Thursday, February 9, 2012

Review of Atkins and Feyerabend

Readers of the Claremont Review of Books may want to look for my review, in the latest issue, of Peter Atkins’ On Being and Paul Feyerabend’s The Tyranny of Science.  Feyerabend’s book (which would more accurately have been called The Tyranny of Scientism) is a small gem.  Atkins’ book, not so much.  At the moment the review is behind a pay wall, but my understanding is that the content will eventually be made available online for free.  So you could wait.  Or you could do the fine folks at CRB a favor and subscribe.

107 comments:

goddinpotty said...

You and Feyerabend make strange allies -- didn't he just about invent the idea of eliminative materialism?

Gio said...

Hi Dr. Feser - do you have any plans on reviewing "Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized"? Multiple adherents to naturalism say it's a knock-out case for it, so I would be interested in knowing what you have to say about it.

Edward Feser said...

You and Feyerabend make strange allies -- didn't he just about invent the idea of eliminative materialism?

Nobody's perfect.

do you have any plans on reviewing "Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized"?

It's a target of some work in progress. Stay tuned.

Johnny said...

Hello Dr. Feser.

I know you earlier mentioned Krauss' work, and that there might be a review/critique coming soon. Hope it's still in the cards! (Although I know you're a busy man!)

Best,

-Johnny

goddinpotty said...

Hi, this is off-topic, but several people have been urging me to read Feser's book, which I am in the process of doing. When I got to page 88 and his discussion of increasingly sophisticated forms of theism, I had the same question I always have, so thought I may as well ask it here.

The reasonably sophisticated, Aquinas-ish interpretaton reads: "God is not an object or substance alongside other objects or substances in the world; rather,; He is pure being or existence itself..." Well, if I may let my inner atheist speak, I have no problem with "existence itself" or even "pure being". It's only when those ideas are anthropomorphized and used as clubs to control human behavior (eg sexual behavior) do I start to object to it. But even Richard Dawkins believes in "existence itself". If both theists and atheists agree that the primitive literalist god doesn't exist (that is, as a separate being, old-man-with-beard etc) is not real, then "exists" means something different than its usual meaning.

Feser goes on: "None of the concepts we apply to things in the world...apply to God in anything but an analogous sense". Again, I don't find this problematical at all. But -- isn't existence itself one of those concepts? It makes little sense to say that "existence itself" exists (or doesn't exist, for that matter). Every time I hear theists and atheists bashing each other's brains out I want to grab them both by the collars and say, look, if you settle what you mean by existence you might find that you actually have nothing to fight about.

Well, of course that would never work, because theists and atheists don't just disagree about "existence" and its variant interpretations, they disagree about all sorts of other things like the inerrancy of the Church or whether it "existence itself" hates it if you employ your genitalia in a nonstandard way.

Anyway, I would be very appreciative to get a serious answer to the above question, or to put it another way, if God can only be approached through analogy (which makes sense to me), then we don't even really know what we mean to say he exists or doesn't exist. What's the fighting over?

Tom said...

goddinpotty ,

According to Aquinas' five ways we know God must exist.

Crude said...

If both theists and atheists agree that the primitive literalist god doesn't exist (that is, as a separate being, old-man-with-beard etc) is not real, then "exists" means something different than its usual meaning.

First, not all theists are classical theists. Mormons, for example, do believe in a 'separate being' like that. Old man with a beard? I'm not so sure that's fair even there. But they, and others, have a very different view of god.

Second, one of the points of The Last Superstition is that theists and atheists, at least the atheists prominently seen nowadays, do not merely differ on "does God exist or not?". They differ on ontology, on metaphysics, on philosophy in general. You can put the question of God aside, and still you're going to find a huge gulf between Aristo-Thomists and naturalists.

Of course, not every atheist is a naturalist. (See Russell, etc, agnostic as he was.)

Jinzang said...

"Being" is a slippery term. It meant one thing to Kant, another to Hegel, and yet another to Aquinas. And these differences are important. To the modern positivist/skeptic "to be" seems to mean to be a theoretical term in a confirmed scientific theory. Or so it seems to me.

dguller said...

goddinpotty:

I hear ya. Regarding the Five Ways, the first four purport to demonstrate the existence of a necessary Being. It is the Fifth Way that purports to demonstrate that this Being has an intellect and will. Unfortunately, the Fifth Way seems the weakest to me -- since it is essentially an argument from analogy from the human ability to create artifacts to a divine mind --and without it, or some other argument that shows that Pure Act must have an intellect and will, then there is simply no way that Pure Act can be construed as anything like the God of the Bible or any other theist religious text.

Edward Feser said...

Hi dguller,

It's true that, of the Five Ways, the Fifth is the only one that that makes direct reference to the divine intellect in the body of the argument itself. But that doesn't mean that the other four don't get you there too. It's just that secondary argumentation is needed, as it is for the other divine attributes. In other words, just as the First Way by itself doesn't make reference to omnipotence (say) but omnipotence can nevertheless be derived once you've got a purely actual unmoved mover via further principles and premises, so too does the intellect of the unmoved mover follow, and would still follow even if one rejected the Fifth Way.

The way the derivation goes is by way of the Principle of Proportionate Causality together with the A-T account of intellect. Whatever is in an effect -- which in this case is the entire created order -- must in some way be in the cause. Hence whatever is in the world in some way pre-exists in God. But it can't be in God in the manner in which it is in the world, since God is immaterial, one rather than many, etc. The only way to make sense of this is in terms of the forms of all things pre-existing together in this one cause. But only intellects can take on forms without becoming things of the sort the forms are forms of, and can thus take on more than one form at a time -- that's just waht an intellect is, on the A-T analysis. Hence God is an intellect. Etc. Obviously that's just a rough sketch, but the point is that the argumentation is not the same as what one finds in the Fifth Way (i.e. it doesn't proceed by way of appeal to immanent final causes).

Edward Feser said...

Hi Johnny,

Yes, a review of Krauss is in the works.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Feser,

This link might be considered slanderous, so please feel free to remove this comment. I just wanted to forward it to you in case you wanted to respond; perhaps you'll think it a good sampling of common misunderstandings and oversimplifications of your views. I hope nothing about the link is offensive.

http://americanloons.blogspot.com/2011/01/1285-edward-feser.html

Edward Feser said...

Hi Anonymous,

Yeah, I saw that some time back, and I'm aware that one of my online stalkers recently linked to it. But if I responded to every lunatic with a computer who posts crap like that about me, I'd be doing nothing else.

dguller said...

Ed:

Thanks for that helpful explanation.

My problem with that line of argument is that there is always a crucial point in the chain of reasoning where one has established that there must be an immaterial “something” that guides the development of a material being, for example. The question is what this “something” is supposed to be. It is at this point that the human ability to create artifacts by holding the plans for the artifacts in our intellects is brought up. One then says that this “something” must be like our intellect, and thus must be an intellect.

As you can see, this is essentially an argument from analogy, which should have no place in a metaphysical demonstration, because such demonstrations are akin to logical and mathematical proofs. Using an argument from analogy introduces uncertainty, because such arguments presuppose that there is a commonality between two analogates, when this commonality is supposed to be demonstrated. As such, they simply beg the question.

Furthermore, when you say that “only intellects can take on forms without becoming things of the sort the forms are forms of, and can thus take on more than one form at a time”, it would be better to say that the only thing that we know of that can take on forms without becoming things is an intellect. Unfortunately, once you concede that this is just a matter of our epistemic limitations, then it further limits the ontological conclusions you can draw from them. In other words, it is not a valid argument from as far as I know, X to necessarily, X. Perhaps there are other ways in the universe where forms can be taken in by something without it becoming what the form points to. Therefore, what is supposed to be a metaphysical demonstration becomes a probabilistic argument.

Finally, even if the argument showed that there must be “something” that contains all forms, is that what an intellect is supposed to be? Sure, it’s part of it, but there also should be the capacity for rational contemplation, and that isn’t shown by the demonstration of an immaterial bucket full of forms. That’s an important gap. And there’s nothing in here about will, either, which is the other essential mental property required to demonstrate the bare minimum of the type of mind God is supposed to have.

Thanks!

dguller said...

Ed:

Oh, and I hope you saw my comments on Krauss' book regarding his discussion of "nothing". As you mentioned regarding other physicists, it is simply a shell game where "nothing" is redefined from its traditional meaning to a meaning that makes it scientifically understandable, but which illicitly turns it into "something"!

Also, thanks for letting my discussion with Jack and Michael about the doctrine of analogy go on as long as it did without cutting it short. :)

Martin said...

dguller,

One way I tend to think about the "intelligence" of the Thomistic God is to think about what "existence itself" would mean. It would mean the common ground, or substrate, of everything that exists. Therefore, it's the ground of every true proposition. So it doesn't have knowledge, but as Aquinas would say it is knowledge itself. This follows from it being existence itself, which is what pure actuality is.

As for the Fifth Way, I don't think the core argument is an argument from analogy. Dr Feser provides a syllogism in his Aquinas book:

For a cause to have any efficacy, it must in some sense exist. Therefore:

1. Final causes exist either in reality, or in a mind (since Aquinas is not a Platonist and there is no Third Realm)
2. They do not exist in reality (because they haven't happened yet).
3. Therefore, they must exist in a mind

And another way of arguing it is to say that whatever orders things to their ends must also be whatever determines what they are, which is whatever puts their essence together with an act of existence. So it is the same thing as in the Second Way/existential proof.

Frank said...

Does anyone know if Atkins coined the jarring phrase, 'adipose brain'? He used it in a debate against William Lane Craig and it's the only time I have heard it used by anyone. I got the sense he thought it was pretty smart. I thought it made him look like a show off and it was a dumb way to imply that believers have lazy minds; without a constant supply of particular fats the human brain won't function so I'll quite happily admit to having an adipose brain.

Oh yeah, that's the guy Dawkins thinks should get a Nobel prize for literature.

machinephilosophy said...

"Being" is a slippery term.

Except, of course, when it's used implicitly in the present active indicative form of the verb to be in the above statement.

To the modern positivist/skeptic "to be" seems to mean to be a theoretical term in a confirmed scientific theory.

I'm sure glad "to be" gets a free ride when used in discussions that pretend to arbitrate the notion, even though the verb is used non-controversially in those discussions themselves.

Now let's get back to accusing Ed and other theists of intellectual hypocrisy by using self-exempted universal claims that refer to themselves.

goddinpotty said...

@machinephilosophy, what? Yes, "being" is a slippery term; almost everything in these discussions is a slippery term; that doesn't mean we can't employ them. If it means our utterances are not rigorously formal statements of logic but more like vague gesturing towards the ineffable, that is an unavoidable fact of the limitations of language and our minds.

