Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Review of Krauss

Something of a latecomer to the ecumenical Lawrence Krauss-bashing that has been taking place across the Internet, my review of A Universe from Nothing appears in the latest (June/July) issue of First Things.  You can read it online here.  More on this unusually awful book anon.

178 comments:

Hunt said...

I'm guessing you had a stringent word count limit, because that was, like, not a book review. That was a drive-by turd sling.

kuartus said...

Was it short?yeah. Was it a drive by turd sling? Uhm,no. But i sense you just dont like it when new atheist stupidity is called out for what it is. Just plain cluelesness.

Anonymous said...

Dear Prof. Feser,
Firstly many thanks for the excellent blog, it is one of the highlights of my day. A quick question if I could regarding the metaphysics of modern physics, I have just finished E.A. Burtt's The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science after seeing your references to it and wondered if you had any recommendations for other works that develop this line of thinking. In particular around the notions of time and space and the criticisms of these from an A-T perspective.

Much appreciated. And thanks again.

Hunt said...

Of course it was a drive-by. There was no substance to it at all. It was like "Catholics, go back to sleep. There's nothing to see here."

rank sophist said...

I just realized that what Prof. Feser refers to as "classical theism"--in this article and elsewhere--is in many ways equivalent to "panentheism", ignoring some of the more bizarre uses of that word in recent centuries. With this in mind, his typical list of people who held this view--Augustine, Maimonides, Avicenna, Aquinas et al--could be extended almost forever. It is the traditional understanding of God within philosophical theism, Judaism, Islam and almost all denominations of Christianity, and, in a slightly different form, a dominant belief in Hinduism.

kuartus said...

"There's nothing to see here"

Going by what krauss says, I guess that means there IS SOMETHING to see here!
Seriously, krauss is an idiot who doesnt understand basic english. "Nothing" is a term of universal negation which means "not anything." If I told him that I had nothing for breakfast, would he ask me if the nothing I had for breakfast was tasty? Its almost like atheism rots peoples brains or something.

BeingItself said...

What is the theist's answer to the question "why is there something rather than nothing"?

Hunt said...

"Going by what krauss says, I guess that means there IS SOMETHING to see here!"

That actually seems to be the usual rebuttal. Viz., they say there is nothing, but even their nothing is something. I think Krauss actually addressed that kind of argumentation, but we don't get anything about that from this vacuous "review." Here they trot out Feser to whisper sweet somnolence into the Catholic ear. "Sleep, sleep, sleeeeeeep...."

Crude said...

Really, if this debate was a boxing match, Krauss would be on his ass, eyes filled with tears, trying to guess if more of his teeth were in his stomach or on the floor by now. Way before Ed got to him.

Once you establish that Krauss isn't answering the question his book title suggests he is - and Ed is just the latest to establish that - there's little more to say about the book. I'm sure the speculative science is interesting - it's just largely irrelevant to philosophical project. And that itself is fine - except Krauss wanted to suggest otherwise. Bad move, and he's been rightly used as an intellectual punching bag as a result.

PatrickH said...

Hunt, I'm guessing you had a stringent word count limit, because that was, like, not a comment. That was a drive-by turd sling.

Vincent Torley said...

Hi Ed,

That was an excellent review of a book whose author failed to address the question which he set out to answer.

Hunt:

That which has properties of its own cannot be nothing. A quantum vacuum has properties; ergo it is something.

BeingItself:

You ask: "Why is there something rather than nothing?" The only possible answer is: because some kind of SOMETHING exists, which cannot not-exist. That SOMETHING cannot be composite or contingent; it must be simple and necessary.

If you really want to read a good essay on the logic of theistic belief, try this one:

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/paul_herrick/parsons.html

(Job Opening: Creator of the Universe—A Reply to Keith Parsons (2009), by Professor Paul Herrick.)

Happy hunting.

BeingItself said...

"BeingItself:

You ask: "Why is there something rather than nothing?" The only possible answer is: because some kind of SOMETHING exists, which cannot not-exist. That SOMETHING cannot be composite or contingent; it must be simple and necessary."

Bingo! So the quantum vacuum exists necessarily. No need for Yahweh.

BenYachov said...

>Bingo! So the quantum vacuum exists necessarily. No need for Yahweh.

From the wiki.

QUOTE"In quantum field theory, the vacuum state (also called the vacuum) is the quantum state with the lowest possible energy. Generally, it contains no physical particles. Zero-point field is sometimes used as a synonym for the vacuum state of an individual quantized field.

According to present-day understanding of what is called the vacuum state or the quantum vacuum, it is "by no means a simple empty space",[1] and again: "it is a mistake to think of any physical vacuum as some absolutely empty void."[2] According to quantum mechanics, the vacuum state is not truly empty but instead contains fleeting electromagnetic waves and particles that pop into and out of existence.[3][4][5]"

That is something but it's clear the something by nature changes thus it is an irreducible combination of potency and actuality & not something that is purely actual.

If it's not purely actual it needs something to account for it.

Unless you can show it's purely actual then your response fails.

Dude let Robert O do the physics. You need to work on your metaphysics.

BenYachov said...

To put it in simple term even BI can understand "Since when is energy purely actual and an unchanging changer"?

kuartus said...

"Bingo! So the quantum vacuum exists necessarily"

Please do us all a favor and educate yourself. Either that or shut up.

WMF said...

"Bingo! So the quantum vacuum exists necessarily."

Necessary, yet unstable. Logic level: atheists.

BenYachov said...

Something Necessary wouldn't change.

If we believe Einstein, energy can become matter and matter can become energy. That is change. Energy becomes virtual particles and back again etc....

BeingItself said...

Ben,

Your response only make sense if I bought your metaphysics. Which I don't.

Anonymous said...

Edward,

If you have the time can you respond to rank sophist's statement in regards to your version of theism being equivalent to panentheism?

I am interested in hearing how you would make the distinction between the two.

Thanks.

BenYachov said...

>Your response only make sense if I bought your metaphysics. Which I don't.

Then you have to get off your arse & learn my metaphysics so you can make a philosophical argument against it & substitute a more rational atheistic metaphysics to take it's place.

This means like rational Atheist with names like BDK, Robert Oerter, dguller and others you have to get off your fat ass and do some learning.

Otherwise you will continue to play the part of the Young Earth Creationist with a 5th graders understanding of biology trying to challenge Richard Dawkins on the truth of evolution.

Is there any hope for you at all to open up and learn? If only for the simply joy of learning? If only to make yourself a better informed Atheist?

Or are you 100% hopeless?

Tony said...

rank sophist, no, "classical theism" is not to be equated with panentheism, at least not if that word is to be used as a non-trivial term of art (i.e. if the definition of "panentheism" is not: the position that there is a divine and the divine is distinct from the universe as such. If that's your definition of panentheism, then it's a silly, trivial one.)

Although there are different modes of panentheistic theory, they _seem_ to have in common not merely that God is "in" things by reason of His causing them be be, but they actually manifest God - things are emanations or modes of presentation of God himself. Classical theism doesn't do that. Under classical theism, things are not expressions of divinity, they are simply distinct from God.

BeingItself: What is the theist's answer to the question "why is there something rather than nothing"?

In addition to the other answers, the theist can say "there is something rather than nothing because it pertains to Someone that being actual is of his very nature - and thus to BE fully, completely, altogether, in every possible sense. Unlike quantum vacuum, or even the laws of physics, it is not "of its very nature" that these be. As physicists like to trumpet over "mere" mathematicians, doing physics isn't merely about empty relational laws that may or may not have any THINGS to be described by those rules, physics is about laws that are about things that actually have those characteristic attributes. Mathematical relationships, though, are only "being" in a derivative, incomplete sense until they are instantiated in specific cases with real things. Thus neither physics beings, nor physical laws, nor mathematical laws, are something whose very nature it is to BE, whole, entire, and complete.

It is funny to watch people like Krauss and Dawkins squirm through the ideas, because even Krauss's failed attempt is, in some sense, an ill attempt to find something whose nature formally explains itself rather than needs something else to explain it. But when it comes down to it, he can no more than simply POSIT, as sheer supposition, mere declared "law" that would in some unexplained way be so as to be its own ground of explanation. But that's neither science nor even philosophy, it's SWAG, Some Wild Ass Guess.

Anonymous said...

"To the centuries-old debate over why any universe exists at all, Krauss’ book contributes—precisely nothing."

it can't be put better than this.

Ismael said...

@ Hunt

Do you realize how ridiculous you sound?

I am starting to doubt that you even took the time to read Feser's review, rather than skimming through it.

That actually seems to be the usual rebuttal. Viz., they say there is nothing, but even their nothing is something. I think Krauss actually addressed that kind of argumentation, but we don't get anything about that from this vacuous

Krauss perhaps addressed it but did not see the flaw in his reasoning.

He claims that he explains why there is something rather thjan nothing and how the universe came from 'nothing'.

Well he fails in explaining BOTH.

You can blindly believe he explained something, but really he did not.

You talk about "the usual rebuttal"... well I see no real answer from you or Krauss or anyone about this 'usual rebuttal'... siomply because you have no answer.

Krauss arguments are flawed... they refute themselves.

Sorry!

Perhaps, mr. Hunt, you should take time to WAKE UP (grab some coffee too!) and read carefully something before you comment.

Just a suggestion.

Eduardo said...

100% worthless is my BET !!!!

GO FOT IT BEN !!!!

Eduardo said...

I MEANT "FOR" !!!!

Anonymous said...

Dr. Feser,

You are publishing rather prolifically now in a variety of venues (great for us your readers). You have articles popping up in places some of which I know, some of which I have never heard of. What kind of arrangements have you been able to make to ensure that your voice is heard? Do you simply submit each piece anew, hoping that it will be accepted for publication, or do you have an agreement with Public Discourse or First Things that they will publish the work that you submit? Interested in how you've come to be interviewed on radio and podcasts as well. Just curious as to how this whole thing works...

Jonathan said...

Not a fan of Krauss by any means, but in all honestly that doesn't count as a 'review' by any common standard. I was left without any legitimate synopsis of Krauss' specific argument(s), and thus without any legitimate critique of them.

Eduardo said...

Well let us use the words of the great Thinker .... Hunt...

"I'm guessing you had a stringent word count limit...turd sling"

u_u straight from the quote mines

Jonathan said...

Was that directed to me Eduardo? I'm not attempting to 'sling turds' or to otherwise attack or insult Ed. Not that it is important, but I greatly enjoy and admire the majority of Ed's writing, and his is really the only blog I read on a regular basis.

That said, I simply didn't think his review of Krauss cuts mustard. If the aim of a review is to inform your audience of what is good or bad about the work you are reviewing, it is important to give a reasonably specific summary of the work, and not simply to castigate the thesis and general theme of it. In my view, Ed failed to live up to that responsibility in this case.

As I assume the combox is intended for readers to share their .02, I did so. Not because I have some strange need to denigrate Ed or anyone else.

Anonymous said...

@ Jonathan

I was left without any legitimate synopsis of Krauss' specific argument(s), and thus without any legitimate critique of them.



But Feser presented Krauss' argument.

Krauss book might be OK if you are interested in POP-science... but at the fundamental level it fails in answering the very question he set out to answer.

It is not Feser's concern to debate whether Krauss scientific theories are true or not. These are irrelevant to the question... and they are irrelevant from the conclusion that Krauss himself gives!!!

Some of Krauss colleagues might criticize him on his theories though, I am sure.

It matters not if a particular theory is right or not... since Krauss NEVER ANSWERS THE QUESTION IN THE FIRST PLACE.
Sad thing is that Krauss admits that himself, unwittingly in his own book.

Feser's critique, hence, is not on the particular scientific theories, but on the philosophical answers that Krauss thinks he gives from his scientific theories.

Since Krauss philosophy is pathetic, there is little to say except slapping one's face after reading Krauss.


Concluding:

Krauss claims he has the answer why there is something rather than nothing.

He explains physical and cosmological theories and concludes there is something because there is a vacuum energy and laws of physics.

But that does not answer the question. It answers rather the question 'how did the universe develop and from what'.

So Krauss answer misses the question entirely.

The End.

Eduardo said...

No jonathan read the first comment on the thread ... those are Hunt's words for real, and the Turd slinging thing is meant to be ....


"Ed, you sling turd at Krauss's book without presenting any substance."


U_U I bet you are not the type that read the comments just for the trainwreck feeling they sometimes give you .... u_u another evidence I need therapy.


But I suppose you can't write a full review of a book like Edward did in Rosenberg's case. Another thing, the arguments are somewhat .... in there. Is just they are not outlined. Lemme show you:

"But Krauss simply can’t see the “difference between arguing in favor of an eternally existing creator versus an eternally existing universe without one.” "


"Krauss’ aim is to answer the question “Why is there something rather than nothing?” without resorting to God"

"Krauss doesn’t understand the question itself. There is a lot of farcical chin-pulling in the book over various “possible candidates for nothingness” and “what ‘nothing’ might actually comprise,” along with an earnest insistence that any “definition” of nothingness must ultimately be “based on empirical evidence” and that “‘nothing’ is every bit as physical as ‘something’”—as if “nothingness” were a highly unusual kind of stuff that is more difficult to observe or measure than other things are. "

Eduardo said...

Well Anon answered first ...

Well anyways sorry for the misunderstanding, but the arguments seem somewhat there, at least the ones that Dr Feser think are the most important ones for him, or the most philosophical charged ones.

Eduardo said...

Damn it ... my comment got in the spam filter XD...

Eduardo said...

I feel like I need to explain at least this.

No Jonathan, the Turd sling is Hunt's words at Feser, that is why they are inside the quote marks. But I think you didn't read his comment... lucky you XD seriously

TheOFloinn said...

Here is a longer review by a physicist and philosopher:
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/books/review/a-universe-from-nothing-by-lawrence-m-krauss.html?_r=4xamorga

Jonathan said...

@Eduardo

Not sure I understand your comment. I read all the comments, including the one you 'quote-mined.' In what I believe was your initial response to me, you reconstructed Hunt's comment in an apparent attempt to implicate me as a 'turd sling.' I wasn't offended, but if that comment wasn't intended to convey such, or if it wasn't directed to me, than I misunderstood you. Either way, I'm not sure why I am to consider myself lucky.

@Anonymous 11:28

My understanding is that the general thrust and argument of Krauss' book, besides giving an account of current pop science, is to provide an explanation of how 'nothing' can be accounted for in scientific terms, and how current and future advances in physics might be able to explain the origin of all matter in those terms. I assume that in pursuit of that goal one of Krauss supporting arguments is to show how science is able to answer questions formerly reserved to the domain of philosophy, and that he makes an attempt to show how this is so.

