Looking at Kirk Kanzelberger’s Essay (2020) “Reality and the Meaning of Evil” (Part 8 of 18)

0034 On the situation level, animals prepare to act2b.

In contrast, humans generate phantasms2b.  What does the thing or event2a mean to me3b?

0035 But, I am not alone.

Therefore, moral meaning plays out in my phantasm2b. The objective object2b may not necessarily trigger action.  But, it2b activates a moral order.  It triggers an intersubjective being2b.

On one hand, the intersubjective being2b is contiguous with the objective mind-dependent being2b and may be willing to face the test of suprasubjectivity1c.

A phantasm2b will not suffer privation, when its intersubjective reality1b seeks to be contextualized by suprasubjective potential1c.

On the other hand, a phantasm2b may be stated as blather2a.  Instead of facing the test of suprasubjectivity1c, the phantasm2b comes out as an event, a statement2a, that seeks to be objectified1b as agreement1a.  Agreement1a coordinates perceptions2b and appears to support an intersubjective reality2b that does not need to face the test of suprasubjectivity1c.

After all, if we all agree1a, it2b must be true1c, doesn’t it2b?

This phantasm2b suffers privation, because intersubjective reality1b should be elevated to its suprasubjective potential1c.

Instead, it2b seeks agreement1a, through its own expression2a, in the presence of others.

The observer plans to go to law school.

0036 The graduate student, in some capacity (remember, alcohol is consumed at these parties), knows this.

So, inadvertently, “he” brings what the observer says to generate agreement1a into the suprasubjective realm1c, by questioning “her” opinion.

0037 Here is a picture of the resulting judgment2c.


Looking at Kirk Kanzelberger’s Essay (2020) “Reality and the Meaning of Evil” (Part 7 of 18)

0028  Our spoken words2a weave the fabric of our subjective reality1a by telling us what is happening3a.

The observer states her impression that the cat is evil.  The statement would be accurate if the cat is a person.  However, the cat is just a cat.  The cat is not a symbol of a person.  It is a natural being.

0029 In section three, Kanzelberger states that no living animal or plant strives for privation.  Each strives for its own good, its own fullness of being.  Since the fullness of one may conflict with the fullness of another, privation is proportioned according to the food chain.  The bird knows that.  The cat knows that.  Well, if they don’t, they certainly behave as if they do. The bird flits nervously. The cat stalks its prey.  

In nature, agents for privation and death stand ready at hand.  They carry the aura of inevitability.  Not even the mountains stand forever.  Is there a cosmic beauty to this pervasive evil?  Everything is tested, horribly, relentlessly and in reality, by conflicts among diverse goods and forces.

Yes, outcomes vary.  Some conflicts end as win-win.  Some end as lose-lose.  Most end as win-lose.  In these win-lose contests, the agent who wins is satisfied, but may symbolize “evil”.  The unsatisfied agent may escape the label of “evil”, but at what cost?  Starvation?  The sufferer loses and may be granted the symbol of “victim”.  The one who avoids danger becomes “happy go lucky”.

0030 What does this imply?

First, obviously, a lot of energy flows through biological systems.  An animal or plant cannot rest in the fullness of its being.  Metabolism demands fuel.  Metabolism drives many of these conflicts.

0031 What if I declare that metabolism is evil?

Surely, it is a common denominator in the good of all living things.  Without it, there would be no conflict.  The lion would lie with the lamb.

Yes, both would be dead.

0033 Natural evil does not make sense.  Surely, we need not imagine that rocks or photons suffer when annihilated, but the same cannot be said for animals and plants.  Natural evil, the conflict among subjective goods and the playing out of privations, makes no sense, in a world where each subject has its own metabolism.

It makes far more sense to imagine that all the actors are human.


Looking at Kirk Kanzelberger’s Essay (2020) “Reality and the Meaning of Evil” (Part 6 of 18)

0023 What is a judgment2c?

A judgment2c is a triadic relation composed of three elements: relationwhat is and what ought to be.

0024 Here is a picture of the observer’s utterance, spoken without reflection.

Figure 3

0025 In this, a cat stands for ‘something’ evil, even though God created the cat in goodness.  Somehow, the observer plucks a symbol of the cat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, then declares that symbol to be relevant, without a second thought.  That symbol describes a person, who breaks the wings of another person.

