Thursday, December 9, 2010

A is A

The Advaita Vedānta school within Hindu philosophy holds that the self is identical with God. A student of mine recently lamented that too many Westerners who claim to follow this doctrine draw precisely the wrong lesson from it. Instead of freeing themselves from the limitations of their selfish egos and looking at the world from the divine point of view, they deify their selfishness. They bring God down to their level rather than rising up to His level.

Well, that is annoying. The trouble is that startling identity claims have a way of boomeranging. The Vedantist says “You are God!” hoping to shock his listener out of his egotism. The shallow listener thinks “Wow, I am God!” and his egotism is only reinforced. He puts the accent on the “I” rather than on “God.” And why not, if he and God really are identical?

Something similar can be said of the claim that the mind is identical to the brain. This is usually interpreted as an assertion of materialist reductionism. But why not interpret it instead as an assertion of idealist reductionism, a claim to the effect that a certain purportedly material object, the brain, is really mental? Indeed, the later Bertrand Russell held something like this view; or rather, he held that it is the sense data we encounter in introspection (“qualia” we’d say today) that are the fundamental reality, and that minds and material objects are constructs out of this purportedly “neutral” stuff. Russell took sense data to be “neutral” – that is to say, of themselves neither mental nor material – rather than mental (as they are usually regarded), because he thought they could intelligibly be held to exist unsensed by any mind. Some contemporary followers of Russell (such as Michael Lockwood) follow this line. But others who have toyed with Russellian views (such as Galen Strawson and David Chalmers) concede that sense data really are inherently mental rather than neutral, so that the version of Russell’s views that they have developed is not a kind of “neutral monism” (as Russell sometimes called his view) but rather a variant of idealism or panpsychism. “Matter,” on their view, is really mental in its intrinsic nature. And if you are going to take seriously an identification of mind and matter in the first place, why not “reduce” in that direction?

Functionalism claims that the mind is not identical to the brain per se, but rather that it is to be identified with a certain kind of causal structure, which might be realized in the brain but could also in principle be realized in material systems other than the brain (in an android, say, or in an extraterrestrial with a material composition radically different from ours). Under the influence of Russell’s views, my younger self toyed with the idea of reversing this functionalist identification, of doing to functionalism what Russell did to the mind-brain identity theory. Instead of reducing mind to a certain kind of causal structure, I proposed that the reduction should go the other way. It is not that the mental phenomena we know from introspection are really “nothing but” a certain kind of causal structure of the sort we observe in the external world; it is rather (so the view went) that the kind of causal structure in question turns out to be inherently mental, that introspection reveals to us something about the intrinsic nature of causation that perception of the external world does not. I called the view “Russellian functionalism,” or, alternatively, “Hayekian functionalism,” since the view occurred to me as I was first studying F. A. Hayek’s neglected book The Sensory Order, which combines ideas similar to Russell’s with a kind of functionalism (though Hayek himself did not state his position in quite the way I did). I defended the view in print in my 2001 article “Qualia: Irreducibly Subjective But Not Intrinsic.”

I haven’t held this view for a long time. I now think it is bizarre – indeed, I realized that it was bizarre even at the time (I just thought we had to accept it anyway), and others with whom I then discussed it certainly thought, quite rightly, that it was not only bizarre but difficult even to understand. But I also think that it is no more bizarre or difficult to understand than garden-variety functionalism is (just as idealism is no more bizarre or difficult to understand than materialism is – if you think otherwise, I submit that that reflects your historical circumstances more than it does anything philosophically substantial). To assert that to be in pain is nothing more than to be in a state specified by the machine table of a Turing machine (or however one spells out one’s functionalism) should really strike us as quite unintelligible, because it is unintelligible. You might as well say that to be in pain is to be divisible by 3, or that to be in pain is to be a list of the ingredients for a jelly donut. Like all reductionist claims, it is really only intelligible as a roundabout way of asserting a kind of eliminativism: “’Pain’ as common sense understands it doesn’t exist at all; all that is really going on is what is described by the machine table.” In that case, though, we have a claim that is manifestly false. And, when the eliminativist line is taken toward intentionality – that is to say, when it is claimed that there is no such thing as a belief, or an assertion, or as something being “about” or “directed at” something beyond itself in any way at all – we have a claim that is incoherent. (Keith Yandell has a useful discussion of Advaita Vedānta as implying a kind of eliminativism.)

As Aristotle or Mr. A could tell you, A is A. Or as Joseph Butler famously put it, “Every thing is what it is and not another thing.” Very few people ever deny the law of identity outright. But it is violated implicitly all the time. Mind is not matter and matter is not mind. God is not me and I am not God. A stone is a stone, a tree is a tree, a dog is a dog, and a man is a man, and not a single one of them is “nothing but” a collection of particles (even if being composed of particles is a part of the correct story about their nature, as of course it is). To say all of that is not only to state the obvious but also to state (what is from an Aristotelian-Thomistic point of view) the metaphysically unavoidable. To deny these things is to lose one’s metaphysical moorings, and no one who does so should be surprised if he ends up somewhere other than where he hoped to go.

154 comments:

jt said...

“Every thing is what it is and not another thing.”

Ed, so you agree that an acorn is not a tree?

Can a vegetarian eat eggs?

Is a fetus a person?

Is Jesus God?

Crude said...

Are dogs delicious? Wait, of course they are. We all can agree on that much.

Anyway, Ed - interesting to see some mention of hinduism here, even if only somewhat in passing. One thing I've found pretty fascinating about materialism (at least, the consistent, eliminative materialists) is that there really does seem to be a tendency to work in reverse - to say "Well, materialism is true. So, with that much assured, let's see what intentionality or subjectivity can be.." and then when the conclusions are so manifestly wrong or unintelligible to insist this has to be the case because we know materialism is true. And if you doubt that - what are you, some kind of crazy magician?

Modern philosophy really seems to be one prolonged attempt to believe six unintelligible things before breakfast.

Anonymous said...

After debating with several of my materialist friends, they now, instead of vehemently asseverating that the mental can be explained in terms of the material, just bite the bullet, throw their hands up in the air, and declare that it's beyond the intellectual capacity of human beings to answer the hard problem of consciousness. It's simply one of those unsolvable conundrums, which ultimately renders the entire materialist/anti-materialist debate in the philosophy of mind to be just a whole lot of misguided rubbish. "Therefore, we no longer consider it to be a legitimate philosophical problem," they say, "but we can nevertheless continue to be materialists." Have you ever encountered such an attitude Dr. Feser?

Also, I mentioned the following question in the previous thread, but it was quickly buried under a maelstrom of on-topic comments:

"How does the Aristotelian/Thomistic conception of the soul and the body and their relation to each other resolve the problem of free will and determinism? How does the Thomistic soul/'form' redirect certain neuroparticles and thus intervene in the otherwise completely deterministic neurological pathways in order to produce the desired response? If they don't, there's no free will. Additionally, if they do, then they violate the fundamental physical law of conservation of energy."

This rejoinder has recently come up a LOT in my discussions with atheists/materialists, and, as they do for the hard problem of consciousness, I just bite the bullet and say that I don't know.

jt said...

Hello Crude

"Are dogs delicious? Wait, of course they are. We all can agree on that much."

Our oldest dog has hemangiosarcoma, an agressive cancer of the blood vessel cells. It will surely lead to her death within months.

At that point, we would be happy to send her body to you so you could make a meal of her. Hopefully the cancer cells will survive the experience.

Have a great day!

Crude said...

At that point, we would be happy to send her body to you so you could make a meal of her.

No need! Enjoy it yourself. Or share it with the other hounds - it's a dog eat dog world, you know.

Anon,

Have you ever encountered such an attitude Dr. Feser?

I can't speak for Ed, but that response sounds like the "New Mysterian" position. Though I've never heard the twist of "therefore we can no longer consider it to be a philosophical problem".

I mean, really, is it that easy? Acknowledging that it's a mystery means it's not a problem anymore?

jt said...

Ed

The point of my questions to you are that you are always making identities of different things in your essentialism and theology.

What is wrong with others doing the same?

BenYachov said...

>Ed, so you agree that an acorn is not a tree?

Jt I still can't for the life of me understand why you think that is a profound statement? An Adult is not a child. Both are human.

Both an acorn and an Oak are Quercus.

>Can a vegetarian eat eggs?

Literally they can't. OTOH according to the popular definition they can but if they object to that they are Vegans.

>Is a fetus a person?

Yes a fetus is a homo sapens sapens & thus a person.

>Is Jesus God?

Duh!

I don't for the life of my understand why all this confuses you? Seriously.

Cheers.

jt said...

I am questioning dissimilar things like an egg and a chicken being called identical.

Jesus is God. But not so fast for Ram Chandra from Mumbai.

There seems to be inconsistency.

Maolsheachlann said...

I might be dim but JT's point seems to be a good one to me. If "every thing is what is and not another thing", how does identity persist over time, since me now and me a minute from now are different things? And does that mean that giving someone a nickname creates a new, distinct person?

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

jt:

The Scholastic distinguo!

Butler's aphorism, as I understand it, is a call to metaphysical realism contra monism. A materialist (i.e. a kind of monist) says your car is not "really" a car but is in fact "just" an assemblage of material components that happen to elicit verbal responses like "that car", etc. There is nothing more "to" the car than its basic material properties. And materialists extend this contention to everything. There aren't really, say, people and houses: there are only indiscriminate material events. (Leaving aside the awkward notion of how events can be effected or undergone in a world devoid of substantial entities.) In materialism there is no real difference between the the former objects; they are just matter in different shapes and at different spatiotemporal coordinates.

Butler's aphorism, however, defends taking at face value that persons are really different from houses and, moreover, that this person differs from that one, this house from that one, etc. This does not, however, entail the kind of monism you think it does––quite the opposite! You are once again forcing in a false dichotomy based on equivocal rigorism. Paraphrasing Butler to say, "Every man is who he is and not another man" does not entail denying they are at least both still men. Even in Butler's aphorism we find plenty of logical space for the qualifications which address your line of argumentation. Implicit in the aphorism is an analogy of being, since, first, every *thing* is an existent entity and yet, second, not every entity exists *in the same way*. Some things exist necessarily, some accidentally, some objectively, some subjectively, etc. But they all at least share in being. So, to assert that an acorn is not a tree in any sense is to fall for the beguilement of language. As far as essentialism goes, an acorn is not even an acorn, simply speaking, since an acorn just is a mode of the tree's act of being, and not properly speaking an act of being for its own end. Likewise, a tree is not simply a tree, as if its ends were imminent to itself as an individual, but is an instance of its species, and therefore a kind of elaborate acorn for propagating the species.

Best,

Untenured said...

It is worth pointing out that many materialists simply deny that qualia are data which need to be explained. Instead, they reject the theory/observation distinction altogether and embrace versions of holism which construe everything as a theoretical posit. Indeed, this is the very philosophy of science that underpins the Churchlands eliminativism. The problem, of course, is that the rejecting the theory/observation distinction and embracing radical holism makes it almost impossible to defend scientific realism. And if scientific realism isn't defensible, what rational basis can we possibly have for claiming that mental entities should be dispensed with or reduced to some sort of neurophysiological base? So many physicalists are simply oblivious to their own metholodological commitments. They just go on spouting naive forms of scientific realism as though the ontological status of the mental has no bearing on whether such realism is ultimately defensible.

BenYachov said...

>So, to assert that an acorn is not a tree in any sense is to fall for the beguilement of language.

I think Jt is too dogmatically or subconsciously attached to his/her implicit Nominalism here verses AT's necessary moderate realism.

BTW not to be rude & I really am not asking this to be rude since I have made peace with JT. So I hope he/she will forgive the question.

Jt are you a chick or a dude?

Seriously.....

BTW before you ask I think my gender is obvious since I don't call myself BatYachov(BY is short for Yachov Ben Yachov aka James Son of James).

Cheers.:-)

Leo Carton Mollica said...

@Maolsheachlann:

"If 'every thing is what is and not another thing', how does identity persist over time, since me now and me a minute from now are different things?"

Ah, but then you are implicitly assuming the noxious doctrine of temporal parts, which is no good at all.

Seriously, though: Leo M. a minute from now and Leo M. now are the same thing, just at different times. I possess different accidents, of course (different things may be truly predicated of me) at those different times, but that does not suffice to make me a genuinely different "thing" at different times.

If I'm just obscuring matters more, tell me. Or read the Oderberg article linked to, which is admirable in its clarity. Or do both.

Maolsheachlann said...

Thanks for that, LM. I will read David Oderberg's paper ASAP.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

Hi Ed,

I’d very much appreciate it if you wrote a piece with your thoughts about idealism. I’ve just now discovered your older “It’s just so obvious!” about Bernard Bosanquet and his sense that idealism is obviously true. For me there is a very good justification for idealism, namely that it works very well while making no assumptions beyond what we really know, namely that persons and experiences exist.

jt said...

Hey Ben

My uncle once told of a little boy whose mom dressed him as a girl. One day a lady said"Oh what a cute little girl" to which he angrily replied:"I aint no girl, I'm a boy -I...got...a...pecker!"

Me too. I am a 55 yr old retired professor of Structural Engineering living with my wife of 28 years and raising our only kids, our dogs.

I am a progressive but non-attending Catholic - she a former attendee of the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church.

I agree with Ann Rice's latest announcements/

BenYachov said...

Jt

Thanks for the info dude.

Cheers.

jt said...

I forgot,

The dogs are Unitarian, particularly Universalists, 'cuz they do a lot of things that other religions might get them damned to hell!

Jinzang said...

As I understand it, the argument for Advaita goes something like this. First, matter does not exist, by the usual arguments for idealism. Second, other minds don't exist, by similar argument. Third, the single unitary consciousness coextensive with reality, which is established by the first two arguments, is known as God, by the authority of (Indian) scripture.

Curiously, Erwin Schrödinger, one of the founders of quantum mechanics, made similar argument in his essay My View of the World.