Now it is certainly very likely that Krauss misunderstands the fundamental questions, commits logical fallacies, and generally fails spectacularly at his task. What I would have liked to see from Feser however was a summary of Krauss' specific arguments supporting his end and a sense of the evidence he attempts to marshal in their defense. That is, I would have liked to see Feser reconstruct the framework of Krauss' argument according to the principle of charity - to present them in a way that maximizes the force of the arguments, however great or small that may be.

What I felt we got instead was a re-iteration things Feser has said well elsewhere in response to other authors/works, and a continual reference back to those other works. It's fine for Feser to compare Krauss' book to those that have come before it, but the critical thing is to consider the work itself and not simply the broader (misguided) genre to which it belongs.

While it's certainly true that Feser considers a number of claims made by Krauss in the book, I didn't come a way with the sense that I had a workable understanding of how Krauss' uses these claims to make his larger argument. The claims that Feser actually responds to are scattered throughout the review, and generally considered in relation to

Simply put, I think the review would have been better served if Feser had spent more time reviewing and responding to the arguments supporting the thesis. Of course, it's possible that the book really is just so bad that nothing more was possible, in which case I shall have to pick it up myself. I do love a good trainwreck.

Jonathan said...

Oy. Typos and missing sentences galore. Oh well, it's not a particularly interesting argument anyway. I simply think Feser can and has done better. I shall look for it anon.

Eduardo said...

Not sure I understand your comment. I read all the comments, including the one you 'quote-mined.' In what I believe was your initial response to me, you reconstructed Hunt's comment in an apparent attempt to implicate me as a 'turd sling.' I wasn't offended, but if that comment wasn't intended to convey such, or if it wasn't directed to me, than I misunderstood you. Either way, I'm not sure why I am to consider myself lucky.

-----------------------------------
No no, you got wrong. I was not implicating that you were turd slinging. The turd sling part was actually sort off topic stuff.

Was more like this, you omplained about the lenght and the substance of the review. I sort of agree that a small review can't always present all the arguments in a book. So I quoted Hunt, which pretty much ... agrees with you to a certain extent.

So the comment was more... alright yes I agree with in certain points, so let me Rip off Hunt's comment U_U .... I should have been more clear about the whole thing.

rank sophist said...

rank sophist, no, "classical theism" is not to be equated with panentheism, at least not if that word is to be used as a non-trivial term of art (i.e. if the definition of "panentheism" is not: the position that there is a divine and the divine is distinct from the universe as such. If that's your definition of panentheism, then it's a silly, trivial one.)

Although there are different modes of panentheistic theory, they _seem_ to have in common not merely that God is "in" things by reason of His causing them be be, but they actually manifest God - things are emanations or modes of presentation of God himself. Classical theism doesn't do that. Under classical theism, things are not expressions of divinity, they are simply distinct from God.


Nothing can be completely distinct from God if you buy Aquinas's metaphysics. The God of classical theism is all-pervasive: if he took himself out of something, it would cease to exist. I agree that our universe isn't merely a manifestation, but, at least according to a fallible source like Wikipedia, that isn't the definitive version of panentheism. Quote:

Panentheism is a belief system which posits that the divine exists, interpenetrates every part of nature and timelessly extends beyond it.

[...]

In panentheism, God is viewed as the eternal animating force behind the universe.


The Wikipedia authors go on to cite Eastern Orthodox theology--which, according to my reading, differs from Roman Catholic understanding largely in word choice--as an example of panentheism. If that's panentheism, then almost every major religion has traditionally endorsed it.

Eduardo said...

My comment got into the spamm filter t_t...

Jonathan, the comments was not against you.... I was agreeing with you to a certain extent.

Jonathan said...

Eduardo,

No worries. As I said, I wasn't offended. I've seen your comments and you always seem to have thoughtful and enjoyable contributions.

I'm glad we are in (somewhat) agreement. =)

Anonymous said...

You guys are confusing me with all this talk about panentheism. I am really interested in hearing what Edward has to say about this and whether he thinks his position as a Classical Theist can be referred to an panentheistic.

Jonathan said...

It seems to me that the classical-theism-as-pantheism claims are pretty misguided.

The simple distinction, it seems to me, is that on the classical theism view God remains distinct from creation regardless of his interaction/participation in it - whether that participation is simple the act of creation, or perpetually sustaining reality, or even taking on a created nature and undergoing natural death.

Whereas pantheism suggests that God and nature/creation/etc. share a mutual relationship such that you can't really have one without the other, classical theism asserts that the relationship is precisely not one of mutual interdependence and co-existence.

In fact, the very idea that God actively sustains nature strongly suggests that he is distinct and separate from it.

Eduardo said...

Actually Jonathan, they are talking aboue PEN-EN-THEISM

is pantheism with an extra.

Eduardo said...

damn typos .... I mean PAN-EN-THEISM


Must press preview button from now on

Jonathan said...

Typos and now misreading. =( I think I'll go back to lurker-mode. Internet embarrass-en-ment is no fun.

Anonymous said...

@Eduardo

I'm not sure that panentheism would necessarily entail an interdependent relationship between God and Creation. Some interpretation of panentheism might fall under that category but not all. That's what I gathered at least from reading about the subject matter.

goddinpotty said...

I think I understand the Feserian God now, and it calls to mind this bit from William Burroughs:

Consider the One God Universe: OGU. The spirit recoils in horror from such a deadly impasse. He is all-powerful and all-knowing. Because He can do everything, He can do nothing, since the act of doing demands opposition. He knows everything, so there is nothing for Him to learn. He can't go anywhere, since He is already fucking everywhere, like cowshit in Calcutta.

Eduardo said...

Thanks for the insightful comment Potty ... that was pretty much like cow shit n_n!

@Anon

Well I only know the name because I have tripped on it in wikipedia. But my understanding of the term was a form of Pantheism, G*d is the universe or all that which exists and more.

But since I am hardly have any erudation on the subject... Well let's just wait and see what Rank Sophist has to say about it.

Tony said...

Rank, our disagreement is in terminology, principally, I think.

If God is "behind" everything because he is the cause of everything, then that does not imply something like "things are emanations of divinity". If God is not only behind everything but remains present to everything as the permanent ongoing creator maintaining its existence, that "present to" can be misleadingly referred to. Likewise the "interpenetrates" can be taken in more than one way also: it can be the kind of interpenetration in which God is wholly present to, indeed MORE present to each aspect, part, and component of every being than it is to itself by being its cause and ground, while maintaining each thing AS DISTINCT. OR, it can be taken as God being so bound up in things that the things are really aspects, presentations, of God, so that no "thing" is itself a distinct substance.

The kind of theism that posits God's causality as being so thoroughly fullsome that the created beings are distinct entities with their own natures, their own substantial beings, their own essences, is more what Feser means by classical theism. The kind of theism that posits God as the kind of creator that when he makes something that something isn't wholly in its own right a something as distinct from God, that's a different kind of theism, i.e. panentheism.

goddinpotty said...

The audio is quite worthwhile.

rank sophist said...

Eduardo and Anon,

I've just stumbled onto the concept myself, but I don't believe it would be accurate to say that a panentheistic God relies on the universe in any way. This is not the case with Eastern Orthodox theology, and, from my reading, the same applies to most other panentheistic systems.

I think a good example would be this quote from Hindu scripture I found (again, on Wikipedia): "I pervade and support the entire universe by a very small fraction of My divine power." Hinduism is unabashedly panentheistic, as this quote demonstrates. Yet, this could almost be a description of the God Aquinas defended--minus, of course, the semantic issues raised by the word "fraction".

I too would be interested to see what Prof. Feser had to say about this. If it's true that classical theism is in some sense panentheistic, then his case that it is the traditional view of God becomes even stronger.

Likewise the "interpenetrates" can be taken in more than one way also: it can be the kind of interpenetration in which God is wholly present to, indeed MORE present to each aspect, part, and component of every being than it is to itself by being its cause and ground, while maintaining each thing AS DISTINCT. OR, it can be taken as God being so bound up in things that the things are really aspects, presentations, of God, so that no "thing" is itself a distinct substance.

I agree. However, I believe that panentheism generally takes the first option. The second sounds more like pantheism--everything is made of God; nothing is not God; differences between substances are an illusion. Really, that's Advaita Vedanta in a nutshell, and that system is considered pantheistic.

The kind of theism that posits God's causality as being so thoroughly fullsome that the created beings are distinct entities with their own natures, their own substantial beings, their own essences, is more what Feser means by classical theism. The kind of theism that posits God as the kind of creator that when he makes something that something isn't wholly in its own right a something as distinct from God, that's a different kind of theism, i.e. panentheism.

I think that the apparent differences are the result of wording choice, but I'll have to do some more reading to be sure. Great discussion, either way.

Tony said...

The second sounds more like pantheism--everything is made of God; nothing is not God; differences between substances are an illusion.

I thought I was (and was trying) to stay away from pantheism as such. Under pantheism, not only are things aspects of God, but all that God is, is found in all the aspects of things that were, are, or will be. In other words, under pantheism, God is not any further than all the aspects of all the things of all the universe. But under panentheism, God is (in) all these and further. The panentheistic god is not comprehended by all the universe full of things, in pantheism he is. But under _both_ theories, things relate to God as aspects, emanations, presentation of him, so there is no sense of things being fundamentally distinct from God in either one.

Panentheism says that all is in God, somewhat as if God were the ocean and we were fish. If one considers what is in God's body to be part of God, then we can say that God is all there is and then some. The universe is God's body, but God's awareness or personality is greater than the sum of all the parts of the universe. All the parts have some degree of freedom in co-creating with God.

http://websyte.com/alan/pan.htm

DNW said...

"As noted already, Krauss has merely changed the subject. Perhaps realizing this, he completes his bait-and-switch with a banal anticlimax. In the end, he tells us, ...


“what is really useful is not pondering [the] question” of why there is something rather than nothing but rather “participating in the exciting voyage of discovery.” "


That reminds me, again: Someone cue that old Tonight Show clip of a toothy Carl Sagan, melodramatically droning on in ersatz religious awe about the wonder of billions and billions and billions of constellations stretching across the ...

Alastair F. Paisley said...

"Panentheism" is succinctly expressed in the following quote.

"Divinity is the enfolding and unfolding of everything that is. Divinity is in all things in such a way that all things are in divinity." - Nicholas of Cusa

Anonymous said...

Alistair,

What you're describing with that quote sounds more like pantheism than panentheism.

rank sophist said...

I thought I was (and was trying) to stay away from pantheism as such. Under pantheism, not only are things aspects of God, but all that God is, is found in all the aspects of things that were, are, or will be. In other words, under pantheism, God is not any further than all the aspects of all the things of all the universe. But under panentheism, God is (in) all these and further. The panentheistic god is not comprehended by all the universe full of things, in pantheism he is. But under _both_ theories, things relate to God as aspects, emanations, presentation of him, so there is no sense of things being fundamentally distinct from God in either one.

Panentheism says that all is in God, somewhat as if God were the ocean and we were fish. If one considers what is in God's body to be part of God, then we can say that God is all there is and then some. The universe is God's body, but God's awareness or personality is greater than the sum of all the parts of the universe. All the parts have some degree of freedom in co-creating with God.


The quote above is the kind of thing I was referring to when I said "ignoring some of the more bizarre uses of that word in recent centuries". It's characteristic of a kind of vapid New Age thinking. It's covered in the Wikipedia lead section on panentheism: "Some versions suggest that the universe is nothing more than the manifest part of God." This is a Spinozan idea. Later in the article you linked, it mentions God "changing"--definitely not orthodox panentheism.

By comparison, take this mainstream description of Vishnu (generally the highest deity in Hinduism): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vishnu#Characteristics. Relevant to the topic at hand: "the power to retain immateriality as the supreme being in spite of being the material cause of mutable creations". And here's a similar quote from Hindu scripture: "He is without beginning, the origin of all, the cause of all causes and the source of the Vedas."

This type of Hinduism is always described as panentheistic, and yet it bears little resemblance to the New Thought-type panentheism you outlined above. God (Vishnu) and creation are ontologically separate, but, at the same time, God permeates and sustains every aspect of creation. Honestly, I hold that this looks quite a bit like Eastern Orthodox theology, and, by extension, like the views of Aquinas, Augustine, Avicenna, Maimonides and so forth.

Westcountryman said...

I'm no expert, but it would be totally inaccurate to consider Advaita Vedanta as pantheistic in the modern, Western sense. Non-Dualism is the term that tends to be used for Advaita Vedanta. In Advaita Vedanta the world is a part of Brahman, but not a discrete part. Nirguna Brahman, being Infinite, is not in any sense changed or effected by the Finite created or manifested Universe. In this sense there is both an underlying Unity and yet an Ontological separation between God and Creation in Advaita Vedanta. Creation emanates from God, it exists through God. Yet as it is determined, finite, and relative. But being finite and relative it is like nothing compared to the Absolute, Infinite, and distinctionless Reality of Nirguna Brahman. Such a way of thinking has precious little to do with vulgar, New Age and modern ideas of Pantheism.

It is, incidentally, very close to Platonism.

Rank Sophist, your definition of Classical Theism as ruling out anything that even smacks of emanation would seem to rule out Platonism from Classical Theism. I'm not then sure what Classical Theism is, except for Aristotelianism/Scholasticism.

rank sophist said...

I'd like to qualify what I said above by noting that the denomination of Hinduism I'm describing is Vaishnavism, which is currently the largest. It holds that souls and substances are ontologically distinct from, but still connected to, the whole. Other branches may or may not agree with the outline I presented.

I'm no expert, but it would be totally inaccurate to consider Advaita Vedanta as pantheistic in the modern, Western sense. Non-Dualism is the term that tends to be used for Advaita Vedanta. In Advaita Vedanta the world is a part of Brahman, but not a discrete part. Nirguna Brahman, being Infinite, is not in any sense changed or effected by the Finite created or manifested Universe. In this sense there is both an underlying Unity and yet an Ontological separation between God and Creation in Advaita Vedanta. Such a way of thinking has precious little to do with vulgar, New Age and modern ideas of Pantheism.

It is, incidentally, very close to Platonism.


Yeah, I'm aware that Advaita isn't what most people mean by "pantheism" these days. It isn't a worship of contingent reality. The general idea of pantheism is there, though. Everything is Brahman, eternal and unchanging--differentiation is an illusion (Maya). It's fairly different from Platonism in that nothing actually emanates from Brahman, but I get your point.

Anonymous said...

Emanationism is incompatible with Christianity, as it implies that creation is co-eternal with the creator. From my understanding, both Eastern and Western churches reject it.

However, we should distinguish between emanations, which the Church does reject, and the great chain of being that is both hierarchical and participatory. Both the Christian East and (the Catholic) Christian West accept this. In fact, it would be accurate to say that classical theism preserves the basic structure of reality in neoplatonic thought (i.e. exitus/reditus), while rejecting aspects of it (i.e. the dialectic, emanationism, essence over personhood, etc.), and redefining other parts (i.e. ousia, hypostasis, etc.)

