Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Vallicella on hylemorphic dualism, Part II

Bill Vallicella has kindly replied to my response to his recent post on hylemorphic dualism.  The reader will recall that Bill had suggested in his original post that, given the apparent tension between hylemorphism and dualism, Aquinas’s hylemorphic dualism seems ad hoc and motivated by Christian theological concerns rather than by philosophical considerations.  I argued that this charge cannot be sustained.  Whether or not one ultimately accepts hylemorphic dualism, if one agrees that there are serious arguments both for hylemorphism and for dualism, then -- especially when we add independent metaphysical considerations such as the Scholastic principle that the way a thing acts reflects the manner in which it exists -- one should at least acknowledge that hylemorphic dualism has a philosophical rationale independent of any Christian theological concerns.  It seems Bill still disagrees, but I do not see how his latest post gives any support to his original charge.

In his latest post, Bill acknowledges that there are indeed serious arguments both for hylemorphism and (especially, in his view) for dualism, and that someone who finds both sets of arguments persuasive has motivation to try to combine them.  But he insists that the fact that one has good arguments for a position A and good arguments for a position B does not entail that one has good arguments for the combined position A + B, for there may be good reasons why A and B cannot be combined.

Now, that much is perfectly true.  It could turn out that A and B are incompatible, so that someone who has reasons for both A and B will, at the end of the day, simply have to give up one or the other and try to find out what the flaw is in the reasoning that seemed to make them both compelling.  But of course, it is also true that it may turn out that A and B are not incompatible, even if at first sight they seemed to be.  And since two true propositions cannot contradict one another, the fact that there are strong arguments for both is itself a reason to think that they are compatible.  Not an infallible reason, but still a reason, and a serious one if A and B do not manifestly contradict each other.  

Now that, I submit, is the position we are in with respect to both hylemorphism and dualism.  There is no manifest contradiction between them.  In particular there is no manifest contradiction between the claims:

1. The human soul is the substantial form of the human body 

2. The human soul carries out immaterial operations.  

True, Bill appears to think it at least very plausible that one can derive a contradiction from the conjunction of these two claims when further premises are added.  But of course, that will just raise the question of whether all of those further premises are correct, which is a disputed matter.  And as I pointed out in my previous post, there are independent philosophical considerations that make the idea of the soul as a subsistent form at least defensible.  There may be an implicit contradiction in the idea, but then again there may not be.  I don’t think there is, but the point is that whether or not there is, it is not obvious that there is.  

Hence when Bill goes on to say that “a psychological motivation is not the same as a justificatory reason” he does not capture the entirety of the philosophical situation.  Given that there are, by Bill’s own admission, serious philosophical considerations in favor of both hylemorphism and dualism, and given that there is at least no obvious contradiction between them, we do have in these facts alone a “justificatory reason” and not just a mere “psychological motivation.”  That doesn’t mean that it is by itself a decisive reason -- further argumentation would certainly be required to provide a full defense of hylemorphic dualism -- but that is not to the point.  What is to the point is that Bill had suggested that Aquinas’s view is merely an ad hoc position taken for theological rather than philosophical reasons, and I think the points just made (and those made in my previous post) show that that is not the case.  If we have good reasons for both A and B and there is no manifest contradiction between A and B, that is by itself a serious reason (even if not a decisive one) for thinking that A + B is true.  Hence it is unreasonable in that case to claim that someone who accepts A + B must be doing so for ad hoc non-philosophical reasons.

Compare the situation with general relativity and quantum mechanics.  As they stand the theories seem to conflict.  Nevertheless, physicists have for some time been trying to find a way to reconcile them, since there are strong reasons in support of each theory.  It would hardly be plausible to suggest that these physicists have merely a “psychological motivation” rather than a “justificatory reason.”  (Of course, some would respond that relativity and quantum mechanics are supported by stronger arguments than hylemorphism and dualism are.  But whether that is so or not is irrelevant.  For if it is so, that would show only that the attempt to harmonize relativity and quantum mechanics has a stronger justificatory reason than the attempt to harmonize hylemorphism and dualism does, not that the latter has merely a psychological motivation rather than a justificatory reason.)

Bill makes some further points I want to reply to.  In response to my point about the ambiguity of Aristotle’s own views, Bill writes:

[I]f the active intellect (nous poietikos) mentioned in De Anima III, v (430a) is a subsistent element of the human soul, capable of existence independent of matter, then Aquinas' position on the human soul would have been anticipated by Aristotle, and what I said, or rather suspected, about Aquinas implanting Christian notions in the foreign soil of Aristotelianism would be insupportable.  But the interpretation of De Anima III, v is a vexed and vexing matter as the material in the hyperlink Ed provided makes clear.  If, as some commentators maintain, Aristotle is discussing the divine mind and not the human mind, then it cannot be maintained that Aristotle was anticipating Aquinas.

I agree with this, but it does not conflict with what I said in my previous post.  My point was precisely that the interpretation of Aristotle’s views is a vexed matter -- that is, that it is not at all obvious that his own views on the present issue were incompatible with Aquinas’s, so that it is unreasonable to suggest that Aquinas’s views cannot be read as a natural extension of Aristotle’s.  (And even if Aristotle had clearly taken a position incompatible with Aquinas’s, that would not by itself show that Aquinas’s position could not be reconciled with hylemorphism; as all philosophers know, what a thinker thinks follows from his views and what actually does follow from his views are not always identical.  But the fact that it is not clear what Aristotle himself actually thought on the issue at hand only makes it harder to sustain the view that Aquinas was importing something foreign into Aristotelian soil.)

In response to my point that the difference between the human soul and the souls of non-human animals is, for Aquinas, that the former carry out immaterial operations and the latter do not, Bill writes:

I grant that the human soul, unlike the canine, carries out immaterial operations.  The argument is this:

a.  The human soul engages in immaterial operations
b. 
Agere sequitur esse: whatever operates I-ly must be (exist) I-ly.
Therefore
c.  The human soul, qua executing immaterial operations, exists immaterially.