Jinzang said...

"if they do, then they violate the fundamental physical law of conservation of energy."

Broad counters this argument in his book Mind and Its Place in Nature. Anyone making this argument doesn't know much physics, because the Earth causes the Moon to revolve around it, but there is no exchange of gravitational energy between the two. (Forces perpendicular to the direction of motion exchange no energy.)

Jinzang said...

More specifically, Broad's reply to the conservation of energy argument is here.

Brian said...

BenYachov,

I have been reading Mr. Feser's other blog posts, and I was impressed with your knowledge on the OT. It just so happens that I have some questions on the OT, and I was wondering if can we have a chat about them. It would really help me out. So, can we talk?

Jime said...

I'm just reading philosopher Mario Bunge's lastest book entitled "Matter and Mind: A Philosophical Inquiry".

He defends emergent materialism and has very harsh things to say of contemporary philosophers of mind, including Searle, Dennett, Kim and others, and of metaphysicians like Kripke or Lewis.

Some examples:

"By contrast, most contemporary philosophers of mind are indifferent to psychology, or are remarkably misinformed about it, For example, when discussing the psychoneural identity hypothesis, they are likely to hold that, according to it, pain is identical to the firing of C-fibers – while as a matter of the fact nerve fibers do not fire, and those particular fibers cannot feel anything, because they only conduct signals that activate the dull-pain centers in the brain – which, incidentally, need no external stimuli to
annoy us. This is no nitpicking, but a matter of medical interest because untreated pain may stay in the brain long after the injury that caused it: the memory of pain, just like the memory of a lost limb, can remain engraved for life in nervous tissue.
So, a bad philosophy can give you chronic pain
" (ix)

He accuses Searle of serious ontological confusion: "Let us start by recalling some conventions ruling the use of a handful of key ontological categories. We shall do so by way of a familiar fact. Consider a pebble striking a pond and causing a ripple in it. The pebble and the pond are things sharing some properties (such as mass) while differing in others (such as composition and
density). The impact of the pebble on the body of water is an event or, rather, a
process, since it takes some time. (An event is an instantaneous change.) A process
occurring in a thing may be conceptualized as either a string of events in the thing
or, better, a sequence of states of the thing. And each state may be conceived of as a list of values of the relevant properties. A ripple in the pond is a process, one characterized by amplitude and frequency. (However, strictly speaking these are properties of the particles making up the liquid body.) Finally, impact and ensuing
ripple are respectively cause and effect. Thus causation, or the causal nexus, relates events or processes, not things, properties, or states. (Hence to say, e.g., that a brain
process causes a mental state, as Searle (2007, 40) does, is to violate a standard linguistic rule and to mess up the ontology.) (p.8)"


On Hilary Putnam's "Twin Earth thought Experiment", Bunge says: "The popular “Twin Earth thought-experiment” devised by Hilary Putnam in 1973 is a case in point. Imagine a planet just like ours, and peopled by our identical twins. There is one difference, though: Twin
Earth has no water: it is dry in one version of the game, and in another water is replaced with a liquid with an utterly different chemical composition. Stop right
here: Philosophers are expected to know that life is impossible without water, which has unique properties – liquid in the “right” temperature interval, near-universal solvent, molecules joined by hydrogen bonds, very low electrical conductivity, etc.
The joint possession of these properties makes water unique and indispensable to life, as Lawrence Henderson (1913) noted nearly one century ago. Obviously, a planet without water would be devoid of organisms, hence it would not be Earth’s
twin, whence it would merit a different name. Philosophers are also expected to know that properties come in bundles – they
are inter-related by laws – so that they cannot be replaced or removed arbitrarily. But of course the very notion of a law, which serves to distinguish real from merely imaginary possibility, is utterly alien to professors who play parlor games instead of tackling serious problems".
(p. 10-11)

I don't know how that book is going to be received in the philosophy of mind and metaphysics community, but I guess most philosophers won't like it.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Leo:

Hats off to you for calling perdurantism (temporal parts) noxious! I'm no David Oderberg, but perdurantism has been a nemesis mine for many years and I have made a few blows against it now and then at my blog: http://veniaminov.blogspot.com/search?q=perdurantism

BenYachov said...

Brian,

Ask & I will see what I can do.

jt said...

I am listening to Searle's 36 lecture course on philosophy of mind. He raised hopes at first, but 1/3 thru I am not impressed.

Like most wordsmiths, he attempts to magically bring meaning out of the workings of the world. He succeeds in spending 3/4 of his time repeating himself, and at that, his primary sibjects have centered on the simplistic Mary, Bat, and Chinese room stories that any non-philosopher could have devised during a debate fueled by a pitcher of beer.

His own take on consciousness is that it is to the brain as digestion is to the gut. Fine. Now shut up and let scientists tell you how this has to proceed.

jt said...

On further listening, Searle says something quite right: if you hear a philosophical conclusion that sounds absurd, like an acorn is identical to a tree, there is an error in the philosophy that fostered the statement.

An acorn that is not planted and subjected to the natural process of plant development will never be a tree. Same with an eaten egg being a chicken, same with an aborted fetus being a murdered person.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Or a dog being your son.

jt said...

Good point, Codge

We are not silly over them and claiming they are really kids, but we did adopt them to care for them and give them as good a dog life as suburbanites can. In return, they constantly enrich us and ground us in the natural world in ways we would never have experienced otherwise.

In my case, I find Catholic theology of dogs in anthropocentric error, I am not alone on this, but I guess my claim that theological personhood must be extended to human's pets to be valid. I am not alone here, either.

jt said...

Correction

but I guess my claim that theological personhood must be extended to human's pets to be valid seems silly.

Maolsheachlann said...

"On further listening, Searle says something quite right: if you hear a philosophical conclusion that sounds absurd, like an acorn is identical to a tree, there is an error in the philosophy that fostered the statement."

And what if competing philosophical conclusions seem absurd, as with the Kantian antimonies?

Maolsheachlann said...

I meant antinomies, of course...

jt said...

Good question.

My vote is to give all of them a mop and bucket and direct them to areas on campus where their efforts can be of greater benefit to the students.

For those with a less than Wittginsteinian vigor for common everyday action, I would alternatively recommend they spend their time on campus at a blackboard writing over and over "I cannot eff the ineffable."

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

jt:

How old were the dogs when you adopted them? Not puppies, I hope. And I certainly hope they didn't breed any puppies you might like to care for.

What if it's not up to you or me to "extend" personhood to things? If it were, it would be just as much up to you or me––or the State––to withdraw the favor from those found unworthy of living. You like the idea of "extending" personhood to dogs but don't mind the idea of negating the personhood of human fetuses. Duly noted.

David said...

"How does the Thomistic soul/'form' redirect certain neuroparticles and thus intervene in the otherwise completely deterministic neurological pathways in order to produce the desired response?."

That sounds more like the Cartesian soul. But who says even a Cartesian soul violates conservation of energy? If it takes out as much energy as it puts in, everything's fine. And even if you suppose — without evidence, mind you — that it isn't conserving energy, so what? You don't conserve the energy of some balls on a billiard table if you push them around... because you're bringing energy from outside that particular system. Physical "laws" are, well, physical, and it's illogical to stipulate that an extra-physical entity be bound by physical constraints. (In fact that would seem to beg the very question.) But even without those possibilities, there's always the popular quantum-mechanical solution, in which the activity of a (quasi-)independent soul operates at a subliminal level, that is, below the limits of what physics is capable of measuring.

Of course, the Thomistic soul, being a form, is more like software running on a computer, and questions of not conserving energy don't make sense in the first place. The computer couldn't do what it does without the software, but software is not some outside force like a ghost pushing and pulling levers to make the hardware operate. The operations are the functions of the whole computer, the hardware and software together making up a single system. The (Thomistic) soul doesn't "direct" neuroparticles because the soul isn't something "outside of" or independent of the brain/body.

jt said...

Codge:

1st was adopted at a year old and lived to 10 – died after second kidney failed 2 yrs ago

2nd was 6 weeks and is 12 and dying of cancer

3rd was 1 year old and now 6

4th was 3 months and now over 5

All came from a no-kill shelter and you agree to neuter them when you adopt.

“What if it's not up to you or me to "extend" personhood to things? “

Bad wording on my part. I wish for the theologizing to develop and become aware that Aristotle did not know squat about animal cognition, nor did his biggest fan, Mr A (though with his spiritual agenda, I doubt the latter would have done anything different even if he knew).

The Church dogma perpetuates the error that rationality makes us unique among animals. So much so, that even when it appeared that JP II had included animals in his personalist theology, he slyly appealed to his audience of animal lovers with words that strongly sounded like the church recognized the animals have the same souls as us. However, it was fraudulent, as he really left it vague enough so the church could subsequently claim he was only talking Aristotle bullshit and animal soul.

Modern personalist theology describes relatedness and mutual development of persons, and such is the stuff of companion animals. Recognition of the facts is better wording, I think. I am focused like a laser on the churches and their theologies, not the state.

You like the idea of "extending" personhood to dogs but don't mind the idea of negating the personhood of human fetuses. Duly noted.

I have said that a healthy relational companion animal fits the description of a theological person better than a fetus. That is my main point when describing dogs and abortion in the same comment space.

I do not like abortion. I can see it is a hard thing for most women to grapple with. I do not want to be responsible nor for our government to be used as a strong arm for conservative religious groups to dictate what they do. Only recently has the church started ratcheting up its opposition to the practice, and it is changing ITS definition of personhood to support its activity in this area (last 150 yrs).

Leo Carton Mollica said...

Codg:

Thanks! I'll read your pieces on perdurantism once I get the time.

I really stand confused as to how many more philosophers accept perdurantism than, say, modal realism. They both seem equally crazy to me. But I guess the latter has no backing in Science, ergo it's just bizarre, whereas the other is bizarre and scientific.

Crude said...

His own take on consciousness is that it is to the brain as digestion is to the gut. Fine. Now shut up and let scientists tell you how this has to proceed.

1. Scientists are every bit as prone, and oddly sometimes more prone, to philosophizing as philosophers are. And the ones most known for philosophizing tend not to be on board with your views.

2. There's something downright funny about someone bitching that philosophers should 'shut up and let the scientists tell you how' all things mental proceed, who then whips around and starts talking about relational animal companions being theological persons due to their minds. Apparently it's only the people who disagree with your very quaint views who should 'shut up' and bow to the philosophical opinions of scientists.

3. You complain about the church "changing its definition of personhood", but even if that were true it rings hollow. You desperately WANT the church to "change its definition of personhood" - just in your own favored direction.

4. Maybe JPII's words weren't "fraudulent". Maybe you were desperately trying to read something into them that simply was never there, and it was only after having the problems with your interpretation pointed out to you repeatedly that you became disheartened. Further, most "animal lovers" don't think that cultures where eating dog takes place is cannibalism, or that dogs are "persons".

5. Yes, abortion is hard for a woman. It isn't great for the baby either. Nor is the church merely concerned with laws against abortion. Even if abortion were outlawed, the work would not be over because the problem is primarily cultural and personal - and that's where most, even all change needs to take place, and where efforts are directed. And the same cultural forces which see nothing morally wrong with abortion (or, in some cases, outright infanticide) have a strong overlap with the forces that see nothing morally wrong with having "relational animal companions" fight each other to the death in a pit for sport, or their reasons against such are wonderfully ad hoc or fragile.

You do dogs a disservice by trying to make them into something they are not.

Anonymous said...

you Greek/theistic sympathizers believe that, at a certain point of the process of inquiry, you come to rest because you've reached the goal. but I and others are more pragmatic in our approach, and we say that we still haven't the slightest idea of what it would be like to reach the goal. your whole idea that the aim of inquiry is correspondence or conformity with reality or seeing the face of God, or substituting facts for interpretations, is one that we pragmatic people just can't make any use of. all we really know about is how to exchange justifications for our beliefs and desires with other humans beings, and, as far as wee can see, that'll be what human life will be like forever. so pragmatists like myself regard the Platonist/Aristotelian/theistic attempts to get away from time into eternity, or to get away from conversation into certainty, as a product of an age of human history where life on earth was so desperate, and it seemed so unlikely that life could be any better, to the extent that they just took refuge in a different world.

but with things like the French revolution and the industrial/technological age, we now as a species believe that progress is possible. when you think that the aim of life is to make things better for our descendants rather than to reach outside of history and time, it alters your sense of what philosophy is good for.

during the Platonsist/Aristotelian/theistic epoch, the point of philosophy was to get you out of this worldly mess and into a better place. and the reaction against the greek/Christian pursuit of blessedness through union with the natural order is to say, there is no natural order that we know of, but there is the possiblity of a better life for your great grandchildren. that's enough to give one meaning and inspiration for all he or she could ever use it for.

a famous man (i forgot who he is) once said that, "At some point, we stopped hoping for immortality and started hoping for our great, great grandchildren. this was a turn in the culture of the West." i believe he was right. it had to do with simple improvement of material conditions. when we got a comfortable bourgeois existence for a large number of people, the bourgeois was able to think not about grand escapes from the world and pie-in-the-sky fantasies, but about creating a future world for future mortals. this, i think, was a great improvement.

pragmatism is the way to go.

Crude said...

a famous man (i forgot who he is) once said that, "At some point, we stopped hoping for immortality and started hoping for our great, great grandchildren. this was a turn in the culture of the West."

A famous man (I forgot who he is). Classic.

Actually, the current culture of the west demonstrably is caring far less about "hoping for our great, great, grandchildren". They're caring far less about some distant future than now, and are having far less children, if any at all. The only "progress" many in the west care about is that which will take place in their own, (they think) finite existence. The far future is hardly a concern.

And that, my friend, is pragmatism.

Brian said...

BenYachov,

Thanks, man. Mostly, it's the typical stuff you hear from atheists about how awful the OT is. The usual standbys:

-the slaughter of the canaanites
-slavery
-the dashing of babies' heads against rocks
-etc.