Anonymous said...

I should add that for those of you who are Thomists and have an interest in comparative metaphysics, Copleston's "Religion and the One: Philosophies East and West" may be right up your alley.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'm aware that Advaita isn't what most people mean by "pantheism" these days. It isn't a worship of contingent reality. The general idea of pantheism is there, though. Everything is Brahman, eternal and unchanging--differentiation is an illusion (Maya). It's fairly different from Platonism in that nothing actually emanates from Brahman, but I get your point.

How is this different from Parmenides?

Westcountryman said...

Yes, but the way in which everything is illusion (Maya is not simply illusion, it is a complex concept) and the relationship of manifestation to Nirguna Brahman is complex and many-sided. God is not just more than creation, he is at one time its foundation, cause, pattern, and complete constituent and yet also utterly above it; Being Infinite finite creation is like nothing compared with him.

Again the idea of how something emanates in Platonism is also complex and multisided. I would argue that in Platonism things do not emanate strictly outside God. Rather it is more a case of increasingly determination and privation of aspects of God that still also continue to exist in complete Unity with the One.

These are very complex topics, and seem to rely on how one understands Unity; a topic that for some reason I'm always discussing on this blog.

Westcountryman said...

I think it is remarkably close to Parmenides, at least if you understand Parmenides as he actually seems to have thought (cf Peter Kingsley's work on Parmenides).

It is arguable, but it does seem there may even have been prehistoric links between the Indo-European faiths of India, Persia, and Greece.

rank sophist said...

Rank Sophist, your definition of Classical Theism as ruling out anything that even smacks of emanation would seem to rule out Platonism from Classical Theism. I'm not then sure what Classical Theism is, except for Aristotelianism/Scholasticism.

Emanation is one of the central ideas of Eastern Orthodox theology, which is a form of classical theism; so I'm not sure where you're getting that from. My main point is that classical theism posits an ontological distinction between God and creation, which something like Advaita Vedanta does not have. The New Thought panentheism Tony brought up fails at this too, because it holds that the universe is a literal manifestation of God, which ends with the conclusion that we are all elements of divinity. Platonism, on the other hand, has an ontological distinction. Things emanate from the One but are not the One themselves; they merely participate in the One's being.

rank sophist said...

The above should say "Christian Platonism".

Westcountryman said...

I was simply wondering what you meant by Classical Theism. It appeared you just seemed to mean Aristotelianism/Scholasticism, so I wondered why use the term Classical Theism.

I think it would be wrong to say there is no Ontological distinction between God and creation in Advaita Vedanta. There is both an underlying link, as creation has its foundation, cause, pattern, and being totally within God, and yet it is still finite and relative and therefore strictly incomparable compared to Nirguna Brahman. It is a hard topic to get one's head around, and I'm no expert, but I think one must try to understand philosophies like Advaita Vedanta from their own viewpoint, not from the outside.

rank sophist said...

Westcountryman,

I'll keep that in mind. My knowledge of Hinduism is very limited, so I'll try to avoid making ill-informed generalizations about its schools in the future.

rank sophist said...

Anon,

That Copleston book looks very interesting. I'll have to bookmark it for later reading.

Anonymous said...

That would be news to me. I'm Orthodox and emanationism is a bad word from where I come from.

Anonymous said...

Westcountryman,

Scholasticism was not monolithically aristotelian. Albert was more platonic in his later years. Aquinas synthesized aristotelianism with platonism. Siger and co. constituted the "Averroists," i.e. the pure aristotelians. Bonaventure was an augustinian/platonist. Scotus was an innovative thinker. Ockham had his own ideiosyncratic interpretation of Aristotle.

rank sophist said...

Anon,

Perhaps I've been confused by Internet research--it wouldn't be the first time. I can't specifically recall the places I've read about emanation in Orthodoxy, but I know I've stumbled across it this Wikipedia article before: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emanation_(Eastern_Orthodox_Christianity).

Anyway, I think I'll stop spamming this combox for now. This has gotten too far off the main topic. I do hope Prof. Feser will chime in on the subject, but he's probably too busy.

Anonymous said...

rank sophist,

The problem with that page is a very familiar one: it treats Christian philosophy, whether East or West, as if it imported Greek thought in toto and without revision. This is, to be blunt, a product of a deeply rooted secularism in academia that discards 1,400 years of philosophy as unimportant. Look at most programs in philosophy and political theory: they cover the Greeks and Romans through Cicero, maybe Seneca, skip over the "Dark Ages" until they get to Machiavelli, Descartes, and Hobbes. When most scholars do look at Blessed Augustine or the Greek Fathers, they write them off as "Neoplatonists." As you are (presumably) a Catholic or Protestant, I'm sure that you are aware of this tendency regarding Blessed Augustine. If you want to get straight on these issues, you will likely have to read actual theologians.

In truth, both the Greek Fathers, in the East, and Blessed Augustine, in the West, heavily revised Greek thought as they adopted it -- and even the parts that were carried over were radically redefined in the process. Emanationism is one such example, which the Fathers rejected for a number of reasons. First, it makes creation necessary, rather than a free act by God. Instead, the world emanates from the One for eternity, making it co-eternal with God! Second, this makes the fundamental metaphysical relationship into the one between the "Unoriginate" or "Absolute," one the one hand, and transient reality on the other. This sets the One and material reality into opposition, which introduces a dialectical process by which return to the One is a self-negating return to unity. The Fathers, on the other hand, followed scripture in defining God as three persons and refer to them in relation to one another. Thus, the font of the Trinity is not the "Unoriginate" (Arians preferred this one), but the Father, who is defined by His relation to the Son and the Spirit. This definition leaves God self-contained, defined not in relation to creation, but to Himself.

What the Fathers did keep was the basic structure of reality flowing forward from (emanationism in Plotinus) God and returning to God (dialectic in Plotinus). But rather than reality being an imperfect and diffuse emanation, it is a gift that stands as an analogy to God -- and the only way to preserve the gift without fundamentally negating it is with a God that exists in both multiplicity and unity; otherwise, as within Platonism, the former lacks stability and legitimacy -- and must be negated. The return to God is not a dialectic, but deification or theosis (a doctrine which is more prevalent in the East, but still present in the West). This is not a self-negation, but an ever-growing more like God for eternity (as finite being can never really become God as He is in His essence) -- an ever growing more perfect and like God. As St. Athanasius said: "God became man so that men might become gods." (Or, if you prefer Augustine: "To make human beings gods, He was made man who was God.") I'm sure that you are familiar with the Latin words for this structure: exitus/reditus.

The big difference between Orthodoxy and the West on this matter, is that former make a distinction between God's Essence and Energies, whereby creation is sustained through the former and humans are able to transcend their natures and be divinized. We do not make a distinction between nature and grace, as Thomists do. We don't believe that there is a division between the natural and supernatural, as scholastic aristotelianism assumes.

Westcountryman said...

I presume this is the same anonymous I was discussing things with recently;

Despite who is right and wrong, it doesn't help to misconstrue the positions of the Classical authors, or of Platonism.

You have given a very simplistic picture of the Platonic position on Unity. It is not necessarily self-negation at all. Most people who have some knowledge of Platonism do not actually understand the Platonic idea of the Form, and its underlying conceptions of the One and the Dyad and Unity. My understanding is far from complete, but I can see this.Those aspects, the individual and particular, that 'make up' a Platonic Form exist in Unity with the Form, but this does not occur at the expense of their particularity. Indeed it is the completion of their particularity and their particularity is a necessary part of this Unity, in the Platonic conception.

May I recommend Giovanni Reale's A History of Ancient Philosophy: Plato and Aristotle, John N Findlay's Gifford Lectures, and the works of Algis Uzdavinys on Platonism to help understand the Platonic position on these issues.

The position you keep reiterating, that the Platonist simply asserts a negating and obliterating Unity, is not correct. At the very least your way of putting it is simplistic and seems more of a biased interpretation of the Platonic position than one based on deep knowledge of Platonic thought. It is therefore unhelpful and incomplete, at best. W

Anonymous said...

Westcountryman,

May I recommend the authors of the Christian creeds and the councils? This is how Christianity has read these traditions, and I would argue, along with the Church Fathers that what I've spelled out are the implications of these traditions -- whether you or platonists would recognize such or not.

I'm not sure what tradition you are part of, but if you are a Catholic, Orthodox, or Anglican, you are countermanding your own tradition and the very authors of your sacred creed as "unhelpful" and "incomplete." Really, you are playing with fire when you are willing to accept so much of vulgar platonism; it was the source of so many errors and heresies.

rank sophist said...

Anon,

I've been researching Eastern Orthodox theology, so I'm familiar with many of the ideas you mentioned. I found out that the Greek Fathers weren't Neo-Platonists after reading a few rebuttals to that claim, and I knew that their idea of emanation was somehow different. However, that is by far the best explanation of it that I've seen. Absolutely amazing. Many thanks for clearing this up for me.

Regarding the nature/grace, essence/energies, natural/supernatural problem, my reading has suggested that these differences between Thomism and Eastern Orthodoxy are partly the result of Greek and Latin translation issues and mutual misunderstandings. I'm not saying that the theological standpoints are the same, but I think there's a lot more common ground than most realize. (For my money, Orthodoxy's theology is superior, but Thomism's arguments for God's existence are far more powerful. It seems possible that the two could be reconciled.)

Anyway, this time I'm really done hijacking the conversation. Thanks again, Anon.

Westcountryman said...

Anonymous;

You must realise your reply is manifestly unsatisfactory.

The point is not the Christian position of Platonism, or whether Platonism is right or wrong about certain issues, but to understand how the Platonists undertstood their own positions on such areas as Unity.

It is rather you who appears to have only a vulgar understanding of the most vulgar Platonism. This is why you keep reiterating the charges of negation and oblivion against Platonism without any suggestion you have any familiarity with the Platonic perspective in the relevant areas.

I find your loyalty to Orthodox Christian position praiseworthy, but I think you take it a bit far when you extend it to strawmen of opposing positions. I contend we gain nothing as Christians by not understanding positions like those of Platonists properly and just drawing strawmen and misrepresentations of them; I was not aware this was part of the Creeds or Councils.

Rank Sophist;

Though his original post may, or may not, have been useful in understanding the Eastern Christian position, it was completely unhelpful in understanding the actual position of the Platonists.

Anonymous said...

To illustrate my point in words much more eloquent and precise than I can muster, I thought that two quotations from David Bentley Hart, an Eastern Orthodox theologian very popular amongst Catholics, would be most instructive. He is very much an expert on platonism, as well. His views are hardly "simplistic," "unhelpful," or "incomplete."

"In truth, of course, even to speak of an 'ontology' in relation to these systems is somewhat misleading. Late Platonic metaphysics, in particular, is not so much ontological in its logic as 'henalogical,' and hence naturally whatever concept of being it comprises tends towards the nebulous. 'Being' in itself is not really distinct from entities, except in the manner of another entity; as part of the hierarchy of emanations, occupying a particular place sithin the structure of the whole, it remains one item within the inventory of things that are. Admittedly, it is an especially vital and 'supereminent' causal liaison within the totality of beings; but a discrete principle among other discrete principles it remains. What a truly ontological metaphysics would view as being's proper act is, for this metaphysics, scattered among the various moments of the economy of beings. (continued . . .)"

Anonymous said...

"(. . . continued) One glimpses its workings now here and now there: in the infinite fecundity of the One, in the One's power to grant everything its unity as the thing it is, in the principle of manifestation that emanates from the One, in the simple existence of things, even in that unnamed, in some sense unnoticed medium in which the whole continuum of emanations univocally subsists. But, ultimately, the structure of reality within this vision of things is (to use the fashionable phrase) a "hierarchy within totality," held together at its apex by a principle so exalted that it is also the negation of the whole, in all of the latter's finite particularities (See Plotinus, Enneads 6.7.17.39-43; 9.3.37-40; cf. 5.5.4.12-16; 11.1-6.). What has never come fully into consciousness in this tradition is (to risk a graver anachronism than any I have indulged hitherto) the 'ontological difference'--or, at any rate, the analogy of being. So long as being is discriminated from the transcendent principle of unity, and so long as both figure in some sense (however eminently) within a sort of continuum of metaphysical moments, what inevitably must result is a dialectic of identity and negation. This is the special pathos of such a metaphysics: for if the truth of all things is a principle in which they are grounded and by which they are simultaneously negated, then one can draw near to the fulness of truth only through a certain annihiliation of particularity, through a forgetfulness of the manifest, through a sort of benign desolation of the soul, progressively eliminating--as the surd of mere particularity--all that lies between the One and the noetic self. This is not for a moment to deny the reality, the ardor, or the grandeur of the mystical elations that Plotinus describes, or the fervency with which--in his thought and in the thought of the later Platonists--the liberated mind loves divine beauty (There are rather too many passages on this mystical eros in the Enneads to permit exhaustive citation; but see especially 6.7.21.9-22.32; 6.7.31.17-31; 6.7.34.1-39; 6.9.9.26-56). The pathos to which I refer is a sadness residing not within Plotinus the man, but within any logically dialectical metaphysics of transcendence. For transcendence, so understood, must be also understood as a negation of the finite, and a kind of absence or positive exclusion from the scale of nature; the One is, in some sense, there rather than here. To fly thither one must fly hence, to undertake a journey of the along to the alone, a sweetly melancholy departure from the anxiety of finitude, and even from being itself, in its concrete actuality: self. world, and neighbor. For so long as one dwells in the realm of finite vision, one dwells in untruth."

--"The Hidden and the Manifest: Metaphysics after Nicaea" from Orthodox Readings of Augustine, pgs 201-203

Anonymous said...

Here is the second one:

"All things—all the words of being—speak of God because they shine within his eternal Word. This Trinitarian distance is that 'open' in which the tree springs up from the earth, the stars turn in the sky, the sea swells, all living things are born and grow, angels raise their everlasting hymnody; because this is the true interval of difference, every metaphysics that does not grasp the analogy of being is a tower of Babel, attempting to mount up to the supreme principle rather than dwelling in and giving voice to the prodigality of the gift. It is the simple, infinite movement of analogy that constitutes everything that is as a being, oscillating between essence and existence and receiving both from beyond itself, and that makes everything already participate in the return of the gift, the offering of all things by the Spirit up into the Father’s plenitude of being, in the Son. By the analogy, each thing comes to be as pure event, owning no substance, made free from nothingness by the unmerited grace of being other than God, participating in the mystery of God’s power to receive all in giving all away—the mystery, that is, of the truth that God is love."

--The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 248–9.

Sean Robsville said...

Maybe 'existence' is not ontologically fundamental.

