Steve Winwood’s Higher Love and Aquinas’ Fourth Way

One of my favorite songs from the 1980’s is Steve Winwood’s Higher Love.  Here are some of the lyrics:

Think about it,
There must be higher love.
Down in the heart or hidden in the stars above.
Without it,
Life is wasted time.
Look inside your heart and I’ll look inside mine.

Things look so bad everywhere.
In this whole world what’s fair?
We walk the line and we try to see.
Falling behind of what could be? (Winwood & Jennings 1986).

To me, this song describes the kind of yearning Saint Augustine describes when he wrote:

You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy, because you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is unquiet until it rests in you (Conf. 1,I).1

The song also calls to my mind 1 John 4:8:

He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

So I wonder if Winwood’s song contains something of an argument for God’s existence.  Perhaps we could apply Winwood’s insights to a version of Aquinas’ fourth way.  Here is how Aquinas argues:

Among beings there are some more and some less good, true, noble and the like. But “more” and “less” are predicated of different things, according as they resemble in their different ways something which is the maximum, as a thing is said to be hotter according as it more nearly resembles that which is hottest; so that there is something which is truest, something best, something noblest and, consequently, something which is uttermost being; for those things that are greatest in truth are greatest in being, as it is written in Metaph. ii. Now the maximum in any genus is the cause of all in that genus; as fire, which is the maximum heat, is the cause of all hot things. Therefore there must also be something which is to all beings the cause of their being, goodness, and every other perfection; and this we call God (Sum I, 2, iii).2

Just for fun, here is a Winwood inspired version of a cosmological argument:

1.  If I can love, there must be higher love.

2.  If there is a higher love, there is highest love, which is the cause of  all lesser loves and is called God.

3.  I can love.

4.  Therefore, there is a highest love, which is the cause of all lesser loves and is called God (1 John 4:8).

Further, we might argue:

5.  If life is wasted time, there is no highest love.

6.  Therefore, life is not wasted time.

Who says that pop music can’t be profound?

1 Augustine. (1998). The Confessions. Trans. M. Boulding, O.S.B. New York: Vintage Spiritual Classics. 3.

2Thomas Aquinas. (1947). Summa Theologica. Trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province. Retrieved August 6, 2011.

Posted on August 6, 2011, in Fun and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. The tricky part is to show that the premises are true. I’m not so sure about premise one or two (you put premise two as three).

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  2. Shaun,

    Thanks for the catch… I was reworking it just before uploading and forgot to fix the numbers. I’ve fixed it now.

    Demonstrating the truth of premises is far more difficult than demonstrating the validity of an argument–generally speaking. I would defend 1 intuitively, that there must be some love that is greater than my love. This is kind of like Descartes’ intuition that he is not perfect. Also, I think there is good empirical evidence from the lives of saints that there are higher forms of love than the one I express in my life. The second premise is a bit more difficult as it relies on Thomas’ interpretation of Aristotelian metaphysics. Here is what Peter Kreeft has to say about this metaphysical view:

    The fourth way presupposes something which everyone except a few Sophist in ancient Greece and Skeptics in ancient Rome accepted until modern time, but which the modern mind tends to find incomprehensible: vuz., that “values” are objective, that value judgments are judgments of face–e.g., that a man really has more value than an ape. (P. Kreeft, 1990, “A Summa of the Summa“, p. 68, fn. 26).

    He goes on to say:

    The concept of degrees of being can be understood if we remember that “being” means not simply existence (“to be or not to be”) but also essence (what a thing is, its nature), and this latter asoect of being admits of degrees (ibid. pp. 68-69, fn 27).

    Might these insights make the two premises more plausible?

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  3. I guess my intuitions are different than yours. For number 1, I don’t see how the fact that I can love suggests that there is a higher love. Suppose there was a higher being that created humanity to not love.

    But I guess I could use other examples. I experience many colors, let’s say blue. I experience blue, but that doesn’t entail that there is the “higher” blue color. What does “higher” here mean anyways? Does it mean “better,” “deeper,” “more intimate,” “a want of a union,” “an emotional response where the self is ‘lost’ in the Other?”

    Now your remark about the empirical evidence about the saints is interesting. But suppose there was a machine that could measure some loving attitude, and it turned out that Person X has the highest out of anybody alive. Since he achieve a really high score on love, would this imply that there is still a higher love?

    Premise two fits as long as one accepts Aristotelian metaphysics.

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  4. Shaun,

    I guess my intuitions are different than yours. For number 1, I don’t see how the fact that I can love suggests that there is a higher love. Suppose there was a higher being that created humanity to not love.

    Perhaps we have different intuitions on this. I just think we all love in a deficient way and we have a sense that there is a better way to love. We experience love as a kind of thing that admits of degrees towards perfection.

    But I guess I could use other examples. I experience many colors, let’s say blue. I experience blue, but that doesn’t entail that there is the “higher” blue color. What does “higher” here mean anyways? Does it mean “better,” “deeper,” “more intimate,” “a want of a union,” “an emotional response where the self is ‘lost’ in the Other?”

    I think we do experience higher blues. Suppose you want to paint your wall blue and you go to the paint store. The clerk selects the proper base and a pigment. You tell him that you want the resulting paint to be really blue, so he squirts a lot of the pigment in and mixes it well. But, you are not satisfied. You want it REALLY blue. So he adds more pigment. “No, I want it bluer than the pigment itself!” you exclaim. The clerk is flummoxed. “I can’t make the paint bluer than the pigment, that’s the most blue it can get” protests the clerk. So, given any particular instance of blue, there is a cause by which the superlative of blue obtains. I think you give good examples of what “highest” might mean in the context of love. But, there is also agape, i.e. an unconditional, self-sacrificing love, and active love.

    Now your remark about the empirical evidence about the saints is interesting. But suppose there was a machine that could measure some loving attitude, and it turned out that Person X has the highest out of anybody alive. Since he achieve a really high score on love, would this imply that there is still a higher love?

    I think it would imply that there is still a higher love. Or, we might say that Steven Winwood’s song could be sung by any living person and the lyrics would still be true for them. The remark about saints is merely to show that there is empirical evidence that love admits of degrees. So the most loving saint might see empirical evidence of lower loves and realize too that love admits of degrees. Still, I think even the most loving saint alive would still self-reflect and think, “There must be a higher love than mine.” Again, can only refer to the Cartesian insight that we are imperfect and that this suggests to us that there is something perfect. That is not to say that Aquinas’ argument is dependent upon Descartes’. I am merely speculating along with you now.

    Premise two fits as long as one accepts Aristotelian metaphysics.

    True. Perhaps there are other systems to which this argument might be applied. I suspect it might be compatible with certain forms of Platonism and fairly sure that it is incompatible with certain forms of physicalism.

    Best,

    Daniel

    P.S. It’s a nice day out… why are we on our computers?

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  5. Ok, I see what you’re saying with the notion of blue. I disagree with the Cartesian insight, but that’s another topic.

    haha I’m actually in Utah at the moment and will be going to a BBQ soon. You should go out and do something fun.

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  1. Pingback: Formalizing Aquinas’ Fourth Way | vexing questions

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