I was thinking, with your historical knowledge, maybe you can bring some insight to these things that give so many Christians pause.

Let's take the slaughter of the canaanites, for example. Wasn't it an objectively evil command?

If you want to chat via e-mail, I can do that.

Daniel Smith said...

if you hear a philosophical conclusion that sounds absurd, like an acorn is identical to a tree, there is an error in the philosophy that fostered the statement.

Good thing my philosophical conclusion is that an acorn is potentially a tree!

Whew!

jt said...

* if you hear a philosophical conclusion that sounds absurd, like an acorn is identical to a tree, there is an error in the philosophy that fostered the statement.

Good thing my philosophical conclusion is that an acorn is potentially a tree!

Whew!*

And what of a fetus in your 'philosophy'?

TheOFloinn said...

All this acorn/tree stuff overlooks modern relativity theory. Namely, that time is simply another dimension no different from space and our perception of the passage of time is simply a subjective impression. The complete being is a space-time manifold.

An unfertilized acorn is simply that, just as an unfertilized ovum. Neither has the potency to grow or develop according to its nature. A fertilized acorn or a fertilized egg does has this potency. All of the genetic material is present and self-contained in the thing itself. That is, it subsists in itself, and not in another.

It does not matter if it achieves the perfection of this potency or not. A man who dies in childhood or is killed by another before birth is not less a person than one who lives to old age. Ditto, the fertilized acorn, which also proceeds through developmental stages of shoot, sapling, and tree.

Thus, the intellectual sleight of hand in the analogy:
An acorn that is not planted and subjected to the natural process of plant development will never be a tree. Same with an eaten egg being a chicken, same with an aborted fetus being a murdered person.
Because you will notice that the first two are not in potency to perfection of their natures while the third is and (at some stage) even viable outside the womb.

TheOFloinn said...

"How does the Thomistic soul/'form' redirect certain neuroparticles and thus intervene in the otherwise completely deterministic neurological pathways in order to produce the desired response?."


How does three-sidedness make lines into a triangle?

The soul is the substantive form of a living body. More than that, the Latin term is anima, which simply means "alive." So your question is: "How does being alive redirect certain neuroparticles and thus intervene in the otherwise completely deterministic [sic] neurological pathways in order to produce the desired response?"
Because, for sure, the dead body isn't directing "neuroparticles" anywhere.
+ + +
[Searle's] take on consciousness is that it is to the brain as digestion is to the gut. Fine. Now shut up and let scientists tell you how this has to proceed.

How would scientists know? Expertise in the precise measurement of physical bodies doesn't confer expertise in other fields.
+ + +
theological personhood must be extended to human's pets to be valid.

Whatever that means. Perhaps you are using "person" in place of "personality."

Aristotle did not know squat about animal cognition, nor did his biggest fan, Mr A

You are confusing the faculty of speculative reason with some ill-defined "cognition." Sometimes, it is confounded with "intelligence," "consciousness," "problem-solving," "tool-using," and so forth. As long as the concept is muddied up, no understanding is possible.

But the thing is, neither Aristotle, Aquinas, nor anyone else held that animals lacked personality, memory, imagination, emotion, and all the other powers of the sensitive soul. It was the scientists (Descartes, et seq.) who imagined animals as machines made of meat and reduced instinct to a lack of consciousness. Which is why we should not get out of the way and let them muck things up again.

Some commentary here:
http://branemrys.blogspot.com/2008/10/yes-rational-animals-are-animals.html
See Brandon's further comment in the comm box. And if we move from purely philosophical discussions to more popular discussions, it becomes more obvious, because the medievals accepted a range of behavior in animals that we don't (for good scientific reasons).
And then a reaction here:
http://thomism.wordpress.com/2008/10/11/what-really-are-uniquely-human-traits/
Do we really need to ask whether non-human animals have developed systems of physics, speculative mathematics, and metaphysical wisdom?

Anonymous said...

^^So must a person be a determinist if he wants to also be a Thomist? An understanding of the soul as the "substantial form of a living body" is admittedly one of the logical out-workings of A-T metaphysics, but in trying to understand and answer the problem of determinism/free will, it seems only to serve as obfuscatory language that gets in the way of a clear answer.

I just voluntarily moved my hand from point A to point B. Was this action completely determined before I was born? Was it wholly a consequence of physical events in the remote past (ignoring, momentarily, the issue of randomness/quantum weirdness), in much the same way that, say, the birth of a tsunami or the birth of a planet could potentially be traced back to and explained by some specific set of initial conditions "within" the singularity "prior to" the Big Bang, or was it not? If it was not, then presumably the human soul is the reason for why it was not, since the human soul is what separates us evidently determined things like microbes, rocks, trees, tsunamis, comets, [other material things that unravel in a deterministic fashion], etc.

I think the questions stand: With regards to human voluntary actions, where/how in the causal chain is the interruption taking place? Why don't human beings simply undergo a total dissolution into the great flux of material nature and "unravel" or "unfold" according to the laws of physics just as every other material body in the cosmos does? Why isn't the Thomist allowed to say, "The Big Bang made me do it!"?

Anonymous said...

*separates us from evidently determined things...

David said...

A famous man (I forgot who he is). Classic.

It is, isn't it? We get some very good parodies on this site. I have to admit, this one had me going. It hits all the highlights — philosophical ignorance, historical ignorance, cultural ignorance, religious ignorance. But there are all these little twists scattered through it, like the forgotten "famous man", or actually reaching your goal being "unpragmatic", or the endearing choice of words of "bourgeois existence". What gave it away for me was the usual "Enlightenment" claptrap — except he doesn't actually say "Enlightenment". He actually says "the French Revolution"... outrageous, isn't it? Of course, the real trolls are so outrageous it's hard to top them, but look at the post again and see how every point is quite right — once you translate it from its opposite. It becomes clear that the author has to know which way is up in order to turn it all so ridiculously upside-down. Very well done.

jt said...

From TheOflinn's 1st link:


*ST I-II.24.4 ad 3 (irrational animals have passions and, insofar as it these passions are organized by the estimative power, "a certain likeness of moral good") *

This describes most people - I am thinking of a neoghbor of mine, in particular.

Can I shoot him?

It seems in the linked post that it is all a matter of degree as to how much reasoning, how much imagination before fido is Fellini. Based on this, and dropping the A-T bias for the reality of essences, the argument of distinction of the two animals fails.

If we understood their language, we might find out the animals do eben more mental gymnastics than we think.

Admit it: you cannot say for sure.

jt said...

TheOFlinn

As for the second link, it seems to confirm my last comment but notes that it is the ability for speculative reasoning that man gets a golden A-T crown and all those brutes are just so limited.

Tell me, how accurate is our most speculative thinking over time?

We are guaranteed eternity by our inability to accurately exercise our ennobling, distinguishing highest faculty?

Sounds like T-ball. Just show up on two legs wearing a graduation cap and appear to be thinking. Or better, produce a complex metaphysics that will inevitably crumble. You're a winner!

jt said...

BTW

My points are equally applicable to non-theistic humanists that hold mankind apart from its brother brutes.

David said...

TheOFloinn‬: All this acorn/tree stuff overlooks modern relativity theory. Namely, that time is simply another dimension no different from space and our perception of the passage of time is simply a subjective impression. The complete being is a space-time manifold.

Though being quite sympathetic to 4-Dness (for physical objects), I don't think relativity commits us to any such metaphysical theory. Physics cannot determine any privileged frame of reference, but that doesn't mean something outside of physics can't. If one frame of reference — the God's-eye view? — actually is the "real" one, then maybe time really does pass, endurance-style. (And if it does commit us, there still must be another endurantly-changing-time through which our conscious experience unfolds.)

TheOFloinn said...

*ST I-II.24.4 ad 3 (irrational animals have passions and, insofar as it these passions are organized by the estimative power, "a certain likeness of moral good") *

jt
This describes most people - I am thinking of a neoghbor of mine, in particular. Can I shoot him?


TOF
No. You may have forgotten that a rational animal is still an animal.

jt
It seems in the linked post that it is all a matter of degree as to how much reasoning, how much imagination before fido is Fellini.

TOF
Make up your mind. Imagination, or reasoning [sic]? All the imagination in the world does not add up to intellection: the ability to abstract concepts of universals from concrete particulars. It is one thing to know flesh; quite another to know what flesh is.

One could, perhaps, point to the artwork, the mathematics, the works of physics, and so on produced by camels or cats. A bit of empirical evidence would go a long way.

TheOFloinn said...

jt
Tell me, how accurate is our most speculative thinking over time?

TOF
It doesn't matter if our art or math or physics are "accurate". It matters that we have the faculty for engaging in them.

jt
Sounds like T-ball. Just show up on two legs ...

TOF
Showing up on two legs indicates that you are bipedal, and therefore something distinct from an insect or a fish.

jt said...

TOF

Sorry about mispells of your name.

My critiques were not directed at you but the 2 links.

*It doesn't matter if our art or math or physics are "accurate". It matters that we have the faculty for engaging in them.*

Again, I have rational capabilities. So did the A-Team. In exercising this capacity, men come to vastly different ideas, opinions, and philosophies. I oppose A-T and think, like most people that it is a quaint relic of history best put aside.

I am exercising sound epistemology when I state that none of us can know the nature of another's mind, especially when we do not speak the same language.

So as for accuracy in employing reason, one or both of us is wrong about the nature of animal existence.

Daniel Smith said...

jt: And what of a fetus in your 'philosophy'?

Just as an acorn is potentially a sprout, a sapling and a tree (and everything in-between); a fetus is potentially a todler, a teenager, and an adult (and everything in-between.)

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

jt:

As I said in my comment about the distinguo and Butler's aphorism, you are being logically indelicate, to say the least, with claims to the effect that A-T recognizes "no difference between an acorn and a tree". That you and I are identical in nature does not mean we are simply identical. Likewise, that an acorn is substantially (i.e. naturally) identical with its perfected form qua tree does not mean they are identical simpliciter.

Further, the reason I asked about your dogs is this. You deny there is a substantial unity between, say, a fetus and a grown human person, yet you treat the puppies you love with as much care as if they were really dogs on all fours. That's a performative contradiction.

Two essential points. First, your charge that A-T denies any and all significant cognition and conation in non-human animals has been met and defeated. Second, you still have not provided evidence of intellection per se in non-human animal cognition.

Interestingly, your "sound" skepticism about animal minds, much less other humans' minds, makes you more of a Cartesian than a process-ite, and certainly more Cartesian than those of us who support hylomorphism. It was, of course, Descartes who considered animals mere clockwork, while A-T obviously registers significant and sensible modes of cognition in animals. Congratulations on discovering the ultimate philosophical argument! If such puerile skepticism weren't bad enough, it's almost certainly mounted in bad faith on your part since your entire agenda gets its steam from your basic sentiments: "I just know my dogs think like me! I just know I know how their minds operate! It's a love that transcends language!" Another performative skepticism. You are adamant about the sophistication of animal cognition when it suits you, but suddenly skeptical when asked to show real intellection by interlocutors. Tighten up.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

ERROR:

"…transcends language!" Another performative contradiction. You are…"

jt said...

Daniel, when you said “Good thing my philosophical conclusion is that an acorn is potentially a tree!” and I asked about fetus-adult, what I sloppily wanted to get at is your ‘potential.’

As I look at things, everything could potentially occur in a given situation. A pecan can become squirrel, an assemblage of atom s could become pure energy, a wood table fuel to keep warm. What is so glorious and sacrosanct about potential?

I say this, dogmatically identifying things as naturally identical has consequences beyond the A-T manuals. A vegetarian cannot eat eggs w/o guilt, a woman risks losing control of her own womb by government intervention, women must wear burkas, a dog’s life is needlessly snuffed out because the Catholic Catechism tells its owner to give the medical costs to the poor instead.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

jt:

You've jumped the shark. Fortunately, the shark became an ice cream cone in mid-jump, so you're in the clear.

Yellow card for invoking what you deny (in your reply to Daniel). A "pecan" can become a "squirrel", eh? What are these fixed notions of substantial natures to which you refer in your Humean scenario? If you're serious about you anti-essentialism, you need to say that anything could become anything without ever specifying what those anythings are. Which brings us back to Butler's aphorism: if nothing is really what it is, then no-thing really is any-thing. Sure, in your Humean red herring 'anything' could become 'anything', but in reality, what we mean by a pecan can only become a pecan tree (unless of course we intervene and render the "pecan" into sheer potency-putty for science). But that's not natural becoming; it's artifice. Back in the world of reality-based, scientifically informed debate, however, we treat things as they are unless we have recurring, compelling evidence to renounce basic dimensions of perception, causation, biology, and language usage.

Red card for another performative contradiction. If you really believe that at any moment anything could become anything else, then you should not worry about your dogs, much less your own body. If the world really is as wacky as you say it is––is this wackiness an inherent, fixed feature of nature, or equally subject t suddenly being replaced?––, then you have *no rational grounds* for feeding your pets. After all, their food might become arsenic in their bellies, or their sleeping mats might become giant trash compactors, or they might become lumps of coal. In the very act of defending the dignity of canine nature, you deny there is anything thing as specific nature. In the very act of defending canine potential––O, great day, if only we would extend them personhood!––, you scorn the value of potential as a metaphysical reality. Thus you deny both actuality and potentiality and are left with mere liberal rhetoric. I think there should be a corollary to Godwin's Law for how quickly burqas and the federal speculum get mentioned after the writer has been refuted.

You really had me going for quite a while, man, so let me know when you want to be taken seriously again. Meanwhile, back in reality, I'll be rubbing my paperclips into blocks of gold.

jt said...

Codge:”As I said in my comment about the distinguo and Butler's aphorism, you are being logically indelicate, to say the least, with claims to the effect that A-T recognizes "no difference between an acorn and a tree". That you and I are identical in nature does not mean we are simply identical. Likewise, that an acorn is substantially (i.e. naturally) identical with its perfected form qua tree does not mean they are identical simpliciter.”