To say that something 'exists' is ultimately an arbitrary statement. All we are saying is that its rate of disintegration is negligible on the timescale of our lifetime. In reality, all functioning phenomena are impermanent - it's just that some are more impermanent than others.

Examined closely enough, the very concept of 'existence' itself is fraught with difficulties. All functioning phenomena are by their very nature composite, and subject to moment-to-moment change.

Westcountryman said...

I have come across Hart before, in the context of criticising the Gnus, and he is obviously intelligent and does have a good knowledge of Platonism.

The problem is that, from those quotes, he manifestly misunderstands the Platonic view of Unity. To understand his misunderstanding all one has to consider is that if the Ultimate One is the summation of the One and the Dyad, that are themselves the principles behind the Forms, then it contains, though transcending the Forms. So we can start by considering the Forms as an image of the Unity of the Ultimate One itself

The Forms transcend, as well as cause and give being to, their particulars. But they do not obliterate these particulars. Indeed, the Form of a Cat not only does not obliterate the particular existence of Garfield; on the contrary though it transcends all particular Cats its very existence includes the possibility to Form and give being to Felix. This shows that, wrong or right, the Platonic idea of Unity doesn't, on the face of it, entail the obliteration of particular. Rather, it gives the particular its completion and its place.

Sean Robsville said...

The Platonic concept of forms was demolished by Darwin.

Is there an ideal form of a rose, a cherry, a raspberry, a blackberry, a loganberry?

Have these ideal forms always existed, or did they only come into existence on the first occasion that their particular species were instantiated?

Westcountryman said...

The Platonic concept of forms was demolished by Darwin.

I think I may have been a bit harsh in describing Anonymous's misunderstandings of Platonism. ;)

Verbose Stoic said...

Sean,

"The Platonic concept of forms was demolished by Darwin."

Since the concept of forms has nothing to do with Darwin, I find this hard to believe.

"Is there an ideal form of a rose, a cherry, a raspberry, a blackberry, a loganberry?"

Yes, or else we couldn't identify them and judge them as being non-ideal.

"Have these ideal forms always existed, or did they only come into existence on the first occasion that their particular species were instantiated? "

For them to exist, they must participate in the Form, and thus it must come first. A predicate of their existence is there being a Form of them that can define their properties.

Okay, this interpretation of Plato might be a bit off, but I think it's close enough to show that, really, Darwinism is completely compatible with Platonic Forms.

Anonymous said...

Sean Robsville,

Who are you addressing? Me or an earlier poster? If me, then my answer is that your view is embedded in your metaphysics, which has its own assumptions, and my view in another, equally with its own assumptions. The dispute the matter would require that we talk about those assumptions; asserting one view against another like so just won't do.

Your understanding of the form is similarly problematic. Either teleological accounts or seminal forms can provide a metaphysical explanation for evolution. Platonism can adopt either. Really, this issue has been rehashed on this blog a dozen times.

You deal in many assertions, but few arguments.

Westcountryman,

Hart, like the rest of Christian tradition, is right on this. Transcendence for Plotinus and other Neoplatonists is the ascent of the of the soul back to the One because the soul has a vestige or trace of the One within it. Given the structure of Plotinian cosmology, as particular reality and the One i and its metaphysics, assent to the One cannot be but a negation. This point that he makes is manifestly non-controversial amongst Christian theologians and classical philosophers. I dare say that it is common knowledge. I'm somewhat at a loss here.




Off to bed!

Westcountryman said...

-By the way in my last reply to Anonymous I meant to use only one particular Cat as an example. I was going to call him Felix, but thought Garfield was more jovial; unfortunately I called him both.

Anonymous said...

In fact, some have made strong arguments that evolution makes little sense without the concept of forms and teleology:

Darwin's Pious Idea: Why the Ultra-Darwinists and Creationists Both Get It Wrong

http://www.amazon.com/Darwins-Pious-Idea-Ultra-Darwinists-Creationists/dp/0802848389/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1337245327&sr=8-1

Westcountryman said...

Actually it is far from non-controversial. Hence it is not that position you will find in experts on Classical Platonism, such as those works I recommend like Giovanni Reale's A History of Ancient Philosophy: Plato and Aristotle; John N Findlay's Gifford Lectures; and the works of Algis Uzdavinys on Platonism; or in the works of other experts such as Lloyd Gerson.

Your information on the cosmology of Plotinus does not nothing to properly explain your point. I challenge you to actually back up your point or show some knowledge of the topic you are discussing. I would say you are a loss because you lack knowledge of the matter at hand. I'm relatively ignorant myself, but I know enough to see you are misrepresenting the Platonic position, vague appeals to popularity and one line description of Plotinus' metaphysics not withstanding.

Sean Robsville said...

@ Verbose Stoic

"Is there an ideal form of a rose, a cherry, a raspberry, a blackberry, a loganberry?"

Yes, or else we couldn't identify them and judge them as being non-ideal.

"Have these ideal forms always existed, or did they only come into existence on the first occasion that their particular species were instantiated? "

For them to exist, they must participate in the Form, and thus it must come first.


So the Form of the loganberry existed before 1883? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loganberry

Sean Robsville said...

Richard Dawkins' granny chain is a good illustration of why the idea of Forms applied to any biological species (including cats) is a delusion caused by discontinuous thinking. Ring species are another: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ring_species

Anonymous said...

Richard Dawkins' granny chain is a good illustration of why the idea of Forms applied to any biological species (including cats) is a delusion caused by discontinuous thinking.

Dawkins is a philosophical doofus who could not argue his way out of a paper bag. The "granny chain" begs the question: one of the issues at hand is whether or not such unbroken continuity exists in nature. Merely stating that it does will get you nowhere.

Worse still, it's incoherent to say that there would be such a thing as a "grandmother", a "chimpanzee" or even a "you" to create such a "chain" if you don't believe in essentialism. Nothing would separate one thing from anything else if essentialism were not true, which would turn the entire idea of a "granny chain" into complete gibberish.

Cale B.T. said...

Mr Robsville, you seem to be very confident than modern biology is wedded to nominalism.

May I recommend you read the book "The Evolution of Complexity: How The Leopard Changed His Spots" by Brian Goodwin.

Also, whilst it was certainly atypical, there was an article published by researchers from the University of Otago in the Journal of Theoretical Biology a few years back called "The protein folds as platonic forms: New support for the pre-Darwinian conception of evolution by natural law"

Are things really as cut and dried as you are making them out to be?

Cale B.T. said...

*that modern biology

Sean Robsville said...

@Anonymous

Essentialism has been discarded by all the modern sciences, chemistry was its last bastion.

In 'Darwin's Dangerous Idea' Daniel Dennett says ' Even today Darwin's overthrow of essentialism has not been completely assimilated .... the Darwinian mutation, which at first seemed to be just a new way of thinking about kinds in biology, can spread to other phenomena and other disciplines, as we shall see. There are persistent problems both inside and outside biology that readily dissolve once we adopt the Darwinian perspective on what makes a thing the sort of thing it is, but the tradition-bound resistance to this idea persists.'

If you want an example of an existing unbroken continuity in nature, take a look at ring species: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ring_species

Verbose Stoic said...

Sean,

"So the Form of the loganberry existed before 1883?"

It would have had to for a loganberry to be instantiated as such .. although this depends greatly on what you mean by "existed".

"Richard Dawkins' granny chain is a good illustration of why the idea of Forms applied to any biological species (including cats) is a delusion caused by discontinuous thinking. "

No, it isn't, because making claims about being intermediate points as instantiations between two separate forms has nothing to do with Forms themselves. Since the instantiations are ALWAYS imperfect -- which is why Plato wanted Forms in the first place -- technically ALL instantiations are "intermediate cases". Thus, since it already accepts what Dawkins considers intermediate cases, Form theory cannot be threatened by them.

Cale B.T. said...

Also, Mr Robville may I pose a question to you?

If it could be shown to you that Dennett's Universal Darwinian acid, far from readily dissolving certain philosophical problems, actually dissolves the coherence of one's worldview, would you then say, "oh well, too bad for Darwinism, then"?

Cale B.T. said...

Also, when you're walking home tonight and some great homicidal maniac comes after YOU with the Platonic form of loganberries, don't come crying to me.

Sean Robsville said...

@ Verbose Stoic
No, it isn't, because making claims about being intermediate points as instantiations between two separate forms has nothing to do with Forms themselves. Since the instantiations are ALWAYS imperfect -- which is why Plato wanted Forms in the first place -- technically ALL instantiations are "intermediate cases". Thus, since it already accepts what Dawkins considers intermediate cases, Form theory cannot be threatened by them.

So since Forms serve no useful purpose in desribing the real world, isn't it time to apply Occam's razor?

Westcountryman said...

In the quote from Dennett, one wonders what it is that mutates, and what it mutates to, if there are no essences or Forms.

A central aspect of the Platonic conception of the Form is that the true cause of sensible phenomena are what Aristotelians refer to as Formal and Final causes. It is to these, not the efficient causes, that we must look to for true and ultimate causes. Efficient causes get any regularity, order, and unity they possess (or manifest) only due to the ultimate causal power of Formal and Final causes.

Now what is important in the context of Mr.Robsville's comments is that it makes no sense to seek any true and complete answer to the changing in what itself changes. It is the Form, that which is Objective, Unchanging, and which has its Identity in itself to which we must appeal to find the True and Ultimate Cause of things. (Now the Forms themselves are incomplete causes in Platonism; more fundamental principles are sought in the one and the Dyad and then the Ultimate One above these, but that is not important here.)

Cale B.T. said...

"So since Forms serve no useful purpose in desribing the real world, isn't it time to apply Occam's razor?"

Sorry to butt in, but isn't Occam's razor something like "Do not multiply entities beyond necessity." Surely if it is necessary to accept the existence of Forms in biology, well... shouldn't we do so? Or are we in for another episode of Verificationism Revisited?

Sean Robsville said...

@ Westcountryman

"Now what is important in the context of Mr.Robsville's comments is that it makes no sense to seek any true and complete answer to the changing in what itself changes.

It is the Form, that which is Objective, Unchanging, and which has its Identity in itself to which we must appeal to find the True and Ultimate Cause of things."


But what if the ultimate nature of phenomena is change and impermanence? After all, physicists tell us that even a perfect vacuum is a seething mass of particles coming into and out of existence.

Perhaps Western philosophy was on the right track with Heraclitus, and took a wrong turning into a dead-end with Plato.

Eduardo said...

Sure Sean ... but the problem is that you make too many accertains and make very little arguments about the accertains you make.

Yes matter changes .... maybe ... fundamental particles don't seem to change though... that is why they are fundamentals I suppose.

But anyways change in objects does not entail no universals. If it does, why it does?

This is the part where you make the argument about the characteristics of change in objects entailing the non-existence of universals O_O...

Eduardo said...

DAMN it ... I mean assertions.... I sort of felt off when I wrote that way XD

goddinpotty said...

This just came across the web -- an interview with Bruce Hood about the psychology of essentialism.

DNW said...

Krauss did of course admit in an interview that he was engaging in a less that literally true sales-pitch in order to stir interest in and presumably sell, his book.

His dishabille attitude toward precision in that instance may reflect such a felt contempt for competing worldviews that he sees no moral obligation to holders of these views to hew to a respectful presentation, or a simple judgment that his means are justified in achieving his preferred ends.

Anonymous said...

But what if the ultimate nature of phenomena is change and impermanence? After all, physicists tell us that even a perfect vacuum is a seething mass of particles coming into and out of existence.

Perhaps Western philosophy was on the right track with Heraclitus, and took a wrong turning into a dead-end with Plato.


Well then, than ti would agree with Plato and even more with Aristoteles, since they do not deny change and acutalization of potentialities.

I think the dead end of methaphysics is rather rationalism and logical positivism.

---

Also Essentialis is far from dead, check Oderberg works

http://www.reading.ac.uk/AcaDepts/ld/Philos/dso/dso.ht

No doubt PLATONISM is not the answer with his extreme realism, but perhaps moderate realism is.

Anonymous said...

Krauss isn't a philosopher so I won't buy this book for it's philosophy. However he is a physicist, so can anyone say if the book is worth reading for its physics content. Is it interesting for the general reader who doesn't have a PhD but might be interested in physics?

Thanks

Anonymous said...

Westcountryman said… >"The Platonic concept of forms was demolished by Darwin."
I think I may have been a bit harsh in describing Anonymous's misunderstandings of Platonism. ;)


Heh. And this combines badly misunderstanding Darwin as well.


Anonymous said... "In fact, some have made strong arguments that evolution makes little sense without the concept of forms and teleology: Darwin's Pious Idea

Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of forms and teleology. In fact, nothing in science does, or nothing at all, really. Still seems a bit of stretch to call it "pious" (the only way 6-day creationism would make sense is with forms and teleology too, for that matter).


Dawkins is a philosophical doofus who could not argue his way out of a paper bag.

You give him too much credit.

Verbose Stoic said...

Sean,

"So since Forms serve no useful purpose in desribing the real world, isn't it time to apply Occam's razor?"

If Plato hadn't suggested them to get around rather major philosophical problems, you might be able to claim that. Since he did, and since Darwinism doesn't say anything about those problems, the actual answer is a resounding "No".

Eduardo said...

All this talk about essentialism, I decided to just give a look in some papers related to essentialism.

Very interesting, David Hull mentions Popper that says that science advances by getting rid of essentialism.

Any comment on that folks?

----------------------------------

And goes on to talk about how hard it is to do taxonomy with essentialists ideas and evolution...

So, the crackpot remark "Darwin solved the problem of origin of species by eliminating species." was actually correct... perhaps it was attributed sort of wrongly to Darwin.

So there are no species in Biology. Or there is a trick to know how things change...

*thinking pause*

hahahaha... well I think NOW I see it, you can comclude that things change by using represatational essentialism; the essence of the species 100 years ago, and conclude by comparison that it has changed.

No wait that is wrong... the idea of species is in itself a essentialist idea. The idea that there is a group that has certain type of characteristics, that are essential to that group.

Mayr's idea of interbreeding is very good... yet it is limited by the shape and size of the organs of each creature.

Yeah you can not know if a horse is not a dog until you see if they breed. well this whole thing is fun is just that it is super hard to think things changing without ESSENTIALS, or imagine differences without ESSENTIALS.

So what you people think ?

DNW said...

Eduardo said...

All this talk about essentialism, I decided to just give a look in some papers related to essentialism.

Very interesting, David Hull mentions Popper that says that science advances by getting rid of essentialism.

Any comment on that folks?

----------------------------------

And goes on to talk about how hard it is to do taxonomy with essentialists ideas and evolution...

So, the crackpot remark "Darwin solved the problem of origin of species by eliminating species." was actually correct... perhaps it was attributed sort of wrongly to Darwin.