Surely, such a person is evil.

0026 The observer’s declaration has all the ingredients that go into a judgment.

However, it comes out as blather2a, a subjective1a event, pretending to be intersubjective2b, and therefore carries the weight of judgment2c.

The party animal anticipates that the graduate student will agree with the statement.

If “he” does not, then “she” will look foolish.

No one wants that.

0027 Is there a privation here?

The observer’s impression2b claims to be true, as opposed to false, or maybe, deceptive.  It2b appears to be sensible.  It2bcoheres with the structure of judgment.  Yet, it2b really is just a way of saying that people can be like cats.  It2b is an object2b that does not express the fullness of its intersubjective potential because it makes sense1b.  More or less. No judgment is really needed.  Only agreement.  Humans are cats.


Looking at Kirk Kanzelberger’s Essay (2020) “Reality and the Meaning of Evil” (Part 5 of 18)

0019 Here is a picture of the ongoing conversation between observer and graduate student.

Figure 02

0020 The party animal says what pops into “her” head.  The graduate student replies that the declaration turns one actor in the event2a into a symbol of evil2b.

0021 The observer scratches “her” head, asking, “Did God create the symbol?”

Ah, the mind-dependent reality of a symbol2b may enter into the slot of the phantasm2b as a stand-in for the mind-independent reality of the cat’s action2a.

Or so, the graduate student judges2c.

0022 Clearly, the cat cannot be evil, since the cat acts out its perfection. The cat is what it is. But, if the cat were human, then such injurious action would be immoral, if not illegal.  Thus, the cat’s action becomes a symbol of what ought not to be.  The graduate student’s well-trained intellect brings what is into relation with what ought to be.

The phantasm2b, first objective1b in the observer3b, then intersubjective1b in both observer3a and student3a, supports the formation of a suprasubjective judgment2c.  If the observer3b follows the rules of reason, agreement1a resonates with truth1c.  The same agreement1a might happen if the observer3b is enthralled by the graduate student3b, or visa versa. 


Looking at Kirk Kanzelberger’s Essay (2020) “Reality and the Meaning of Evil” (Part 4 of 18)

0014 The human, Kanzelberger writes, “aspires to know more and more of the being of nature in its natural constitution.”  Humans are always busy trying to figure out what is happening3a.  What does it mean to me3b?  Our objective potential1btries to make sense of each subjective potential1a, resulting in our fallible phantasms2b.

The human sees the cat strike the bird2a, witnessing perfection in the cat and privation in the bird.

The cat subjectively1a wants to objectively1b wound the bird.

The human throws a guess2b as surely as the cat throws its paw.

0015 A phantasm2b does not gain the full potential of its objectivity1b until it becomes intersubjective1b.  In order to become intersubjective, it must be constellated2b.

0016 An objective phantasm2b can become intersubjective1b, in two, non-exclusive ways, through judgment2c and through discourse2a.

In the first option, the intersubjective1b stands at the gates of the suprasubjective1c.  Passage leads to a judgment2c.

In the second option, the object2b stands at the gates of human blather1a.

0017 Blather?

An event2a gives rise to a phantasm2b, in the mind of a beholder, who, without delay, decides to release that phantasm2bfor someone else to hear2a.  The decision3c casts the phantasm2b down, like a bolt of lightning, into an event2a, born of human subjectivity1a.

0018 The observer says, “Did you see that? That cat broke the bird’s wing.”

To which the graduate student replies, “Say what?”

“That cat is evil!”, the observer declares.

“Oh no, God made all cats in His goodness. But, still, the cat’s action may be a symbol of an evil, murderous and immoral spirit.  The symbol doesn’t apply to the cat.  The cat becomes a symbol to us.”


Looking at Kirk Kanzelberger’s Essay (2020) “Reality and the Meaning of Evil” (Part 3 of 18)

0010 Here is a diagram of the previous blog.

Figure 1

0011 In section two, Kanzelberger follows Aquinas (who follows Aristotle) by starting with the content levela.

Nature is subjective.  Good is the potential of a whole subject.  Evil is a privation, a compromise of the whole.  A bird’s wing is broken.  Poor thing.  Since each subject is good in itself, conflicts between perfections (wholenesses) may be seen as loss (for one subject) and success (for the other subject).