Jt: I know nothing of Butler but what Ed quoted, but it sure sounds like he would agree with my take on identity. On ‘potential’, see my comment above to Daniel.

Your comments on performative contradiction leave me wondering if the word ‘potential’ is not somehow at the root of such a contradiction. Anyway, I never say a mother should not love her unborn fetus.

Codge:”your charge that A-T denies any and all significant cognition and conation in non-human animals has been met and defeated.”

Jt: I do not recall such a statement coming from me – I am well aware of the difference between the frenchman and his A-Team predecessors on their take on animals.

Codge:”you still have not provided evidence of intellection per se in non-human animal cognition.”

Jt: No one can say what/how dogs think, so give the benefit of the doubt. Every day we are learning how our cognitive processes are not so special w/r to animals. Since the A-Team has already acknowledged animals do have imaginings and reasoning ability – and they do communicate thru language, I might insist – then the logical and ethical thing to do is back off the drastic dogmatic distinction and be open-minded.

We both know why this never happened and why it isn’t happening now: it is the same thing with the visceral hatred spewed at Darwin when he said we were on a continuum with Bonzo.

Well. This is a case where rational man’s highest abstract conceptual ability – metaphysics – is anthropocentrically biased and potentially in error (I can use the ‘p’ word too). So what is so special about metaphysics and intellection. We are wrong as much as we are right.



Codge:”Congratulations on discovering the ultimate philosophical argument!”

Jt: Thanks. I noted I have been listening to Sear;e’s phil of mind course. It leaves me feeling pretty unfettered in saying just about anything in the name of philosophy.

Codge:”If such puerile skepticism weren't bad enough, it's almost certainly mounted in bad faith on your part since your entire agenda gets its steam from your basic sentiments: "I just know my dogs think like me! I just know I know how their minds operate! It's a love that transcends language!" Another performative skepticism. You are adamant about the sophistication of animal cognition when it suits you, but suddenly skeptical when asked to show real intellection by interlocutors. Tighten up.”

Jt” I do not recall ever expressing my views like you just did. I am skeptical of absolute claims about what dogs thing where an agnostic ‘we’ll one day know more” is what I argue. In the meantime, there is ample evidence to back off the religious dogmaticism of animal nature (and man’s, for that matter).

jt said...

I was typin' while you were commenting.

*A "pecan" can become a "squirrel*

You added the article 'a' in a qquirrel. I was merely quoting Adler on Aris on change.

Change...hmm.

jack_bodie said...

JT: Every day we are learning how our cognitive processes are not so special w/r to animals. [...]the logical and ethical thing to do is back off the drastic dogmatic distinction and be open-minded.

Also JT: a woman risks losing control of her own womb by government intervention

Aren't we also learning everyday how our cognitive processes are not so special with respect to fetuses? By your own assessment isn't it logical and ethical for us to back off your drastic dogmatic distinction between a fetus and a person, and be open-minded?

I guess I'm expecting (hoping for) you to be consistent with your own argument such as it qualifies - but I suspect you'll instead choose liberal ideology and obviously contradict yourself.

jt said...

I am overall quite the conservative - I may have a PJ O'Rourke strand of libertarian in me.

I can see the fetus as a person if you can see a pet as a person. In fact, I argued this point in a joust with the indignant Queen Lydia of W4.

For the fetus, the interaction is obviously one-way. In a paper critical of Hartshorne's cold analysis of the fetus/newborn, a female social scientist pointed out that that someone, somewhere loved the fetus and this was sufficient for an interpersonal relationship. O.K. by me.

I take my argument for a pet as person as being more obvious: straight up two subjects in profound loving interrelationship - each flourishing as a result.

But look, I only bring up abortion to pit what orthodox religious hold to passionately with what I hold as my ultimate concern.

There is not that much of commonality with the two issues.

jack_bodie said...

JT: I take my argument for a pet as person as being more obvious: straight up two subjects in profound loving interrelationship - each flourishing as a result.

So a pet that is unloved by anybody is not a person? Are you saying that a person that is not in profound loving inter-relationship - not flourishing, and not helping another to flourish - is not a person?

I'm sorry if I'm being slow but I don't see how your argument for a pet being a person based on its relation to another person is more obvious than a very young person being a person.

BenYachov said...

>Let's take the slaughter of the canaanites, for example. Wasn't it an objectively evil command?

I reply: Not if it really comes from God who by definition has the moral right to take & give life.

(Now if God gave Israel the power to send innocent people to Hell, like the Gypsy Witch in the movie DRAG ME TO HELL then IMHO that would be an objectively evil command from God which he cannot do. But who cares about mere physical death?)

Hitler & Stalin are not God's equivalents either metaphysically or morally so that is always a fallacious comparison with them vs God.. It is always immoral for them to take life unlawfully.

There are two ways to deal with the "slaughter of the canaanites".

The easy way see here.
http://www.mandm.org.nz/2010/01/sunday-study-joshua-and-the-genocide-of-the-canaanites-part-i.html

Which is to deny that these passages are literal(which seems plausible) or the hard way which is to point out Atheism has no objective means to judge God's morality. Which they don't. Also the Rabbis have a lot of info on the nature of the Divine Command of Heram which Atheists leave out.

BenYachov said...

Also Atheists often play bait & switch when arguing about the canaanites. T

he Catholic Christian assumes God exists & the Bible is rendering a true account. The Atheist mixes and matches his moral objections with objections against inerrancy & can't seem to decide what he really is objecting too.

The Atheist believes death is the end so if the Israelites really slaughtered Canaanite infants on phony commands from Moses then they denied these children their one shot at existence. But we assume God exists and can compensate these children by giving them either infinite natural happiness in Limbo or better yet the eternal joy of the Beatific Vision.

Of course Hitler & Stalin can't offer that & they have no right to take life.

TheOFloinn said...

As I look at things, everything could potentially occur in a given situation. A pecan can become squirrel

Hence, the difference between mysticism and A-T rationalism. A pecan is not in potency toward squirrel.

Anonymous said...

BY, by claiming that the ends justify the means, you are bordering on heresy. The suffering in this life is not made better or less relevant by the fact that an eternal, beatific vision awaits us. In fact I would morally object to a God that sets up the world in such a way that a child must be brutally raped and killed before (s)he can see the face of God.

Death, suffering, and evil are God's enemies. He did not create them.

BenYachov said...

BTW I luv Anonymous weirdos who don’t have the stones to identify themselves when they personally attack me.

@ANON December 13, 2010 10:20 AM
>BY, by claiming that the ends justify the means, you are bordering on heresy.

I reply: Nonsense & Calumny! I believe no such thing. I don’t believe any human being has the right to do evil so that good may come from it. God however has the moral right to take any life(which is not evil) & God’s goodness does not entail being a human moral agent as Brian Davies has shown in his work. So God doesn’t owe us anything. So you can’t judge God morally by definition anymore than you can judge nature or the universe morally.

> The suffering in this life is not made better or less relevant by the fact that an eternal, beatific vision awaits us.

I reply: Yet in my experience I feel better knowing there is a Beatific Vision waiting at the end of what’s been so far a painful life. Also I know that if I believe Fr. Cotchem
See here
http://www.catholicmatters.com/hell06.htm

I could in fact endure all the pains of Hell (sans the loss of the Beatific Vision) if I had the Beatific Vision and I would not head those sufferings. OTOH if I had every other pleasure of Heaven but lost the Beatific Vision I would find Heaven to be Hell.

> In fact I would morally object to a God that sets up the world in such a way that a child must be brutally raped and killed before (s)he can see the face of God.

I reply: I morally object to all persons who would claim they can morally judge God. I also think it is illogical to morally judge something that is not a human moral agent. So we have your private subjective morality vs mine vs God who is not a human moral agent and by definition is not in our category or class.

Objectively why should I prefer your nonsense over the other?

>Death, suffering, and evil are God's enemies. He did not create them.

I reply: I never said that he did & being a Classic Theist I know that is impossible for God to create evil in that evil is metaphysically a privation and by definition has no real existence.

Most Emo Atheist objection to God are by definition applicable only to a Theistic Personalist so called God whom I don’ t believe exists in the first place.

Classic Theism rulez

jt said...

TOF

The pecan is squirrel comes from one of your own.

jack_bodie said...

JT, I understand why you wish to disown it but pecan as squirrel originated with you.

jt said...

How certain are you of this?

Anonymous said...

To the Anon about ten posts back who mentioned determinism:

Why assume that the contemporary naturalistic narrative is correct? I think you're too beholden to a mechanical view of nature, whether you realize it or not.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

jt:

Can you please provide a link for the pecan-squirrel thing? I'm curious to read the context. If it is to the effect that a pecan *eaten by a squirrel* can then become the squirrel, I might have a stroke, so here's hoping. Also, feel free to address the points I made in my "jumped the shark" rebuttal to you.

Daniel Smith said...

jt: As I look at things, everything could potentially occur in a given situation. A pecan can become squirrel, an assemblage of atoms could become pure energy, a wood table fuel to keep warm. What is so glorious and sacrosanct about potential?

The first sentence is erroneous.
It is not true that "everything could potentially occur in a given situation".

I do not have the potential within myself to jump, of my own power, over the Empire State Building.

So that can't happen. And, if that can't happen, then your premise, that "everything could potentially occur", is shown to be false.

One Brow said...

"How does the Thomistic soul/'form' redirect certain neuroparticles and thus intervene in the otherwise completely deterministic neurological pathways in order to produce the desired response?."


How does three-sidedness make lines into a triangle?


By definition. We define what a triangle is or is not. For that matter, we decide what a "line" is and what "three" is, and use these conventions to describe triangles. If we find our definition not useful, we change it.

The soul is the substantive form of a living body.

Is a soul something defined by our choices, to be subject to the whim of out determinations on what it is?

TheOFloinn said...

We define what a triangle is or is not. For that matter, we decide what a "line" is and what "three" is, and use these conventions to describe triangles.

Negatory. A triangle would be three-sided regardless whether any humans were about to regard it.

You may also ask how "sphericity" interacts with "rubber" to produce a basketball.

That sort of thing is easier with inanimate beings than with animate beings. But if triangles were alive, "geometric figure" would be its body and "three-sided" would be its soul.

jt said...

I have made a few points that have gone unaddressed as well. Here is one that was posed to a Thomistic vet on this site and never met with response – maybe you could address it, Codge, as it comes up here as exemplification of essentialist ‘identity’ having really negative and often absurd consequences:

“a dog’s life is needlessly snuffed out because the Catholic Catechism tells its owner to give the medical costs to the poor instead.”

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

jt:

Caring for the poor leads to dogs being "needlessly" snuffed out. I see. When shall you be emigrating to India?

Without being snarky, I think the difference between my unanswered points and yours is the difference between critical flaws in your logic being unrectified and personal grievances not being assuaged.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

I take much of the 'point' of A-T anthropology vis-a-vis physical causation to be that, while there is no question of a non-physical cause for bodily motion, in secondary terms, there is the larger principle that no body is 'just' a material body. As in: action is a response to perception but perception is mediated by sensation, conation, imagination, and, in the case of rational animals, intellection. These perceptual filters generate varying degrees of deliberation in their bearers, i.e. a proper range of action potential for various organisms. Amoebae have a very narrow range of sensible deliberation which can modulate there perceptual being-in-the-world, and higher animals have a correspondingly broader range of action. n Rational animals such as ourselves, by virtue of the intellectual judgment of universals in particulars and the good per se in being per se, have a deliberative access to a range of potential which transcends the deterministic bounds of purely physical causation. When a perceptual experience is given a value in the larger intellectual noesis of a human, the response is something which transforms an otherwise strictly indeterminate action potential into a concrete action, which eo ipso modulates how the physical organism responds to the physical stimuli. We don't experience the world "raw", and therefore we can modulate the incoming data; conversely, we don't respond separately from the entire Gestalt of our own (social-physical) place in the world, an entirety which just as seamlessly modulates our inner physical 'world'.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

The bottom line seems to be this:

Physical motion is not rational. Human perception and action are, however, rational. Humans are also continuous with the world of physical motion, but the power of our rational nature makes it the case that otherwise irrational physical matter responds and acts rationally, which is pretty remarkable.

Imagine a child who grows up seeing and handling triangles in his house but is never instructed as to what "triangle" means. One day, though, he is told the meaning of these objects and his entire world changes. Nothing physical about him or the triangles changes--there is no Cartesian 'gap'--, but everything about his perception and action has been transformed. Otherwise meaningless matter has been "de-potentiated" and "in-formed" such that his entirely 'materialistic' existence goes on as before, yet his actual, proper existence is qualitatively different. Perhaps you all know Polanyi's metaphor of the scribbled line suddenly becoming intelligible words and then flowing back into random scribbles. From nonsense to sense back to nonsense without a single physical break.

The larger doctrine of habits/virtues point to this fact by saying that recurring de-potentiation of one's body and environment leads to qualitative changes in both of them, yet without corrupting their physical contiguity/history in an otherwise a-virtuous world.

jt said...

Codge, I stilllook forward for the A-T response to my point of the Catholic Church’s declaring it sinful to save animal lives at the vet.

I would appreciate it if the eagerness to argue for Ari’s hylomorphism can be held at bay to address my question first.

Then w/r arguing essences, my statement that everything is possible was not ‘jt’s law of anything can happen’, merely my common sense observation of an acorn not being a tree. Mortimer Adler said that the apple is nutrient for its seeds, or it is nutrient for an animal that eats it. That comprising pecan now comprises squirrel.

Codge:” In the very act of defending the dignity of canine nature, you deny there is anything as specific nature. In the very act of defending canine potential––O, great day, if only we would extend them personhood!––, you scorn the value of potential as a metaphysical reality. Thus you deny both actuality and potentiality and are left with mere liberal rhetoric.”

