Philosophical Skeleton Keys: Archetypes, Forms, & Angels

Ockham comes in for a lot of criticism around these parts, the poor honest earnest man. And not unrightly, perhaps, given his (largely innocent and inadvertent) role in the incipience of the prevalent modern nominalism that has gutted the West (he was not really much of a nominalist, as we think of nominalism these days). But in most things he was on target (this is true of all heretics, scoundrels, sinners, and fools (or else they’d die before they could do much damage, understood by their contemporaries as mere silly kooks)). Most of all, he was right in respect to his famous Razor, which more than any of his other immense contributions to human thought will surely warrant his everlasting renown – his status, shared with only five or six other philosophers, as a household name (at least among those who consider themselves somewhat educated). Even men who know nothing else whatever of epistemology or philosophy of science have some notion of Ockham’s Razor. His Principle of Parsimony is perhaps the most important operational, practical principle of thought (the Principle of Sufficient Reason, e.g., is by contrast ontological; or again e.g., the Principle of Noncontradiction is logical; and so forth). It is the whole basis of American Pragmatism, which is to say, of the philosophy of science universally presupposed in the practice of professional scientists. It is followed in its pragmatic importance – opinions differ about their proper order – by the Principle of Elegance (the more beautiful theory is more likely to be true) and the Principle of Adequacy (theories must adequate to the entirety of their proper domain). I would add also the Principle of Serendipity – as I here now decide to name it, not knowing how other thinkers might have done so: the principle, i.e., that a true theory is likely to explain more things, and they unsuspected things, than we had looked for it to explain – things that, i.e., are outside its (expected) proper domain (huge swathes of mathematics, e.g., turn out to exemplify the Principle of Serendipity).

Ockham, then, God Bless him: All else equal, that theory is best which is simplest – which postulates the fewest types of concrete entities.

So then: what about the Platonic Forms? Ockham’s Razor – a native, chthonic tendency in my thinking from infancy – bugged me about them from the first moment I read of them. What the heck are they? Are they a different sort of thing than the things of this world? What’s the Platonic Realm, for Heaven’s sake? Where is it? How does it interact with our own? If it does interact with our own, then isn’t it really integral with our own? If so, then what sets the Forms apart from their contingent instantiations here below? What does eternity have to do with creaturity?

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The Economy of Forgiveness: Part III

This post develops, and relies upon, arguments in Part I and Part II. In particular, it refers to two characters – Lester and Betty – of the novel All Hallows’ Eve, by Charles Williams, that is quoted in Part I.

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When we intercede for a sinner in prayer, we implicitly forgive him our little portion of his moral debt to the rest of creation. A murder injures the whole City, not just the victim and his family. This is why the whole City executes judgement upon the murderer, and exacts payment (the same dynamic is at the back of feud and revenge, and vigilante justice). When we intercede for the murderer in prayer, when we beg for his redemption, we effectually forgive our own portion of his debt to the City. We eat that bit of his debt, and suffer it ourselves.

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The Economy of Forgiveness: Part II

You’ll have an easier time taking in this post if you have first read Part I of this series. I there proposed some novel arguments, which this post relies upon and develops. 

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Perhaps purgatory is a full repayment of our debt to the other creatures we have injured, that they have not forgiven us in the way Betty forgave Lester’s debt; a de-leveraging of our moral books. The suffering we do in purgatory could be credited to the books of our moral creditors. And it would ipso facto cleanse our own books of moral stain, fitting us to Heaven. In purgatory, the body of death, the body of debt, is calcined away, leaving and liberating the spirit, so that he may put on his true and originally intended resurrection body.

Note then that the currency by which we repay our debt in purgatory – the way we purge our books of debt – is through suffering. Measure for measure; nothing either omitted or left over. In the final analysis, the divine omniscience cannot abide anything less than a full accounting.

The currency of coinherence, then, the medium of coinherence, may be suffering. A bit of pain suffered in the payment of a moral debt releases a bit of one’s own love from the service of that debt and liberates it for higher use, and for a permanent increase in enjoyment by the whole system of things; when a member of the communion grows stronger, the community grows stronger. A bit of redemption is an increase in ontological actuality, and likewise in capacity for goodness, not just of the redeemed, but of his community and cosmos – of his City, as Williams would have it. As the US Navy SEALs say of their training, “pain is weakness leaving the body.” What is left is a bigger, fitter, stronger body, harder, healthier, more dense, more capable, more real.

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The Economy of Forgiveness: Part I

Consider Colossians 1:24, where Paul says,

[I w]ho now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church.

That’s the KJV. The Greek translated as “that which is behind” or “that which is lacking” is τὰ ὑστερήματα (ta hysteremata), literally, “that which is lacking or empty.”  The problem is, how can anything be lacking in Christ’s atonement – which is, after all, the perfect act of an omnipotent God?

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