So there are no species in Biology. Or there is a trick to know how things change...

*thinking pause*

hahahaha... well I think NOW I see it, you can comclude that things change by using represatational essentialism; the essence of the species 100 years ago, and conclude by comparison that it has changed.

No wait that is wrong... the idea of species is in itself a essentialist idea. The idea that there is a group that has certain type of characteristics, that are essential to that group.

Mayr's idea of interbreeding is very good... yet it is limited by the shape and size of the organs of each creature.

Yeah you can not know if a horse is not a dog until you see if they breed. well this whole thing is fun is just that it is super hard to think things changing without ESSENTIALS, or imagine differences without ESSENTIALS.

So what you people think ?
May 17, 2012 10:17 AM



Apart from the reality or unreality of species per se, if there are no species with essential characteristics, it implies that no coherent categorical valuation claims can be made on behalf of what are non-existent entities or universals regardless of the ontological status of the value statements themselves.

There is no universal object which to existentially instantiate.

What's left are expressions of urges, and calculations, veiled or not, of relative advantage.

So, no such thing as a definable man, then no coherent prescriptive injunctions based on such a definition (this phrasing is not meant as a modus tollens); and universally distributive rights injunctions based on universally distributed attributes fall by the wayside as well.


Which since we are all big boys is just fine, and we can live with it. Unless that is, you are a social progressive inhabitant of the "scaffolding" as they say, and are frightened by what the specter of social fragmentation might do to your bureaucratically dispensed stipend; and who therefore, unlike Rorty, wishes to preserve the social impression that evaluative statements and social injunctions (of the progressive at least) are based on something more than X's personal preferences and a force of will or fist sufficient to compel compliance.

This tactic - a kind of deliberate indulgence cognitive dissonance - perpetuates the useful illusion that progressive politics is ultimately based on appeals to reason within a universal reference framework valuing self-direction, rather than on a covert form of Darwinian exploitation of a drone class by cynical nihilists.


"Nice nihilism" is easy, when you have people who can be duped into paying for it.

Anonymous said...

It's rather amusing seeing people trying to undermine essentialism to forward their own false worldviews without even understanding what essentialism is in the first place. Of course just like any other guilty party they are consequently caught making appeals to formal causes without even realizing it. Then they tell you that somehow darwinism (nevermind the huge problems and incoherencies that theory is facing in the first place)has somehow undermined essentialism.

Someone needs to explain to this robsville guy that participating in what he would referred to an intermediate form/species does not undermine essentialism but on the contrary supports it. To participate in forms imperfectly is not equivalent to their being no forms.

But hey, the desperate darwinist who is committed to nominalism and other such nonsense would do anything to convince himself that his ideas are in fact rational, when they are blatantly not.

Anonymous said...

Oh and robsville,

Heraclitus was dead wrong as are every other person that claims change is fundamental because it's metaphysically absurd to change to be fundamental... Because change in it and of itself is nothing if there is no-something to be changed.

Eduardo said...

@DNW

O_O woah!... I need a dictionary XD!

Oh I see, so the argument goes like: Without Essentialism, or Essentials you can really make categories and therefore make no calls about them? Is that it?

Can't someone go around this ??? You know like say that he knows chairs are not dogs ... Wait how you come up with the idea of essentials ??? Or how you define a Essential ???


@Anon 11:28

Well... Any idea that is declares itself Rational must take in consideration Evolution ... Darwinian Evolution XD


Robsville own words.

But anyways what would Essentials predict to the world in terms of shapes of things. Or it predicts nothing in terms of shapes of objects and beings ???

Because I pretty damn certain this is where people are coming from.

Codgitator said...

Meanwhile, Sean "Down With Essence Except, Well, For The Rationalist Essence Of Buddhism I'm All, Like, Hewn On Blogging About" Robsville, keeps partaking in a *dialogue*, which is a complex reality, erm, no, wait, "illusion based on discontinuous thinking." Right. Buddhism: cosmic solipsism. Or: Buddhism is true if we all were stuck in Woody Allen's mind after 1985.

In any event, who says forms must be immutable, Seannett? E.g. "what it is to be a No. 2 pencil" is a novel, generated form. By contrast, "what it is to be a dodo bird" is a form that has ceased to exist. Meh.

Sean, fundamentalist creationism and naive Platonism may be easier to refute, but that doesn't mean your critiques are especially relevant here. So please, do moi a favor: never blog or comment again here or elsewhere, in order to demonsrate to us fellow rational mystics that you are entirely free of ego and desire, like a good Buddhist. As I've said before, Buddhism attracts the psychosicially masochistic and/or the psychosocially lobotomized. Ad hominem? Sure. Who cares, though? Sean, nor any-'one' else really exists to be insulted.

Till next time, keep having fun showing us all how the rational core (or...essence?) of Buddhism remains unchanged despite its awesome responsiveness to historical/evolutionary change.

Yeah.

Sean Robsville said...

@Eduardo

"it is super hard to think things changing without ESSENTIALS, or imagine differences without ESSENTIALS. "

1 Things changing without ESSENTIALS - radiactive decay of one element to another

2 Differences without ESSENTIALS - the whole periodic table of the elements

Atoms of the chemical elements have no essential nature beyond their electron count.

Anonymous said...

Codg,

That's kind of uncalled for. Sean is a know-nothing, but insulting Buddhists like that is an ungentlemanly move.

Eduardo said...

I don't see it Sean. That is why I said that you should try to argument instead of simply assert.

Your first example .... what? If essentials don't exist, well than theoretically, everything can chage without essentials.

Second example.... righttt I guess I see what you mean... To you essence is an imunutable state. So if Helium becomes Hidrogen, there can be no essences because Helium was meant to be unchangable...


But the other people don't see to be defending that... but who knows. Again Sean, show that it is necessary for change in entities that essentials to not exist. Or that Essentials entail that everything is the same always.

Eduardo said...

Internet discussions take the best of us all XD.

Although Sean seen pretty unchaged so far...

Sean Robsville said...

Does an atom of Helium behave as Helium because it 'instantiates' or 'participates in' the essential nature or ideal form of he substance Helium, or because of the number of electrons in its outer shell?

Eduardo said...

Atoms of the chemical elements have no essential nature beyond their electron count.

-------------------------------

No Sean, totally wrong. It is the dynamics of the atom: the nucleus with its protons and neutrons and the electrosphere, filled with electrons that dictate how they behave... at least in theory that is how it goes.

What you said is just like saying that Carbon will act as Helium, just need to remove 4 eletrons, and boom!... No it doesn't go that way.

Or rather you mean the difference is the number of PROTONS... but of course that would sort of create essences again ... just connect by number of entities.

ANYWAYS U____U... pop-science... damn it all.

Eduardo said...

Sean, you seem to be talking past everybody....take a deep breath and explaiiiinnnn what you understand by essentialism.

Sean Robsville said...

It's the electron count that determines the chemical and most of the physical properties.

Of course protons are needed to balance the charge, but by themselves they don't determine the chemistry. And you can have as many or as few neutrons as you like as long as the nucleus stays stable.

Eduardo said...

Read carefully ... It is the dynamic .... of the nucleus and the electrosphere.


Is not only the electrons or only the protons or the neutrons is both.

Sean Robsville said...

@ Eduardo
Essentialism...

A philosophical theory ascribing ultimate reality to essences embodied in things. The essences are logically prior to, and metaphysically independent of, the existence of the individuals which instantiate them.

Eduardo said...

Alright... Now onto to the argument.

Essence >>> Entities doesn't change

* the definition you gave doesn't seem to say that essences are fixed *

DNW said...

@DNW


... Oh I see, so the argument goes like: Without Essentialism, or Essentials you can really make categories and therefore make no calls about them? Is that it?"



Well, if all you mean by a collection is some set of objects you have gathered together, I suppose you could have a category based on almost anything; or on nothing at all but the act of inclusion itself. But I am not sure what you could do with it: say, for example, the category of BTS or blue things. What you might obviously predicate about the class of all blue things other than that they look blue is up for grabs.

Or I guess you could make a collection of "men" and include in it department store mannequins, Harry Reid, the corpse of Lenin, a chimpanzee, and the legendary plucked chicken, but what universally distributed quality you might derive from such a class which would tell you anything about, say, "rights" or an entitlement thereunto, is also less than obvious from considering the category, or less than, as they used to say, self-evident.





"Can't someone go around this ??? You know like say that he knows chairs are not dogs ... Wait how you come up with the idea of essentials ??? Or how you define a Essential ???"

That without which, it is not what it is called.

Now you can do the family resemblance thing, but as the series of incompletely overlapping attribute sets grows large enough, the edges of the series share no attributes in common.

What rule then you can apply, that would be distributively just, is also less than obvious.

Eduardo said...

@DNW

I think I am understanding it bit by bit.

But, I am still afloat about not taking the essentialist road, and getting all sorts of problems.

In the end I understood the whole idea. Can you specify a little more. I can see why, but I wanted to see the specifics of why the edges of the series have nothing in common .... yes I suck at abstraction ...and math XD

Sean Robsville said...

My own view is a variety of Conceptualism, that essences and Forms do exist, but only as constructed concepts originating in the mind of the beholder: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conceptualism

Eduardo said...

You mean the Non-Physical mind of the guy or girl that is looking at it ???

Yep, you said that before, that is a nice idea.

But U_U ... oh gosh so lazy to read stuff from all sides.

DNW said...

May 17, 2012 1:54 PM
Eduardo said...

@DNW

I think I am understanding it bit by bit.

But, I am still afloat about not taking the essentialist road, and getting all sorts of problems.

In the end I understood the whole idea. Can you specify a little more. I can see why, but I wanted to see the specifics of why the edges of the series have nothing in common .... yes I suck at abstraction ...and math XD
May 17, 2012 2:14 PM


LOL I'm not a teacher Ed, and no better informed than you. There is no real abstraction involved in showing apart from substituting a propositional function or a variable or a sign for each and any specific attribute you wish to be included within the description of the individual entity proposed for membership in the class.


The idea of a family resemblance as Wittgenstein scholars seem to teach is that not all members of a meaningful category necessarily share all attributes, and that the universal term can be applied nonetheless on the basis of use: use being meaning and the meaning of the term its use.

However, the construal when it comes to specifics seems to get kind of quirky. Is there any rule other than use to determine what a family resemblance is? Suppose we have a collection the members of which look like this.


Mr. ABCDE

Mr. BCDEF

Mr. CDFEG

Mr. DEFGH

Mr. EFGHI

Do they all share a family resemblance? Well, maybe. What about the next potential member in series Mr. FGHIJ? With whom does he share a family resemblance? Everyone? What specific attributes do Mr One and Mr. Six share, other than having five attributes?



Now, you might wish to reconfigure the series and say, for example that they all share the first 4 attributes identically while the last attribute is infinitely variable.

Well, what you seem to me to have done is to covertly reinstate the idea of essential attributes and accidental characteristics, instead of horizontalizing ALL attributes.

Pretend you have a hammer. How far can you go and still have something that is meaningfully called a hammer among those who have been using hammers?


Suppose you had a hammer with a 10 " hickory handle, a forged steel head, weight 16 ounces, ripping claw, crosshatched face.

Substitute a steel, leather wrapped handle, for the hickory and you have pretty much the same thing.

Replace in addition, the ripping claw with a nail pulling claw on the next one and you have the same.

Smooth the striking face on the next one and you still have a hammer.

Reduce the head size and weight specification to 7 ounces and install it as a brass head having a ball peen in place of any claw.

Reduce the diameter of the handle to 3/8" square stock steel shaft, and add a hexagonal plastic grip.

When do you have a screw driver instead of a hammer and the resemblance a "hand tool" rather than a "hammer"?

Is there anything without which a "hammer" cannot be sensibly and usefully called a "hammer" despite any number of similarities to what a house carpenter calls a hammer? Say, a useful striking head, for example?

Looks like when you get to making and fulfilling categorical requests or demands, some notion of essence must be preserved in order to avoid absurdity and self-defeating actions.

Or you could resign yourself to hammering with a screwdriver, I guess ... Afterall it bears a certain resemblance ...

Sean Robsville said...

What is a box?

Is there some kind of ideal prototype box existing in the Platonic realm of ideal forms, or does a box exist only by arbitrary convention in the mind of the box-user, or from the collective minds of box-users?

If I say "I'll get a box to put this stuff in", then most people will understand that I'm going to fetch a container which performs the conventional function of a box, i.e. holds things. To do this it must have a bottom and at least three sides (like some chocolate boxes), though usually four. A lid is optional.

But if we were to cut the sides of a box down, it would perform the functions of a tray.

The box exists from causes and conditions (the box-maker, the wood from which it is made, the trees, sunlight, soil, rain, lumberjacks etc.)

The box exists in dependence upon its parts (bottom and three or more sides).

The box also exists because I and others decide to call it a box, not because of some inherent `boxiness' that all boxes have as a defining essence.

If it were a big cardboard box, and I cut a large L-shaped flap out of one side so it hinged like a door, then I could turn it upside down and it would be a child's play-house.

If I cut the sides of a wooden box down a centimetre at a time, then the box would get shallower and shallower. At some point the box would cease to exist and a tray would have begun to exist. So at some arbitrary point did the essence of `boxiness' miraculously disappear, and 'trayfulness' jump in to the undefined structure?


Where does box end and tray start?

I don't know. Maybe there's an EU directive forbidding the construction of boxes with insufficiently high sides, or specifying that all boxes must have lids permanently attached to avoid any possible confusion with trays.

Or perhaps there's a Tray Descriptions Act enforcing a maximum height for trays.

But whichever way, as well as existing in dependence on its parts, and on its causes and conditions, the box exists in dependence upon our minds (or the collective minds of the EU Box-Standards Inspectorate).

The minds project 'box' over a certain collection of parts. And those parts can be the common bases of designation of both a box and a tray.

Eduardo said...

U_U Well I am studying to be a teacher hehe! But before teaching one must learn XD..... u_u and in this case, from you

Ohhh no wonder taxonomists can't really say which species are which without resorting to essentialism.

Even Mayr's idea just get's essence "out" of the species and "put" them in actions among individuals.

Sounds very interesting. Thanks for the help XD.

DNW said...

By the way for anyone who has read Krauss' book ...

Is there one vacuum state or are there many vacuum states?

Can anything at all appear out a vacuum state in principle, or just "fundamental" wave particles?

In either case, how so?

Does a vacuum state do it's work once and for all vis-a-vis a particular universe, or does it, nothing that it is, remain in operation like Hoyle's steady state cosmos? If the vacuum state remains "in operation" how does it "know" to produce the only the fermions and bosons Rosenberg says are produced.

Tank you, tank you veddy much.

DNW said...

"The box also exists because I and others decide to call it a box, not because of some inherent `boxiness' that all boxes have as a defining essence."