That is Bull, but it is what you want to hear. Once more with feeling: I am incensed at the ignorance resulting from anthropocentric bias, and I direct my energy as criticism at the feet of the historic agency most responsible for its proliferation – abrahamic religion. The lofty personalist lingo of JP II and Benny 16 further concretizes anthropocentric bias that serves only humans and continues to avoid (in this case of person, indefensibly) theological responsibility to include our animal brothers.

If you gotta immortal soul, so does my dog. Show me that it doesn’t.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

jt:

Look, man, I don't want to com across as hating on your dogs, or on any other animals. Some of my best friends are animals. Of course, some of my best friends are also beers and books, but that doesn't mean I treat them as full-blown persons with a nature like mine.

First, I'm quoting you (italics added): "As I look at things, everything could potentially occur in a given situation."

∃x ⊇ ∀x, which is to say anything is a member of everything. Your claim about the potential for "everything" to happen in any situation extends to the possibility of "anything" happening. That's how I read you because that's what you wrote.

Second, your original citation of CCC 2418 included a gloss that " the catechism that says it is a sin to spend money on animals as long as there are poor people."

CCC 2418 reads (italics added): "It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly. It is likewise unworthy to spend money on them that should as a priority go to the relief of human misery. One can love animals; one should not direct to them the affection due only to persons."

So, first of all, the CCC does not say "it is a sin." I am not stating that as a hard and fast distinction but, given how precise Catholic moral theology is, it is best to presume a reasoned distinction is meant to exist here between calling something "unworthy" of human dignity and "sinful" (i.e. unworthy of divine dignity).

Second, the passage speaks of money that should be spent on humans as a priority. If it were Catholic teaching that our every penny should go to every poor person we know of, then, yes, keeping any of it for pets would be immoral. Insofar, however, as the Church insists upon subsidiarity as a social and moral guideline, there is allowable room for a family devoting some resources to pets as the latter are amoral priorities. It's no more immoral to keep pets, therefore, than it is to buy music, I'd say. What is immoral is the willful refusal subvert pets' needs to human needs *when the latter genuinely become our priority.* Not every starving person is my priority; I'm not the messiah; I'm only one person. So let's be concrete: if you had a son who needed a shot to reduce a nearly lethal fever and you had a dog who needed another bag of chow, would you seriously treat them on par? That's the point: I'm allowed to "waste" money on pets as long as I am not thereby willfully withholding what I owe others, and as long as my conscience does not call me to assume greater care for needy humans. Once again, I think you're running away with an otherwise innocuous point just to bang your drum around here.

Now go debate the finer points of moral theology with your dog. Oh, wait….

BenYachov said...

>I stilllook forward for the A-T response to my point of the Catholic Church’s declaring it sinful to save animal lives at the vet.

It's a sin to save an animal's life at the vet? Since when? Jesus talked about how it was legit to rescue your sheep from a ditch on the Sabbath. Why would this be a sin.

Jt what have you been smoking and where can I score some guy?

Did I miss something?

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

So, jt, I ask you: Do your dogs have an essential canine nature?

If yes, then welcome to the House of Substance!

If not, though, what obligations could I possibly have to protecting their essential (natural) rights or fostering their essential (natural) goods?

Call it Bull if you like, but I prefer to call it a plain logical dilemma.

BenYachov said...

Obviously it's a sin to spend money on saving your dog at a vet when let's say your child is sick and really need medical attention.

If you have enough money to cover both then the point is moot.

It's not hard Jt my friend.

jack_bodie said...

JT: Codge, I stilllook forward for the A-T response to my point of the Catholic Church’s declaring it sinful to save animal lives at the vet.

As you might say, this is bull.

Nothing forbids Catholics from owning pets and if this is your final 'point' awaiting a response, then Happy Days are here! If this is your one remaining objection to Thomism then you're now one of us.

Perhaps you have a contract with your dog's paw print on it outlining the specific rights and responsibilities of each party in your household but really, that stuff is for rational beings which dogs ain't.

We, humans, have no duties to animals, but we do have duties concerning them and - most importantly? - we have duties to their Supreme Owner, all of whose creatures must be used and considered according to reason.

Might it one day be reasonable for a man to use his last penny to save a man instead of a dog? Yes. And just claiming your dog is a person (by redefining person as you attempted earlier) isn't going to change that. Sorry.

But there's no need for you to suggest callous indifference to animals is some animating principle of the Church.

One Brow said...

TheOFloinn said...

Negatory. A triangle would be three-sided regardless whether any humans were about to regard it.

By "a triangle", do you mean the musical instrument? Otherwise, while objects can be triangular, I am unaware of the existence of "a triangle".

However, putting that asise, your statement amounts to saying "A Fool's Mate in chess requires two moves each by both players, regardless of whether anyone plays the moves or not." Since we set up the rules of the process ahead of time, sure. Similarly, siince we have predetermined what "3" is, what "sides" are, and used those to define what a "triangle" is, your statement is rmerely repeating the definition we have already created.

You may also ask how "sphericity" interacts with "rubber" to produce a basketball.

It doesn't. It just describes the shape, and lumps it into a general categorization.

That sort of thing is easier with inanimate beings than with animate beings. But if triangles were alive, "geometric figure" would be its body and "three-sided" would be its soul.

Again, I find it hard to believe you consider souls to be merely formal constructs or categorizations.

jack_bodie said...

Hey, One Brow, if we pre-determined what '3' is, you should be able to re-determine what '3' is.

Take as long as you need.

One Brow said...

jack_bodie,

Not a problem. "3" is a description of the count of a collection of things.

If you want to be more formal, "3" is the count of any collection that is in 1-1 correspondance with the set {{}, {{}}, {{},{{}}}}, better known as {0, 1, 2}

jack_bodie said...

Thanks, One Brow. Can you make it something other than that now?

Can anybody?

Trying to stick with the language you use: Why is it that you say we pre-determine '3' but we define 'triangle'?

jt said...

Glad for the discuss...It is a little amusing that my innocuous hyperbole merits symbolic analytic analysis, but the loose wording of the CCC passage is just whatever you like. I think there is more threatening condemnation there than you guys think. But we discussed it well enough.

We just came back from euthanizing our 12 yr old an hour ago.

The Bull comment was inclusively directed at several points. For sure, as I read it I thought how much of my professional work as an engineer dealt with designing and ferreting out every potentiality that a structure might encounter. In so doing, they actually work.

Wish I had something to smoke.

We can talk pecans and squirrels, if you wisk.

One Brow said...

Thanks, One Brow. Can you make it something other than that now?

Can I make something I defined to be something other than it's definition? In what way is that a meaningful question? Can you make a Fool's Mate require more than two moves each from White and Black?

Can anybody?

Things we define are the things we define them to be.

Trying to stick with the language you use:

Thank you for continuing to use English. I haven't used German in decades. However, if you meant that you were restricting your vocabulary on my behalf, there is no need. I'll follow along regardless.

Why is it that you say we pre-determine '3' but we define 'triangle'?

Because we need to define what "3" is before we define what something that uses "3" in its definiton.

jack_bodie said...

One Brow, in your house you might define (decide? pre-determine?) the rules for a game and, because you made them up, you can change those rules to be anything else you want, any time you want.

Indeed the World Chess Federation could change the mechanics of Chess in such a way that the two move checkmate became impossible IF they deemed it necessary.

But no one can redefine what makes a triangle, or Dreieck, a triangle.

Certainly you don't define what a triangle is, any more than you define what the number 3 is. 3, three, 011 in binary, or what the Romans might have tokened III are all representations of the same something that exists quite apart from you, me, or anyone else. 3 doesn't need you to define it. And neither does triangle.

One Brow said...

jack_bodie,

One Brow, in your house you might define ... the rules for a game and, because you made them up, you can change those rules to be anything else you want, any time you want.

That would make it a different game when you change the rules, would it not? We might call it the same thing, but it's not the same game. So, I might play five different games that I call chess, but each game is it's own, and chess would be a general description that fits them all.

Indeed the World Chess Federation could change the mechanics of Chess in such a way that the two move checkmate became impossible IF they deemed it necessary.

But then it's not the game we currently call chess.

But no one can redefine what makes a triangle, or Dreieck, a triangle.

If you change the definition, it's not a triangle. I agree.

3 ... exists quite apart from you, me, or anyone else.

Exists where? Are you a Platonist?

We create the model of what "3" represents, so we can use "3" to describe the size of collections. When the model is useful, we use it. When the model is not useful, we don't. Because this particular model is easily defined, it's usefulness or lack thereof is especially obvious to us in many situations.

3 doesn't need you to define it. And neither does triangle.

I don't see how "3", whether of the Paltonic variety or the model variety, would need anything.

jt said...

*So, jt, I ask you: Do your dogs have an essential canine nature?

If yes, then welcome to the House of Substance!*

I’d say dogs have essential canine characteristics. Essential in A-T denotes the unique mode of ‘in’forming underlying ‘matter’ so as to get a substance (dog). To me, essential would instead refer to: those characteristics that separate dogs from foxes and wolves and coyotes (biological factors); those behaviors common to most dogs (behavioral features that people try to accentuate with breeding – I prefer good old mutts); and facets of personality which are unique to each pup in a litter and is quite different from its siblings (aggressive, friendly, easily-startlrd, sad, gregarious, curious…).

So if you prefer to take all those and lump ‘em as a single nature or essence, well, O.K. But broken apart, various biological, anthropological, and psychological specialists can get to work and better understand dogs.

Anonymous said...

99th comment.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

One Brow:

I wish you could see how far beneath you this argument of yours is.

Are you a complete anti-realist about science? If so, knowing that would help the discussion. I don't think you are, which is why your argument fails.

You are confusing the act of measurement with the act existing observed in that which is measured. You might as well say that because we measure the rest-mass of an electron to be 5.486 × 10^−4 u, the grounds for an electron's rest-mass is the fact that we measure it. And so on with all scientific realities.

Worse, even your formal definition of 3 has recourse to a primitive notion of 1, by speaking of "1-1 correspondence" with a set. What is this 1 of which you speak? In the same vein, you speak of "the count of a collection of things" without realizing or admitting that counting is a numerical operation or it is nothing at all. How do we count without recourse to numbers? Likewise, if you don't countenance the existence of abstract entities, what are these "sets" of which you speak? Where do they 'exist'?

Lastly, your anti-realist question about 'where' 3 exists is as futile against moderate realism as asking 'where' gravity exists, or 'when' time happens, or 'where' causality exists, etc. Indeed, as far as electrons have point-mass only, they can be spoken of as existing nowhere (i.e. without extension), yet they are real.

Which brings us back to your basic error: you claim that our definition of something ground's that something's existence. But this would be as naive as saying, because we define causality, therefore we generate it in reality, otherwise it is a non-existent notion. We also define natural selection. Does that mean it didn't exist prior to Darwin? Triadicity has existed long before humans defined it, e.g., in the unit-count of water molecules, in the trichromatic blend of white light, in the triplets of DNA, etc.

Best,

jt said...

Loose ends…

I am not swayed with the general defense of CCC 2418, here, but so be it.

Did this satisfy questions of my logic? “Mortimer Adler said that the apple is nutrient for its seeds, or it is nutrient for an animal that eats it. That comprising pecan now comprises squirrel.”

Can we all agree w/o recourse to articles of faith that this is true? “If you gotta immortal soul, so does my dog. Show me that it doesn’t.”

Codge, based on my take on ‘essential’, is my dog substantial?

BenYachov said...

If your dog had an immortal soul then it would morally be equal to a human being.

Hey I loved my late cat but there is no way I would have ever thought of her as the equal to any of my children or confuse my affection for her with the love I have for my children.

Matter can't be created or destroyed so the matter that made up my cat's material soul has taken a new form in the material continuum of the world. So in that sense she lives on. Also in the world to come I might be given a new Cat on whom I can project my idea of her & in a sense get her back.

One Brow said...

Codgitator (Cadgertator):

Thank you for taking the time to seriously consider my argument. In the first response, I’ll look at the philosophical positions.

Are you a complete anti-realist about science?

I don’t think so. I’m not familiar with the that position, but the positions indicated in those words does not sound like me.

You are confusing the act of measurement with the act existing observed in that which is measured. You might as well say that because we measure the rest-mass of an electron to be 5.486 × 10^−4 u, the grounds for an electron's rest-mass is the fact that we measure it. And so on with all scientific realities.

I have not been discussing scientific realities at all. A triangle (of the sort we have been discussing) is not an object you can investigate by the scientific method. It has no volume, no mass, no charge.

Which brings us back to your basic error: you claim that our definition of something ground's that something's existence.

Actually, I’m saying that ideas like "triangle" and "3" don’t have an independent existence, they are constructions that we create to describe reality.

We also define natural selection. Does that mean it didn't exist prior to Darwin?

We don’t define the tendency for more successful populations to reproduce in greater numbers (natural selection as a process). We do define the Theory of Natural Selection (which precedes Darwin, although I think he was the first to tie it to speciation) to model the process of natural selection we observe in reality. Like all models, our Theory does not exactly match an actual process, but in this case the model works very well.

Triadicity has existed long before humans defined it, e.g., in the unit-count of water molecules, in the trichromatic blend of white light, in the triplets of DNA, etc.

This is why "3" is such a useful model. It describes so many things.

One Brow said...

A response addressing the more formal, tangential issues.

Worse, even your formal definition of 3 has recourse to a primitive notion of 1, by speaking of "1-1 correspondence" with a set. What is this 1 of which you speak?

In the case of "1-1 correspondence", there is actually no use of "1". The moderately formal definition is the existence of an invertible function, and you can define an invertible function without using numbers.

In the same vein, you speak of "the count of a collection of things" without realizing or admitting that counting is a numerical operation or it is nothing at all.

Allow me to clarify: counting is absolutely a numerical action.

Likewise, if you don't countenance the existence of abstract entities, what are these "sets" of which you speak? Where do they 'exist'?