But how is this relevant to the issue I am raising?  Let's assume that the above argument is sound.  What it shows is that the human soul enjoys an immaterial mode of being.  But it does not show that a form of an animal body enjoys an immaterial mode of being.  It is one thing to establish that the human soul, or an element thereof, exists immaterially; quite another to show that this immaterial element is a form.  I hesitate to say that Ed is conflating these two questions.  What he might be doing is begging the question against me: he may be just assuming what I am questioning, namely, that the human soul is a form, and then taking an argument for the immateriality of the soul to be an argument for the immaterial existence of a form of the human body. 

But I was neither conflating the two questions nor begging the question against Bill.  Keep in mind that neither the passage of mine that Bill is immediately responding to in these lines nor my previous post as a whole was intended as a complete case for hylemorphic dualism.  The point was merely to respond to the specific suggestion Bill had made, viz. that there is no non-theological rationale for hylemorphic dualism.  And what I was saying was that if someone already has, on independent grounds, serious arguments for supposing that hylemorphism is true (as Bill concedes one could have), then, in that case, if one adds to the mix the three-step argument Bill summarizes above, one will also have good grounds for supposing that hylemorphic dualism is true.  So, the argument Bill summarizes is incomplete.  A more complete argument would look something like this:

A. Hylemorphism is true.
B. So the human soul is the form of the body.
C. But the human soul engages in immaterial operations.
D. And agere sequitur esse: whatever operates I-ly must be (exist) I-ly.
E. So the human soul, qua executing immaterial operations, exists immaterially.
F. So the form of the body, qua executing immaterial operations, exists immaterially. 

I say “a more complete argument” rather than “the complete argument” because I am, again, not trying to make the complete case for hylemorphic dualism here but just responding to Bill’s specific objection.  The complete case would have to involve a defense of each of the premises.  But the argument just given suffices to provide an answer Bill’s objection, because Bill concedes the premises at least for the sake of argument.  In particular, Bill concedes for the sake of argument that someone could have serious philosophical reasons for accepting A, C, and D.  But B follows from A, E follows from C and D, and F follows from B and E.  And that shows that someone who has serious philosophical reasons for accepting A, C, and D could have serious philosophical reasons for accepting F.  One can deny this, it seems to me, only if it were plausible to say either that F was manifestly self-contradictory, or that at least one of the inferences involved in this argument was manifestly fallacious.  But I don’t think either suggestion is plausible, and I doubt Bill does either. 

Note that this argument does not conflate the issues -- the case for A and the case for C will have to involve different lines of argument.  Nor does it beg the question against Bill.  The argument only assumes what Bill himself is willing to concede at least for the sake of argument.  And it shows, I think, that Bill should give up the claim that hylemorphic dualism (which is what F amounts to) could have no philosophical rationale, but only a Christian apologetic rationale.  For a philosopher who has no Christian ax to grind (nor for that matter a Jewish, Muslim, or any other purportedly revelation-based ax to grind) could accept A - F.  (Again, whether F is true -- and thus whether all of the premises that lead to it are true -- is, of course, a separate issue, which I am not trying to settle here.)
 
Bill also comments on my remarks about the Aristotelian conception of essence, in which I noted that the fact that it is of the nature of dogs to have four legs does not, for the Aristotelian, entail that every single dog will in fact have four legs.  Bill grants this but says:

In parallel with this, Ed seems to be suggesting that while it is the nature of a form to be a form of something, it does not follow that every form is a form of something. I deny the parallel.  

But that is not what I was saying.  Yes, every form is the form of something.  And the human soul, which is (for the Aristotelian) a kind of form, is the form of the human body.  But it does not follow that it must at every moment be conjoined to the human body, any more than the fact that it is in a dog’s nature to have four legs entails that it will in fact have four legs.  That is the point I was making.  A full-grown dog in its normal state will always have four legs, but there are some dogs which due to abnormal conditions (injury, genetic defect, etc.) do not have four legs.  Similarly, the human soul in its normal state will be conjoined to the body it is the form of, but there are human souls which due to abnormal conditions (death) are not conjoined to their bodies.  

Hence when Bill goes on to object that “a form is a 'principle' not capable of independent existence in the manner of a primary substance,” the trouble is that this statement is ambiguous.  It could mean that the normal, paradigmatic way in which a form exists is only as part of a primary substance, and never as a primary substance itself.  If so, the hylemorphic dualist agrees.  But it could also mean -- or at least, Bill might think it entails -- that no form of any sort can ever exist even for an instant, even in an abnormal, non-paradigmatic way, apart from the primary substance of which it is a part.  And with this the hylemorphic dualist would not agree.  Indeed, this claim simply begs the question against the hylemorphic dualist.  

For this reason the discussion of Veatch and Bergmann that follows this remark of Bill’s is not to the point.  Indeed, if anything it helps my case.  For Bergmann had no Christian theological ax to grind, and yet he took a position that Bill regards as relevantly analogous to the Thomistic view of the soul we have been discussing.  And that is just further evidence that someone could have purely philosophical reasons for taking that sort of view, and not a mere Christian apologetic motivation for taking it.   

Remember, that is the issue that I have been addressing.  It seems to me that Bill keeps shifting the focus of his arguments between two claims -- the claim that hylemorphic dualism is true, and the claim that hylemorphic dualism can have a purely philosophical, non-apologetic rationale -- and writes as if his objections to the first claim somehow establish the falsity of the second.  But they don’t.  Thus, even if Bill has presented powerful objections to the first claim (though I don’t think he has) that would be irrelevant to the second claim, which is the one at issue.

Hence when Bill concludes his post by saying: 

[Ed] has not given me a reason why I should accept argument A below over argument B: 

Argument A:  The human soul can exist apart from its body; the human soul is the form of the human body; therefore, there are forms that can exist apart from the matter they inform. 