So why do you decide that "a box" is the correct appellation?

I have decided that I will call red stones, cherries, and that they will fill the bill when you order them.

Who are you to say that your teeth were not broken by real cherries, when two of three of us convening, decide that that's what they are to be called? For the purpose of fulfilling your order at least.

Eduardo said...

Sean I still feel like your idea of essence is still a fixed entity which can not change.

But if anything you are simply using the kid's playhouseness XD to know that the box has become a house by flipping it and cutting it.

You believe in a sort of dualism... The essence of the box for you is in the person's mind. But in the scholastic view, the essence of the box isin God's mind, the object and person's mind. I think in Platonism is just in the object I think, but Not certain.

Anyway, it seems like the only difference there is, WHERE is the essence at. Now I think your view is very interesting ... considering certain limitations for essences in the environment; Because I think the point slowly dwells towards Perception. This is where I sorrrt of agree with you.

You look at a rock... and you identify that as a rock. Now in your case Sean, the rock is in my head. The Platonist case I think, the rock is in the world ... the rockness or it's essence.

Now I think I sort of understand why the Scholastics have put the essence in 2 places beyond G*d's mind.

When the rock's essence is in my head, there might be no rocks in the world, just a collection of particles * let's all be atomists here, just for the sake of understanding *, that seem to me to resemble a rock. So in a sense, There is no way to know for real if the thing I am looking is a rock or something that resembles pretty much like a rock to the point it tricks me to believing it is a rock. So the what we see is not the world but some sort of dynamic between the world and us.

If the essence is in two places, then the essence of the rock is instantiated by the rock, HOWEVER, it is also instantiated in my mind, so in a sense, I KNOW THE BLOODY ROCK IS THE REAL DEAL.

U_U OLLY shit ... never imagined this whole essence thing would be fun to talk about XD.

Now Sean I suppose to you, the essences that truly exist in the mind are ever changing building blocks.

Any disagreements ?

DNW said...

"But if we were to cut the sides of a box down, it would perform the functions of a tray"

You mean after you cut away the box part and left only a tray ...

Sean Robsville said...

It is claimed that the vacuum state remains in operation and will, for example, produce antiquarks in response to the presence of a free quark: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hadronization

Sean Robsville said...

@DNW

You mean after you cut away the box part and left only a tray ...

Four sides with no bottom aren't a box.

Westcountryman said...


But what if the ultimate nature of phenomena is change and impermanence? After all, physicists tell us that even a perfect vacuum is a seething mass of particles coming into and out of existence.


Then Unity, Identity, and Knowledge would make no sense and have no foundation.

Perhaps Western philosophy was on the right track with Heraclitus, and took a wrong turning into a dead-end with Plato.

And was put back on the right track by the likes of Darwin and Dennett?

I'd have a lot more time for your position if this wasn't what you were applying.

Your defence of Buddhism is praiseworthy, but I would say it is Platonism and even Christianity, not sophists like Dennett, who are far closer to Buddhism.

Now my knowledge of Buddhism is paltry, but it is more than many Westerners. With a few exceptions, such as Marco Pallis, I have yet to find a Western Buddhist who did not completely ruin and butcher his faith with sophistry and silliness.

As I said my knowledge of Buddhism is poor. But as I understand it Buddhism tends to stress the radical reliance of all phenomena on Nirvana. I do not see this as that different to Platonism, where all Forms are ultimately just prolongations of the One. Buddhism does not seem to contradict Platonic Realism per se, its stress on a radically apophatic approach simply ignores any sort of salvific potential (indeed, within its own perspective at least, implies dangers) in acknowledging Forms or Essences.

Anonymous said...

Four sides with no bottom aren't a box.

You just refuted your own argument. If you say that it isn't a box, then you presuppose the existence of something that is a box. You also say that a box's characteristics--sides and a bottom, etc.--are what separate it from a tray, which suggests that, at some time during the cutting-down of the box, the "box" stopped existing and became a tray. This is a completely essentialist assumption. You could be arguing for the opposing side.

Eduardo said...

Well I have not read the book.

Vaccum states, I 've read that there are manyin string theory. 10^500 I thnk

The vaccum is a see of energy, of the energy made from fundamental particles... so yeah, only fundamental particles "pop".

I don't know the specifics, but apparently it has something to do with wave function ... wihch means you need to get a quantum mechanics textbook.

Now I think it doesn't choose, it might be just how the system works, it can only produce certain types of particles, because of it's internal working, or some unexplainable principle which requires some nothingness to work.

U_U so anyways, just my 2 cents... haven't read the book, I might be awfully wrong.

Sean robsville said...

@ Anonymous
You just refuted your own argument. If you say that it isn't a box, then you presuppose the existence of something that is a box. You also say that a box's characteristics--sides and a bottom, etc.--are what separate it from a tray, which suggests that, at some time during the cutting-down of the box, the "box" stopped existing and became a tray. This is a completely essentialist assumption. You could be arguing for the opposing side.

No, it's a conceptualist assumption because the box didn't cease being a box and become a tray 'from it's own side'. It was the mental projection of the box user(s) that made it so.

Westcountryman said...

No, it's a conceptualist assumption because the box didn't cease being a box and become a tray 'from it's own side'. It was the mental projection of the box user(s) that made it so.

But this, of course, refutes itself. To be a concept or convention it has to be a concept or convention of something. You are left with the foundational, essential entities of those who assign the conceptions.

Sean Robsville said...

@ Westcountryman

"Conceptualism is a philosophical theory that explains universality of particulars as conceptualized frameworks situated within the thinking mind. Intermediate between Nominalism and Realism, the conceptualist view approaches the metaphysical concept of universals from a perspective that denies their presence in particulars outside of the mind's perception of them...

Peter Abélard was a medieval thinker whose work is currently classified as having the most potential in representing the roots of conceptualism. Abélard’s view denied the existence of determinate universals within things, proposing the claim that meaning is constructed solely by the virtue of conception. William Ockham was another famous late medieval thinker who had a strictly conceptualist solution to the metaphysical problem of universals. He argued that abstract concepts have no fundamentum outside the mind, and that the purpose they serve is the construction of meaning in an otherwise meaningless world.

In the 17th century conceptualism gained favour for some decades especially among the Jesuits: Hurtado de Mendoza, Rodrigo de Arriaga and Francisco Oviedo are the main figures. Although the order soon returned to the more realist philosophy of Francisco Suárez, the ideas of these Jesuits had a great impact on the contemporary early modern thinkers...

Conceptualism was either explicitly or implicitly embraced by most of the early modern thinkers like René Descartes, John Locke or Gottfried Leibniz – often in a quite simplified form if compared with the elaborate Scholastic theories.

More at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conceptualism

Anonymous said...

Westcountryman,

You're the one who keeps claiming that I am misrepresenting them. The burden of proof is on you; don't shift it to me. Please provide actual arguments from these authors, as I did from Hart. Name dropping won't do. You need to show both the correct account and why this criticism is wrong. If it is as grossly inaccurate as you claim it is, I'm sure that they would have addressed it somewhere.

Then you need to make an argument as to why we should accept their interpretation over other options. Until then, I have no reason to abandon the claim that the interpretation that hundreds of philosophers, classicists, Church Fathers, scholastics, and theologians have accepted is wrong.

This isn't even a uniquely Christian interpretation. Plotinus and later Platonists are very well aware of this themselves. As the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy puts it, "Plotinus, holding to his principle that one cannot act without being affected by that which one acts upon, declares that the Soul, in its lower part, undergoes the drama of existence, suffers, forgets, falls into vice, etc., while the higher part remains unaffected, and persists in governing, without flaw, the Cosmos, while ensuring that all individual, embodied souls return, eventually, to their divine and true state within the Intelligible Realm. Moreover, since every embodied soul forgets, to some extent, its origin in the Divine Realm, the drama of return consists of three distinct steps: the cultivation of Virtue, which reminds the soul of the divine Beauty; the practice of Dialectic, which instructs or informs the soul concerning its priors and the true nature of existence; and finally, Contemplation, which is the proper act and mode of existence of the soul." (Emphasis Mine.) Just as the soul emanates from the One, it also returns to the One. This process of return to its "true nature of existence," which is less material, less particular, and less changeable, is what I'm talking about. It is this ultimate return that Plotinus hopes for to escape the corruption of this world.

This interpretation also seems to accord with Pauliina Remes' "Neoplatonism" -- which I just pulled off the shelf -- published by University of California Press and endorsed by Lloyd P. Gerson on the back. Remes writes, "The ultimate telos, the unification with the One, involves a loss of self . . . unity and infinite power is accompanied with its loss of its particularity and self-determination" (emphasis mine. p. 133), and following union with the One, the resulting "simplicity does not allow for conceptual multiplicity or inference" (p. 170).

Finally, this means that you completely miss the point when you argued, "The Forms transcend, as well as cause and give being to, their particulars. But they do not obliterate these particulars." I understand that forms hold the chain of being together, providing unity in multiplicity and participation in ultimate reality. But this relationship is not static, as it involves both descent and assent. The former involves the dissemination and corruption of the divine as it becomes more particular and changeable, and the latter involves the opposite. This is the negation that I am talking about -- and your response suggests that you have been completely missing the point, mistaking the criticism of the process of dialectic for a discussion about forms and there relationship to material reality. In fact, you weren't even aware of the dialectic, a key Neoplatonic concept, until I mentioned it in a combox a few days ago. In truth, it appears to me that you might be the one who is confused and lacks a full understanding of Neoplatonism.

DNW said...

"The box also exists because I and others decide to call it a box, not because of some inherent `boxiness' that all boxes have as a defining essence."

Yeah I suppose you could equally well call it a hat and store your head under it.

Eduardo said...

@DNW

His method of coming up with essences in his mind are mostly based on the function of the object.

He will never call a box a hat because it will be awkward to him.

Eduardo said...

Damn I was lurking in Google Academics and I could never find Feser's papers there U_U HOWEVER ..there is some Edward Feser in Economics that publishes loads of papers....

Westcountryman said...

Anonymous;

I see you have been desperately rooting around for quotes to back up your assertions.

It is you claiming that your interpretation is general, it is for you to prove this.

Secondly I have given my description of the Platonic conception of Unity, you have simply ignored it, repeatedly.

Now you have come up with a few quotes that is open to broad interpretation. On these; firstly I would ask in what sense it makes sense that the Platonists would simply be advocating oblivion and annihilation as the sum of human life and spirital ascent. Secondly I would remind you that your idiosyncratic use of the word 'Dialectic' is not shared by the Platonists. To them it represent Elenchus and therefore a source talking about 'Dialectic' in the context of the Classical Platonists does not prove your point, necessarily.

According to Algis Uzdavinys's The Golden Chain ;

"For Proclus the Ascent of the Soul was a gathering of itself into a Unity by dialectical exercises (this is the actual way the Platonists conceived of dialetic; as a method of reasoning aimed at Intellectually grasping truth)...this Unity (henosis) was the henad of the Soul. Proclus expounded a participative theory of the Forms of the One (to hen) which proceeded from it and were present not only in the Intellect, but in each hypostqatis below the One, and within all the irradiations of each hypostatis."

To understand this fully, and t understand it does not entail oblivion, you need to understand the Platonic conception of Forms.

Say I own a cat called Felix. This means, to the Platonist, the Form of Cats includes Felix. This is both in the sense of the virtual possibility to at one point cause the actual, particular manifestation of Felix and that actualised manifestation. This means Felix's Unity in the Form of a Cat does not obliterate his particularity, either as an individual and virtual possibility and as an actualised, individual possibility inherent in the Form of Cats. If this Form could not cause Felix it would thereby loose a necessary causal power it contains.

Now, of course, the Form of Cats also transcends any particular Cat. But this is not at the expense of the particular Cats. Within their level of Being they continue to be what they are; particular and manifested. In a certain sense they are individualised and determined prolongations and reflections of their Form. The Form would not be itself if it did not have the ability for such prologantion. The Form of a Cat contans Felix, contains Garfield, and so on, but it is neither simply any particular Cat. This is the Unity that Proclus, and the other Platonists, are seeking.

Another example might be Number. Pure Number is no particular number, but it contains all these. It contains them in Unity, but not in such a way totally excludes their particularity. It would not be Number if it did not unite the actual, particular numbers we know of in our level of Being. Likewise, if one looks at it from the direction of the individual numbers one can see they are particular, any Unity they have in Pure Number does not remove this. However, any particular number only exists because of the other numbers and because of the Unity and place given them by their place in Pure Number. So Pure Number includes all the individual numbers, yet transcends them as the ground from which their particularities derive. This is a basic type of Platonic-Pythagorean idea of Unity in which particularity is not obliterated but is completed by Unity.

Anonymous said...

Sean,

First, your Wikipedia source is wrong. Ockham was not a conceptualist; he was a nominalist. I don't believe that Leibniz was a conceptualist either, but I could be mistaken.

Second, we all know what conceptualism is. More importantly, we know that it's incoherent. For example, how do you account for stuff like numbers? You don't have the nominalist option of denying their existence entirely, so you're forced to say that they're only true as long as human minds imagine them. But, as Feser argues, this means that propositions such as "there are eight planets in the solar system" would have been false before humans existed.

(Plus, universals that were critical to the formation of the universe, such as the law of gravity, would not have existed before minds invented them however many billions of years later.)

A nominalist who believed that universals have never existed would not have this problem--rather, he would hold a Humean skepticism toward any and all claims of knowledge. The conceptualist, on the other hand, holds a patently contradictory view. All propositions involving universals would have been false before human minds existed, and, if no mind was considering a certain universal (such as a number), it would not exist.

Another problem is that conceptualism can't explain why different people hold the same universals to be true. Universals would be private, incommunicable things that developed separately in each person, and, as a result, no one could understand anyone else. This is obviously not the case.

Westcountryman said...

Sean,

Thanks for posting a wiki article on the history of conceptualism; a doctrine I'm already familiar with and need no reminders of from wikipedia.

You missed my point. I was simply noting that any attempt to make all definitions of entities conventional or conceptual is self-defeating, as it relies on something not conventional or conceptual to come up with the conventions or conceptions.

David Oderberg relates this obvious problem with Nominalism and Conceptualism in his Real Essentialism.

Westcountryman said...

I should perhaps add that what Pauliina Remes appears to be referring to, and it is certainly the most obvious interpretation of her actual words, is the loss of particularity in the sense of the particular deriving its place and its end from the One. The individual human submitting utterly to the Divine.

This is a sense of Unity to God not foreign to the Christian and it is certainly not simply oblivion. It is the sense of submission to the Divine Will, that then properly grounds our particularity, that C.S Lewis refers to in the Screwtape Letters, for example.

Codgitator said...