They don’t. Again, the grouping of some, for example, books in a set or collection of books adds no mass, no charge, no volume, etc. A "set" is a base, undefined element of our model, which we use at our convenience to describe things, but has no proper (non-circular) definition.

Lastly, your anti-realist question about 'where' 3 exists is as futile against moderate realism as asking 'where' gravity exists, or 'when' time happens, or 'where' causality exists, etc.

Gravity exists where there is a finite distance to mass. Time happens when there is change. Causality exists where there is motion (a conversion from potency to act).

The statement that "3 ... exists quite apart from you, me, or anyone else" seems to go beyond moderate realism. Does not "3" require an instantiation to say it exists, under moderate realism?

Indeed, as far as electrons have point-mass only, they can be spoken of as existing nowhere (i.e. without extension), yet they are real.

Existing without dimension is not the same as existing nowhere.

TheOFloinn said...

a dog’s life is needlessly snuffed out because the Catholic Catechism tells its owner to give the medical costs to the poor instead.

The error lies in the word "because." There is no necessary causal relationship between the two. For example, would preserving a dog's life result in poor people starving?

jt said...

TOF

What is your interpretation of CCC 2418?

TheOFloinn said...

If you gotta immortal soul, so does my dog. Show me that it doesn’t.

To say, however, that the person is existence- and identity-dependent on its embodiment does not entail that all of its parts depend for their existence on being united in the embodied person. As an imperfect anal­ogy, we observe that a broom cannot exist without a brush but the brush can exist without the broom to which it belonged. That is, it is not a universal truth that if an F cannot exist without a certain part P, then P cannot exist without F: it depends on the kind of thing one is talking about. In the case of nonrational animals, we can say that the animal cannot exist without its soul, but neither can the soul exist without embodi­ment in the animal since all of the animal soul's operations are wholly material, not rising beyond sensation and perception of the concrete par­ticular. On the other hand, since some of the operations of the intellectual soul are not material, it can exist without its embodiment in matter. The principle at work here is the following: x can exist without y if and only if x can operate without y. The first half is that if x can exist without y then x can operate without y: if x exists without y, then x's nature is actualized without y; but if x's nature is actualized, then x possesses the very oper­ations given to it by its nature, and thus can operate according to that nature without y. It might be the case that x operates in an imperfect way because of the lack of y, but its essential nature and the functions proper to that essential nature will not in themselves be destroyed. Fido can exist without his tail, so he can function without his tail even though the lack of a tail impairs that function. He cannot exist without a head, however, and so cannot function without a head.
-- http://www.newdualism.org/papers/D.Oderberg/HylemorphicDualism2.htm

TheOFloinn said...

jt said...

TOF, what is your interpretation of CCC 2418?


That it belongs with 2415-17 and is not to be taken out of this context.

1. We must not "cause animals to suffer or die needlessly." Thus, taking then to the vet is enjoined on us.

2. If it comes down to a choice between taking Fido to the vet and taking your child to the doctor, the child comes first.

3. We should not think of animals as if they were human, as this would be contrary to reason.

jt said...

TOF

I have been associated with Catholicism enough to know there is more being said in 2418 particularly w/r global duty to humankind. No?

Also, I thought many at this site are happy to say hylomorphic dualism is not Cartesian. I see no light between them as you have justpresented the A-T concept of animal.

The logic you used was fine, but it made a metaphysical claim of distinction hinging on rationalism that like Searle, I see speciesism .

jt said...

Error

as you have just presented in the case of the A-T concept of non-human animal.

TheOFloinn said...

while objects can be triangular, I am unaware of the existence of "a triangle".

You must have been hell on wheels in trig class.
+ + +
siince we have predetermined what "3" is, what "sides" are, and used those to define what a "triangle" is, your statement is rmerely repeating the definition we have already created.

You mustn't confuse the assignment of word-tokens to a thing with the existence of that thing. Threeness would exist even if we had no token "3" or "III" to discuss it. Likewise, it would still be true that the interior angles of a plane triange would add to 180 degrees even if no one had ever defined those terms, or indeed
+ + +
Again, I find it hard to believe you consider souls to be merely formal constructs or categorizations.

What seems even harder is to understand "form," since you confuse them with "constructs" [whatever they are] and "categorizations."
+ + +
To me, essential would instead refer to: characteristics that separate dogs from wolves (biological factors); behaviors common to most dogs (behavioral features). If you prefer to lump those as a single nature or essence, well, O.K.

How can you enumerate the biological features that distinguish dogs from wolves unless you first recognize dogs as such? How can you list behaviors common to most dogs unless you have first decided that there is something whose commonalities need to be explained?
+ + +
We don’t "define" the tendency for more successful populations to reproduce in greater numbers (natural selection as a process).

How do you know a population is more "successful"?

Anonymous said...

jt, don't worry. God is merciful. you will see your dogs in heaven.

jt said...

Anon

Thank you, I appreciate that. You may know that all dog lovers I know of, online and around town, including vets, think so also - regardless and very often with intentional disregard of their church's beliefs.

TheOFloinn said...

You may know that all dog lovers I know of, online and around town, including vets, think so also

Coming up next: the thoughts of dentists on statistical sampling theory.

jt said...

TOF

You could have chosen to opine on more meaty questions I posed to you.

Same for a few other recent commenters. I am always accused of deflection and/or not addressing comments. I do my best to prevent this. How about turnabout?

One Brow said...

TheOFloinn said...
You must have been hell on wheels in trig class.

My geometry teacher absolutely despised me, although not for pholosophical reasons.

You mustn't confuse the assignment of word-tokens to a thing with the existence of that thing.

I agree.

Threeness would exist even if we had no token "3" or "III" to discuss it.

I agree. This is not relevant to my point.

What seems even harder is to understand "form," since you confuse them with "constructs" [whatever they are] and "categorizations."

Not at all. Form is something that an individual entity posseses. Constructs and categories are human ways of simplifying and discussing forms.

While we are on form, can you tell me if/how a form differs from a description? That's one I have not seen, and can't derive.

How do you know a population is more "successful"?

Persistance and reproductive success. Successful populations don't die out, and leave lots of offspring. Yes, I realize that is somewhat circular.

TheOFloinn said...

While we are on form, can you tell me if/how a form differs from a description?

A complete description may cover more than its form. It may include, for example, its matter, its efficient cause(s), and its finality.

IOW, "form" < "description"
+ + +
How do you know a population is more "successful"?

Persistance and reproductive success. Successful populations don't die out, and leave lots of offspring. Yes, I realize that is somewhat circular.


Somewhat, indeed. It is entirely circular.

One Brow said...

So, when you say that the form of a ball is a sphere, all you mean is that you are describing whatever shape it happens to be in? Nothing else is implied?

TheOFloinn said...

So, when you say that the form of a ball is a sphere, all you mean is that you are describing whatever shape it happens to be in? Nothing else is implied?

No, because if it "happened to be" in some other shape, it would not be a ball. A big blue bouncy ball may have many forms. It must be spherical. But will also have a form of color [blue], a form of size [big], a form of elasticity [bouncy], and so on. Of course, the form of sphere is essential to its being a ball while its form of color (blue) is accidental to its being a ball. (You could have a red ball. Or a bowling ball - not bouncy; or a ball bearing - not big.)

The forms of inaminate bodies possess immanent powers of
i) gravitation [physics],
ii) electromagnetism [chemistry],
iii) strong force [nuclear] and
iv) weak force [radiation].
Sodium and chlorine are composed of the same matter: protons, neutrons, & electrons. What makes one a poisonous gas and the other a flammable metal is the number and arrangement of those parts; i.e., their forms. An electron in the valance shell of chlorine behaves very differently from a free electron, despite being the same material thing.

Animate bodies have more complex forms, which include what we call "processes." That is, there is no material difference between a live petunia and a dead petunia. Same chemicals, same arrangement of parts. Animate forms are called "souls." Indeed, the Latin term translated as "soul" is "anima," which simply means "alive."

Vegetative souls possess four powers in addition to the four inanimate powers:
a) metabolism
b) homeostasis
c) grown/development
d) reproduction

Animal souls (aka "sensitive" souls) possess four powers in addition to the vegetative and inanimate powers, and these are the stimulus-response loop:
a) sensation (of particular objects) to...
b) perception (unified senses forming an ymago, with memory, and imagination) to...
e) emotion (sensitive appetites: i.e., appetites for the objects of sensation-perception) to...
f) motion (movement toward or away from the object of sensation.)
There is also a "short-circuit" between perception and motion, bypassing e-motion: as when the knee is struck with a mallet, or eyelids blink.

The rational soul includes two powers in addition to the animal-vegetative-inanimate:
c) conception (the intellect reflects upon the ymagos of perception and abstracts their essences as universals. We perceive triangular objects; but we conceive of Triangle.)
d) volition (the intellective appetite forms a desire for the product of conception analogous to the sensory appetites for the product of perception. This volition then in-forms the emotions, and thence motions.)

Hope this helps.

One Brow said...

TheOFloinn said...

A quick tangent:

No, because if it "happened to be" in some other shape, it would not be a ball.

You've never seen an American football, or are you saying a football is not a ball?

If a basketball is defalted to the point almost half of it is concave, it's not a ball anymore?

Ths restriction on what a ball is or can be seems very arbitrary.

TheOFloinn said...

You've never seen an American football, or are you saying a football is not a ball?

Equivocating on the term "ball." The rugby ball and US football are prolate spheroids, a class of sphere. But we lack a brief word-token to distinguish them from standard balls.

"Ball" also refers to a formal dance.

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=ball

But we have digressed so far from the topic that we can't even see it from here.

One Brow said...

Back to the main point.

TheOFloinn said...
What makes one a poisonous gas and the other a flammable metal is the number and arrangement of those parts; i.e., their forms.

I'd agree that the number of parts is significant, but that seems material rather than formal. 11 proton/electon pairs is a material difference from 17 proton/electron pairs. The arrangement of teh electrons in their valence shells is an effect of this material difference. That certain arrangements of these shells which have specific similarities result in similar behaviors (such as florine and chlorine) is an effect of the nature of electrons, again a material cause. The form doesn't do anything but describe shapes, and allow us to categorize them for simplicity.

An electron in the valance shell of chlorine behaves very differently from a free electron, despite being the same material thing.

I behave differently in a classroom than at home. Is tht because my form has changed?

Animate bodies have more complex forms, which include what we call "processes." That is, there is no material difference between a live petunia and a dead petunia. Same chemicals, same arrangement of parts.

Above, the arrangement of parts was form. Now, it's material. Further, there is a material difference between a live petunia at time A and the same live petunia at time B, much more so at some later time C, when it's dead.

Still, since "alive" means "process set A is happening", and "dead" means "process set B is happening", is the form basically the process set, a collective description of the individual reactions that we gather into a common category?

Animate forms are called "souls." Indeed, the Latin term translated as "soul" is "anima," which simply means "alive."

Takes me back to my days studying with the JWs.

I got most of the of that from TLS, and have no comment on it, other than to thank you for taking the time to explain it.

One Brow said...

By "that", I meant the rest of your post. sorry for any confusion.

One Brow said...

rugby ball and US football are prolate spheroids, a class of sphere.

My brothers and I once played ball with one of my sister cloth dolls. Was that a "limbed spheroid", a class of sphere? If a member of the class of spheres can have vertices, does that mean a cube is member of the class of spheres? I am only bringing this up to illustrate that your definitions seem ill-thought-out, and this is a symptom of that.

TheOFloinn said...

I behave differently in a classroom than at home. Is tht because my form has changed?

Yes.

+ + +
My brothers and I once played ball with one of my sister cloth dolls. Was that a "limbed spheroid", a class of sphere?

No. You were using the term "ball" in an equivocal sense. That is, you employed a cloth doll in a game normally played with an actual ball. But were you playing "ball" or were you playing "catch"? Recall that the root meaning of "ball" is "round." Throwing a cloth doll through a hoop is not playing "basketball," for example.

jt said...

And here I was for the past year to believe you guys were taking the high road and my dissent was so easy to prove wrong.

I'm feeling foolish for having given credit where it wasn't due.

One Brow said...

TheOFloinn said...
I behave differently in a classroom than at home. Is tht because my form has changed?

Yes.

Just to be clear: my form is not is variable depending upon the circumstances of my environment, even when there is no related internal change?

Also, since my soul is my form, my sould is different when I am in the classroom versus when I am at home?

Dr. Feser,

Is this the standard Scholastic interpretation?

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

One Brow:

Thanks for your courteous reply as well. I still have worries, though.

1. You seem to think it is easy to 'pinpoint' the locus of, say, causality in physical spacetime, but in fact you merely added a *descriptive* layer to the *notion* itself. This is yet more verbal tokenizing on your part, without a grasp of the reality of abstract existence. Causality pre-exists our definition of it, just as 3 (and most any other abstract entity) does. If you reply that an instance of causality (i.e. motion), I^c, occurs here-and-now (I^c[hn]), you only generate a new *abstract reality*--'the present moment'--which defies spatiotemporal localization. Where does 'here' and when does 'now' exist?

1a. If verbalizing entities makes them real qua models, without attaining a real grasp of reality (beyond the model-veil, as it were), then we should be able to define unicorns into existence. Surely you grant the reason 3 models reality better than unicorns is that the former exists while the latter does not.

2. If you grant the metaphysics of act-potency, especially on this blog, you are opening yourself to huge gains for theism.

3. The ease with which you 'pinpoint' the things I mentioned earlier extends to pinpointing 3: for 3 exists where there are triplets. That's why it is a universal: it is multiply concrete without losing any determinacy based on physical specificity.

4. You claim that numbers are not scientific entities, and lack volume, mass, etc., but in fact, insofar as you claim numbers just are verbal and operational manipulations made by us, then numbers do have physical characteristics (viz. as physical effects of physical agents).

