What It Is Like To Be a Secondary Cause

As the First Cause of everything, God is the primary cause of everything. Creaturely agents are secondary causes. They have effects of their own, arising from endogenous factors, and not only from God. Where in our inner phenomenal life does the influence of the divine primary cause leave off, and our own work as agents and secondary causes – co-creators with God, or as Tolkien called us, sub-creators – begin?

God provides for us everything we need in order to begin our work of subcreation; to wit:

  • Our being. We are, to begin with. Did we arrange that this moment of our life should happen? Not, NB, that it should happen that we now find ourselves outside the bar and a bit tipsy, but that it should happen at all? Did our decision to have that last beer, or to skip it, in any way procure this our present moment of deciding whether to head home in a taxi or to drive? No. This our present moment arrives for us, gratis, effortlessly, and not in virtue of anything we did. What we did certainly shapes the character of this present moment; but it does not procure the moment as such.
  • The truths of logic, math and metaphysics. Whether or not we are aware of them, they constrain every aspect of our being. Did we provide them? Of course not.
  • Our actual world. There is the tavern, there the girl we were talking to, there the sidewalk, there the street light and its light. Did we procure any of it? No. Did we arrange that it should be presented to us now as a coherent and orderly and coordinate milieu for the action of this our present moment? No. Does any event of the world, or any congeries of such events, succeed in coordinating all the events thereof? No. No portion of the world is at all adequate to the coordination of the whole of it. Indeed, not even all the world is thus adequate. The world cannot completely account for itself (this is implicit in Gödel). So is it inadequate even to comprehend itself, let alone coordinate itself. Only what is greater than the world can comprehend it, or a fortiori cohere or coordinate it.
  • The order of our actual world. Whether or not we are aware of it or understand it, it constrains every aspect of our being. Did we furnish it? No.
  • Our apprehension of our actual world. Do we organize our awareness, the way we might build a telescope or a microscope? No. It is given along with our being. To be just is to apprehend. How is the past of a moment ago made present to us as fact? We cannot tell.
  • Our power to act. Do we arrange for that power? No. It is given along with our being. To be just is to be able to act.
  • The character of the Good, and of all its derivates. Do we decide that the beer tastes good? Do we decide that it is good to head home – that home is good? No. These things *just are* good. Their goodnesses are data: given.
  • Our urge toward the Good, and toward all its derivates. So the beer is nice. So what? Why should that move us? Yet it does. Do we decide that we like things that are nice, and want them? No. Do we decide that we should feel that we should like to have another beer? No. We simply feel the allure of that beer. The allure is as given and objective to our intellects as the taste of the beer is given and objective to our mucous membranes and to the information processing systems that modulate the taste of it.
  • Our understanding. Not, NB, the things that we come to understand (although they are by no means trivial, they are a topic for another day), but our very faculty of understanding.
  • Our practicable options. Do we make any of our options real? No; they arrive to us along with the shape of our actual world, and of the Good as it pertains thereto. We can’t change the fact that having another beer is one of our options. The option is a fact; is a datum. Likewise we have no option to wake up a salamander.

I could go on in this vein, but you get the drift. All the raw material of our acts is given to us, and is *completely out of our control.”

As completely and impeccably coordinate prior to anything we might do, and indeed as the necessary forecondition of anything we might do, the matter of our action is then not so much raw as cooked, and to us served.

To be a secondary cause is to find yourself all of a sudden, and in virtue of nothing you have ever done, in the predicament of needing – of wanting – to make a choice, and of being able to make it.

We choose what it is of what has been set before us that we shall now take, and eat; what we shall then taste, and see.

2 thoughts on “What It Is Like To Be a Secondary Cause

  1. Pingback: What It Is Like To Be a Secondary Cause | Reaction Times

  2. Pingback: Cantandum in Ezkhaton 06/23/19 | Liberae Sunt Nostrae Cogitatiores


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