Maybe you guys aren't that different from eliminative materialists after all. They too think that the world can be discussed exclusively in crisp, no-nonsense facts. You're both wrong.

Alan Roebuck said...

@ goddinpotty,

For once, I sympathize with you, although I’m a Christian. Proofs of God are notoriously subjective: a proof that one man finds persuasive and even impressive leaves another man cold.

In this case, if one has to learn the Aristotelico-Thomistic philosophical system in order correctly to prove God, then one may be tempted to give up. There are, however, other ways to know.

As you say, it is ultimately a matter of grasping something that cannot fully be articulated. Institutionalized atheism makes one blind to the reality of God, and a good proof can help one break through the blindness.

When you say “You’re both wrong,” though, I part company with you. It is possible to know God, although, of course, not fully.

BeingItself said...

Martin,

Is that syllogism a paraphrase or is it exactly that? I don't have the book.

Josh said...

Dguller,

Once more into the fray...

One then says that this “something” must be like our intellect, and thus must be an intellect.

But because of our relation to God, and the principle of proportionate causality, we understand God's intellect to be eminent. So our intellect is like God's, not the other way around.

it would be better to say that the only thing that we know of that can take on forms without becoming things is an intellect.

And how is this not an argument from ignorance along the lines of your argument against the PNC: "the only reality we know is the one where the PNC holds, but there may be one deeper where it does not..."

machinephilosophy said...

Maybe you guys aren't that different from eliminative materialists after all. They too think that the world can be discussed exclusively in crisp, no-nonsense facts. You're both wrong.

Unfortunately, you yourself can't know that alleged unknowability fact itself---much less any alleged "wrongness"---and that by your own drunk-hanging-onto-a-lampost excuse for criteria.

But then you can't even recognize predicative self-reference, even when it comes from your own posturing mindlessness.

Look in the mirror and tell yourself that all generalizations are false and that no one can utter a statement in English, over and over and over, and then go out and proclaim to all the world the non-slipperyness of your own claims about slipperyness.

goddinpotty said...

@machinephilosophy -- you sound either dense or nuts, or possibly both. Maybe you could try to be a little bit clearer.

Yes, if all statements are slippery than this very statement is itself slippery. Duh. Do you expect me to start emitting smoke like a Star Trek computer confronted with a paradox just because you point it out?

A lot of you theists seems to think you invented reflexivity yesterday and it somehow magically only undermines the positions you don't like.

Martin said...

BeingItself,

That's a syllogism right in the book, although not presented with numbers. It's buried in a paragraph near the end of the subsection on the Fifth Way.

dguller said...

Martin:

So it doesn't have knowledge, but as Aquinas would say it is knowledge itself. This follows from it being existence itself, which is what pure actuality is.

Here’s where I get into problems with divine simplicity. I cannot understand how a divine intellect, which is supposed to be simple and without composite parts, can possible contain all forms. I mean, are the forms outside the divine intellect, which is simple? And if they are inside the divine intellect, then how can there not be parts to it? It seems to me, at least, that this should count as a reductio ad absurdum of the very idea of divine simplicity.

Final causes exist either in reality, or in a mind (since Aquinas is not a Platonist and there is no Third Realm)

This presupposes the truth of an ontology exclusively containing only things and minds, whereby final causes must either be in things or in minds. Why believe this?

Also, why can’t final causes exist in a thing’s nature?

And another way of arguing it is to say that whatever orders things to their ends must also be whatever determines what they are, which is whatever puts their essence together with an act of existence. So it is the same thing as in the Second Way/existential proof.

I think that is what Ed is referring to when he involves the principle of proportionate causality. Everything comes from the Necessarily Existing Ground of All Being, which exists as Pure Act. Since every thing has a form, then that form must have come from the NEGAB, and thus the form must be a part of NEGAB to give to every thing. And that is fine. My question is whether this necessarily implies that the NEGAB must have an intellect to contain these forms. Yes, the only way that humans know about whereby such a thing is possible is through an intellect, but that does not mean that it is the only way possible. In other words, how do you argue from as far as we know, X to necessarily, X?

dguller said...

Josh:

But because of our relation to God, and the principle of proportionate causality, we understand God's intellect to be eminent. So our intellect is like God's, not the other way around.

Begs the question, I think. We have to first demonstrate by metaphysical necessity that God has an intellect to begin with. As far as I can tell, it ultimately comes down to the fact that Pure Act must contain all forms by virtue of proportionate causality, and that the only way for this to be possible is if Pure Act had an intellect to contain the forms. My problem with it is that it is based upon our human experience of our own intellect, and then concluding that this is the only way it is possible to contain forms. Perhaps there are other creatures in the universe that do things differently?

One possible solution is to simply define any containment of forms without becoming what the forms are about as intellect.

And how is this not an argument from ignorance along the lines of your argument against the PNC: "the only reality we know is the one where the PNC holds, but there may be one deeper where it does not..."

I’ll admit that my argument against the PNC goes to the very limit of intelligibility, and possibly beyond it into incoherence. That is not the case when it comes to the divine intellect. It is certainly not unintelligible or incoherent to deny that Pure Act has Intellect.

Westcountryman said...

Dguller

I'm more a Platonic Christian than an Aristotelian, but one way to understand divine simplicity is like a ray of pure light that is refracted into the various colours of the spectrum.

Within the light at its source it contains all the spectrum of colours but in a simple, rather than compound, Unity or Monad. It is only from the perspective of those to whom the ray falls that the different refracted aspects of light they see take on a determinant and separated existence. At all times though the coloured light has gets it existence from its source.

One way to consider God's Intellect in comparison to ours is to realise we are somewhat Subject and somewhat Object. We contain a degree of both; we have free will and subjectivity and Intellect, unlike say a rock which is an Object completely(or at least almost so) and lacks Intellect completely, but we are also still, to a degree, an Object, having physical limitations and limits to our Subjectivity and everyday Intellect. God is Pure Subject, so to speak, he is not an Object at all. Therefore God certainly has an Intellect, as this is a basic part of Subjectivity. Indeed our Intellect and status as a Subject is related to God's, and not the other way around.

dguller said...

Westcountryman:

Within the light at its source it contains all the spectrum of colours but in a simple, rather than compound, Unity or Monad. It is only from the perspective of those to whom the ray falls that the different refracted aspects of light they see take on a determinant and separated existence. At all times though the coloured light has gets it existence from its source.

As far as I understand it, “simple” means “unable to be divided into parts”. If that definition is accurate, then white light is a bad example of simplicity, because if it is composed of different parts combined unto a unity, then it is necessarily compound, and not simple.

One way to consider God's Intellect in comparison to ours is to realise we are somewhat Subject and somewhat Object. We contain a degree of both; we have free will and subjectivity and Intellect, unlike say a rock which is an Object completely(or at least almost so) and lacks Intellect completely, but we are also still, to a degree, an Object, having physical limitations and limits to our Subjectivity and everyday Intellect. God is Pure Subject, so to speak, he is not an Object at all. Therefore God certainly has an Intellect, as this is a basic part of Subjectivity. Indeed our Intellect and status as a Subject is related to God's, and not the other way around.

I think that from a Thomist standpoint, God’s intellect is established, if one defines “intellect” as the ability of an immaterial substance (a) to contain forms without becoming what the forms point towards, and (b) to organize those forms in a rational and logical fashion. If God is the Necessarily Existing Ground of All Being, then every contingent entity (i.e. beings whose essence is distinct from their existence) must have its origin in the NEGAB by virtue of the principle of proportionate causation, and thus the NEGAB must both meet (a) in order to be the source of the forms of the contingent universe, and (b) in order to explain the rational order of the contingent universe.

Josh said...

Dguller,

One possible solution is to simply define any containment of forms without becoming what the forms are about as intellect.

That seems to be exactly what Dr. Feser was doing...mind is not limited to our physical substrate. As for begging the question, the principle of proportionate causality and the way of eminence seem guaranteed by the necessity of God as First Cause, so I don't see how acknowledging them amounts to begging the question.

It is certainly not unintelligible or incoherent to deny that Pure Act has Intellect.

It is your method of denying it that amounts to an argument from ignorance; it's not that your reply is incoherent or unintelligible, just not proportioned to the evidence. We have no reason to think our intellects are invalid indicators of their pre-existence in God once the principles above are established.

Ismael said...

I suppose militant atheist scientists are really trying their best (or actually: worst) these days.

First Dawkins, then Hawking... and now Kauss and Atkins.

Too bad they are all writing the same story and the same bad arguments without serious progress.


I agree with the amazon summery: Atkins is a great writer, I have his 'Physical Chemistry' text at home and it is very well written.

To bad he has to go defend scientism... although not unexpected, Atkins is as bad as Dawekins as militant atheism goes, although less vocal and less stupid.

Still, he should stick in writing college level textbooks

machinephilosophy said...

Yes, if all statements are slippery than this very statement is itself slippery. Duh. Do you expect me to start emitting smoke like a Star Trek computer confronted with a paradox just because you point it out?

Well I see that YOU never point it out up front, which is a typical blink of the pretentious. Even my felon students in prison (one called Nuts and Bolts would like to teach you a lesson in natural selection, by the way) can recognize self-referential inconsistency using a very simple 5-word question I taught them, but which you couldn't guess if your life depended on it.

Where's the evidence that I point such errors out about *only* those positions I don't like? I see you didn't provide any evidence of THAT up front either. Isn't that convenient. We're all so surprised.

But that's par for cognitive dirtbag philosophy desperately barked by intellectual carnies who are so haunted by Christianity that they try to run interference like that stupidass Richard Gale, thinking no one will notice one self-referentially inconsistent claim after another used to make bluffs about others' positions while dismissing the more fundamental errors in their own. A typical loop of the same non-reader remarks that I've heard at least a thousand times. I wrote a simple AI script that can do a much better loop guru routine than yours.

Oh, and it's not reflexivity, which just shows that you aren't even familiar with the literature on self-reference---much less Ed's own writings. Refused to read the theists and didn't even bother reading the atheists. That's dedication.

Keep wringing your hands and whistling loudly. You should be well past the graveyard just any time now.

Next bluffing troll, please!

Edward Feser said...

Hi again dguller,

A few points in response:

1. Keep in mind that as "argument from analogy" in the sense used in contemporary logic textbooks and exemplified in Paley's design argument is not the same as using language analogously in the sense of Aquinas's doctrine of analogy. The Thomist uses theological language analogously in the latter sense, but is not giving an "argument from analogy" in the former sense. In particular, he is not giving an argument of the form "A's cause B's, and C is similar to B, so the cause of C is probably similar to the cause of B," where B is a human artifact, A a human designer, and C the world. The argument for God and God's having such-and-such attributes is deductive and demonstrative. "Analogy" comes in as a semantic matter, a point about how to understand the language involved, not as a logical matter concerning the style of reasoning involved.