0012 A cat breaks the wing of a bird.  In doing so, the cat (a subject) acts as if the bird is an object (here, a mind-independent actuality held as a mind-dependent being).  Such is the cat’s perfection.  If the cat cannot perform this way, it cannot track reality.

The content level buzzes with a hodge-podge of subjects, some of which may objectify other subjects.  Evil, as privation, depends on each subject.  Since all subjects are different, natural biological evil has no consistency, no potential for appearing intersubjective, and therefore, makes no sense.

0013 Or, does it?

We (humans) are watching, doesn’t that count for ‘something1b’?


Looking at Kirk Kanzelberger’s Essay (2020) “Reality and the Meaning of Evil” (Part 2 of 18)

0006 Section one of Kanzelberger’s article, “Reality and the Meaning of Evil“, opens with a conversation between a party animal and a graduate student.

The exchange begins with the idea that evil is privation.  As such, evil does not make sense.

The discourse ends with the idea that evil is real and, as such, evil makes sense.

Clearly, the conversation starts on one level and ends on another.  Plus, the conversation wrestles with a very important caveat.

If evil is a positive entity, then it must have been created by God.  But if God is good, and His creation is called “good” in Genesis, then evil must be privation, a lack of good.  God does not create evil.  We do.

0007 Does this fit into a category-based nested form?

Yes, it fits two of them.

On a content levela, the level below morality, evil is privation and does not make sense.

On a situation levelb, the moral level, evil is real and makes sense.

0008 On the content levela, we ask, “What is happening?3a”  This is the platform for things and events2a, situating the potential of ‘something’ subjective1a.  Here, evil is privation and does not make sense because it is subjective.

On the situation levelb, we think, “What does it mean to me?3b”  This is where phantasms2b emerge from the potential of constructing objects, mind-dependent beings1b.  Here is where evil is real and sensible, because it is objective.

0009 Objective?

Something’ objective can also be shared.  It can be intersubjective. In order to become intersubjective, the phantasm2bmust be actualized.  Intersubjective beings are objective and subject to rational judgment by oneself and others.


Looking at Kirk Kanzelberger’s Essay (2020) “Reality and the Meaning of Evil” (Part 1 of 18)

0001 What is Reality?

Reality is a journal for philosophical discourse.

It is worthy of financial support by people of good will.

Reality is the only journal, to date, closing the gap between Thomistic philosophy and Peircean semiotics.

0002 John Deely (1942-2017) finds the loops through which a thread of reality now runs.  The two loops?  A thread of reality?  John Poinsot (1589-1644), a Baroque scholastic in the tradition of Thomism, and Charles Peirce (1839-1914), an American philosopher, chemist and intellectual voyager, formulate the same definition of sign.  One marks the end of the Latin Age, the second age of understanding.  The other starts the Age of Triadic Relations, the fourth age of understanding.  The thread is the realness of sign-relations.

Reality is the only journal, to date, running more threads through these loops.

0003 In contrast, Razie Mah builds little figures, illuminating triadic relations.  He constructs a grand theodramatic narrative, The Human NicheAn Archaeology of the Fall and How To Define the Word “Religion”, where these triadic diagrams shine.  They glimmer in the darkness of the current Age of Ideas.

The same darkness shrouds Reality.

0004 With this said, I open the pages of Kirk Kanzelberger’s essay, titled, “Reality and the Meaning of Evil” published in the inaugural issue of Reality (volume 1(1) (2020) pages 146-204).

0005 I also have, in hand, A Primer on the Category-Based Nested Form and A Primer on Sensible and Social Construction.

Perhaps, these triadic structures will serve as guides.


An Intimation (or a Proof) of the Actuality of God

In the previous blog, I left with this two-level nested form.

Figure 1

The two level-nested form characterizes sensible construction.

So, even though there are missing elements, I may draw sensible conclusions.

Here are some.

The content-level actuality of God2a must be assumed in order to obtain the situation-level nested formb.

The Divine Presence1b is the situational potential of the actuality of God2a.

The normal context of the Divine Will3b and the potential, the Divine Presence1b, virtually emerge from (and situate) the actuality of God2a.  So does the secondary causation in creatures2b.

We (humans) do not know the normal context3a and potential1a that accompany the actuality of God2a.  These slots are not truly empty.  Rather, they are opaque.