Anon, I apologize for the personal shock, but I thought I made it clear I was doing a sort of rhetorical reductio of, let us say, Buddhistic anthropology, which is what I meant by "there's no ego there to be insulted." If Buddhism is true, IOW, there aren't such things as "Buddhists" (unique instances of enduring personal substance) which can get insulted, or praised, or even identified. Apologies again for the rhetorical excess but 'I' hope 'you' see my point.

Anonymous said...

Sean,

You seem to be very confused. I don’t think you have a good understanding of what essentialism is. Your basic premise is to show that change happens in the world and based on that try to undermine essentialism. But the problem with that is that essentialism is perfectly compatible with change. In fact, thinkers such as Aristotle and Plato used essentialism to explain just how change happens and rid the world of the extremeties of Permenides. Heracletus was just as wrong as Parmenides of course. Also, you should be aware that Plato’s thought was by Eastern thought so I am confused as to how you try to juxtapose Easter thought with Platonism.

Anyways. Just to show how problematic your thinking is… You claim that existence may not be ontologically fundamental. But ontology is the very study of existence itself. What is one to make of such a remark? It’s just nonsense!

You started by appealing to darwinism and were shown to be wrong. Not only are living things instantiations of forms but they are fundamentally teleological. Then you moved on to physics and chemistry and appealed to electrons and elements. Those too are forms. So once again you are wrong. A simple example is this: An electron is a particle with a negative spin. Therefore your claim is refuted. In regards to elements, yes, the atomic structure of an element is part of its essence (as in the number of electrons, neutrons and protons that comprise the atom). But an element is not merely the number of atoms its comprised of it is also the way it manifests in reality. For example, gold has a yellowish color and does not rust, while iron (which has a different atomic number as you mention) is a metal that corrodes and rusts. Each element has a different essence and the fact that at the atomic level their most fundamental difference is one of composition of electrons does not change that one bit! Nor is it simply the electron that is the difference but the unity of the entire atom itself. You are engaging in some crude reductionism here that is evidently incoherent. So in sum, different elements have different essences and changing from one to another due to radioactive decay does not in any way change that reality.

If you want to be a Buddhist that’s great and all but it’s one thing to act according to your religion and a completely different animal to try and defend it philosophically. At best, Buddhism may not lend itse;f to logico-philosophical scrutiny so we’re talking about two completely different things. At worst it’s an absurd worldview. Now I don’t believe the later because I understand Buddhism functions under a different mode than most Western systems so I am not here to condemn your religion or anything. However, if I were to offer you an advice (to echo what Westcountryman said) stay away from charlatans like Dennett and dawkins. You have more in common with traditional western theology than with such materialistic nihilists.

Anonymous said...

Westcountryman,

No, not desperately rooting for quotations. I pulled a couple out of a book and an internet encyclopedia to try and dispossess you of your errors. It was neither meant to be exhaustive nor final. Further, it is not much of my burden to prove anything at this point. I've offered quotations from a theologian well versed in Greek texts and now these sources. You are the one who has constantly accused me of misrepresentation, but have failed to back it up with much analysis. You claim that I have disregarded your analysis on unity, but I haven't; I addressed that in my last post.

Fortunately, I now know why you disagree with me: you've been reading Proclus, not Plotinus. Are you not aware that they are different? Salvation and union with the One are different in each system, so citing a scholar on Proclus won't do. I was talking about Plotinus. The Fathers were talking about Plotinus. Hart was talking about Plotinus. Proclus is a late thinker who had little impact until after the 5th century. While he probably influenced Pseudo-Denys, he remained unknown in Western Christendom until the High Middle Ages (with the one exception of John Scotus Eriugena in the 9th century and his translation of Pseudo-Denys), when a summary of some of his work that had been passed off as an Aristotelian text under the name "Liber de Causis" came to the West in the 12th and 13th centuries from Muslim land. Until then, what Westerners knew of Neoplatonism came largely from Augustine's heavily redacted use of Plotinus. In the East, Pseudo-Denys was influential, but Proclus was not. He appeared in the last days of Neoplatonism. By then, most of the Christian councils that dealt with Neoplatonizing heresies had passed. The Father's had already adopted and redefined many of the fundamentals of platonic thinking. Proclus exerted little influence until the rebirth of Neoplatonism in Byzantium in the 15th century under Plethon and similar figures. It then made its way to Italy and the Renaissance.

Proclus, then, does not belong in this conversation, as I have been talking about Neoplatonism in its Plotinian form--in the form the Fathers encountered it and in the form that most people talk about it.

To illustrate these differences, we can take another look at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy and its entry on Neoplatonism under the section, "Being — Becoming — Being":

"We found, in Plotinus, an explanation and expression of a cosmos that involved a gradual development from all but static unity toward eventual alienation — a moment at which the active soul must make the profound decision to renounce autonomous existence and re-merge with the source of all Being, or else remain forever in the darkness of forgetfulness and error. Salvation, for Plotinus, was relatively easy to accomplish, but never guaranteed. For Proclus, on the other hand, the arkhê or ‘ruling beginning’ of all Life is the ‘One-in-itself’ (to auto hen), or that which is responsible for the ordering of all existents, insofar as existence is, in the last analysis, the sovereign act or expression of this primordial unity or monad. . . .

. . .The autonomous drive toward dissolution, which is so germane to the soul as such, is wiped away by Proclus, for his dialectic is impeccably clean. However, he does not account for the yearning for the infinite (as does Plotinus) and the consequent existential desire for productive power falls on its face before the supreme god of autonomous creation — which draws all existents into its primeval web of dissolution."

continued

Anonymous said...

continued

So you can see they are not exactly the same. You've been conflating the two. Nonetheless, I think this was instructive. First, it reveals the source of our disagreement as an error in conflating two different thinkers on your part. You've been talking about Neoplatonism as if it were a homogenous movement, while I've been talking about Plotinus, the father of the movement. Second, it provides another opportunity to describe the process of salvation in Plotinian Neoplatonism, one that supports my arguement: the active soul is led by a drive "toward dissolution" and "must make the profound decision to renounce autonomous existence and re-merge with the source of all Being." We can also look to wikipedia for another version of this: "It is also a cornerstone of Neoplatonism to teach that all people return to the Source. The Source, Absolute, or One is what all things spring from . . . When people return to the Source, their energy returns to the One, Monad, or Source and is then recycled into the cosmos, where it can be broken up and then amalgamated into other things."


Now let me be clear about something--and you will likely continue to disagree with me on this point: I still would argue that given the metaphysical and cosmological structure behind Proclus' thought that there is still an unhealthy dialectical process there that is implied, though it is not explicit as it is in Plotinus, who readily admits to it. However, this is a completely different issue.

Sean Robsville said...

@ Anonymous
"But an element is not merely the number of atoms its comprised of it is also the way it manifests in reality. For example, gold has a yellowish color and does not rust, while iron (which has a different atomic number as you mention) is a metal that corrodes and rusts. Each element has a different essence and the fact that at the atomic level their most fundamental difference is one of composition of electrons does not change that one bit! "

The behavior and properties of atoms of gold and iron (the only way they can be known) are solely and completely determined by the mass of their integer numbers of protons and neutrons and the reactivity (to photons and other electron shells) of their integer number of electrons.

As I stated earlier, the definition of essentialism I'm working from is "A philosophical theory ascribing ultimate reality to essences embodied in things. The essences are logically prior to, and metaphysically independent of, the existence of the individuals which instantiate them."

But all the physical and chemical properties of the elements are derivative from, not prior to, their atomic composition. Therefore, the concept of an essence over and above their physico-chemical behavior performs no useful function , it gives no extra information or understanding, and is thus a candidate for Occams razor.

Sean Robsville said...

@ Anonymous

"Second, we all know what conceptualism is. More importantly, we know that it's incoherent. For example, how do you account for stuff like numbers? You don't have the nominalist option of denying their existence entirely, so you're forced to say that they're only true as long as human minds imagine them."

In their most abstract form, the integers are generated ex nihilo by the mind contemplating emptiness. There is no need to count any 'things' to generate the integers.

The abstract integers are then mapped onto 'things' in a relatively arbitrary fashion. For example,depending upon whether you count Pluto and Ceres as planets, you can have between 8 and 10 planets in the solar system

Anonymous said...

Sean,

You just agreed with me. In other words, the claim that "there are eight (or ten, or any number of) planets in the solar system" would be false if no human minds existed.

Sean Robsville said...

@ Anonymous

You just agreed with me. In other words, the claim that "there are eight (or ten, or any number of) planets in the solar system" would be false if no human minds existed.


Neither true nor false, but indeterminate.

Westcountryman said...

Anonymous,

I have a great respect for Hart, but, like Stratford Caldecott (who I also respect a lot), he has made this notion of oblivion central to his critiquq of Platonism and non-Christian, traditional metaphysics and mysticism in general (these are the sources you no doubt get your argument from). I would therefore take what they say with a grain of salt.

Other than that you have given quotes that were open to broad interpretation. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, like the Stanford one is a product of modern scholarship and most likely will be influenced by 'philosophers' who are totally modern, disciples of Descartes, Kant, or Nietzsche, I would take it with a major grain of salt as well.

You just show support for your position. You must also answer my queries and my explanations. You simply have ignored many of my questions, such as the common sense one of does it seem likely the Platonists were preaching a doctrine that claimed annihilation and oblivion as the summit of spiritual ascent, or my explanations of the Platonic conceptions of unity. Also I gave works that I recommended reading. This is not the place, I feel, to simply past a few quotes.

I actually am well aware of the distinctions between the Platonists. I have simply been keeping avoiding needless complications. Your historical summary is flawed. It was Iamblichus, not Plotinus, who was central to the thought of the later Platonists, such as Proclus. The Western Church Fathers, like Augustine, generally only had access to Latin epitomes and summaries of Platonic thought, mostly deriving, I believe, from the later Platonists and therefore more centrally Iamblichus than Plotinus. The Eastern Fathers had more original material, but I still believe it was the later Platonists who they were most influenced by, more than Plotinus (except for Clement of Alexandria and Origen and those Eastern Fathers writing before c.300 AD).

As Algis Uzdavinys notes;

"For this reason Plotinus was never to become the supreme authority for the later Neoplatonists who agreed with Iamblichus."

Continued....

nct.

Westcountryman said...

...Continued.

Furthermore, although I'm far from an expert in the exact distinctions between the ancient Platonists, I think you give an inaccurate idea of Plotinus's thought. In particular, it is again not clear what is truly the meaning of your quotes. It is certainly the case that Plotinus and the Platonists did not accept the Christian idea of bodily resurrection, that I will agree with you on. Phrases such as "renouncing autonomous existence" do not necessarily denote simple oblivion for any particular Self. They could just as easily be taken to simply denote utter submission to the Divine Will and the complete Unity of a particular human being, in all aspects of his being, to the Divine in such a way that, as described, combines total Unity and the proper places of the particular. Indeed, what that quote appears to be mostly stressing is what the author feels is Proclus's greater stress on creation as Theophany as compared to Plotinus's alleged focus on creation as Fall or degeneration.

We may quote Plotinus himself seeming to the position I have been trying to communicate;

"It belongs to the nature of the All to make its entire content reproduce, most felicitously, the Reason-Principles in which it participates; every particular thing is the image within matter of a Reason-Principle which itself images a pre-material Reason-Principle: thus every particular entity is linked to that Divine Being in whose likeness it is made, the divine principle which the soul contemplated and contained in the act of each creation. Such mediation and representation there must have been since it was equally impossible for the created to be without share in the Supreme, and for the Supreme to descend into the created....
Nothing, in fact, is far away from anything; things are not remote: there is, no doubt, the aloofness of difference and of mingled natures as against the unmingled; but selfhood has nothing to do with spatial position, and in unity itself there may still be distinction."

Now here he appears to be saying that each particular thing is a prolongation of a Reason-Principle (which are ultimately prolongations o0f the One) that are bound in Unity while also be particular and distinct.

Anonymous said...

I have a great respect for Hart, but, like Stratford Caldecott (who I also respect a lot), he has made this notion of oblivion central to his critiquq of Platonism and non-Christian, traditional metaphysics and mysticism in general (these are the sources you no doubt get your argument from). I would therefore take what they say with a grain of salt.

Other than that you have given quotes that were open to broad interpretation. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, like the Stanford one is a product of modern scholarship and most likely will be influenced by 'philosophers' who are totally modern, disciples of Descartes, Kant, or Nietzsche, I would take it with a major grain of salt as well.


Translation: I'm not interested in interpretations that don't accord with my views, so I will continually dismiss them and accuse them of a 'simplisitic' reading that ultimately fails in my view. My preference is for a very narrow reading, partially reliant on fringe figures like Peter Kingsley. Since I don't want to actually engage the scholarly debate by backing up my views with actual hard references, I will continue my dishonest practices. Besides, you failed to answer my trivial objections whereby I project the concerns of modern "common sense" two thousand years into the past, as if that were valid.

Do you think that was unfair? Tough. You've dismissed my view as based upon gross misinterpretations, "simplistic," and as willfully "misconstruing them" for a dozen posts. Now it is obvious that it's valid, but that you just don't like it.

I actually am well aware of the distinctions between the Platonists. I have simply been keeping avoiding needless complications.

Then why did you complicate it by introducing Proclus into a discussion on Plotinus?

Your historical summary is flawed. It was Iamblichus, not Plotinus, who was central to the thought of the later Platonists, such as Proclus.

I never made the claim that Plotinus was more influential on later Neoplatonists; rather, I claimed that Plotinus exerted more influence on CHRISTIANS than did Proclus. Now you are misrepresenting me.

The Western Church Fathers, like Augustine, generally only had access to Latin epitomes and summaries of Platonic thought, mostly deriving, I believe, from the later Platonists and therefore more centrally Iamblichus than Plotinus.

No. Blessed Augustine's interaction was with Plotinus. This is practically common knowledge--and anyone who knew what they were talking about would be aware of this. "On almost all points where Scripture gave no lead, Augustine accepted from the Timaeus and Meno of Plato and the Enneads of Plotinus the explanations they gave of the intellectual problems that engaged his attention, and if a reader of Augustine is in doubt as to the origin of a particular philosophical idea, he will usually find the answer in Plotinus" (David Knowles, "The Evolution of Medieval Thought" Second Edition, pg. 32).

The Eastern Fathers had more original material, but I still believe it was the later Platonists who they were most influenced by, more than Plotinus (except for Clement of Alexandria and Origen and those Eastern Fathers writing before c.300 AD).

No, most of the Greek Fathers dealt with Middle Platonism until St. Gregory of Nyssa, who was the first major Christian figure to really engage Plotinus--but even then, most of his contact with Platonism is through figures like Origin and the Middle Platonists (Cambridge Companion to Plotinus, pg. 400). Again, you don't know what you are talking about.

continued

Anonymous said...

continued

As Algis Uzdavinys notes;

"For this reason Plotinus was never to become the supreme authority for the later Neoplatonists who agreed with Iamblichus."