5. If you deny that physical Nature ever purely or formally instantiates "3 as such", insisting that 3 is just a 'model' of otherwise fuzzy reality, then you are opening yourself to a massive argument for the reality of the rational soul. Prof Feser has written about this before, as have I at my own blog at great length. The point is this: if physical nature doesn't really "do" numerical acts/operations, we do, and therefore, by modus tollens, we exhibit behavior that transcends the power of physical reality. QED.

Best,

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

I have replied to a question dropped early on in this thread, but the inquirer seems to have abandoned this thread, not seen my reply, or perhaps found it unworthy of a response. The question is:

"How does the Thomistic soul/'form' redirect certain neuroparticles and thus intervene in the otherwise completely deterministic neurological pathways in order to produce the desired response?"

I have already tried to explain how intelligible order 'subvenes' (as it were) physical closure without violating physical order. I would simply like rephrase the question in order to show how Aristhomistic makes sense in a, perhaps disappointingly, plain way.

"How does the 'form' of a number redirect certain microparticles and thus intervene in the otherwise completely deterministic physical pathways in order to produce the intelligible content?"

Two, as a pure intelligible, makes otherwise meaningless, but physically 'taut', matter into an intelligible reality. No violation of physics, nor a physicalist reduction either. I can't "explain how" intelligible form "does" what it does, but I can't deny that it does what it does, and that this achievement is an analogous primer for grasping how soul orders body.

Best,

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

One Brow said:

"I'd agree that the number of parts is significant, but that seems material rather than formal. 11 proton/electon pairs is a material difference from 17 proton/electron pairs."

I reply:

Imagine two distinct objects, O and O*, have 11 protons and 11 electrons. What makes them different? The fact that the protons and electrons are in "pairs", as you say. In the O-scenario, something prevents the p/e from bonding, while in the O*-scenario, they are allowed to bond (say by some cryogenic or supermagnetic means, etc.). This raises two problems for materialism.

First, in the O-scenario, while all the material components are virtually present (in mid-air, as it were), there is no such thing as O until its matter is arranged in a specific way. O is not 'there' waiting for its matter to get bonded correctly: it simply doesn't exist without its specific form, regardless how well 'stocked' it is materially. If O's nature were entirely identical with its material base, then O would exist by virtue of the 11 p/e being co-present. But that is false, ergo, etc.

Second, "pairing" is an abstract relation, not a material entity per se. Presumably, the materialist would retort that the pairing is a but function of the bonding, which is in turn a function of a specific energy level (i.e. a material factor as well). But then let us O and O* again, both now in virtual p/e stasis, and both with the same amount of energy in their Umwelten. Once again, O and O* would have all that materialism says they need--pretend for argument's sake that they even exist!--, yet clearly their total energy and p/e contents would not suffice to actualize what O and O* are.

Saying that a live and dead petunia are only materially different begs the question since, at minimum, their crucial difference consists in a mal-arrangement--a deformation--of otherwise sufficient matter.

Best,

One Brow said...

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

You seem to think it is easy to 'pinpoint' the locus of, say, causality in physical spacetime, but in fact you merely added a *descriptive* layer to the *notion* itself.

I’m not completely clear to what you are referring, so I will hold off on responding to this point, and request clarification.

1a. If verbalizing entities makes them real qua models, without attaining a real grasp of reality (beyond the model-veil, as it were), then we should be able to define unicorns into existence. Surely you grant the reason 3 models reality better than unicorns is that the former exists while the latter does not.

I don’t claim our definitions nor our models make anything real; they are merely our attempts to clarify/simplify/categorize what is real into what we can process about what is real. Our models of horses have no more reality than our models of unicorn in and of themselves, but they model reality more usefully, because we the actions we take and the decisions we make based on those allow us more reliability in determining the behaviors we see in horses. Meanwhile, our models of unicorns do not allow us any sort of predictive ability.

Outside of improved utility, I’m not sure what would make a model "better". Is Euclidean geometry (with a flat curvature) "better" for a carpenter than Lobachevskian geometry (negative curvature)? Space-time has negative curvature, so the Lobachevskian model is more accurate, but the mathematics is much more complex, and the differences not significant when you are building a house. So, I would say the Euclidean model is better for the carpenter, despite modeling reality less well for the scientist.

One Brow said...

Imagine two distinct objects, O and O*, have 11 protons and 11 electrons. What makes them different? The fact that the protons and electrons are in "pairs", as you say. In the O-scenario, something prevents the p/e from bonding, while in the O*-scenario, they are allowed to bond (say by some cryogenic or supermagnetic means, etc.).

To be clear, we have two separate collections of matter, each with identical material components, but in different environments (as a result of the something that is preventing the bonding) and therefore reacting differently in those environments. If I have misunderstood that, my response will probably be moot, and I apologize for that.

First, in the O-scenario, while all the material components are virtually present (in mid-air, as it were), there is no such thing as O until its matter is arranged in a specific way. O is not 'there' waiting for its matter to get bonded correctly: it simply doesn't exist without its specific form, regardless how well 'stocked' it is materially. If O's nature were entirely identical with its material base, then O would exist by virtue of the 11 p/e being co-present. But that is false, ergo, etc.

I agree that the form the matter takes can be a reflection of the underlying environment, and we will see different behaviors in different environments. I don’t see why that is a problem for materialism.

Second, "pairing" is an abstract relation, not a material entity per se.

I agree. The notion of pairing was merely a model I used to convey the overall balance in electrical charges. In reality, proton don’t seem to exhibit

Presumably, the materialist would retort that the pairing is a but function of the bonding, …

I would not argue that. I’m not aware of any particular way that protons exhibit preferences for one electron over another, or vice-versa, so there are no actual pairs.

But then let us O and O* again, both now in virtual p/e stasis, and both with the same amount of energy in their Umwelten.

But expressed differently, in your example.

Saying that a live and dead petunia are only materially different begs the question since, at minimum, their crucial difference consists in a mal-arrangement--a deformation--of otherwise sufficient matter.

You don’t think that is a material difference?

One Brow said...

Codgitator (Cadgertator),

One additional request, please. Above, I interpreted TheOFloinn and came up with (typos removed):

Just to be clear: my form is variable depending upon the circumstances of my environment, even when there is no related internal change?

Also, since my soul is my form, my soul is different when I am in the classroom versus when I am at home?


1) Do you think that is an accurate interpretation of TheOFloinn?

2) Do you agree with this?

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Frons Unus:

1. Is "model" a catch-all for intellectual retreat? I have engaged an atheist before at my blog who very quickly swore off how the fallacy of composition is endemic to most "normal science", instead opting for Ronald-Giere 'modelism'. Since Popper's falsificationism has been shown to be too stringent, and Hempel's covering–law-ism has been shown to be a wax nose, "modelism" seems to be the (Kantian) move de rigeur of most non A-Tists. Is "3" 3 or is it merely '3'? I see that you don't want it to be merely "'3'", which is good, but that you settle for it being merely an operational placeholder is… disappointing.

2. I am impressed that you grant that potency is endemic to realist metaphysics. As to why this enfeebles your naturalism, I leave it to better minds (e.g. Doc Feser, James Chastek, Brandon, Crude, OFlinn, et al.) to illuminate why this compromises your naturalism.

3. As for parsing the material vs. formal differences in a live vs. dead petunia, my basic point is that BOTH are endemic to an adequate explanation of such a difference (cf. Sorabji, Chance chapter 3 for more). I think you see this, but the verbiage is too much to swallow for now. You grant form and potency. You grant that specific arrangement is crucial. Thus, as extraneous as it may seem, following the Philosopher to the Unmoved Mover is otherwise specious.

4. My point about you subjecting numbers' abstract existence to physical contingency ties (back) in with your claim that 3 is 'just' a set of a counting. For any such counting requires a finite amount of time which squares not with abstract entation's super-temporal existence. Capisce?

Best,

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

(Whisky'd shame…)

I should also like to add that Thomism is as close to naturalism, without being wrong, as naturalism is close to being Thomism, without being complete. As such, One Brow and I (et al.) are not as far apart as the words may suggest. I made this point at least once at my blog in my running debate with "that atheist" (i.e. UnBeguiled, for the curious), but he shortly thereafter seems to have renounced blogging for the pure pursuit of his medical practice. Perhaps One Brow is more open to his otherwise undeclared Aristotelianism.

TheOFloinn said...

How do you think that position is different from my saying that you can use "3" to model the number of objects? What additional reality is added, for you?

The only thing that physically exists is this item and that item and the other item. Threeness, as such, has no physical existence. Yet, it is real; otherwise, we would not find diverse people abstracting it from the existence of this, that, and the other. And using it, of course, even when there are not three physical items to enumerate.

For me, the rational soul is emergent from physical properties.

Ah, "emergent." The new scientificalistic way of saying "then a miracle happens."

But of course the old way of saying "emergent property" was to say "formal causation." That is, there are properties of the whole that are not the result of the parts, but rather depend on the number and arrangement of parts. Thus, an individual in relation to others in a classroom will act differently than the same individual in relation to others in a family. The reason for the difference is formal, not material.

TheOFloinn said...

Saying that a live and dead petunia are only materially different begs the question since, at minimum, their crucial difference consists in a mal-arrangement--a deformation--of otherwise sufficient matter.

OneBrow
You don’t think that is a material difference?


You may be inadvertently equivocating on the term "material." The matter is precisely the same. It is the form (arrangement) of the matter that has changed. Specifically, it has ceased to move.

This is why many materialists now eschew the term "materialism" and now refer to themselves as "physicalists."

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

TOF:

If you (still) drink, I'm buying you beer (sometime around when I share a pint or two with Doc Feser).

TheOFloinn said...

Codge/Cadge
TOF: If you (still) drink, I'm buying you beer (sometime around when I share a pint or two with Doc Feser).

Hard to do. Opposite coasts.

One Brow said...

Is "model" a catch-all for intellectual retreat?

I’m not sure from what it is a retreat. I see a model as being an outreach and a mechanism of dealing with reality. I don’t have a broad enough knowledge to identify it as more than one philosophical construct or less than another.

I see that you don't want it to be merely "'3'", which is good, but that you settle for it being merely an operational placeholder is… disappointing.

If you have an alternative formulation that makes an objectively verifiable difference, I would be happy to read it.

2. I am impressed that you grant that potency is endemic to realist metaphysics.

To me, it’s just another way of saying the universe behaves in a uniform manner in many ways. I use it as a working principle everyday.

As to why this enfeebles your naturalism, I leave it to better minds (e.g. Doc Feser, James Chastek, Brandon, Crude, OFlinn, et al.) to illuminate why this compromises your naturalism.

First, I think you are selling yourself short.

Second, since Dr. Feser never commented on this post, and the only Aristotelian that did comment did not make a strong attempt to tie the notion of potency to supernaturalism (it seemed to rely on the Fallacy of Composition), I was rather hoping that someone at some time would rise to the challenge, and you really seemed knowledgeable enough and intelligent to make a serious attempt. So, I am disappointed in, yet accepting of, your decision.

You grant form and potency. You grant that specific arrangement is crucial. Thus, as extraneous as it may seem, following the Philosopher to the Unmoved Mover is otherwise specious.

Was "specious" ("Having the ring of truth or plausibility but actually fallacious") the word you meant to use? It seems more in line with my position.

For any such counting requires a finite amount of time which squares not with abstract entation's super-temporal existence. Capisce?

That seems to be another way of saying that, since you are right about "3" having a real existence, therefore I am wrong about "3" being a model we construct to understand reality. Did I misunderstand?

One Brow said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
One Brow said...

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Perhaps One Brow is more open to his otherwise undeclared Aristotelianism.

I try to be open to everything. I’m not really sure just how close our respective models of reality are, though.

TheOFloinn said...
The only thing that physically exists is this item and that item and the other item. Threeness, as such, has no physical existence. Yet, it is real; otherwise, we would not find diverse people abstracting it from the existence of this, that, and the other. And using it, of course, even when there are not three physical items to enumerate.

I understand that it doesn’t add anything physically. What I asked for was what was added, beyond that you think it is real. The difference between your last two sentences and my version of those sentences: Yet, it is useful; otherwise, we would not find diverse people abstracting it from the existence of this, that, and the other. And generalizing upon it, of course, even when there are not three physical items to enumerate.

Ah, "emergent." The new scientificalistic way of saying "then a miracle happens."

Sarcasm. How original. I don’t consider a soul to be any more miraculous than MS Word. I don’t know how either one works.

But of course the old way of saying "emergent property" was to say "formal causation." That is, there are properties of the whole that are not the result of the parts, but rather depend on the number and arrangement of parts.

To me, that says formal causation is merely a shortcut for skipping over many of the details of material causation, since that sort of form boils down to material elements.

Thus, an individual in relation to others in a classroom will act differently than the same individual in relation to others in a family. The reason for the difference is formal, not material.

So, does that mean my soul is different? Or just that my soul’s interactions are different? Because the second is true regardless of whether we accept the notion of formal causes as being something other than a shortcut to describe material causes.

You may be inadvertently equivocating on the term "material." The matter is precisely the same. It is the form (arrangement) of the matter that has changed. Specifically, it has ceased to move.

Changes in arrangement are still physical changes, though. Two weights, set one meter apart, affect the universe differently, and are affected differently, than the same two weights set two meters apart in the same center of gravity.

This is why many materialists now eschew the term "materialism" and now refer to themselves as "physicalists."

My self-labeling rarely goes beyond atheist and skeptic.

TheOFloinn said...

seemed to rely on the Fallacy of Composition

Composition is not necessarily a logical fallacy. "Each tile on the floor is green; therefore the floor is green" is a true statement. The difference is this: Composition is not a formal fallacy (it is not invalid as to its form) but it may be a material fallacy (that is, depending on its [subject] matter). And there is that matter/form thingie, again.
+ + +
since you are right about "3" having a real existence, therefore I am wrong about "3" being a model we construct to understand reality

This object, that object, the other object have physical existence.

Three has real existence, abstracted by the mind from a real property in the sensible world, but which is not itself a physical property of the sensible world.