Argument B:  The human soul can exist apart from its body; no form can exist apart from the matter it informs; therefore, the human soul is not the form of the human body. 

the trouble is that I have not been trying to convince Bill to accept argument A over argument B.  Rather, I have been trying to convince him that argument A, no less than argument B, is an argument someone could adopt on purely philosophical grounds, and not merely on Christian apologetic grounds.  And I think I have shown that that much is true.  (For those who are interested, you can find my most detailed discussion and defense of hylemorphic dualism in chapter 4 of Aquinas.)

I want to end this post by emphasizing how much I value Bill’s criticisms.  I think that the most formidable general metaphysical systems fall into three categories: the broadly Aristotelian approach, especially as developed by Scholastics like Thomists, Scotists, and Suarezians; the broadly Platonic approach, especially as developed within the Neo-Platonic tradition; and the broad rationalist-idealist approach represented by moderns like Leibniz, Bradley, Whitehead, and many others.  Needless to say, my sympathies are with the first camp.  Bill, at least as I read him, tends to sympathize more with lines of argument representative of the latter two camps (which is not to say that he is “a Platonist” or “a rationalist” or “an idealist,” full stop).  The three traditions are united in their opposition to the naturalism that dominates contemporary philosophy, which dominance is (as I see it) historically aberrant and temporary, since naturalism is the least plausible of the alternatives.  (Most naturalists think otherwise, of course.  But as it happens, most naturalists also seem to know little of the other three traditions in question except the crudest caricatures, as is obvious to any Aristotelian, Platonist, rationalist, or idealist who reads what naturalists have to say about these systems.)

Given the shallow and historically ill-informed character of so much (not all, but much) contemporary naturalist argument, each of these three anti-naturalist systems has to look mainly to the other two rival systems for serious objections.  It is in that spirit -- and because of his erudition and philosophical acumen -- that I always value Bill’s criticisms.  (Incidentally, Bill’s very helpful remarks on my ACPQ paper “Existential Inertia and the Five Ways” saved me from a foolish mistake that I had made in the original draft.) 

65 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post.

I have a question, though, about the following:

It could mean that the normal, paradigmatic way in which a form exists is only as part of a primary substance, and never as a primary substance itself. If so, the hylemorphic dualist agrees.

But surely, the hylemorphic dualist need not accept that no form is paradigmatically independent of matter. Aristotle himself argued that the Intelligences were matterless forms, and St. Thomas provides philosophical grounds for taking God and angels to be the same. Or is that irrelevant for some reason?

Incidentally, would you consider Spinoza a member of the third camp?

Edward Feser said...

Anon,

Right, but for that reason, in the lines you quote I spoke of normally existing as part of a substance, not part of a material substance specifically.

Re: Spinoza, I guess I would, grudgingly. ;-) It's a looser camp, anyway.

Edward Feser said...

As in "more loosely defined"...

Aquinas3000 said...

This is one reason it would be good if we could get published the unpublished works of the Australian Thomist Doctor Austin Woodbury, one of the great Thomists (though relatively very unknown). If Vallicella read his 900 page Psychology then perhaps some of his questions would be answered! Incidentally I have his complete works and about half of it in electronic form.

Aaron said...

Great post, Ed. I have some questions about how the 3 intellects should be thought to be related to the human soul, as it exists after the death of the body, and how this may or may not be problematic for the notion of how a hylemorphic human soul can subsist after the death of the body.

Are the 3 different intellects thought to be "parts" of the human soul? Or is that question itself a misrepresentation of hylemorphism? I understand how, for example, a hand or leg are parts of the human person (the form + matter compound), but the passive, active and possible intellects I don't think are "parts" of a person in the same way a hand is a part of a person. The 3 intellects don't seem to be parts of the form and matter compound, but rather they are somehow "parts" of the form qua form, since they exist in the soul after the death of the body.

So, are the passive, active and possible intellects "parts" of the post-mortem human soul? I don't understand how this could be the case, since the post-mortem human soul would be an immaterial entity; but immaterial entities are by definition metaphysical simples, not composed of parts. If it's wrong to think of the 3 intellects as parts of the soul, then how exactly do they relate to the soul? How can I make sense of the human soul subsisting after the death of the body if this would mean the seemingly problematic notion of an immaterial entity that is composed of 3 different parts?

I'd also like to say that this exchange between Bill and Ed is a good example of why I try to read the blogs of these 2 great philosophers every day. Thank you for the intellectual smorgasbord, Ed.

Steven said...

Hello Dr Feser,

You said:

>> A. Hylemorphism is true.
B. So the human soul is the form of the body. <<

I think your response hasn't addressed Bill's original problem with hylemorphism: why should the soul be a form of the body?

As he says further in the post:

>> I do not question that the human soul in its normal state is associated with its body. And I do not question that it can exist apart from its body. What I am questioning is the conceptualization of the human soul as a form. And so, while Ed has said many things with which I agree, he has not given me a reason to retract my criticism. <<

Having given your posts a couple of reads -- albeit not necessarily the most careful reads -- it doesn't seem to me that you've addressed this issue; rather, the problem Bill has seems either to have been communicated less-than-ideally by Bill the first time around, or else missed by you in your reading of his post, or perhaps a mixture of both possibilities.

James said...

It's a looser camp, anyway

Sheesh, doc, I knew you had criticisms of Spinoza but that isn’t very sporting … :)

Anonymous said...

I think Jeff Brower's work on matter and form is very helpful here. He points out that form, like matter, is not really a kind term, but rather a functional term. (I should say that I'm probably oversimplifying and perhaps distorting, and Brower is obviously not responsible for whatever gross errors follow.) Whatever plays the role of matter is matter. Whatever plays the role of form is form. Matter doesn't have a nature, nor does form. So just as a substance can serve as matter for a change (and hence [i]be[/i] matter--in this case, the matter for an accidental change), so could a subsisting thing serve as the form of some substance. I mean, at least there's nothing in the nature of form that rules that latter possibility out, since there is no nature of form. If this is right, then Vallicella's objection is mistaken from the outset, because it proceeds from assumptions about what can be true of form qua form.