2. I can't see why you think analogy is inappropriate in metaphysical arguments apart from such a confusion of Aquinas's doctrine of analogy with "arguments from analogy." Consider the following simple example. A stone and the color of the stone are both real, both have being, but not in the same way, since the color is "in" the stone in a way the stone is not "in" the color or "in" anything else. When we say that the being of the color is "analogous" to the being of the stone, we are expressing the way in which the being of the stone and the being of the color are in some ways alike and in some ways unlike, and thus noting how describing the stone as having being and describing the color as having being does not involve using "being" in either a univocal way (since their being is clearly not the same) nor an equivocal way (since it is clearly not completely different either). "Analogous" captures that relationship. ANd it has nothing to do with reasoning from a premise to a conclusion in a probabilistic way via an "argument from analogy."

Now, this is just a basic metaphysical point about the stone and its color. But why can't we make similar metaphysical points about the First cause and His relationship to the world, the character of His attributes, etc.?

(continued)

Edward Feser said...

(continued)

3. You seem to be to misunderstand my point about intellect. The A-T claim isn't that intellects are among the things that have more than one form at a time and can have a form without being the kind of thing the form is a form of -- which would leave open the question of whether in the case of God, it is something other than an intellect which does all this. No, to have an intellect just is to have forms in that way. To say "Maybe the First Cause has forms in that way, but isn't an intellect" is like saying "Sure, most unmarried men are bachelors, but maybe this particular unmarried man is not." There isn't a logical gap of the sort needed for the objection to make sense.

Re: the other aspects of intellect, and will, keep in mind that I wasn't trying to spell out the whole case but just to indicate the overall approach. In any case, reasoning from premises to conclusion wouldn't apply to God, since only we feeble-minded creatures have to do that -- God's knowledge is "all at once" as it were. But the whole A-T view of rational powers is a gigantic subject of its own, and here as elsewhere we can't take it for granted that the A-T philosopher make the same general assumptions about the issues that the average modern philosopher would.

4. I did see your comments on Krauss, and they are pretty much in line with my own thoughts. More on that when I get the review done. Re: your long exchange on analogy, no problem at all -- I would never cut off a serious discussion like that -- and I only wish I had had time to follow it more closely and comment myself. (As it is I'm coming toward the end of my winter break (which goes until late Feb. at PCC) and will once again have less time to comment here in the comboxes...)

goddinpotty said...

@machinephilosophy -- I can't make head or tail of your ravings, although I get the sense that you are quite pleased with yourself, and that I'm supposed to play guessing games with you and lose, and that you have a tough-guy acquaintance in prison which is supposed to prove or disprove something about natural selection.

BTW, I detect a mistake common among the scientifically illiterate, which is that natural selection is supposed to favor hulking brutes -- it doesn't necessarily, unless they are also better at passing their genes down to future generations. I'm doing fine on that score; if your pal is in prison for life that may interfere with his fitness prospects.

machinephilosophy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
machinephilosophy said...

No Little-Bo-Peep proof was claimed---or needed. But when you're avoiding points of logic, I guess you need something to say.

And I notice that the headinpotties here avoid the logical points made, and instead revert---lockstep---to unwarranted extrapolations about other subjects where no claims were even made. I guess that's life in Mommy's basement.

Funny how no atheists visit the prison where I teach, even though there are plenty of other atheists there already. You'd think they'd want to empirically test natural selection instead of just making unargued "not necessarily" Pollyannish handwaving claims about it.

How about an empirical lesson in sheer arbitrariness?

Troll this blog and I'll troll you, pal. And I don't *need* a reason. That's something mush-headed gnu atheist robo's use as a quasi-theistic authority.

Until, of course, an ex-atheist like me comes along to spoil the party just for the authority-less hell of it.

Can't wait for the next atheist convention. It's so much fun being their very own meta-theoretic Satan, prowling for non-soul parcels of neurological biomass.

Anonymous said...

Machine,

Does your pseudonym from your apparent practice of feeding words in to a machine that spits them out at random?

You sound like an disturbed fruit loop, pal.

wv: word salad

goddinpotty said...

You can insult me all you like, I don't care, but it would be nice if you made some comprehensible, substantive points to the mix. For example, you claim to know a five-word question for detecting self-referential inconsistency, but instead of telling us what it is, you just crow about how you know it and I don't, nyah. What's the point of that?

I fail to see how the presence of atheists in prison (as inmates or visitors) is germane to anything under discussion. And as I mentioned before, you obviously don't know beans about natural selection if you think it requires people to put themselves in danger to "test" it.

Oh well, trading insults is fun but pointless so I'm done with this exchange unless something substantial emerges from the other side.

Westcountryman said...

As far as I understand it, “simple” means “unable to be divided into parts”. If that definition is accurate, then white light is a bad example of simplicity, because if it is composed of different parts combined unto a unity, then it is necessarily compound, and not simple.

What you misunderstand is the relationship of the parts to the whole. The point is that the whole is not just a compound of the parts, but that the parts exist within it in an distinctionless sense, though it is transcends the parts as well.

I'll take another example, through the help of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Take hot, cold and temperature. Hot and cold require their relationship together to have existence. At a certan level and perspective they are certainly distinguishable, but temperature (I'm making things simple by referring only to hot and cold) is not simply a compound of them, as alone they have little meaning. Indeed temperature exceeds even this inextricable unity of the polarities of hot and cold, as it contains not just them as polarities and as polarities which cannot exist without each other, but the total ground of them and temperature which totally encapsulates hot and cold as equally temperature.

Coleridge called this relationship 'Interpenetration'. What makes it hard to understand is he called the billiard ball understanding of relationship where every relationship, every part, is considered as a separate and self-contained body whose relationship to other things and the whole is like billiard balls striking each other. When we have such an understanding it becomes hard for us to see how a simple Unity can reconcile its parts and transcend them.

The example of the light was likewise a good analogy. That is because the aspects of the spectrum of light do not exist without each other, they are not then just separate parts which make a compound whole. More than that pure light not only Unifies them but is the ground of all light that contains the entire spectrum while transcending them.

Or take Number. Number is all the indefinite series of numbers we know. Yet each number in the series only has existence because of the rest of the series, they are not parts of pure number in a compound sense, but in an 'interpenetrative' sense. But pure number is not anyone of these numbers or even a portion of them, it is all of them and even transwcends them being the simple and Unified ground of all determinant, separated numbers.

Anonymous said...

'Athiests in prison' are relevant because the 'barking' loon needs a captive audience.

Westcountryman said...

MachinePhilosophy was making the obvious point that if you refuse to recognise the fact that the statement all statements are slippery is self-refuting then you are a moron. He responded to such nonsense lunacy with the contempt it deserves.

goddinpotty said...

If that's what he meant to say, he could have said it. But he would be wrong. "All statements are false" is self-refuting; "all statements are slippery" is perfectly self-consistent.

And can't you people manage to make an argument without throwing around witless insults? Actually given the tone of Feser's book I guess I would expect the same from his followers.

dguller said...

Ed:

The Thomist uses theological language analogously in the latter sense, but is not giving an "argument from analogy" in the former sense.

I see my mistake. I originally thought that the argument for divine intellect was based upon the need for something actually present to guide the teleological development of material beings, because the telos is present at the end of the development, and not at the beginning. The only way that we know this to be possible is based upon the human ability to create artifacts. The next step would be to infer that an analogous process must be necessary to guide the development of material beings. I thought that the inference from as far as we know, X to necessarily, X was not deductive, and thus not metaphysical.

I now see that the argument is based upon a particular definition of “intellect” as a capacity of an immaterial entity (a) to possess multiple forms without assuming all of them, and (b) to order the actualization of those forms according to reason and logic. That provides both for the intellect’s ability to abstract forms from particular entities and to be the source of rationality. In addition, both (a) and (b) can plausibly be argued to deductively follow from the properties of Pure Act. As such, induction plays no role, and thus the matter is one of the validity of deductive argumentation.

But the whole A-T view of rational powers is a gigantic subject of its own, and here as elsewhere we can't take it for granted that the A-T philosopher make the same general assumptions about the issues that the average modern philosopher would.

I know that this is probably getting a little deeper into the issue, but I wonder if the intellect as defined above is sufficient to account for anything resembling a divine mind or personality, which I think would be necessary for a plausible account of a supreme deity. Certainly, a mind and personality require more than an intellect! Furthermore, just sticking to the definition of “intellect” means that the intellect of Pure Act could be understood to be akin to an algorithmic process that orders the forms according to rules of logic and reason. In other words, the forms existed timelessly as part of the divine intellect, and its rational capacity simply ordered them in an automatic and necessary fashion. I can comprehend a computer program doing something similar within the purview of its computer software and hardware, and I don’t think anyone would say that the computer has an intellect, even though it meets the Thomist definition.

Any hints at a solution?

dguller said...

Westcountryman:

What you misunderstand is the relationship of the parts to the whole. The point is that the whole is not just a compound of the parts, but that the parts exist within it in an distinctionless sense, though it is transcends the parts as well.

Sorry, but that’s just not the Thomist account of divine simplicity at all. I’ll quote Feser:

“The doctrine of divine simplicity holds that God is in no way composed of parts. Not only is God incorporeal and immaterial, and thus not composed of form and matter, He is also not composed of essence and existence. Rather, His essence is His existence. There is also no distinction within God between any of the divine attributes: God’s eternity is His power, which is His goodness, which is His intellect, which is His will, and so on. Indeed, God Himself just is His power, His goodness, etc., just as He just is His existence, and just is His essence. Talking or conceiving of God, God’s essence, God’s existence, God’s power, God’s goodness, and so forth are really all just different ways of talking or conceiving of one and the very same thing. Though we distinguish between them in thought, there is no distinction at all between them in reality.” (http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/11/william-lane-craig-on-divine-simplicity.html)

Westcountryman said...

Slippery is a slippery phrase of course. But to the degree it is meant to make statements uncertain it makes the statement all statements are slippery uncertain.

Some of us have low threshold for tedious idiocy.

Westcountryman said...

Dguller

That is basically what all my argument and examples were about. You seem confused about basic terms and conceptions.

God is the Supreme Good and God is the Supreme Beauty. From out point of view there is a certain separation of these qualities, but in God's essence there is no separation, no dinstinction. The attributes of God fit together not as a compound sense but in complete simplicity and Unity.

To help understand this I gave you analogies.

When it comes to Intellect, though Dr.Feser can no doubt give you an answer according to the line of argumentation you are most concerned with, I think, if you consider my above comments on Subject and Object you can see that our Intellect's can be used to prove God's. This is because it is from our most Immaterial, Subjective and Intellectual that we derive our being a Subject, and not just an Object like a rock. God, being more Immaterial and more of a Subject than us, indeed being Pure Subject and not Object at all, would of course have an Intellect and indeed be more Intellectual than us.