I can speculate as to how the actuality of God2a becomes apparent in history, by examining the astrologer’s vision, which has a similar relational structure.

Here is a picture of the astrologer’s vision, derived in the three prior blogs.

Figure 2

How did this relational structure come about?

I suppose that methods for reading the heavens1b are already formalized in the Sumerian Dynastic civilization of southern Mesopotamia, starting around 3000 BC.  While that is five thousand years ago, the condition of unconstrained complexitystarts 2800 years earlier, with the first singularity, as discussed in An Archaeology of the Fall

Yes, history has laws.

The first law is history is that our current Lebenswelt is not the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.

The second law of history is that history has a beginning, around 7800 years ago.

This year may be labeled 7820 Ubaid Zero Prime.

The third law of history is that history is the story of unconstrained complexity.

The fourth law of history is that the potential for unconstrained social complexity begins at the start of Ubaid in southern Mesopotamia, then radiates from there to other cultures of the time.

At the site of initiation, Ubaid villages (0 to 1800 U0’) grow and transform into Uruk town-chiefdoms (1800 to 2800 U0’), which develop further into early Sumerian city-states (2800 U0’ on). 

The fifth law of history is that history is entangled with the semiotics of speech-alone talk.

What does this imply?

The astrologer’s vision develops in our current Lebenswelt, in an effort to sensibly comprehend mundane events in an increasingly complex, rapidly changing, social world.  The Lebenswelt that we evolved in disappears behind the horizon of the first singularity. Why?  Hand-speech talk and speech-alone talk have different semiotic qualities.  The traditions of one cannot survive in the other.  No written mythology of the ancient Near East (with one exception) pierces the veil.  What does this suggest?  The Ubaids cobble together their own formula for grasping what is going on in our current Lebenswelt.

So, the astrologer’s vision is conceived in mundane events during the formative Ubaid period.  The Ubaid not that much different from now.  Everything changes.  Yet, everything stays the same.  Everyone acts as if the current social world has been there forever.  Everyone faces different challenges within that social world.  In dealing with those challenges, the social world changes, sometimes quietly and sometimes boldly.

Here is a diagram of the seed of the astrologer’s vision.

Figure 3

The proto-astrologers had only to look to the heavens to see a parallel to events on the mundane plane.  The sky is always in motion.  The sun moves.  The moon moves.  The roving luminaries move.  At the same time, the stars do not move.  They do not change their relative positions.  So, astrologers connect the dots.  The stars coalesce into constellations.  The constellations along the transit of the sun, moon and planets gain value because they are the like the numbers on a gigantic mechanical clock.

The constellations are fixed and continually accrue mythic associations.  Perhaps, this is how Capricorn, half-goat and half-fish, constellates the image of the Mesopotamian god, Ea, who lives on land during the day and in sea at night.  As mentioned in the first blog in this series, the zodiac sign of Capricorn pictures the earthly-watery mix of the Ubaid, Uruk and Sumerian ecological and social worlds.

A connection between the always changing, yet always familiar, motions in the mundane world2b and the movements of the superlunary beings against the fixed constellations2a, grows into a formal system for specifying how events in the celestial sphere presage events in the mundane plane.  The result is the astrologer’s vision.

The astrologer’s vision is a template for remembering past worldly events and for contemplating future events.  The astrologer’s vision solves problems inherent in unconstrained social complexity2b by incorporating both change and stasis into a coherent theoretical system1b, where mundane events2b virtually situate (and emerge from) celestial conditions2a.

My example comes from the gospel of Matthew.  Astrologers from the east, the lands of the Medes and Persians, follow a “star” and bring gifts to the infant Jesus.  The fact that the child is of humble origins turns out to be significant.  The Trinity works within their cognitive game, implicitly unveiling a larger picture, an intimation of the actuality of God2a.

Here is a diagram of the journey of the magi.

Figure 4

Indeed, the astrologer’s impulse, like the magi’s fancy gifts, seem weirdly confused.  Surely, the magi anticipate a figure of future authority, but greet a somewhat befuddled young couple.  Then, like the astrologers before them, they transcend their own expectations.  They know that any celestial event2a must be read in the light of both the (unmoving) zodiac signification3b and the situation at hand2b.  The events2b,2a remain actual.  The reading1b accommodates.  The astrologer bends like a willow.