A related point: the doctrine of Transubstantiation is relevant here. Following the Consecration, the accidental forms that formerly inhered in the bread come to inhere in nothing. (Or, more strictly, I take it they inhere in the quantity, and the quantity inheres in nothing.) That makes these forms the forms of nothing. I don't know if that makes the ad hockery charge seem more or less worrisome. But it does mean that the human soul with its capacity to cease serving as the form of something is not quite so alone in St. Thomas's thinking as Vallicella suggests.

One last point, if I may. It appears everyone is conflating [i]immateriality[/i] with [i]subsistence[/i]. But that's a mistake. According to St. Thomas, all souls are immaterial. (Cf. ST I, 75, 1) But, of course, not all souls are subsistent. The dog's soul is every bit as immaterial as the human soul, but the dog soul is not subsistent. The human soul's subsistence does not derive from its immateriality, but from the fact that it has a per se operation.

P. Toner

Edward Feser said...

Hello Steven,

I'm not clear why you are puzzled. The answer is that that follows from hylemorphism. If hylemorphism is true, then human beings, like everything else, have a form. Since human beings are living things, their forms are souls (since "soul" for Aristotelians just means "form of a living thing"). And the soul is an active principle, that by virtue of which a living thing carries out its various operations.

Now with that much, Bill would agree at least for the sake of argument. My point is that if we add to this the arguments for dualism -- which entail that some of these operations are immaterial -- plus the principle that a thing's operations reflect the way it exists, then we have a defeasible reason to think hylemorphic dualism is true.

As I keep saying, I don't claim that this argument by itself establishes the truth of hylemorphic dualism beyond a reasonable doubt. That's not the issue Bill raised in the first place. The issue Bill raised was whether hylemorphic dualism could have a non-Christian-apologetic rationale. All I've been arguing in these posts is that it clearly could and does have one. In short, if someone thinks that there are serious philosophical arguments both for hylemorphism and for dualism and we add that there is no obvious contradiction between the two doctrines, then that much by itself gives us at least some philosophical reason to think hylemorphic dualism is true. That's a very modest claim but it's the claim that has been at issue between Bill and me. Now if you think there is a problem with that specific claim, please tell me what it is.

Solomon's Chariots said...

Hey Aquinas3000,

How would I get hold of Dr Woodbury's works?

machinephilosophy said...

Ed

Sheesh. You're the freakin Jimi Hendrix of Thomism, man. It would take me two days of doing nothing else but dissecting and analyzing this issue to really understand it well, plus I'm only 80 pages into The Last Superstition, my first serious foray into the subject. So I'll wait until I'm finished with both that and Chapter 4 of your Aquinas book, to weight in. No Jolt cola, I have to go straight to martinis with this stuff.

Tursunov said...

>"You're the freakin Jimi Hendrix of Thomism, man."

If a professional philosopher said this, I'd bet dollars to donuts that Ed would display it as a quote on his blog heading.

Solomon's Chariots said...

@Tursunov

Who wouldn't?!?!

Aquinas3000 said...

I think the way the argument is worded could be improved. We should be saying that the soul performs certain operations that by their nature are spiritual and thus requires a spiritual principle (and going into that is a whole other argument). Immorality is a necessary property of a spiritual principle. Once again more detail on that could be provided. I'm not really sure what the issue is since it is the nature of the soul to be the form of the body in that, when it is joined to the body it is what makes the body a living human being a complete whole, the composite that exists as a single subject or complete substance. Whilst capable of subsisting by itself it is nonetheless in an unnatural state. It misses the body. Just because it is the form of a body that has nothing to do with the issue of whether that form can subsist separately as incomplete substance. That all depends on the spirituality or lack thereof of the form. It might be difficult for someone to untangle the two but really one has no necessary implication on the other.

Solomon's Chariots: you might have to wait twenty years mate ;)

Anonymous said...

Honestly, if a hylomorphic subsistent soul necessitates creationism vs a more natural evolutionary emergence of spirit, I cannot see modern minds getting on board.

James said...

if a hylomorphic subsistent soul necessitates creationism vs a more natural evolutionary emergence of spirit, I cannot see modern minds getting on board.

[Obligatory George R]
So much the worse for them. Affirmation of evolutionary theory is the sort of heresy that would be, in a properly-run world, punishable by execution. Wait — did I say that outright — I only meant to imply it …
[/ObGeorgeR]

Anonymous said...

So it is the case that Thomists are creationists and deny evolution? There is no philosophic trick that squares A/T thinking with biology?

Michael said...

"So it is the case that Thomists are creationists and deny evolution? There is no philosophic trick that squares A/T thinking with biology?"

No, because someone could logically believe in creation and evolution with no contradiction.

What aspect of A/T thinking is in contradiction with biology?

Anonymous said...

Biologically, how and when does the 1st immaterial soul appear?

The Deuce said...

Hi, Ed. You said:

I'm not clear why you are puzzled. The answer is that that follows from hylemorphism. If hylemorphism is true, then human beings, like everything else, have a form. Since human beings are living things, their forms are souls (since "soul" for Aristotelians just means "form of a living thing"). And the soul is an active principle, that by virtue of which a living thing carries out its various operations.

Now with that much, Bill would agree at least for the sake of argument. My point is that if we add to this the arguments for dualism -- which entail that some of these operations are immaterial -- plus the principle that a thing's operations reflect the way it exists, then we have a defeasible reason to think hylemorphic dualism is true.


What about the possibility that the human body does have a form or soul, *and* that the human intellect is immaterial, but that these are two different things rather than the latter being a part of the former?

Solomon's Chariots said...

Just want to point out that Eric MacDonald is using heavy censure on his blog. Many comments that are even slightly critical of his postion or supportive of his opponent's arguments are held up for hours or even indefinitely in moderation while those that shout his praises into his echo chamber are approved almost immediately.

Looks like he can't handle open debate.

Solomon's Chariots said...