Josh said...

Dguller,

Your exchange with Dr. Feser and your clarifications were very helpful. Cheers!

Edward Feser said...

dguller,

Well, as you might expect, I'd say (for the sorts of reasons Searle gives in his critique of cognitivism -- not the Chinese Room argument, which is a different subject) that a computer isn't really doing anything remotely intellectual in the first place. It's a glorified abacus -- the "computing" is observer-relative, imputed by designers and users, not in the mechanism itself. And the actual program that it is running, on the other hand, is a mathematical entity, an abstraction -- not an intellect, but rather one of the objects of intellect.

So, neither a computer or its program is a good model for an intellect. Hence neither is a good model for the divine intellect. A computing machine is of an order lower than we we do when we think, sub-intellectual. The divine intellect is of a higher order -- something super-intellectual, you might say, thought still analogous to what we do (unlike the computer, strictly speaking).

So, the first think we need to do in order to understand the divine intellect is to go in the opposite direction from a computer metaphor...!

goddinpotty said...

@Feser, you come close to implying (inadvertently I think) that the relation between divine and human intellect is analogous to the relationship between human and machine intellect (which you don't believe in).

Reminds me of the dedication to Gerald Sussman's MIT dissertation in Artificial Intelligence, which read something like "To Rabbi Lowe of Prague, the first to realize that 'God created Man in his own image' is recursive".

Brian said...

Oh dear. So when are you going to read more A-T stuff again, goddinpotty?

goddinpotty said...

Well, after attempting to read Feser and getting repulsed around page 150 or so, I doubt I'm going to make much more of an effort. The part on forms I thought was reasonably interesting; when he got to natural law it struck me as abject nonsense. It is of course politically repellent, but wrong on scientific grounds, which is a more important reason for rejecting it.

In brief, evolution is ALL ABOUT finding new uses for existing structures. If Feser was around when the first amphibians were emerging, he'd be scolding them for misusing their fins which were clearly meant for swimming, not walking.

All this is pretty obvious and even the genitalia that get him and everybody else so fascinated have multiple functions.

So Feser's version of natural law is anti-Darwinian and hence of no interest to anyone versed in modern science. That is not to say there are not elements of the pre-Darwinian worldview that might still be valuable, but you won't learn what they are here.

The other repelling features of his book are the constant snide insults, which do nothing to help his case, and the insistence in several places that he's made his case so convincingly that only a moron could disagree. Sorry to burst that bubble.

Anonymous said...

goddinpotty: "All this is pretty obvious and even the genitalia that get him and everybody else so fascinated have multiple functions."

No. The genitalia have one highly specific function and that is procreation. The pleasure aspect induces the ape to get in on the act otherwise he wouldn't do it. We wouldn't be here if sex wasn't pleasurable. The bonding aspect compels the male to protect the female while she is pregnant and nursing, as well as protect the offspring. Secondly both the bonding and the pleasure can be achieved differently - for instance we can smoke dope to achieve pleasure or scratch an itchy spot or indulge in food, and we can form strong friendships under duress such as those formed between war veterans. But there simply is no other way to procreate than having penis in vagina sex.

Brian said...

"I reject this because me no likey."

Maybe not a moron, but...

goddinpotty said...

@Brian -- I thought I gave a fairly explicit reason why I rejected it.

@Anonymous -- "But there simply is no other way to procreate than having penis in vagina sex." -- aside from being irrelevant, that isn't even true, as the many individuals conceived through IVF will attest.

Pattsce said...

godinpotty,

Without being too harsh, if those criticisms are what you got out of Feser's book, you completely missed the point.

If you think Darwinian evolution does anything to refute A-T metaphysics, you're way off. You missed it. Darwinian evolution is a scientific system intended to identify (and not analyze much past "that happened") millions upon millions of efficient causes; it's not making philosophical claims about metaphysics. When it does, it's way, way outside of its expertise.

"In brief, evolution is ALL ABOUT finding new uses for existing structures. If Feser was around when the first amphibians were emerging, he'd be scolding them for misusing their fins which were clearly meant for swimming, not walking."

The fins are clearly pointed at moving, and movement is pointed at surviving, getting food, etc., which is all pointed at the flourishing of the animal. If walking on them helped him to move and ultimately flourish, Feser obviously wouldn't think it bad in any real way. More importantly, he'd also not care (in the sense of scolding them) because amphibians don't have rational souls to make moral choices.

He Would probably say it is Bad for the amphibian if he chewed off his fins and died of starvation because he couldn't move around, though. THAT would be using his body contrary to its end. I don't find this particularly controversial...

Also, I still cannot believe people care at all about his "snide comments." When I first heard this, I was like, "So what? Most of them are pretty funny." If that is your reason for putting the book down, zero respect. I can't understand how effeminate our culture has become that it can't handle jokes making fun of another person's philosophy. (Unless, of course, it's making fun of some popular religion: "every sperm is sacred, lol.") Seriously; our culture is pathetic.

All of your criticisms have been addressed dozens of times by Feser and others. Don't rest on them. Keep moving.

Pattsce said...

godinpotty,

I also seriously find it amazing that you read any part of that book and then tried to say something like "his natural law argument is wrong on scientific grounds."

You know that thing where a person goes "whoosh!" while passing his hand over the top of his head? That.

goddinpotty said...

@Pattsce, I am not offended by the snideness, I just found it distracting and off-putting, not to mention largely witless. If he wants to be taken seriously as a philosopher he should sound like one.

As for the other: his theory of teleology as it appears in biological organisms is simply wrong, whether you want to make it be part of physics, metaphysics, or pataphysics. Or maybe not, if the only criterion is "flourishing" then it is just identical with natural selection, but then you can't use it as a club to condemn behavior you don't like.

It may be possible to combine concepts from classical philosophy with science (eg, Simon Conway Morris is an evolutionary biologist who also appears to be some kind of Platonist), but you have to know what you are talking about.

Anonymous said...

Pattsce,

Yeah. It's amazing how so many stoopid people don't see it your way. Especially with all of the Thomist books flying off the shelves at the bookstores.

Natural Law is an emotional grasp for certainty. The 'shaky foundation' of morality and epistimology you so love to criticized secularists for having you've just wished away with silly definitions and magic thinking. If you haven't noticed many don't buy it. Caricaturize and ridicule all you like while you ride the coattails of 'science' to new understanding.

Anonymous said...

"The 'shaky foundation' of morality and epistimology you so love to criticized secularists for having "

That was incorrect. "No foundation" is more accurate. Wishful thinking belongs to the wannabe-moralists who are atheists and/or materialists. Just ask Rosenberg.

"If you haven't noticed many don't buy it."

Many people don't buy evolution either. I guess that's gone too?

goddinpotty is laughably wrong about science and teleology, not to mention Feser's own book. Since Feser at no point says that genitals have "only one function". Really, page 147: "Andrew Sullivan, for exammple, in his book The Conservative Soul, criticizes me for implying that a bodily organ or natural capacity can have only one "core" function. But neither I nor any other natural law theorist I know of has denied, or need deny given natural law theory, that such organs and capacities can have many functions."

Likewise, his reading of Darwinism itself is absurd since he apparently thinks that 'Darwinism' means humans have to find new purposes and functions for their organs and inclinations. He's taking some bizarre view where Darwinism, as a scientific theory, is downright prescriptive: 'You must mutate! To maintain an essential capacity is sinful!' It's boggling. Also, how dare humans use their lungs to breathe air. Haven't they heard of evolution? They must try breathing CO2!

Apparently, he thinks the The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants is a prime example of Darwinism.

Pattsce said...

@goddinpotty, please identify where his argument about teleology are wrong and/or are refuted by Darwinian evolution or any other natural science. I don't even understand what you mean when you write "you have to know what you're talking about." Like about evolution? Tell me what I need to know about the science of evolution that would refute his argument. What exactly do you think "science" is?

And Anonymous, yes, absolutely, the number of people who follow a belief make that belief true or false. That's a super good argument. Also, yeah, every person who addresses a philosophical issue is just as qualified as the next person, and in no way does a person's stupid modern bias get in the way of his or her analysis. Never happens. And absolutely, I hate science. It doesn't tell me anything about the world. Even though the reason I love philosophy is because it gives me truths about science itself. You nailed it. You're really smart.

Anonymous said...

"...and in no way does a person's stupid modern bias get in the way of his or her analysis."

...and in no way does a person's stupid emotional need to be loved by a sky daddy get in the way of his or her analysis."

There. I fixed it for you.

Anonymous said...

"Many people don't buy evolution either. I guess that's gone too?"

Don't have to buy it. There is actual physical evidence for it.

Come on. Really?

goddinpotty said...

p.145: "Now if there really are Aristotelian natures, essences, final causes, etc. then the lesson of all this for sexual morality should be obvious. Since the final cause of human sexual capacities is procreation, what is good for human beings in the use of those capacities is to use them only in a way consistent with this final cause or purpose. This is a necessary truth...it cannot possibly be good for us to use thim in any other way..."

If he contradicts himself two pages later that is not really my problem.

I can already hear the quibbling. It doesn't matter; the type of thinking displayed in the above quote is just profoundly misguided.

Anonymous said...

Pattsce and anon,

Remind me how you know your arguments are sound. What keeps your Krazy Train on the rails. Intuition?

How do you know that God injected a soul into only two of the 10,000 zombies? How do you know there was a beginning?

Anonymous said...

"I can already hear the quibbling."

I can already hear it too.

"I can't really explain it in a book. It takes a series of books. I was simplifying the argument for space. Furthermore, I've made up another definition to capture this particular instance."

goddinpotty said...

@Anonymous, who said "Likewise, his reading of Darwinism itself is absurd since he apparently thinks that 'Darwinism' means humans have to find new purposes and functions for their organs and inclinations."

I never said anything remotely close to that.

Evolution is in large part a process of finding new uses for existing machinery (which then gets further modified by adaptation). That says nothing about individual humans or what they "have to" do. Mostly this takes place on the molecular level (see here), but you can see macroscopic versions of this, eg, in the evolution of feathers which were originally thought to be used for cooling and later repurposed for flight.

Anonymous said...

"Don't have to buy it. There is actual physical evidence for it.

Come on. Really?"

Yes, really. You made the "many people don't buy it, therefore it's probably not true" argument. I showed you how ridiculous it is.

You say there's actual physical evidence? Good, since there's actual great arguments and the physical evidence is consistent with it, even illustrative of it.

"If he contradicts himself two pages later that is not really my problem."

There's no contradiction. He says flat out that the organs can have multiple functions. On that same page 145 he spells out how in the case of sex, multiple functions of sex (pleasure, for example) are wrapped up in the final cause of procreation.