"3" is a token used by some to represent the threeness of some things. These need not be three physical things. "3" may have physical existence as ink marks on paper, etc.

What does ٣ represent?
+ + +
formal causation is merely a shortcut for skipping over many of the details of material causation

Now I think you are using "material" cause in place of "efficient" cause. Perhaps you are equivocating "material" to mean "natural." But material, formal, efficient, and final causes are all natural when dealing with natural things. Neither are they mutually exclusive. Rather, all four kinds of "becauses" operate together.

Changes in arrangement are still physical changes

But they are not material changes.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

One Brow: "If you have an alternative formulation that makes an objectively verifiable difference, I would be happy to read it."

If I may, I'll answer by way of rhetorical question: What grounds the identity among the numerous instances of '3' as you use it to model? Either the tokens are formally identical or they are not. If not, and 3 is only just "3 enough for the experiment", then you've conceded not only that your model-theory of numbers provides no abiding coherence but also that there's no enduring reality for it accurately to model at all. You can't fudge integers. 3 is 3 or it is something else. Three's drunken cousin, pi, raises an interesting point too. Pi literally defies a complete physical description and yet we grasp its meaning apart. You could never exhaustively instantiate what pi "contains" for the needs of a totally precise model, but pi exists as a formal reality in its own terms. Further, the physical dissimilarities between two unequally long enumerations of pi do not undermine the formal identity of pi among them.

As for your post on TLS and the first mover argument, I never saw it and, truth be told, am less interested in that topic than the things we are discussing now. But I shall have to give your post a read. Why not run it by Doc Feser again?

Also, the reason I asked if "model" is a codeword for retreat is because that's how I've seen it used more than once. When a model is challenged, the defender can easily beg off by saying, "No, no, I'm not a rationalist: science doesn't attain 'truth' {snicker}, it just proposes models that help us make better technology." Consider how the fallacy of affirming the consequent is central to old-school, 'normal', deductive science. I raised this point on my blog a few years ago and a sometime atheist sniper retorted that correspondence theory of theory is so passe: coherentist modeling is hip, where it's at, what it's all about, etc.

The point is that if I challenge the adequacy of your nominalistic model of numbers, you can easily beg off by saying no model is meant to attain truth in the first place. No model is completely adequate, ergo no model is subject to complete rejection. Hence, you always have an escape route for retreat under a respectable piece of verbiage.

Best,

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Perhaps to steer things back to the original point...

I have erred by letting A-T's moderate realism come across as too Platonic. One Brow asks where the form of 3 exists if not in actual triplets. Yet, so does Aristotle! For him, forms don't exist apart from matter (nor does matter exist apart from form). Recourse to form as a mode of explanation rests on the insight that it is not any single case of a triplet, nor any set of cases of triplets, which exhausts what 3 is formally speaking. Conversely, recourse to matter (i.e. to concrete instances of 3) as another form of explanation rests on a related insight that it is not simply our conception of a formal notion (a Pure Idea) which grounds the real existence of 3 in the world.

3's formal integrity, so to speak, means that while 3 is not intrinsically meaningless in a world of only 2 objects, it does lack referents. In a related way, 3 is only actual as long as it informs really existent triplets in at least one material instance. If the world were reduced by some means to only two objects, 3 would not lose its formal integrity but the world would lose all form of 3. 3 would be unreal but not simply a fiction.

I makes these points to underscore how we may unwittingly be arguing as masked allies rather than as polar opposites. Am I making sense?

Best,

One Brow said...

TheOFloinn said...
Composition is not necessarily a logical fallacy.

Either a logical argument is reliable or it is fallacious. Every logical fallacy occasionally produces true statements. Composition is a fallacy unless you do the ground workto show why it is relevant in a particular case, such as showing a property is preserved by compositions.

This object, that object, the other object have physical existence.

Three has real existence, abstracted by the mind from a real property in the sensible world, but which is not itself a physical property of the sensible world.


Again, I ask for the meaningful difference between saying this and saying "Three has no real existence; it is abstracted by the mind from a real property in the sensible world, but which is not itself a physical property of the sensible world."; a difference that amounts to this being more than just a philosophical construction.

What does ٣ represent?

No idea. I’m not sure why that, or the notion of tokens in general, is relevant to this discussion.

Perhaps you are equivocating "material" to mean "natural."

I’ll try to be more careful in my language.

Rather, all four kinds of "becauses" operate together.

Except, I don’t see any evidence of formal or final causes operating in any way, except as stand-ins for summarizing a more detailed analysis of material and efficient causes.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

An additional point:

Form is also commonly spoken of as the "ratio" of an entity. Insofar as One Brow's conception of 3 (or any number) is that it is a relation between otherwise discrete entities, recalling that form is the ratio of an entity's specific existence might show how our views are not totally opposed. Form qua ratio is the intelligible aspect of a state of affairs; form qua definition is the integral relation of statements about that SOA.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

"Books Mu and Nu consider the metaphysical status of mathematics, and Aristotle concludes that mathematical entities are not substances. Aristotle attacks in particular Plato’s view that each number corresponds to a Form, primarily because this view obscures the relationships between numbers and fails to explain the relationship between numbers and sensible particulars. Aristotle suggests instead that numbers are physical objects considered in abstraction from their physical and accidental properties. For example, the number five is the same thing as five cats once we factor out everything that makes the cats cats instead of something else. Aristotle concludes by rejecting the idea that numbers can play a causal role in nature, reaffirming his view that substance is at the foundation of nature."

http://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/aristotle/section7.rhtml

One Brow said...

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...
An additional point:

Form is also commonly spoken of as the "ratio" of an entity. Insofar as One Brow's conception of 3 (or any number) is that it is a relation between otherwise discrete entities, recalling that form is the ratio of an entity's specific existence might show how our views are not totally opposed. Form qua ratio is the intelligible aspect of a state of affairs; form qua definition is the integral relation of statements about that SOA.


I am attracted to many aspects of the Aristotelian metaphysics, even if my interpretations of what they mean differs from what is standard here. I have not seen us as being opposed, but in a discussion where I am trying to clarify things for myself.

One Brow said...

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...
If I may, I'll answer by way of rhetorical question: What grounds the identity among the numerous instances of '3' as you use it to model?

I’m not sure what you mean by grounding it. I can see a couple of different possibilities. Please ignore the irrelevant one(s).

If you meant what is real about a "3" which allows me to use it, then it doesn’t need to be grounded. We’ve discussed unicorns in this thread, and they are not grounded in that fashion. I’ve actually used transfinite induction in philosophical discussions, and that’s just an extrapolation of an extrapolation of Peano arithmetic.

If you meant what is there specifically in reality that requires me to use "3", that would be the establishment of an objectively verifiable, arbitrarily chosen collection which has the correct number of objects to meet the use of my model. For example, I could specify that I want to consider the number of crayons on a table. Having chosen my collection, I can now count them in an objectively verifiable manner, and note the count matches the model of "3" and no other model. So, this would be a real property of the collection.

Either the tokens are formally identical or they are not.

As the same creation of the same formal system, they are formally identical in that sense (created by a formal system). As they measure a type of property in the same way, they are formally identical in that sense (Aristotelian notion of form).

Pi literally defies a complete physical description and yet we grasp its meaning apart.

If you believe that "3" has an underlying reality, don’t you also believe "circle" does? If so, then any physical instantiation of a circle is a description of pi. If you are referring to the decimal expansion of pi, that’s just an artifact of using decimal expansions. It doesn’t really say anything about pi outside of the decision to express real numbers by using integer bases.

Further, the physical dissimilarities between two unequally long enumerations of pi do not undermine the formal identity of pi among them.

I agree.

As for your post on TLS and the first mover argument, I never saw it and, truth be told, am less interested in that topic than the things we are discussing now. But I shall have to give your post a read.

Thank you for looking it over.

Why not run it by Doc Feser again?

Didn’t I just do that? :)

Maybe I’ll send him an email.

One Brow said...

Also, the reason I asked if "model" is a codeword for retreat is because that's how I've seen it used more than once. … The point is that if I challenge the adequacy of your nominalistic model of numbers, you can easily beg off by saying no model is meant to attain truth in the first place. No model is completely adequate, ergo no model is subject to complete rejection. Hence, you always have an escape route for retreat under a respectable piece of verbiage.

Well, I do believe that we have no method for producing truths where we can be certain of the result, can demonstrate why the results are true, and have confidence that the results apply to reality. We create formal systems based on initial assumptions, the reality of which is not provable within the formal system. We conduct empirical investigations, but this is basically affirming the consequent, as you noted. We accept fundamental truths from trusted sources (interior or exterior), but wind up with no way to demonstrate their accuracy. We can combine these things, but the result never erases these gaps. So, if you feel that is a retreat, I doubt I will be able to change your mind.

You have referred to my description as nominalistic. Is that why you and TheOFloinn keep talking about tokens? Perhaps I don’t understand enough about it, because what you have been saying does not sound like what I believe.

3's formal integrity, so to speak, means that while 3 is not intrinsically meaningless in a world of only 2 objects, it does lack referents. In a related way, 3 is only actual as long as it informs really existent triplets in at least one material instance. If the world were reduced by some means to only two objects, 3 would not lose its formal integrity but the world would lose all form of 3. 3 would be unreal but not simply a fiction.

I agree. 3 would be an extrapolation, not a fiction, in such a universe.

I makes these points to underscore how we may unwittingly be arguing as masked allies rather than as polar opposites. Am I making sense?

I think I understand you. Learning about this is a much a motivation for me here as anything else. I don’t see us as on opposite ends about everything, but just with slightly difference interpretations of the same thing.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

About this comment of mine:

"You grant form and potency. You grant that specific arrangement is crucial. Thus, as extraneous as it may seem, following the Philosopher to the Unmoved Mover is otherwise specious."

I meant specious in the sense that, while it may seem plausible for you merely to grant the latter bits without following through the bigger entailments of such a metaphysic, not embracing those entailments would amount to you misleading or deceiving yourself.

If you really grant that potency is endemic to entities with finite forms––if you really grant this, and don't merely nod to it as a constructivist convenience––, then I encourage you to engage Aristotle's Physics, Metaphysics, and the opening chapters of Aquinas' Summa contra gentiles to see how those concepts lead to the larger views presented on this blog.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...



As for nominalism, I'll cite a few mainstream definitions:

1) "It appears that both the Realists and the Nominalists accept a basic understanding of how words have legitimate meaning. Simply, following the model of a proper noun (e.g., a personal name such as "Jason" or "Heather"), terms are thought to have meaning insofar as they refer to a particular entity (in this case, the person Jason or the person Heather, respectively). ... Specifically, nominalism takes the model of meaning discussed above as the sole and sufficient model of meaning. That is, if a universal term as a name is to have meaning, it can only have meaning by way of reference. But, as we have seen in the Platonic arguments for the reality of the Forms, universals (e.g., the definition of a triangle) are not found in the material domain as objects of sense-knowledge. In this domain, instead, we find only particular entities -- and, by definition, universal terms do not refer (directly) to such particulars."
http://www.drury.edu/ess/history/modern/nominalism.html

2) "Exaggerated [i.e. Platonic] Realism invents a world of reality corresponding exactly to the attributes of the world of thought. Nominalism, on the contrary, models the concept on the external object, which it holds to be individual and particular. Nominalism consequently denies the existence of abstract and universal concepts, and refuses to admit that the intellect has the power of engendering them. What are called general ideas are only names, mere verbal designations, serving as labels for a collection of things or a series of particular events. Hence the term Nominalism. Neither Exaggerated Realism nor Nominalism finds any difficulty in establishing a correspondence between the thing in thought and the thing existing in nature, since in different ways, they both postulate perfect harmony between the two."
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11090c.htm

3) "The word ‘Nominalism’, as used by contemporary philosophers in the Anglo-American tradition, is ambiguous. In one sense, its most traditional sense deriving from the Middle Ages, it implies the rejection of universals. In another, more modern but equally entrenched sense, it implies the rejection of abstract objects. To say that these are distinct senses of the word presupposes that universal and abstract object do not mean the same thing. And in fact they do not. For although different philosophers mean different things by universal, and likewise by abstract object, according to widespread usage a universal is something that can be instantiated by different entities and an abstract object is something that is neither spatial nor temporal. Thus there are (at least) two kinds of Nominalism, one that maintains that there are no universals and one that maintains that there are no abstract objects.[1] Realism about universals is the doctrine that there are universals, and Platonism is the doctrine that there are abstract objects. … The word ‘Nominalism’ carries an implication that the corresponding doctrine asserts that everything is particular or concrete, and that this is not vacuously true."
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/nominalism-metaphysics/

Best,

One Brow said...

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...
... while it may seem plausible for you merely to grant the latter bits without following through the bigger entailments of such a metaphysic, not embracing those entailments would amount to you misleading or deceiving yourself.

I presume we agree that your statement holds only if said bigger entailments contain no additional assumptions beyond the behavior of matter following notions such as act and potency.

If you really grant that potency is endemic to entities with finite forms––if you really grant this, and don't merely nod to it as a constructivist convenience––,

I'm not sure what you mean here. As I said, I'm not sure what I accept is what you believe. I see act and potency as another description of uniformitarianism.

then I encourage you to engage Aristotle's Physics, Metaphysics, and the opening chapters of Aquinas' Summa contra gentiles to see how those concepts lead to the larger views presented on this blog.

The summary Dr. Feser gave of Aquinas' first way used additional concepts besides act and potency. For example, it relied on the existence of finite chains of per se causation, as opposed to what I see as an infinte lattice, and the notion of near-simoultaneity along these chains, which are not required for the lattice. There were similar additions for the other proofs he described.

Now, if you can honestly say that Dr. Feser did not fairly represent these arguments, and added concepts that were not necessary, I will add that reading to what you have offered on nominalism (a view that seems extreme to me from those descriptions). But I would be disappointed to do that and find the concepts also present in Aristotle/Aquinas.