Just want to point out that that last post was in the wrong thread. :p

Anonymous said...

greetings good Professor,

a perhaps not entirely unrelated question I've been meaning to ask you is how the soul can remain individuated once it is separated from the principle of individuation i.e., designated matter?

my thanks in advance,
dida

Aquinas3000 said...

The soul still has a relation to the body as it is the soul of this particular body. It also has its own separate act of esse. The matter individuates it as this particular human being. Once it is separate from the body it is no longer a human being as such, since this refers to the composite. It is an incomplete substance that is capable of subsisting due to its spiritual character that has a relation to this particular body i.e it is the soul of this body.

George R said...

So it is the case that Thomists are creationists and deny evolution?

If what you mean is whether Thomism is incompatible with evolution and necessarily implies creationism, the answer is yes.

There is no philosophic trick that squares A/T thinking with biology?

Here’s a trick you might try: stop tendentiously indentifying biology with evolution.

No, because someone could logically believe in creation and evolution with no contradiction.

This is not at all to the point. The real question is whether one could logically believe in Thomistic hylemorphism and evolution with no contradiction. And the answer to that is emphatically “no.”

Jake said...

George R: "If what you mean is whether Thomism is incompatible with evolution and necessarily implies creationism, the answer is yes."

Lest anyone reading this get the wrong idea, I should point out that almost no Thomist believes this, unless by "evolution" you mean "blind random processes without final causation" and by "creationism" you are referring to God as the ultimate creator of everything that exists. Ed has pointed many times the compatibility of A-T with evolution, and I know of no Thomists (perhaps George R is an exception) who believe in young earth creationism.

Anonymous said...

The real question is whether one could logically believe in Thomistic hylemorphism and evolution with no contradiction. And the answer to that is emphatically “no.”

It appears to be so. And so the reason/faith schizophrenia goes on.

I can only see emergence of psyche, or soul, as in line with evolution and just plain common sense at the workings of things.

Jake said...

"Emergence" is just a code word for "we have no idea where this comes from." At least A-T provides a framework for understanding emergence in terms of final causation.

George R said...

Jake,
By evolution I mean the changing of one substance into another through a certain number of generations. This is impossible in Thomistic hylemorphism, and the reason is simple. According to hylemorphism, a substance is, strictly speaking, a composite of substantial form and primary matter, and that’s all. Therefore, in order for the substance to change or evolve, one of those two principles must change or evolve, but this is absolutely impossible. First of all, the substantial form can never be changed for the simple reason that no form whatsoever can be changed, for there is no potency in form per se. But neither can primary matter be changed, for any change to it would imply a reduction of potency to act, which is completely excluded from primary matter, which by definition is pure potency. Therefore, since the two principles of substances can never be changed, neither can the substances themselves be changed.

Jake writes:
Ed has pointed many times the compatibility of A-T with evolution, and I know of no Thomists (perhaps George R is an exception) who believe in young earth creationism.

As far as I know, Ed has never explicitly said that A-T was compatible with evolution. Perhaps you can cite some evidence to the contrary.

And btw, I can think of at least one Thomist who believed in YEC: Thomas Aquinas. Does he count?

Anonymous said...

AIUI, emergence means the parts add up to a whole that is not characterized by the parts.

I saw emergence explained in a way that actually reminds me of form: take 12 asterisks and form a circle with them, and 12 more to form a triangle. Now take 12 little happy faces and form another circle and put all three creations side by side. Note that you see the emergent form of two circles even though they do not have components in common; OTOH, with the asterisk creations you have the same number and same component types yet the emergent forms are totally dissimilar.

Not a bad way to approach philosophy of mind, really/

Josh said...

George R:

"And btw, I can think of at least one Thomist who believed in YEC: Thomas Aquinas. Does he count?"

I'd be interested to see your evidence for this, if you've got it around somewhere. Suppose he did, like Augustine. Would you grant that his philosophy would allow him to change his mind on such a point?

George R. said...

Josh, all the Fathers were YECs, and Thomas would never have gainsaid a teaching of all the Fathers. If he had, we would have surely heard about. Your inquiry, in fact, is somewhat anachronistic, since all orthodox Catholics were YECs back then. Only some heretical university Aristotelians rejected it, holding to Aristotle’s teaching that the world was eternal. As for evolutionists, there were none that I can think of.

As for Thomas’s philosophy, don’t you think my argument above closes the door on any notion of “Thomistic evolutionism?” If not, shoe me where it has failed.

Anonymous said...

afaic Origen and Jerome weren't YECs.

Anonymous said...

Thoughts on the emergence exemplification demonstrating how organization and principles of components determine different forms of being?

It seems even simpler and of greater explicablity than lylemorph.

Josh said...

As for Thomas’s philosophy, don’t you think my argument above closes the door on any notion of “Thomistic evolutionism?” If not, shoe me where it has failed.

ST, Q.68, Art. 1: "In discussing questions of this kind two rules are to observed, as Augustine teaches (Gen. ad lit. i, 18). The first is, to hold the truth of Scripture without wavering. The second is that since Holy Scripture can be explained in a multiplicity of senses, one should adhere to a particular explanation, only in such measure as to be ready to abandon it, if it be proved with certainty to be false; lest Holy Scripture be exposed to the ridicule of unbelievers, and obstacles be placed to their believing."

George R. said...

afaic Origen and Jerome weren't YECs.

Anon, two questions: 1) What the heck does “afaic” mean? and 2) Do you have any evidence at all to back up this assertion, or are you just messing with us?

Anonymous said...

Different Anon - still wondering>

"Thoughts on the emergence exemplification demonstrating how organization and principles of components determine different forms of being?"

Lee Faber said...

So immaterial human souls have a different principle of individuation out of the body than in the body? So really for Thomas there are lots of principles. At one time it's matter, at another time it's a relation. But a relation requires two fundamenta. How can there be a relation to a non existent (the body)? All you've got is one term and a relation to nowheresville.

Anonymous said...

George R,

1) What the heck does “afaic” mean?

"As far as I'm concerned."

