The measures of activities

When discussing self-perfective immanent activities we gave the following analysis of activities, with which we were able to delineate three kinds:

… an activity is the measured exercise of powers for the sake of some end, where the end for which the activity is done determines the appropriate measure. A thing’s powers are what determine what it can and can’t do, and whenever that thing engages in an activity it does so by exercising its powers. The end for which the activity is done determines how and when those powers are to be used, which is what we refer to as their measured exercise. Thus, we can distinguish between three things: the activity, its end, and its powers.

Transient activities are when the activity and its end are distinct from one another, while immanent activities are where these are unified. But this unity can happen in two ways, giving us two different kinds of immanent activities: if only the exercise of the powers is unified with the end then we have a non-self-perfective immanent activity, whereas if the exercise and the powers are unified with the end then we have a self-perfective immanent activity.

The question we aim to answer here is how we determine the measure for each kind of activity.

For transient activities the answer seems clear enough: the measure of the activity is the measure of the end for which it is done. The measure of the end will be independently-specifiable from the activity because the end and the activity are distinct from one another. For example, when a carpenter is making a chair this chair will have various specifications to meet, including structural and aesthetic features the customer desires. These specifications of the final product will “propagate backwards” to how the chair is to be made, restricting what options are open to the carpenter during this activity. To the extent that the powers of the carpenter are exercised so as to build a chair that meets the given specifications, they will be in accordance with the measure of the activity.

For immanent activities things are less clear, since in this case we do not have a distinct end from which to derive a measure for the activity. In an orchestra performance — which is an example of a non-self-perfective immanent activity — the end is something given by a conscious choice: when they choose to play a piece of music, the measure corresponding to this end is determined by this choice, since the sheet music of the piece specifies how the piece is to be played. Of course, the orchestra is free to modify the piece for their particular performance, but even in this case the end (and measure) is given by what is consciously chosen. While I don’t have an argument for this, I’m inclined to think that all non-self-perfective immanent activities are the result of conscious choice, and if this is the case then what we’ve said here should apply generally.

Notice that in both these cases, there is a degree of strictness that might apply to the resulting measures. A measure is strict, let’s say, to the extent that it restricts the variety of ways the relevant powers can be exercised. A customer who gave a complete specification for a chair would result in a stricter measure of the activity of building it than a customer who simply wanted something to hold them up. And choosing to play a classical piece of music would result in a stricter measure for your performance than choosing to play a piece of jazz music.

Finally, we have self-perfective immanent activities. Now, at least some of these activities are not consciously taken on by those engaged in them. For instance, the activity of my life is not something I consciously chose to engage in prior to doing so, since it is by the activity of my life that I make any decisions in the first place. In these cases, then, what is it that determines the end and measure of the activity? It seems to me that the end is already given by the fact that it is unified with the underlying powers of the activity. That is, because the end is unified with the powers and their exercise, we know that the activity must just be the exercise, the sustenance, and the development of the powers. And since all of this is unified together with one end, the activity must also involve the proportioning of the powers such that each is expressed without unduly frustrating the others. This will surely be the minimally strict unified exercise of all the powers that sustains and develops them together.

The way to approach the measures of self-perfective immanent activities, then, is to do so bit by bit, conceptually isolating the individual powers in order to understand the requirements each has, as well as the unique contributions it makes to the whole. An important point here is that we should avoid the word “balance” when comparing the contributions of different powers, since some powers will be more suited to particular tasks than others. For instance, it would be absurd to try and “balance” the task of walking between our legs and our hearts. Or again, since our intellects enable us to understand the world as it really is while our passions can overreact to mere appearances, it is right that we temper our passions in accordance with what is appropriate, and this without extinguishing them, lest we turn ourselves into mere robots. Or again, since our intellects and wills are not disconnected from our bodies, it is right to make decisions that contribute to our health. And so on.

Notes on the Genesis Prologue and Leviticus

I don’t have a track record for writing blog posts particularly frequently, but even if we take this into account my output over the past few months has been less than usual. The reason for this is that I’ve been working on bigger projects, two of which I’d like to share here. I lead a weekly Bible study, wherein we do our best to unpack what the Bible has to say and develop a biblically-informed worldview. Since the beginning of last year, we have gone through a number of different studies, but for two of them I ended up writing extensive notes. Both sets of notes are in their predraft phase, and have been made available as pages on this site (you can access them from the bar at the top).

The notes on the Genesis prologue cover the first eleven chapters of Genesis, and are structured similarly to John Walton’s The Lost World of X series, where each section focuses on the defense of a particular conclusion. The notes on Leviticus cover the entire book of Leviticus in about five studies, together with an introduction and an appendix. I learnt a lot from both, and I hope that by sharing them others might also learn something about these two very important parts of the bible.