You made a mistake, big deal. Just owe up to it.

"I never said anything remotely close to that."

Uh, you said: "In brief, evolution is ALL ABOUT finding new uses for existing structures." and used this to counter the idea of final causes. Your depiction of evolution is "everyone must find new uses for organs! there are no final causes! To think otherwise is to reject Darwinism!" It's question begging, and it's a non-scientific position. Worse for him, Darwinism - not evolution, but Darwinism - isn't doing so well these days.

And really, you don't even have a grasp of evolution, since "new uses for existing machinery" isn't necessary. Degrade the existing machinery, remove some uses. Is that evolution? Yes, as a matter of fact.

The other anon, meanwhile, doesn't understand that TLS deals with aristotileanism and final causes, detached from any Christian dogma. Yet another person who hasn't read the book, but wants to pretend they read the book. Or perhaps just want to change the subject, since they're getting beaten pretty badly on this topic.

dguller said...

Ed:

It's a glorified abacus -- the "computing" is observer-relative, imputed by designers and users, not in the mechanism itself. And the actual program that it is running, on the other hand, is a mathematical entity, an abstraction -- not an intellect, but rather one of the objects of intellect.

Say you start with the various forms, apply rules of rational organization to them, and then end up with the forms organized in a rational fashion. That seems to be consistent with the basic idea of a Thomist “intellect”. For example, we abstract forms from particular beings, and then apply rational principles to them to organize them into a rational framework, and if we are able to do so, then we can say that we understand them. If you conceive of the forms as input, the rules of rational organization as the algorithm applied to the input, and the output as the forms rationally organized, then you have the general idea.

Sure, the computer that has such a program has a derived intellectual capacity from the human programmer, but couldn’t one also say that our intellect is derivative of the divine intellect? And if so, then couldn’t one argue that a computer has an intellect that is twice removed from the divine intellect whereas the human intellect is only once removed? And if that is valid, then there is no longer any objection to a computer having a type of intellect.

Any thoughts?

dguller said...

goddinpotty:

I think that you have a point in that Darwinian evolution does not condone teleological functions that are absolute. Rather, functions are always relative to a particular organism in a particular environment for a particular stretch of time. It is always possible for organs with one function in environment1 at time1 to have another function in environment2 at time2 in the future, and this belies the natural law notion that there is an absolute telos for organs and organisms that remains true for all time.

Anonymous said...

"It is always possible for organs with one function in environment1 at time1 to have another function in environment2 at time2 in the future, and this belies the natural law notion that there is an absolute telos for organs and organisms that remains true for all time."

First, what you're discussing is not science or "Darwinian evolution". Those are metaphysical claims that make reference to idealizations if evolution. Which is itself okay, but let's be clear about that much. Darwinian evolution, as far as it is a science, has nothing to say about final causes one way or the other.

Second, the possibility of using an organ for a cause other than the final cause is expressly recognized even by natural law theorists: it's a perversion of its use, in their eyes. But a perversion does not, obviously, mean impossible to do.

Third, let's imagine that organ1 has final cause1 at time1. Later, organ1 has final cause2 at time2, say twenty million years later.

But is it still organ1? Or is it now organ2? Is it still the same organism? Or is it a new organism with a new final cause?

Anonymous said...

"But is it still organ1? Or is it now organ2? Is it still the same organism? Or is it a new organism with a new final cause?"

And to you... at what instant does it stop becoming organ 1 and become organ 2? How do you know?

Anonymous said...

"You made the "many people don't buy it, therefore it's probably not true" argument. I showed you how ridiculous it is."

Ok. I'll walk that back a bit. But, consensus is useful. It's not proof. I know you guys hate that word useful.

It is an argument you use here. "We all see the obvious soundness of Aquina's arguments. How come the dumb atheists don't."

Anonymous said...

"And to you... at what instant does it stop becoming organ 1 and become organ 2? How do you know?"

Why do I need to know that? It's an extreme hypothetical - dguller at least seemed to imply an answer was known, at least "on Darwinism". I pointed out a problem.

Natural law comes with its axioms, as well as its arguments. You can't honestly pretend it just declares things to be such and such way "just because we know".

"But, consensus is useful. It's not proof. I know you guys hate that word useful."

No, we love useful. But useful doesn't necessarily mean true. If that was realized, a lot of these problems could be avoided.

"It is an argument you use here. "We all see the obvious soundness of Aquina's arguments. How come the dumb atheists don't.""

Are you on the right blog? About the only time atheists are mocked here are A) when they claim to decisively have refuted God's existence or such and such, and it's utterly obvious they are either lying or have no clue what they're talking about (ask dguller what he thinks of Krauss on nothingness), or B) when they embrace materialism, particularly eliminative materialism, usually with a cocky "this is what science says" tone (and frankly, when EM raises its head, atheists bail. Look at Rosenberg: even the atheists here can't disassociate themselves from him fast enough.)

Besides, are you really complaining about making fun of "those stupid atheists" when the most popular modern iteration of atheism is united on little besides "let's scream about how stupid and irrational any religious believer is and talk about how religious belief is delusion and belongs on the DSM"?

Pattsce said...

"...and in no way does a person's stupid emotional need to be loved by a sky daddy get in the way of his or her analysis."

There. I fixed it for you."

Hey, guy, you're the only making that claim that the majority of people don't buy A-T metaphysics, and that this is somehow evidence of something significant. Most people are stupid, spend their time on stupid websites, watch idiotic television shows that reinforce their worthless beliefs, and wouldn't know the difference between act and potency if it hit them in the face. In other words, the people who aren't buying these books are usually ignorant with little to no background in Any philosophy. The only philosophy these people get, if they get in, is caricaturized nonsense of arguments they couldn't begin to understand.

There are plenty of theists who are of course just as ignorant. And those people are rarely A-T philosophers. I've never once in my life come across any decent A-T philosopher who was like, "OH MAN! DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THIS DARWIN GUY! Aristotle's face sure would be red thinking final causes exist!" Get the clue: they've heard about science; it wasn't conclusive enough; they moved on to try to understand the science itself. People who go from A-T metaphysics to God do just that. They start with philosophy and get to God. And they are hardly in need of love from "sky daddy" (which is seriously the most boring and tired atheist cliche out there. Get a new one). Or if they are in need of this love (whatever that even means), they don't rely on this need to justify their belief. They make arguments from metaphysical demonstrations that are very, very difficult to brush aside. Do you seriously think Aristotle was in need of love from sky daddy?

Incidentally, most of the time it's the exact opposite. It's the atheist relying on their emotional need for everything to be "equal." "You can't say that! It's homophobic! It's sexist! Don't be mean! Who are you to judge!" These claims are based on ABSOLUTELY NOTHING besides status-quo emotions, of course, but most of the time no one calls them on such nonsense or demand a philosophical demonstration to justify the claims. If a theist on the other hand makes a valid philosophical demonstration that Results in something that says homosexual sex is immoral, it Must be because he is just scared of gay people or because he wants to listen to sky daddy.

It's Absurd.

Anonymous said...

"Most people are stupid, spend their time on stupid websites, watch idiotic television... Blah blah blah..."

Point taken. You won't get any argument from me about quantity of stupid in the general population. Let's restrict it the professional philosophers. Are they stupid too? Because, most aren't buy it there either.

I love your caricature of the 'emotional atheists'. Get a new one, guy. That one is tired.

Pattsce said...

"Point taken. You won't get any argument from me about quantity of stupid in the general population. Let's restrict it the professional philosophers. Are they stupid too? Because, most aren't buy it there either.

I love your caricature of the 'emotional atheists'. Get a new one, guy. That one is tired."

Your original argument was about the general consensus of the public. That's what I was addressing. Moving on to philosophers definitely makes more sense. It's Still an appeal to consensus, which is obviously fallacious, but it's definitely a step in the right direction.

I actually find this well-so-many-people-believe-this-so-it's-obviously-true argument really common among atheists. I Guess it's because they see science and stuff as always progressing forward. They seem to always apply that "progress" idea to philosophical and cultural matters as well. Which of course are completely separate things. I'm not sure; there are probably other reasons for it. It shows up here a lot though.

Anyway, no, not all philosophers are stupid. A lot are, but not all. All that said, most of the ones you hear about are almost all positively modern and influenced by a lot of unjustifiable modern philosophy in a way that hinders their ability to even address the great ancient philosophers. The ones that can get around these biases are always the best and most formidable. If you want to see how A-T philosophy addresses most modern arguments, though, you could read Feser's book(s)? He spends a great deal of time confronting them and defending Thomistic philosophy against legitimate criticisms. If you're resting on "most modern philosophers don't buy it, so it's obviously not true," though, then I think the discussion is mostly over. It's a waste of time.

I don't think all atheists are emotional, and I don't think I was making a caricature. I rarely find atheists that do justify their egalitarian, progressive beliefs. (I rarely find theists who justify them either, for what it's worth.) Not without appealing to really tautological, self-referential, or (as I said) emotional claims anyway. This is why I like the real nihilistic, morally depraved ones. No nonsense. Are All atheists emotional in this way? Obviously not.

DNW said...

"I don't think all atheists are emotional, and I don't think I was making a caricature. I rarely find atheists that do justify their egalitarian, progressive beliefs. (I rarely find theists who justify them either, for what it's worth.) Not without appealing to really tautological, self-referential, or (as I said) emotional claims anyway. This is why I like the real nihilistic, morally depraved ones. No nonsense. Are All atheists emotional in this way? Obviously not.

February 13, 2012 9:52 PM"


It remains to be seen when, if ever, the run of the mill militant atheist taken as a type, will admit that the morally nihilistic conclusions he draws concerning the class of all men, apply to himself in particular.

I've given one or two the explicit opportunity to do so, and to do so in context here, but they have understandably declined.


I am skeptical therefore that in general, many will muster the courage to do so. Or, given that in abandoning any notion of an objective realm of evaluation - except within the relative limits of defining success as getting what you want - they would even think it important to do so if they did have the physical courage.

The entire notion of them insinuating themselves into a some energy producing community based on another theory of life, and subversively exploiting it for their gain, would cease to even look like a moral question.


I'm not even sure how on an atheist nominalist's own analysis, the term "man" could have any morally significant meaning derived from some scientific premise they adopt.

This does not of course mean that the hypothetical atheist would not contentedly and regularly deploy old-fashioned moral language *as if* they believed in it; if by doing so they could thereby satisfy some welling urge or make their social lives easier.

My guess, is that they would view this whole question as a mere tactical matter; and that one should not expect the type to make any such overt admissions until such time as they feel secure enough and in enough cultural control to safely do so.

At that point just watch how fast the "one humanity" premiss they have taken from religion, gets jettisoned. LOL

Anonymous said...

""And to you... at what instant does it stop becoming organ 1 and become organ 2? How do you know?"