2) Do you have any evidence at all to back up this assertion, or are you just messing with us?

No, I'm not messing with you. Here is Origen's commentary on Genesis (from his De Principiis 4.16). Quote:

"Now who is there, pray, possessed of understanding, that will regard the statement as appropriate, that the first day, and the second, and the third, in which also both evening and morning are mentioned, existed without sun, and moon, and stars— the first day even without a sky? And who is found so ignorant as to suppose that God, as if He had been a husbandman, planted trees in paradise, in Eden towards the east, and a tree of life in it, i.e., a visible and palpable tree of wood, so that anyone eating of it with bodily teeth should obtain life, and, eating again of another tree, should come to the knowledge of good and evil? No one, I think, can doubt that the statement that God walked in the afternoon in paradise, and that Adam lay hid under a tree, is related figuratively in Scripture, that some mystical meaning may be indicated by it."

Regarding Jerome, C.S. Lewis points out the following, in his Reflections on the Psalms:

"[...]Some people find the miraculous so hard to believe that they cannot imagine any reason for my acceptance of it other than a prior belief that every sentence of the Old Testament has historical or scientific truth. But this I do not hold, any more than St. Jerome did when he said that Moses described Creation “after the manner of a popular poet” (as we should say, mythically) or than Calvin did when he doubted whether the story of Job were history or fiction [...]"

And while we are at it, check out this and this by St. Augustine.

Anonymous said...

So emergence is anathema, or at best just foolish, but a literal reading of the Bible...that's the subject for serious 21st century Catholic metaphysics. Geeze.

George R. said...

First of all, Anon, Origen was not really considered a true Church Father because of his many errors on matters of faith. Moreover, nowhere in the passage you quote does Origen refer to the subject of the age of the world. But the worst part (for you) is that Origen explicitly taught precisely what you suggest he didn't believe.

Origen, Against Celsus, Book 1 Chapters 19, 20:

After these statements, Celsus, from a secret desire to cast discredit upon the Mosaic account of the creation, which teaches that the world is not yet ten thousand years old, but very much under that, while concealing his wish, intimates his agreement with those who hold that the world is uncreated. For, maintaining that there have been, from all eternity, many conflagrations and many deluges, and that the flood which lately took place in the time of Deucalion is comparatively modern, he clearly demonstrates to those who are able to understand him, that, in his opinion, the world was uncreated. But let this assailant of the Christian faith tell us by what arguments he was compelled to accept the statement that there have been many conflagrations and many cataclysms, and that the flood which occurred in the time of Deucalion, and the conflagration in that of Phæthon, were more recent than any others. And if he should put forward the dialogues of Plato (as evidence) on these subjects, we shall say to him that it is allowable for us also to believe that there resided in the pure and pious soul of Moses, who ascended above all created things, and united himself to the Creator of the universe, and who made known divine things with far greater clearness than Plato, or those other wise men (who lived) among the Greeks and Romans, a spirit which was divine. And if he demands of us our reasons for such a belief, let him first give grounds for his own unsupported assertions, and then we shall show that this view of ours is the correct one.

Chapter 20
And yet, against his will, Celsus is entangled into testifying that the world is comparatively modern, and not yet ten thousand years old, when he says that the Greeks consider those things as ancient, because, owing to the deluges and conflagrations, they have not beheld or received any memorials of older events.

Anonymous said...

George,

That's cool, then. By "YEC" I didn't mean the whole 6000 years thing, but a literal Genesis that doesn't mean interpretation/commentary. My bad.

Anyhow, Origen's orthodoxy was doubted for a long time, but he has been revived as of late. Pope Benedict has made many positive remarks about his work. Maybe one day we'll call him a "true Church father."

(Word verification "sapidi" augh yea).

Mr. Green said...

George R: By evolution I mean the changing of one substance into another through a certain number of generations. This is impossible in Thomistic hylemorphism

But that's now what anyone else means by "evolution" — or at the very least, that's not a reasonable or necessary meaning in a Thomistic context. I acknowledge that the wording "species changing into different species" or "animals evolving into new kinds" is liable to such a metaphysically-impossible interpretation, but I submit that it's only intended as a loose way of speaking, and acceptably so in casual conversation. It's like those cartoons that show a creature crawling out the sea and sprouting limbs and so on as the animation morphs from one kind of drawing to the next — nobody is claiming that a single animal was squashed and stretched until an eel ended up as an elephant. Similarly, biological evolution of species does not claim that any individual ever changed its species, only that animals of one species can (occasionally) produce offspring that belong to another species. And this claim is entirely possible under Thomism.

Of course, "evolution" and "creation" are terms that are bandied about with a plethora of different and subtly incompatible meanings, so it's necessary to define exactly what is meant practically every time they are used, but I think the definition I used above — "organisms producing offspring of a different kind" — is the relevant one here.

Michael Sullivan said...

To add to what Mr Green is saying, from a scholastic point of view the process of evolution is contrary to the nature of any given species even if compatible with nature in the wider sense. Natural selection and random mutation require that sometimes an organism by chance produces what a scholastic would rightly think of as a monstrum, a corruption of the species whereby the whole of the specific form fails to be passed on from cause to effect. Most of the time, as is normal with monsters, the corruptions simply die out. Sometimes, again by chance from the point of view of the original reproducing species, the monstrum with a distorted kind is better able to survive than its parent which failed to adequately pass on its specific form. The monsters multiply, their own (new) kind is perpetuated, the earlier species ceases to exist, etc.

So, while the Aristotelian teaching that in natural kinds like produces like in a multiplication of instances of a single specific form is true (dogs produce dogs not cats), it is true in the sense that it is natural and "natural" is what happens "always or for the most part" - while evolution depends on the occasional instances that happen outside of the main stream of nature - not always and not for the most part, but occasionally - to explain the appearance of new natures.

To my mind there's nothing inconsistent with Thomism in this account.

George R. said...