Now, allow me to compare the journey of the magi with a prior figure, an intimation (or proof) of the actuality of God.

The relational structure begins with the situational actuality2b.  The causation exhibited by creatures2b mirrors mundane events in our world of motion2b.  Creatures act the same over and over again.  Yet, they are wily and adaptive in unusual circumstances.  Similarly, our behaviors and traditions in unconstrained social complexity establish habits and routines.  Yet, the unexpected always arises, calling for us to be cleverer than we otherwise would be.

The journey of the magi adds a sublime twist to this comparison between two situation-level actualities.  The birth of a royal child in the sublunary realm2b mirrors the secondary causation of creatures2b.  It is as if all life is honored in the journey of the magi.

What about the situational normal context3b?

Astrology puts our earthly turmoil2b into the normal context of something that does not itself change, the twelve signs of the zodiac3b.  For a particular celestial event, one sign will dominate, as in the example of the conjunction of Saturn and Pluto in January 2020.

The zodiac mirrors the Divine Will3b, which is unmoved and multifaceted.  The Divine Will3b contextualizes our worldly affairs2b.  Like the numbers of a mechanical clock, the Divine Will3b orients the moment at hand2b.  Like the zodiac, the particularity of God’s Orientation2b is revealed.  Everything has a proper season.  Contextualization of our worldly events2b by the Divine Will3b allows us to remember, contemplate and decide.

What about the situational potential1b?

The Divine Presence1b addresses a moment in time.  So, does the magi’s reading1b.

The magi’s reading of celestial events1b tells us of the nature of the Divine Presence1b.  The Divine Presence1b is the potential1b of the actuality of God2a in the same way that the magi’s interpretation1b engages the potential1b of the actuality of celestial transits through unmoving constellations2a.

For the magi, the celestial sphere2a contains motion (the sun, moon and the roving stars), as well as a lack of motion (the stars in the constellations).  These two features allow reading1b to occur.  The regularity of celestial motion contributes to habits of interpretation, styling astrological hints and suggestions.  The permanence of the constellations, along with the finite number of moving celestial bodies, contribute to astrology’s foundation.

For primary and secondary causation, the actuality of God2a transcends time and enters time.  Here, time parallels motion.  God’s transcendence of time is like the lack of motion of constellations.  God’s entrance into time parallels the motion of celestial bodiesTranscendence speaks to the exclusivity of the Divine Will3b.  Entrance addresses the inclusivity of the Divine Presence1b.

Yet, while the Divine Presence1b manifests in every moment in time, the entrance of the actuality of God2a into the flow of time divides all time.  The Incarnation fixes one moment in the continuum of time.

The journey of the magi is significant in this regard. The gospel passage in Matthew highlights this precise moment, when the secondary causation of creatures2a simultaneously fulfills the primary causation of the Divine Will3b and realizes the potential of the primary causation of the Divine Presence1b.

The relational structure of the journey of the magi mirrors the relational structure of primary and secondary causation involved in the theodrama of the birth of a king, whose kingdom is not of this (mundane) World.

In this mirror, I can see an intimation (or proof) of the actuality of God2a.


Magi Bear Witness (Part 1)

According to the gospel of Matthew, after Jesus is born, wise men arrive the East, following a “star”.  Of course, the term, “star”, must be broadly construed, pertaining to the superlunary domes, as opposed to the sublunary planes.  The motions of superlunary beings represent ‘something’ to the magi, corresponding to ‘something’ in their sublunary situation.

They read the “star” as a sign of a birth of a king.

The magi are “magical” is so far as this: There is no direct cause whereby a divine superlunary being activates, moves, arranges or manipulates ‘something’ in our sublunary realm.  Yet, causation appears to be present.

In Comments on Fr. Thomas White’s Essay (2019), “Thomism and the New Evangelization”, available at smashwords.com, one finds a parallel with primary and secondary causation.  Primary causation entails God’s Will and Presence.  Secondary causation pertains to God’s creatures.  Creatures exhibit secondary causation, without compromising the primacy of God.

The “magic” at the heart of modern and premodern astrology re-articulates a foundational distinction in the tradition of Thomas Aquinas.

How do these indirect causalities operate?

Here is the picture.