Why do I need to know that? It's an extreme hypothetical"

Because, if you are to base your morality on final purpose you need to know whether or not organ 1 has now adapted to a second ultimate purpose or not. Maybe a 'new' ultimate purpose isn't know until the organism uses organ 1 for some other purpose and provides more fitness than the original purpose. It's not an extreme hypothetical. How do you decide when the purpose for an organism is or isn't more useful or is in transition to something more useful for survival?

dguller said...

Anonymous:

First, what you're discussing is not science or "Darwinian evolution". Those are metaphysical claims that make reference to idealizations if evolution. Which is itself okay, but let's be clear about that much. Darwinian evolution, as far as it is a science, has nothing to say about final causes one way or the other.

Well, Darwinian evolution tries not to talk about final causes, but they are inevitably smuggled in by the back door.

Second, the possibility of using an organ for a cause other than the final cause is expressly recognized even by natural law theorists: it's a perversion of its use, in their eyes. But a perversion does not, obviously, mean impossible to do.

That is fine, but using the word “perversion” is a loaded moral judgment that carries significant stigma. It might be more neutral to say that the organ is being used in an atypical fashion.

But is it still organ1? Or is it now organ2? Is it still the same organism? Or is it a new organism with a new final cause?

Here’s the interesting thing. Between organ1 at time1 and organ2 at time2 there are a huge number of intermediary organs between time1 and time2, and if you were to look at the organs from parent to offspring at any particular point, you would likely be unable to know whether any subtle differences between parent organ and offspring organ represent just a variation of normal versus the beginning of a new organ. And that is the problem. We never know at a particular time whether an organ’s function is the beginning of a new function or not, because the variations might be too fine grained, and thus we can never speak with utter certainty about the final cause of an organ in an absolute sense.

Anonymous said...

dgueller,

You said what I was trying to say much more clearly. Thanks.

I know Darwinian theory doesn't posit purpose. I was questioning someone who does posit purpose.

My question is why is the initial 'perversion' of something that becomes 'ultimate' perverted?

Anonymous said...

"omnipotence can nevertheless be derived once you've got a purely actual unmoved mover via further principles and premises"

How can something purely actual, i.e. in no way potential, be omnipotent, i.e. in all ways potential? Seems odd.

Arthur said...

How can something purely actual, i.e. in no way potential, be omnipotent, i.e. in all ways potential?

I suspect that you may be confusing potency-in-the-sense-of-power and potency-in-the-sense-of-potentiality here. Otherwise, I don't see where you could have got the idea that being 'omnipotent' makes God 'in all ways potential'.

A purely actual unmoved mover being omnipotent seems perfectly intelligible to me.

Anonymous said...

Well, leaving aside the Aristotelian jargon for a moment, here's the problem I have. It's clearly not the same thing to say "God can do anything" vs "God has done everything". I interpret the former as being omnipotence.

Translating back to Aristotelian jargon: The first reads "God has the potential to actualize all potentials", while the second reads "God has actually actualized all potentials," so it is the second that looks more like pure actuality, and it would seem that the first explicitly contradicts it.

DNW said...

dguller said...

Anonymous:

[anon] First, what you're discussing is not science or "Darwinian evolution". Those are metaphysical claims that make reference to idealizations if evolution. Which is itself okay, but let's be clear about that much. Darwinian evolution, as far as it is a science, has nothing to say about final causes one way or the other.

[dguller] Well, Darwinian evolution tries not to talk about final causes, but they are inevitably smuggled in by the back door. "


Although we disagree on a number of concepts, your observation here is spot on.

Now, a hand waving attribution of this smuggling phenomenon to mere verbal inertia, has become something of a commonplace tactic among those caught out engaging in it.

If however that is all there is to it, we ought to be able to avoid any such misleading locutions and the accompanying constructive tendencies, through a consciously prophylactic use of language.

The insinuated retort that, 'I'm too busy doing big stuff to bother straining out verbal nits, and you simply must understand that my descriptive language should be understood to be employing teleological language in a purely figurative sense', is clearly a conceptually inadequate, and I think fundamentally dishonest (if "dishonest" still retains a significant meaning for such persons) response.

We seem to be forever teetering back and forth between two very disparate (and according to some, incompatible and antithetical) fundamental interpretive paradigms.

I would like to see those who would abandon all talk of literal purposiveness and directedness, try to consistently live out their scheme as if they believed it were really true, rather than just a handy acid to throw in the face of traditionalists.

However, I no more expect to actually see them attempt that, than I expect those who say all rights are arbitrary and fictive to admit that their own right to existence is arbitrary and fictive and does not carry any objective mandate that anyone is bound to respect.

I suppose we are to chalk that up to evolutionary inertia ... LOL

Anonymous said...

DNW,

Might there be a "subjective purpose" vs "final purpose". Subjective purpose gives our lives meaning even if there is no "ultimate purpose". Then we can colectively compare our subjective purposes and agree on a 'usefulness' of the definition.

Where does that get me? Be nice.

DNW said...

Anonymous said...

DNW,

Might there be a "subjective purpose" vs "final purpose". Subjective purpose gives our lives meaning even if there is no "ultimate purpose". Then we can colectively compare our subjective purposes and agree on a 'usefulness' of the definition.

Where does that get me? Be nice.

February 15, 2012 9:02 AM


Are you asking me to be nice in my response? Or are you suggesting that a collective act of comparing our "subjective purposes" will logically entail the conclusion that we should "be nice"?

If the latter, I don't see how it follows. In other words, I don't see where it gets you.

Placing the logical problem of drawing an inference in the imperative mood from a mass of contrary premisses aside, here's also what happens: Try as you might to suppress the impulse, some smart-ass is going to ask where it is your subjective purposes find their grounding. Do they depend for their socially recognized legitimacy on anything apart from the fact that someone claims them as their subjective preference?

So where or upon what, do they finally rest? Your whim? Your will to power? Your biology?

In the most obvious parallel example it's similar to the form of explanatory problem faced by utilitarian hedonists, with their notion of good defined by a pleasure principle.

What in the world is it that is actually the ground of justification (that for the sake of which) for the utilitarian hedonist who defines the good as the experience of pleasure?

That is, what is it that is actually all in aid of? In accepting the premise, can what is being promoted - pleasure - then be said to be for the sake of anything else beyond itself?

If you accept the good as pleasure premise and say no, and you rule the question "what's it (the pleasure) for the sake of?" out of court, then you find yourself in the following curious position: that of justifying actions meant to promote the good defined as pleasure, for the sake of the good defined as pleasure; and not for, say, the sake of a person who experiences the pleasure as an effect of something good for the person.

Taken strictly, the person evaporates from the dynamic except as a presumably biological locus of the sensation, which is being promoted for the sake of the appearance of the said sensation.

What is left of the human is some residuum of an undefined thing undergoing a pleasure experience for the sake of undergoing a pleasure experience.

In parallel then, justifying a value on a subjective preference elevates the phenomenon of the urge above the reason for it. Because of course, any objective "for it" has been ruled out by the interpretive restrictions or limitations accepted a priori.

Thus it seems to me that when you suggest, "Subjective purpose gives our lives meaning even if there is no "ultimate purpose"." it seems to be that you are embracing a patent fiction which there is no reason to embrace apart from its being a patent fiction you wish to embrace.

Anonymous said...

DNW,

Try as you might to suppress the impulse, some smart-ass is going to ask where it is your subjective purposes find their grounding.

Welcome, thankfully, to our secular society. What if the 'smart-ass' is you with *your* 'airtight' ultimate purposes?

Do they depend for their socially recognized legitimacy.

Yes.

Your completely exceptionless, unconditional rules for moral behavior are abhorrent to me. You seem to want to detach from any emotional or moral feeling. Unfortunate for you, we are emotional beings. Your absolute rules complete with ultimate purpose that *you* define carried to their conclusion seem to me to create a sort of rigid 'deterministic' world where everything is to be in lockstep for some cosmic ultimate purpose.

Do normal, sensible, competent people decide what they ought to do without appeal to rules? Yes, you do everyday.

I think morality is a work in progress. An emergent truth. A truth that emerges by the fact we live in societies. So, is gold more valuable than silver? Or is that just an opinion? Yes, it's more valuable because we have a market and from a market emerges value.

…who defines the good as the experience of pleasure?

On and on with pleasure you go in a derogatory manner. Pleasure is a loaded word and you use it as if it's a bad thing. But straw men are useful. Yes?

I see ethics as a work in progress based on an empirical evidence.

Thus it seems to me that when you suggest, "Subjective purpose gives our lives meaning even if there is no "ultimate purpose"." it seems to be that you are embracing a patent fiction which there is no reason to embrace apart from its being a patent fiction you wish to embrace.

As go for all the people here expressing their opinions about 'ultimate' purpose.

Arthur said...

I suspect that you're labouring under some misconceptions about Natural Law theory, Anonymous. Firstly, I don't think that the 'absolute rules' that NLT entails are 'defined' ad hoc or arbitrarily; they are discovered by examining things and discovering their natures. I'm not a Thomist myself (yet?) so I can't make it much clearer than that, but I'm sure others here can help.

You object that you see ethics as 'a work in progress based on empirical evidence', but, as I understand it, Natural Law is based on 'empirical evidence' no less than your own theory. Aristotle liked empirical evidence too, after all.

I also don't see why 'exceptionless, unconditional rules for moral behavior' would be so 'abhorrent' to you. What would you prefer; conditional, exceptioned rules? Those sound hardly sound like 'rules' at all, just traditions. Pretty much the whole point of morality is that it's universal, isn't it? 'Exceptioned morality' sounds like a contradiction to my ears.

I also suspect that you're failing to distinguish between the moral law itself (which is unchanging) and our beliefs about the moral law (which are open to correction and change).

But like I say, my own understanding of NLT is also 'a work in progress' and I'm sure others here can explain this better than I can.

Anonymous said...

Another fallacy comes creeping in
Whose errors you should be meticulous
In trying to avoid - don't think our eyes,
Our bright and shining eyes, were made for us
To look ahead with; don't suppose our thigh-bones
Fitted our shin-bones, and our shins our ankles,
So that we might take steps; don't think that arms
Dangled from beholders and branches out in hands
With fingers at their ends, both right and left,
For us to do whatever need required
For our survival. All such argument,
All such interpretation, is perverse,
Fallacious, puts the cart before the horse.
No bodily thing was born for us to use,
Nature had no such air, but what was born
Creates the use...


Lucretius
De Rerum Natura

DNW said...

Anon of February 15, 2012 7:39 PM writes in part:

"Your completely exceptionless, unconditional rules for moral behavior are abhorrent to me. You seem to want to detach from any emotional or moral feeling. Unfortunate for you, we are emotional beings."