Natural selection and random mutation require that sometimes an organism by chance produces what a scholastic would rightly think of as a monstrum, a corruption of the species whereby the whole of the specific form fails to be passed on from cause to effect.

The problem, of course, Michael, is that from an A-T point of view the specific form is one and indivisible. Therefore, any suggestion that a part of the form is passed on while another part is not is absurd (again, from an A-T point of view). This is the whole thrust of my argument, and why I say that one must either reject Thomism or reject evolution.

Michael Sullivan said...

George, I don't say that part of the form is passed on and part is not. What I say is that a specific form is generated which is similar to but not identical with that of the generator, because of some distortion or corruption of the matter, so that the end of generation - the communication of the specific form - is partially fulfilled, in that something is generated, but not wholly fulfilled, because through some per accidens interference in the process of generation what is generated is not specifically identical with the generator. And that this does happen is an empirical fact, since monstrosities and "sports" do in fact occur, although not always or for the most part.

The theory of evolution demands that such monstrosities or sports happen frequently enough and that they are often enough not harmful but beneficial to the monster as to explain the gradual variation of species. Whether such in fact occurs is again not a matter for philosophy but for empirical research.

George R. said...

…because through some per accidens interference in the process of generation what is generated is not specifically identical with the generator. And that this does happen is an empirical fact, since monstrosities and "sports" do in fact occur, although not always or for the most part.

Michael, are you claiming that every once in a while a woman gives birth to a non-human being? Or that, now and then, two dogs generate a non-dog, and that this is an “empirical fact?” If so, I am amazed, because I’m quite sure that no such event has ever been recorded.

As for your suggestion that accidental interference could conceivably cause such an event, this, as I’ve argued many times, is metaphysically absurd. For, while accidental interference can cause sometimes that nothing be generated, or, in the case of mutations, that a real ugly thing be generated, it can never cause something substantially different to be generated. And the reason for this is that substantial form does not actualize determinate matter but primary matter, which can never be qualified by accidental forms, or corruptions, or whatever else.

Michael Sullivan said...

George, a horse and a donkey generate something which is neither a horse nor a donkey. I'm no biologist and I'll leave it to someone who knows better to come up with more nuanced examples. My understanding is that what usually happens in these sorts of cases is that two dogs generate something which is mostly doggish but has some trait that does not belong to caninity, a new difference, which then multiplies.

And the reason for this is that substantial form does not actualize determinate matter but primary matter, which can never be qualified by accidental forms, or corruptions, or whatever else.

Now this I disagree with, for a variety of metaphysical reasons. One of these reasons is that act implies potency, and biologists tell us that these sorts of things actually happen. Mutations large and small as a result of radiation or whatever do occur, and cumulatively these give rise to new natural kinds. I understand that this has been actually observed in the case of small organisms with rapid lifespans where large numbers of generations can be monitored. If your metaphysics insists that events are impossible which are observed to happen, your metaphysics is wrong.

However, your principle that I'm taking issue with revolves around the unicity of substantial form, and that might be an argument for another day.

George R. said...

Michael, I suggest you investigate into what biologists have and have not actually discovered, and contemplate more on what exactly substantial being is and what it isn’t. You seem to be a little hazy on this subject.

Btw, I'll let you in on a little secret: no one knows more than biologists what a complete crock Darwinism is, but it's the ruling paradigm in academia, and, therefore, must be adored.

Michael Sullivan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Sullivan said...

George, I'm not hazy. I'm just not a Thomist. Nor a Darwinist, for that matter.

George R. said...

If you weren't hazy, you would be a Thomist.

StoneTop said...

while evolution depends on the occasional instances that happen outside of the main stream of nature

It is important to note that this is not true... Though massive mutations can occur suddenly the process of speciation usually occurs over the span of generations.

"Species" is just a term given to a collection of closely related animals viewed through a narrow slice of time. If we looked at a species across time, say by taking you and showing all your ancestors back to the first cell, we would see a relatively smooth continuum. You could pick out individual species, but there would likely be no single point in continuum where you could say "before this point was species A, after this point was species B"

Michael Sullivan said...

"Species" is just a term given to a collection of closely related animals viewed through a narrow slice of time

Maybe that's true in biology, but it's not true in a non-nominalist metaphysics. For metaphysics "species" is the quidditative form(ality) that all individuals of the same kind have in common.

StoneTop said...

For metaphysics "species" is the quidditative form(ality) that all individuals of the same kind have in common.

So then how does the metaphysical term "species" synch up with actual species?

I am a human, but follow my ancestry back a million years is my ancestor then a human? How about twenty million? If they are not human then when exactly did that change occur?

Michael Sullivan said...

From the metaphysicians' perspective of course his sense of "species" is the actual species as opposed to biologists' classifications. What metaphysics is concerned to explain is primarily the actual individuals that exist. What actually exists is a lot of human beings that have a certain formal structure in common.

I am a human, but follow my ancestry back a million years is my ancestor then a human? How about twenty million? If they are not human then when exactly did that change occur?

Well, personally I don't know enough about my distant ancestors to answer that question. George says such a change is impossible.

To my mind the difficulty in clearly demarcating the line between species or the existence of intermediate forms is irrelevant to the question of whether there is a real species here and now. There is a clear difference between myself and a monkey which does not exist between myself and my father. That specific difference is not eliminated just because I might be faced with a hard intermediate case: hard cases make bad law.

It's like this: between medieval verse romances and modern prose novels there is a clear specific difference. Any decently literate person could spot the difference instantly when faced with a good example of each. And there was a definite change in literary productions which led to the near-complete extinction of the former and the rise of the latter. The fact that there might be some funny intermediate novelistic verse works or prose romances etc which are hard to classify or may be sui generis doesn't mean that there's no real commonality between Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy on the one hand, against Chretien de Troyes and the Gawain-poet on the other.

The "relatively smooth continuum" of the development of English literature from the verse romances to Malory to Sidney to Defoe to Richardson to Scott to Dickens etc, along with intermediates and outliers and what not, doesn't abrogate the real specific commonality of form between novels on the one hand and verse romances on the other. What primarily exists are the individual works and their real commonalities and individualities, while the chain of ancestry and our classifications are secondary.