A simple matter made complex

Alice: I just bought a shelf from Ikea.

Bob: Strictly speaking, you bought the matter of a shelf from Ikea.

Alice: Well, that’s the thing that matters, isn’t it? 😛

Bob: Not really, since it’s the form that makes the matter a shelf.

Alice: That’s a different matter entirely, I was just —

Bob: Not so, it would be the same matter, just with a different form.

Alice: I was trying to say that there’s no disagreement of any substance here.

Bob: Agreed. For there to be a disagreement regarding substance, one of us would need to think the shelf had a substantial form.

Alice: No, I had something much simpler in mind.

Bob: Come now, you can’t seriously be considering whether the shelf is simple? It is evident that it must be a form-matter composite.

Alice: My point is that we’re talking in different categories.

Bob: Well, I wasn’t really thinking about the categories at all.

Alice: Yes, that was evident.

 

A web of links

I’ve been working on a number of larger projects over the past few months, and so haven’t had the opportunity to post anything in a while. I hope to be finishing up with some of these in the next few weeks. In the meantime, I’ve collected a number of interesting links (mostly videos) for your viewing pleasure.

Robert Kuhn over at Closer To Truth has recently interviewed Eleonore Stump on a number of interesting questions: What are persons? Do they have souls? Do heaven and hell really exist? And what is God’s eternity? Be sure to also check out earlier questions to her about God’s eternity and his relation to time.

Interested in music? Vox has some great videos discussing Rap and Kanye West, and Polyphonic asks what about John Bonham makes him such a good drummer.

If you thought American Sniper was obviously a pro-war movie, it might be worth reconsidering that assumption a bit more carefully. In their video essay, Storytellers argues that it is really a subtle and careful anti-war movie, and follows this up with a response video. On the topic of war movies, Storytellers also has an interesting discussion on the movie Jarhead.

Sticking with the theme of movies, Films&Stuff discusses the first Matrix movie and how it was structured around the theme of breaking rules. NerdWriter discusses how Lord of the Rings uses music as part of its story telling and what Logan means for superhero movies. The two Franco’s and Seth Rogen do a Q&A on the Disaster Artist. And Christopher Nolan does a Q&A on Dunkirk.

If like me, you quickly became tired of the Assassin’s Creed formula, then you might be pleasantly surprised by what the upcoming installment is shaping up to be.

If you enjoy (1) Let’s Play videos and (2) difficult platformers, then I can recommend BaerTaffy’s playthrough of The End is Nigh.

If you’re interested in Game Design, then I highly recommend Mark Brown’s discussion of Ori and the Blind Forest’s Ginso Tree level.

A while back Ian Bogost gave a talk on what makes things fun, and it turns out gameifying everything is not the way to do it.

Ever wanted to be able to speak backward? Well, Kurt Quinn can, and on Smarter Every Day they put this skill to the test.

You might have heard of the recent memo by Google employee James Damore, now commonly referred to as “the anti-diversity manifesto,” but more correctly called “the criticism-of-the-mechanisms-and-measures-used-for-increasing-diversity-without-consideration-for-alternative-solutions memo.” I guess the former is pithier. The reaction has been divided, to say the least. Some people seem to have not really read it all that charitably, while others have discussed the merits and possible corrections of the approach (see particularly the discussion between Grant and Alexander, and the responses of four scientists in relevant fields). Damore himself has recently been interviewed by Bloomberg.

Ever wondered why lowercase numbers don’t exist? Turns out they do!

A while back, over at the Augustine Collective, David Nolan discusses the role of emotions in Aquinas.

Feser on how to go to hell, how to think about angels, and the Benedict option.

Finally quantum mechanics. There’s William Wallace’s review of Smith’s book The Quantum Enigma, and Aaron Wall on intepreting the quantum world.

New blog title

I’ve just changed the name of this blog from “//Roland’s Comments” to “Thinking Thought Out”. I’ve also changed the tag line from “Theology, Philosophy, Mathematics, Computer Science” to the quote from GK Chesterton that inspired the new name.

I originally started this blog thinking I’d write about my four interests previously listed. On reflection, I’ve seen that I predominantly write about philosophy and theology. The previous name, which was a programming “joke”, didn’t seem to fit any more (also, while I like my new theme, I don’t like my name showing up big and bold on the front page).

Plans for a blog

I’m still deciding whether or not to actually maintain a blog. But if i were to maintain this blog it would contain things about my main interests:

  • Theology
  • Philosophy
  • Apologetics
  • Computer Science
  • Pure Mathematics

And why not start big? I’m thinking of starting a series of posts dealing with God’s providence. Assuming I maintain this blog, of course 🙂