"I think morality is a work in progress. An emergent truth. A truth that emerges by the fact we live in societies"

"I see ethics as a work in progress based on an empirical evidence. "




I think it's apparent that none of this requires any real comment.

DNW said...

Anon,


Yesterday when I placed up three excerpts from your confused remarks and observed that they needed no real comment, I had considered responding to another passage of yours which exhibited a different kind of confusion: a misunderstanding of what I was actually doing, rather than a confusion of your own regarding the implications of your own premisses.

Clearing up the latter would involve an endless discussion to no ultimate point. Clearing up the former, only involves explaining my selection of a particular target.

You wrote:

"On and on with pleasure you go in a derogatory manner. Pleasure is a loaded word and you use it as if it's a bad thing. But straw men are useful. Yes? "

Bracketing the question as to whether straw men are ever rhetorically useful, my answer to the implication that I am stuffing one here, is "no".

When I began to expand the smuggling parallel to include an examination of utilitarian logic, I had in mind a very specific and real person. That person of course is the founder of the utilitarian feast and its most unapologetic and unequivocal proponent, Jeremy Bentham.

It is in Bentham's manifesto-like writings that one can find both the formulations I allude to, and the constructions that lead to the tautological-like analytical implications I describe as following from his formulations.

Thus I placed no straw man up there at all. But rather the essence of the doctrine of a very real and influential social philosopher with many apologists and disciples of various sorts.

We refer to Bentham rather than James, or John Stuart Mill, because one can observe the utilitarian predicates in their most brazen and unqualified form with the originator.

Now, it's obvious that when you read the term "pleasure" as I wrote it, you are reading into it a slightly different meaning than I was intending.


But your partial misreading, and your perturbed reaction to what you took to be the meaning, is itself useful in revealing your own system of assumptions regarding interpretive legitimacy, and what you conceive of as the limits of analytical decency.

Some things, *unlike* say, God, or meaning, or the value of human life itself, are in fact just too sacred to question and tease to threads: these are sacred things like "emotion" and "pleasure", taken in the sensuous and common senses.


Thus, this indignant reaction of yours nicely exemplifies what are very real and timely questions of social anthropology and prevailing worldviews; and serves to illustrate what the conservative historian Paul Johnson called in one chapter of his popular book "Intellectuals", the "flight of reason".

The question for some inquiring minds that still want to know, not all of course, but some, is: what is left to demand respect when man the en-souled and rational animal has been re-conceptualized as a kind of temporary bag of quasi-sacred appetites?

A person of that type, if we can still speak of a coherent "person" in that context - may enjoy lounging in its skin, and desire that no one would ever question "the reason" for it or balk at supporting the activity.

But you know, and only logically speaking, why should anyone care what a bag of fundamentally irrational appetites wishes?

Anonymous said...

"why should anyone care what a bag of fundamentally irrational appetites wishes?"

Why would I care what irrational appetites you wish? Maybe it works better to live and let live as long as you don't pick my pocket or break my leg.

Anonymous said...

"why should anyone care what a bag of fundamentally irrational appetites wishes?"

I don't know about you, but I don't need to be talked into caring about my fellow human beings. bag of fundamentally irrational appetites or ensouled rational animal makes no difference to me. I don't need a verbal model for what it means to be human. I am one.

DNW said...

Anonymous said

" "why should anyone care what a bag of fundamentally irrational appetites wishes?"

Why would I care what irrational appetites you wish? Maybe it works better to live and let live as long as you don't pick my pocket or break my leg.

February 17, 2012 8:07 PM"

" Anonymous said...

"why should anyone care what a bag of fundamentally irrational appetites wishes?"

I don't know about you, but I don't need to be talked into caring about my fellow human beings. bag of fundamentally irrational appetites or ensouled rational animal makes no difference to me. I don't need a verbal model for what it means to be human. I am one.

February 18, 2012 7:46 PM"



@Anon,


You write:

"I don't need a verbal model for what it means to be human. I am one."

How do you know?


Anyway, I don't know if as the Anonymous of the 18th 7:46 PM, you are the same as the Anonymous 17th 8:07 PM.

But if so, it appears that you subsequently figured out what what was meant by "irrational appetite". That is to say, that the term "irrational appetite" stands not for a disordered human impulse, but rather for the very moral actor himself/itself when he/it has been re-conceptualized into a metaphysically random material locus of desire, to put it in quasi-Deleuzean terms.

As far as your heart-felt and manifesto-like pronouncement of fellowship and solidarity, etc. etc., well, that's all very nice too by jingo.

But, what it misses, or chooses to ignore, is what was actually being discussed, which is: the conceptual implications of taking the hedonic utilitarian framework of anthropological interpretation seriously, through limiting the terms of analysis to those laid out by the doctrine as meaningful and "real".

Nonetheless, your indignation, as misapplied as it is, was interesting for what it illustrates in general about a tendency of the run-of-the-mill secular mind.

Though I can't say with certainty this observation applies to you, putatively moral claims of the kind you are insinuating, are often made by people who have just been observed previously engaged in deconstructive exercises which logically undercut the very basis for their subsequent pronouncements concerning human solidarity, or identification, or whatever.


In other words, after rejecting a particular definition of man on the basis that no such essence or nature as has been previously relied upon to inform that definition of man actually exists, they then implicitly rely upon the definition they have overthrown or discarded in order to try and rhetorically establish some form of mutuality of interest or identification with others.

Now, you personally, may be more than willing to admit that you are just saying that you feel some way or another, and that in doing so you are merely announcing to anyone who is willing to listen that you feel you are glad you feel the way you feel.

And as such, you might not mean to imply that anyone else has any objective moral obligation to feel the way you feel, or to recognize you as a "fellow".
Since that is all your feelings of fellowship are, per limitation: feelings. Merely your admittedly subjective projections of your felt hormonal state upon what are strictly speaking, objectively different phenomena having potentially, if not actually, different natures and ends. If we can even speak of natures at all, that is.

Which is all fine too, insofar as that goes. You can get as emotional as you want if it costs no one else an advantage or detracts from their welfare.

However, your expressions of emotion are simply not the kind of phenomena that entail, on the basis of any rational analysis, an interpersonal concession of respect; or importantly and in practical terms, which are due a consideration which costs the person extending it, anything important.

Anonymous said...

Alan Sokal? Is that you?

Anonymous said...

Marcel Proust? Use a period at some point.

Anonymous said...

DNW

If you need to be convinced by rational argument to feel empathy you are a sociopath. If you have ever worked with sociopaths, you will also know that rational argument won't work either.

So which are you, a sociopath or a sophistic pedant trying to prove the premise by affirming the consequent?

DNW said...

Anonymous said...

DNW

If you need to be convinced by rational argument to feel empathy you are a sociopath."



If one needs to be convinced by rational argument to mentally place one's self in another's figurative shoes, one might merely be, as so many atheists apparently are, marginally autistic.

Or you might just need to be convinced that the target of your empathy actually is capable of experiencing or understanding or feeling what it is you are projecting upon them, or that you actually have mutually reinforcing interests.




" If you have ever worked with sociopaths, you will also know that rational argument won't work either."


I have found that argument doesn't work with hysterics, or so-called social progressives either: since it is difficult to convince someone who wants something from you, "in return" for nothing that you want or need from them, that their expectation of your self-sacrificial interest (and here we are all presumptively taking atheism and relativism as the default position for the sake of argument)is itself irrational.

One often see modern liberals shrilly demanding an explanation as to how some additional set of bonds and obligations they have politically placed upon others will be effectively funded unless those paying for the privilege of receiving their direction, are willing to labor even more in the service of the program.

It never seems to occur to them that, even though they have made themselves into a suffocating nuisance and annoyance to which there is no upside, that anyone could reasonably balk.

They also seem to imagine that if "A" doesn't value or empathize with them specifically, then "A" cannot empathize with any person. Or at least some of them yammer on that way. You, for example ...



" So which are you, a sociopath or a sophistic pedant trying to prove the premise by affirming the consequent?

February 21, 2012 6:29 PM"


Did you mean to say "sophistical pedant"?

And, what premise is that?

Anonymous said...

DNW

The consequent: "We are (morally) justified in caring about the well being of other humans"

the premises:

"caring about rational ensouled beings is morally justified" (unstated)

"humans are rational ensouled beings"

Seeing as I know a lot about humans (from direct experience no less) and very little about the implications of being "ensouled" nor what sort of human rationality could be consistent with almost half the population of the US believing the earth is less than 10,000 years old, these premises are of no use to me. I therefore reject the premises but agree with the consequent.

On relativism: Descriptive relativism is obviously true. Normative relativism is morally repugnant to psychologically normal humans, self defeating, and not consistent with common usage of moral terms, which is to say, I will not defend it. I define morality in a broadly utilitarian way, but not one which discounts the value of things, such as a sense of autonomy, that are difficult to measure in practice.

On liberal/conservative economic policy, it seems to me we're stuck with some sort of pain-in-the-arse tax system as long as we want to avoid Somalia-style anarchy, so most of the utility lies in maximizing real after-tax income. What economic analysis I've seen tends to indicate that the way to do this (at least for 99.9% of the population) is massive deficit spending and expansionary monetary policy in the short run (due to present economic conditions) eventually financed by raising marginal tax rates, especially at the high end. There are also good empirical reasons (albeit no theoretical reasons simple enough for me to understand) to suspect that governments are better at running a health-care system than private entities.

Finally Merriam-Webster says "sophistic" and "sophistical" are the same word.

DNW said...

Anonymous said...

" DNW

The consequent: "We are (morally) justified in caring about the well being of other humans"

the premises:

"caring about rational ensouled beings is morally justified" (unstated)

"humans are rational ensouled beings" "



To whichever anonymous ...

I am having trouble following your (assuming you are one person) line of argumentation from one posting to another.

You were not long ago suggesting that I had advanced an invalid form of mixed hypothetical syllogism (Copi): inferring the antecedent of the premiss as the conclusion of the argument, through the error of having affirmed the consequent of the hypothetical premiss as a categorical premiss.

Now, you present the term "consequent" in place of what would usually be the term "conclusion", where there is no hypothetical in evidence.

In your argument above, you follow your supposed "consequent" with two non-hypothetical premisses, as one might do when illustrating some kind of categorical or other three term syllogism.

But of course, a consequent as used when describing the fallacy of "affirming the consequent" is the "then" part of a preceeding hypothetical premiss, a type of proposition which nowhere appears in your proffered example.

Thus you are now at substantive variance (to put it politely) with what you were earlier saying when you asserted that I had advanced a fallacious argument form - fallacious as in the case of the following famously invalid mixed hypothetical syllogism example,

Hypothetical premiss:
If it is seventy degrees then it is warmer than fifty degrees

Categorical affirmation of the consequent:
It is warmer than fifty degrees

Fallacious inference:
Therefore it is 70 degrees.

