinas, "Compendium Theologiae," I, 68, 2-3; and (e) Aquinas, "In Evangelium Johannis," Prologue, 17.

Notes:

(1) To access the full text of the article "Does God exist?" go to http://www.helium.com/items/1200915-does-god-exist

(2) Pope John Paul II, "The Angelicum Address," no. 6; speech delivered at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome on 17 November 1979. The original, in Italian, was published in "Acta Apostolicae Sedis," 1979, vol. 71, pp. 1472-1483. English translations are available in "L'Osservatore Romano English Weekly Edition," 17 December 1979, pp. 6-8; and in "Angelicum," 1980, vol. 57, pp. 133-146.

(3) John Haldane, “Common Sense, Metaphysics, and the Existence of God,” in American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 77, no. 3 (2003): 387–388.

(4) Battista Mondin, “Originalita del Pensiero Filosofico di San Tommaso,” in Sapienza, vol. 47, no. 2 (1994): 129-146.



Note on Translation: The expression "actus essendi" is translated into English as "act of being," into Italian as "atto di essere," into French as "acte d'être," into Spanish as "acto de ser," and into German as "Akt des Seins" ("Seinsakt.")

Monday, January 4, 2010

0103: Translations of the expression "actus essendi"

Entry 0103: Translations of the expression "actus essendi"

Actus Essendi: An Electronic Journal on Aquinas' Doctrine of the Act of Being
Atto di essere: An Electronic Journal on Aquinas' Doctrine of the Act of Being
Act of being: An Electronic Journal on Aquinas' Doctrine of the Act of Being
Acto de ser: An Electronic Journal on Aquinas' Doctrine of the Act of Being
Acte d'être: An Electronic Journal on Aquinas' Doctrine of the Act of Being
Akt des Seins: An Electronic Journal on Aquinas' Doctrine of the Act of Being
Seinsakt: An Electronic Journal on Aquinas' Doctrine of the Act of Being