This is how I think of living things as well.

StoneTop said...

From the metaphysicians' perspective of course his sense of "species" is the actual species as opposed to biologists' classifications

That doesn't make much sense... unless you are trying to deliberately construct a definition of "species" that does not allow for evolution to take place.

What actually exists is a lot of human beings that have a certain formal structure in common.

Yep, but that has not always been the case. Go back a few million years and "human beings that have a certain formal structure in common" will not be found... thus the question becomes when did proto-human become human?

Well, personally I don't know enough about my distant ancestors to answer that question. George says such a change is impossible.

Well George is rather obviously wrong. H.sapiens have only been around for about 250000 years, so there was clearly a time when there were no humans, and there are clearly humans now. Looking back at the remains we can see a rather clear line between the hominids (of which we are a part) and the rest of the great apes. The Australopithecus is more human then the rest of the great apes, but not as human as H. habilis, who in turn is not as human H. heidelbergensis.

To my mind the difficulty in clearly demarcating the line between species or the existence of intermediate forms is irrelevant to the question of whether there is a real species here and now. There is a clear difference between myself and a monkey which does not exist between myself and my father.

True, and there are clear differences between you and I which do not exist between us and our fathers.

Please not that my original comment was a response to:

while evolution depends on the occasional instances that happen outside of the main stream of nature

So talking about species as collections of lifeforms with common traits as they exist now has nothing to do with what I was originally addressing... which was that evolutionary change is not based on occasional instances out side of the main stream of nature... but rather that evolutionary changes are part of the "main stream" of nature.

You and your father are similar, and you are similar to your grandfather (though not as much as your father). So to are you similar to me, but not as similar as you are to your siblings (should you have any). And so to are you similar to a bird, but not as similar as you are to a spider monkey.

Michael Sullivan said...

unless you are trying to deliberately construct a definition of "species" that does not allow for evolution to take place.

Not at all, it's just that the biologist and the philosopher have different concerns. For the philosopher "humanity" is like "circularity" - a matter for definition and recognition of what fits that definition. But the definition doesn't change. And "humanity" no more means "this group of interrelated individuals" than "circularity" does.

thus the question becomes when did proto-human become human?

The question for who? It's a question for the paleontologist, but for the philosopher the question is "what is a man?"

You and your father are similar, and you are similar to your grandfather (though not as much as your father). So to are you similar to me, but not as similar as you are to your siblings (should you have any). And so to are you similar to a bird, but not as similar as you are to a spider monkey.

The way you're looking at this seems to suppose that there are no really common quidditative properties, only greater and lesser degrees of similarity. To the realist metaphysician there is a real sense in which I and you and your father and my father are not merely more or less similar but the same - that is, with respect to our shared humanity - and all of us and any monkey are different. This is, strictly speaking, what defines us.

George R. said...

Not at all, it's just that the biologist and the philosopher have different concerns.

Michael, this sounds like the infamous "doctrine of the double truth." Are you suggesting that something can be both true for the philosopher and false for the biologist at the same time?

Michael Sullivan said...

George, frankly, that's a ludicrous reading of my comment.

What I was suggesting, of course, is that the modern biologist as such does not seem to be interested in essences.

StoneTop said...

And "humanity" no more means "this group of interrelated individuals" than "circularity" does

But doesn't circularity similarly represent a group of objects related by way of a property?

It's a question for the paleontologist, but for the philosopher the question is "what is a man?"

Well aren't those similar questions? After all once you have defined what a man is you can then apply that definition to an organism to determine what a man is.

The way you're looking at this seems to suppose that there are no really common quidditative properties, only greater and lesser degrees of similarity.

Yep... even though you and I are similar we are only identical in the broadest of categories (like the number of limbs or such).

To the realist metaphysician there is a real sense in which I and you and your father and my father are not merely more or less similar but the same - that is, with respect to our shared humanity - and all of us and any monkey are different.

So at what point did that humanity emerge? And what is that "shared humaniyt"?

StoneTop said...

What I was suggesting, of course, is that the modern biologist as such does not seem to be interested in essences.

Why not? Questions of how/why we think and act are very much a part of biology.

Martin said...

I went looking for this James Chastek post, I can't keep up with the conversation but I can see the relatedness

http://thomism.wordpress.com/2010/12/17/modes-of-considering-the-false/#comments

StoneTop said...

I went looking for this James Chastek post, I can't keep up with the conversation but I can see the relatedness

You should realize that the term "Darwinism" is something of a red flag indicating that someone doesn't understand either Darwin's work or the "Modern Synthesis Theory of Evolution" (which is the current form of the theory Darwin first proposed).

But... as to the discussion you liked to... It seems like the author is trying to develop a definition of species that allows him to say "species don't evolve".

But then all that is being said at that point is that X qualities define man. Which is well in line with Biology, as you have proto-human -> human -> {post-human or extinction}.

You are still building a group of related properties and then calling any organism that has those properties a man.

One Brow said...

Dr. Feser,

I have not yet read part three, so perhaps you will answer my quesiton there.

Edward Feser said...
If hylemorphism is true, then human beings, like everything else, have a form. Since human beings are living things, their forms are souls (since "soul" for Aristotelians just means "form of a living thing"). And the soul is an active principle, that by virtue of which a living thing carries out its various operations.

Thois is actually very close to the Jehovah's Witness notion of a soul, interestingly enough. However, it ties the operations of the form to the activities of the matter.

My point is that if we add to this the arguments for dualism -- which entail that some of these operations are immaterial --

However, these operations can not be wholly immaterial, as you have described a form. If the form is the processes by which activities are carried out in matter, than even operations which have an immaterial target or goal must be carried out in the physical substrate.

Vallicella's soul seems more strongly dualist than your form, and you seem to be conflating the two notions. YOur vgersion of the soul offers no substrate over which wholly immaterial operations can be carried out.