(Churchman's nice old example)


So, apart from the fact that you misconstrued (deliberately or not, I cannot say) what I wrote about the conceptual implications of performing the utilitarian conceptual reduction, you are now seemingly off on another muddled emotion driven tangent.

As far as your various announcements of your views such as:


"On relativism: Descriptive relativism is obviously true."

or

" Normative relativism is morally repugnant to psychologically normal humans, self defeating, and not consistent with common usage of moral terms, which is to say, I will not defend it. I define morality in a broadly utilitarian way, but not one which discounts the value of things, such as a sense of autonomy, that are difficult to measure in practice."

... well I don't recall asking you about them in particular, but you are certainly as welcome to them as you are to any other of your feelings about things.

Your opinion that "normative relativism", which I guess means something like moral relativism, is repugnant to psychologically normal humans is certainly an interesting opinion, but one that you would probably have a difficult time getting millions of moral or ethical relativists to take seriously. Especially, given that they would likely view their moral or ethical relativism as normative (in a default standard sense) and their embrace of it, per definition, standard in their circles.

Whether of course they are coherently or adequately describing reality is another matter, and a question apart from whether they are psychologically abnormal in some medical sense as you seem to be claiming.

Anonymous said...

DNW,

I assume you are trying to argue that we are "rational and ensouled beings," whatever that's supposed to mean. Presumably you are doing this as a stepping stone towards banning birth control or taking the virgin birth and resurrection stories surrounding Jesus more seriously than those surrounding Romulus.

In any event, you note that various dubious premises involving rationality, souls, and their supposed inherent value lead to some moral conclusions we share. From this you conclude that we "implicitly" share the dubious premises. Can you seriously not tell how this is affirming the consequent?

Here's the offending text:
"In other words, after rejecting a particular definition of man on the basis that no such essence or nature as has been previously relied upon to inform that definition of man actually exists, they then implicitly rely upon the definition they have overthrown or discarded in order to try and rhetorically establish some form of mutuality of interest or identification with others."

now admittedly there are enough weasel words in the surrounding text so that maybe you're not claiming I "implicitly" share your premises, but you really should know better than to even suspect it. I doubt any atheist you've been arguing with really thinks the moral value of a person requires the existence of a supernatural soul or perfect human rationality.

On descriptive and normative relativism: I introduced the distinction to point out why the following is not a productive starting point for discussion:
"(and here we are all presumptively taking atheism and relativism as the default position for the sake of argument.)" You're already accepting descriptive relativism by recognizing that you need to choose a more precise definition of morality for the purpose of discussion, but the fact that you assume relativism is a moral system indicates you are suggesting we use normative moral relativism. Very few people who are aware of the distinction are normative moral relativists. So you're arguing against a strawman.

Descriptive and normative relativism are standard terms. Look them up before you try to interpret what I meant by them.

Also, atheism is utterly irrelevant to morality unless you define morality by reference to God. You ought to be able to guess that I reject divine command theory, so you're begging the question hard by even assuming atheism is relevant to morality.

DNW said...

Anonymous said...

DNW,

I assume you are trying to argue that we are "rational and ensouled beings," whatever that's supposed to mean. Presumably you are doing this as a stepping stone towards banning birth control or taking the virgin birth and resurrection stories surrounding Jesus more seriously than those surrounding Romulus."


Then you presume wrong. It's very odd that you should say that, and imply those ends.

Why, it's almost as if you are transposing some former argument you have been involved in, here and trying to assign it to me ...


" In any event, you note that various dubious premises involving rationality, souls, and their supposed inherent value lead to some moral conclusions we share."


I made no assertion that you (whichever anonymous you are) share any particular values or premises at all. Nor, once again, did I say anything about "inherent value".

*Where in the world did you get that "inherent value" phrase from what I wrote here?*

What I was doing, in part, was commenting on a phenomenon well known around here and many other places, as "smuggling in premisses". That is to say, the act of covertly appealing to assumptions which one's philosophy has supposedly disposed of as scientifically invalid and irrelevant to treating the question.


" From this you conclude that we "implicitly" share the dubious premises."

Nonsense. I did not conclude that you shared anything. Not a soul, not rationality not humanity, not anything ... including premises. I was saying that it is typical for a certain type when making interpersonal claims to rely on the force of certain suppositions which they do in fact reject.

In those cases I would not claim that they are "unconscious hypocrites", but rather that they are at some level quite aware of the rhetorical manipulations they are performing.

Ayer for example made reference to reliance on the deployment emotive language in order to persuade others to accept norms which his doctrine of ethical statements ruled out as capable of being objectively grounded requirements.


"Can you seriously not tell how this is affirming the consequent?"


Yes I can and I already did. I paraphrased the definition a well known academic authority on the fallacy of affirming the consequent, and parenthetically cited his name.

Do you need a page number?

I then showed you what a classic illustration (courtesy of C. West Churchman) of a fallacious modus ponens looked like.

I also explained to you why your grandstanding accusation that I engaged in the fallacy of "affirming the consequent" failed by your own illustration: as your presented example contained no conditional premiss.

Yet you are still too fired up with resentment to see through the fumes of your own anger.


Then there's this classic bit,

" now admittedly there are enough weasel words in the surrounding text so that maybe you're not claiming I "implicitly" share your premises, but ..."

I'll just let that bit of rhetoric stand there in all it's classically shabby pathos ...


As for your comments on normative relativism and your defense of your use of the terminology, no such defense was necessary and only served to deflect attention from the proposition you had mooted concerning the doctrine, to wit: "Normative relativism is morally repugnant to psychologically normal humans, ..."


Now if you're a serious man, and you're really up for defending a thesis you might start there.

Maybe you have a blog of your own and could post it up there, and invite all to look in and comment.

That would of course have the disadvantage of mildly decreasing your Internet anonymity, insofar as it attaches your text to a definite, if only pen, name. But I am sure you could live with that, having as ardent the views as you do.

DNW said...

Anon,

I earlier responded to your latest at some length, largely reintroducing the logical points and authorities you ignored.

As this process of my repeatedly responding to your postings is both off the topic of A-T scholarship, and turning Professor's Feser's bandwidth into a verbal badminton court, I wouldn't blame him for having deleted it - if he did - for the repetition alone.

I did however invite you to argue your proposition that,

"Normative relativism is morally repugnant to psychologically normal humans ..." at greater length elsewhere. Possibly on your own website or blog.

I have no particular view on the psychological claim, either way. But if you do wish to argue for the point, I'm sure the professor wouldn't mind if you dropped a link.

Anonymous said...

DNW. I have no interest in arguing at length against normative moral relativism unless you can find someone who is willing to defend it.

Maybe next time you think you see a moral relativist, link the wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_relativism) and ask whether "normative moral relativism" seems like a reasonable ethical position.

It should also be noted that there are many ethical systems which are neither AT natural law morality nor normative moral relativism (e.g. pleasure utilitarianism, preference utilitarianism, ayn rand objectivism, confucianism, legalism, sharia law, talmudic law etc. etc.) Just because someone uses a term (e.g. moral value) which has a definition in Thomism does not mean they are using the term in the Thomistic sense.

DNW said...

Anonymous said...

DNW. I have no interest in arguing at length against normative moral relativism unless you can find someone who is willing to defend it.

Maybe next time you think you see a moral relativist, link the wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_relativism) and ask whether "normative moral relativism" seems like a reasonable ethical position.
February 24, 2012 5:57 AM"


" I have no interest in arguing at length against normative moral relativism ..."


No, based on your present reformulation of your previous proposition, and certain other evidences you now supply regarding your own deployment of the terms, I wouldn't think that you would.

But it wasn't "normative *moral* relativism" that you first stated was repugnant to psychologically normal humans.

Any who had studied anthropology and psychology in academic settings and who were already familiar with the term "normative" from these studies, and where it referred to the social acceptance of a regime of rules or practices or even interpretations, in general, must have been at least a little curious as to why, following my definite and context defining remarks on Bentham, you began yammering on about "descriptive versus normative relativism."

After all, "normative relativism" itself, and according to your recommended reading list, covers as a term a collection of evaluative relativisms broader and more embracing than moral or ethical relativism. ...

DNW said...

Anon, cont...

Now, ostensibly, you originally took issue with my parenthetical comment employing the term "relativism", because you felt that despite the ethical evaluative context provided by the preceding series of remarks, I didn't make a distinction among "relativisms" that you thought it important to specify.

However, you then immediately announced quite clearly that, "Normative relativism is morally repugnant to psychologically normal humans ..."

We note of course that any qualifier as to what kind of normative relativism you intended, was at that point missing.

Which is why *I had generously supposed on your behalf* that you meant it narrowly, as implying only ethical or moral relativism.

In fact, I commented: "Your opinion that "normative relativism", which I guess means something like moral relativism ..."

To which you replied,

"Descriptive and normative relativism are standard terms. Look them up before you try to interpret what I meant by them."


So, could it have possibly been that you were talking about a concept that included dietary or funerary practices, or even the rules at the local bridge or golf club?: "... claims about actual differences between groups play a central role in some arguments for normative relativism (for example, arguments for normative ethical relativism often begin with claims that different groups in fact have different moral codes or ideals)"

Or, were we to grant a specific adjective or unstated sense to your terminology?

It appears, despite your comically indignant parsing for a rhetorical foothold against others, we were expected to be generous.

Indeed, you later thought better of your own remarks, because what you now say is repugnant to psychologically normal humans is not simply "normative relativism", but "normative *moral* relativism ".

Should we take this modification of yours as an instance of deliberate coverup, prompted by an afterthought? Or should we assume it as another kind of textual artifact, evidence perhaps a belated realization of your own once you had rhetorically overstepped?

Because that's what can happen, as we have seen from your type before, when someone Googles up their ammunition, and deploys the first phrase from Wiki they come across as the substance of their rejoinder:

"Relativism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relativism
Jump to Descriptive versus normative relativism‎: In general, anthropologists engage in descriptive relativism, whereas philosophers engage in normative ..."


Had you put as much effort into thoroughly reading your own source as you put into challenging my parenthetical use of a term (apparently you were offended by the copula connecting atheist and relativism) you would have *earlier* in the exchange come across this Wiki passage which you have yourself recommended; and which, in explaining the generality of the concept of "normative relativism" might have saved you from having to cover your ass with a retrofit later:

"Normative relativism concerns normative or evaluative claims that modes of thought, standards of reasoning, or the like are only right or wrong relative to a framework. ‘Normative’ is meant in a general sense, applying to a wide range of views ..."

And that's pretty much just what they told us back in college.

No wonder you won't even make up a name that can be tagged to your product.

Yes, I suppose that you meant "Moral relativism" after all.