Again, we have been talking about Plotinus, who was more influential on the CHRISTIANS. Stop trying to shift the topic. Hart is engaging Plotinus. I am engaging Plotinus. The Church Fathers engaged Plotinus.

Furthermore, although I'm far from an expert in the exact distinctions between the ancient Platonists, I think you give an inaccurate idea of Plotinus's thought.

If you are unfamiliar with him, then look it up and come back. You have no business speculating--which is what you have blasted me for doing--about figures with which you are unfamiliar. This is precisely what you are doing in your quotation of Plotinus, which is about participation, not the the reversion (epistrophe) back to the One.

In the mean time, here is a quotation from Algis Uzdavinys:

"The awakening in the presence of the Good is the result of the removal of multiplicity through negation, of putting away all 'otherness' and reaching the ineffable union, since it is only by the One that we see the One. . . .

Therefore the 'experience' of the Good (although the soul already has ceased to be itself and became one with its transcendent source) is modeled as loving union. This love incites the soul to assimilate itself to the pure object it loves. And since the One transcends both form (eidos, morphe) and intellection (noesis), whoever loves it must discard all form, image, and thought. . . . Strictly speaking, the divine Intellect is eternally united with the One and the soul shares this union when it is 'annihilated' and realizes its ineffable roots in the Good." (The Heart of Plotinus: The Essential Enneads, pg. 34-35).

Whether this is absolute 'annihilation' (and it very much looks like it is) is beside the point. Plotinus only allows the soul to reach salvation through a process of reversion that denies multiplicity. This is essentially different from Christian "mysticism"--as both Catholic and Orthodox "mystics"--will attest to (and don't quote C.S. Lewis--he was right on some things, but heterodoxical on others). True, both of them express an emptying of the ego, but Christianity does not deny the multiplicity and distinction as if it were an imperfection. That's the key difference. (See "The Origins of the Christian Mystical Tradition" by Andrew Louth.) Neoplatonism denies the legitimacy of this "ontological interval" because its essential relation is between the unoriginate One and the originate procession. Thus negation of multiplicity is embedded in its cosmographical structure. In Christianity, on the other hand, the essential relationship is between the persons of the Trinity, which is an arrangement that permanently legitimizes multiplicity in unity. This is the only metaphysics that respects creation as gift--all others end in violence or negation, lacking any means to resolve the many and the one into a peaceful relation. This is why Christians put revelation and theology before metaphysics--anything less leads to heterodoxy. (And this is something virtually all of the Church Fathers and most of the scholastics, including Aquinas and Bonaventure, believed.)

continued

Anonymous said...

continued

Let's do a tally. In your posts, you have accused me of willful misrepresentation. Now, you just dismiss Hart et al. "with a grain of salt," even though you are "far from an expert in the exact distinctions between the ancient Platonists," Plotinus especially. You have also been confusing Proclus and Plotinus with one another, citing the former when the topic is the latter. You then also accuse me of a "flawed" historical summary of Neoplatonism, when that was obviously not what I was giving. Then you speculated about who the Latin and Greek Fathers interacted with, asserting such as fact--and you were dead wrong on both accounts. You even quote Uzdavinys on the influence of Plotinus and Iamblichus on later Neoplatonists, as if that has anything to do with the Church Fathers. Finally, you then engage in speculation about Plotinus, who you "think" I get wrong. Never do you provide a definitive counter-explanation; instead, you merely suggest alternative readings. What's wrong? I thought that you were familiar with these philosophers to "know" that I definitely get them wrong and that Hart et al's interpretations are definitely a distortion of Plotinus. Why does this look so inconsistent?

Eduardo said...

Actually Sean, using the Occam's Razor in this case makes no sense.

Thinking of essences or not thinking of essences changes the whole thing.

So no.... it is not a candidate for Occam's Razor... Unless you are about to become some sort of positivist XD

But anyways... I guess you mean, it offers no insights of the system in question. Neither your Conceptualism ....

Westcountryman said...

Your first paragraph is a nonsensical rant whereby Peter Kingsley (who is repeatedly quoted as authority in the work of Uzdavinys you yourself quote later in your post!) is a fringe figure and modernist philosophers are somehow hard references. Other than that what you mean by hard references seems to be what supports you. I thought you had more sense than to take such treacherous bedfellows. No doubt you feel you can shed them at will when they become inconvenient.

I challenge you to support the position the discussion was about only Plotinus until you randomly decided to suggest Plotinus was the only figure you were referring to. It is you who is being dishonest, as such tactics prove.

You simply do not back up your assertions about the relationship of the Western or Eastern Fathers to Platonism. What is well known is that Western Fathers did not directly access the Neoplatonic authors, rather they had rather loose translations. These translation includes Plotinus, but came out of the Platonist tradition that had grown up after him. So Augustine read one of these Latin translation of Plotinus, for example. You clearly have no knowledge of such facts. Googlebooks didn't relate this to you?

Despite another flagrant misinterpretation the quote from Plotinus supports my point. In it he clearly refers to particularity within total Unity.

Your quote of Uzdavinys simply does not prove your point. Let us not forget Uzdavinys was a Sufi Muslim who also was very close to practicising Platonism. He therefore is hardly likely to consider Platonism as entailing annihilation and oblivion. Your quote has only the clause to at all come close to supporting your point. It is clear, however, that the negation being talked about is not simply oblivion. This is because the second clause refers this negation to simply putting away all otherness and ineffable union with the Divine, which seems to be referring to the submission and alignment of all aspect of particularity to Unity in the One. That which puts away otherness or Unites ineffably to the One would not sensibly be talked about as being annihilated. The second paragraph confirms this view. It refers to a loving union and assimilation, which imply the opposite of annihilation. The term annihilation is used, but it is in quotation marks, as if to underscore a nuanced use and in the context of the rest of the paragraph it makes much more sense to understand this as the total submission to the Divine Will and Unity than total annihilation or oblivion.

Continued...

Westcountryman said...

As the foreword of the same work notes;

"Finally we are brought to the One, the ultimate first prin-ciple, beyond thought and conception, which can only be known through negation, and the negation of negation. Yet we must some-how conceive of it as connected with the divine intellect and as the cause of the universe. And mystical union with the One is the final goal of the soul; the reason behind its desire (
eros
) for beauty.Plotinus, in
Ennead
VI, attempts to work out a metaphysics in which the One, as the highest hypostasis, is somehow responsible,out of abundance, for the procession of Intellect and then throughIntellect, Soul (these making up the three hypostases) and throughSoul, Nature and the visible cosmos. All three exist in each indi-vidual soul. We are each of us an intelligible world in miniature. If we can recognize this and purify ourselves, “carve our own statue,”and find our higher soul, which remains in the noetic world, we reach a stage of illumination. This penultimate stage prepares us for union with the One; for which we can only wait, as one waitsfor the sunrise."

This is no simplistic conception of oblivion.

And again;

"
For Plotinus, the One is not a “negativ-ity” in the profane sense. Although philosophizing about the Onehas the concrete result of nullifying itself, this attitude, according to John Bussanich, is “neither nihilist nor antiphilosophical, but .. . points to a soteriontology.”
27
The One is boiling with activity,though it is viewed as simple and non-composite, i.e., without parts and internal or external relations. The term “One” does not really describe the Principle, which is beyond form; it is therefore false even to say of it that it is one. Being formless (
amorphon
) and infinite (
apeiron
), the One, as a perfect actuality (
energeia
), contains everything and lacks nothing,thus having the supreme power (
dunamis
) to generate the . This does not mean that the One is compelled to generate being, life, and intelligence: it simply causes the existence of all manifested reality by the principle that its inexhaustible perfection and freedom (itself beyond necessity) produces by sheer undimin-ished giving, like water flowing from a source or light radiating from the sun. Since the One is the universal cause of all things, it only transcendent but also immanent: its omnipresence fills all things. The final causality of the One is related to the actualization of Intellect and the mystical return of the soul to its source."

This is a vision far different from the simplistic one of oblivion that you are so keen to give, and so inept at giving, to the Classical Platonists.

At least I recognise I am not Uzdavingys or Gerson or Kingsley, I recognise I'm not an expert. You are more ignorant than I am, yet you are loath to show humility in such matters it seems, indeed you scorn it.

Finally I do not think I'm wrong to take Hart et al with a pinch of salt, seeing as it is their position you are putting across so ineptly. It is a position that is clearly very biased to hang a lot on.

Neoplatonism denies the legitimacy of this "ontological interval" because its essential relation is between the unoriginate One and the originate procession. Thus negation of multiplicity is embedded in its cosmographical structure.

To create the absolute distinction you are trying to here it will take a lot more than such brief and empty assertions.

Anonymous said...

Westcountryman,

Your first paragraph is a nonsensical rant whereby Peter Kingsley (who is repeatedly quoted as authority in the work of Uzdavinys you yourself quote later in your post!) is a fringe figure and modernist philosophers are somehow hard references. Other than that what you mean by hard references seems to be what supports you. I thought you had more sense than to take such treacherous bedfellows. No doubt you feel you can shed them at will when they become inconvenient.

Please. You dismiss the entirety of Christian interpretation from St. Gregory of Nyssa and Blessed Augustine, through the Byzantines and Scholastics, and even through contemporary theologians like Hart. What type of Christian sides with Proclus over the Church Fathers? What type of Christian dismisses the entirety of the Christian interpretation of Platonism for vulgar platonism? What type of Christian is completely ignorant of the Church Fathers on this matter, but well-versed in Iamblichus. These are the people that I'm siding with uniformely and not "modern philosophers"--and I've made this perfectly clear. You are the one who has been misrepresenting me. Stop acting so indignant. It's abusive and dishonest.

Rather, this is what my point has been: the interpretation of Plotinus that I have discussed is non-controversial amongst (1) the entirety of Church tradition (which you dismiss "with a grain of salt," and (2) all the philosophers that I've come across, modern or not. You cannot dismiss all of them "with a grain of salt," especially since you have utterly failed to provide an interpretation of Plotinus rooted in the commentaries of actual philosophers or theologians. Name dropping with a claim that these guys really support you is not an argument when you cannot reproduce their positions when challenged--especially when your actual attempt at exegeting Plotinus is timid and transparently uninformed. This makes you look like you are more interested in advancing a particular interpretation than actual engagement with these thinkers on their own terms.

(And yes, Peter Kingsley is a controversial figure. Many question his interpretations of Parmenides. That you have asserted, without qualification, that his interpretation is the correct one, exposes you to be an uncritical idealogue with little interest in actual scholarly disputation and inclined toward interpretations that suit your fancy.)

I challenge you to support the position the discussion was about only Plotinus until you randomly decided to suggest Plotinus was the only figure you were referring to. It is you who is being dishonest, as such tactics prove.

I've been talking about the Church Fathers, medievals, and contemporary theologians. For all of them, Plotinus is the key figure. Proclus is only important for the three dozen significant Neoplatonists that followed him in the last 1700 years. It was you who read later Neoplatonism into this debate because (1) this is apparently your bag and (2) you thought the Church Fathers and medievals engaged Iamblichus and Proclus, rather than Plotinus. I assumed that a Christian who knew a lot about Platonism would then know the basics of Christianity's engagement with it in late antiquity and the middle ages--I was wrong. You were ignorant of this context and misunderstood my arguments--but this says more about you and your priorities than it does about me.

continued

Anonymous said...

continued

You simply do not back up your assertions about the relationship of the Western or Eastern Fathers to Platonism. What is well known is that Western Fathers did not directly access the Neoplatonic authors, rather they had rather loose translations. These translation includes Plotinus, but came out of the Platonist tradition that had grown up after him. So Augustine read one of these Latin translation of Plotinus, for example. You clearly have no knowledge of such facts. Googlebooks didn't relate this to you?

Yeah, sure. It's not like I just finished a graduate level course on medieval philosophy, or anything like that; and it's not like I actually quoted books that I had read for that class, or anything like that. Oh, and it's not like you are making anything but a bald assertion, or anything like that. Oh, oh, and it's not like I mentioned that the West's works on Platonism were heavily redacted, having chiefly came from Augustine--who ONLY read Plato, Plotinus, and Porphyry--until the introduction of texts in the 12th and 13th centuries, or anything like that. Look, there's a reason that Proclus' work is barely covered in my course: it has a marginal influence in the Christian tradition compared to Plotinus and Porphyry. Those two are the important ones. Provide support for your assertions, like I did, if you think otherwise.

Despite another flagrant misinterpretation the quote from Plotinus supports my point. In it he clearly refers to particularity within total Unity.

I've responded to this argument multiple times--and you've failed to address me criticism each time. To discuss a platonist's understanding of participation is different than discussing what happens during reversion. Participation is refers to the relationship to reality in the great chain of being during procession and reversion, but not what happens during unity with the One. THIS is what you need to address in Plotinus. THIS is what I'm discussing as the negation of particularity and multiplicity. To argue, as you have, that at all other times, unity and multiplicity coexist is besides the point. Your cat felix may be a particular that participates in a form, but felix is also reverting back to the One in a long process that will ultimately lead to negation.

Your inability to grasp this basic distinction does not inspire confidence.

Your quote of Uzdavinys simply does not prove your point. Let us not forget Uzdavinys was a Sufi Muslim who also was very close to practicising Platonism. He therefore is hardly likely to consider Platonism as entailing annihilation and oblivion.

For someone who wants to avoid confusion, you sure do a lot of conflating of different thinkers and traditions. Sufi platonism and Plotinus' platonism are different. The book that I referenced by him was describing the latter, not the former. Stop reading your interpretation into these matters without first critically appraising the text.

continued

Anonymous said...

continued

Your quote has only the clause to at all come close to supporting your point. It is clear, however, that the negation being talked about is not simply oblivion. This is because the second clause refers this negation to simply putting away all otherness and ineffable union with the Divine, which seems to be referring to the submission and alignment of all aspect of particularity to Unity in the One. That which puts away otherness or Unites ineffably to the One would not sensibly be talked about as being annihilated. The second paragraph confirms this view. It refers to a loving union and assimilation, which imply the opposite of annihilation. The term annihilation is used, but it is in quotation marks, as if to underscore a nuanced use and in the context of the rest of the paragraph it makes much more sense to understand this as the total submission to the Divine Will and Unity than total annihilation or oblivion.

You are projecting your own interpretation onto this text. You are referring to parts of the text that refer to the process of coming to unity through contemplation; however, reversion eventually leads to the splitting of the soul into multiple parts and the erasure of memory when total unity is achieved, as I've referenced elsewhere.

But even if it weren't the case, so what? (1) Why accept this interpretation over other theologians, philosophers, and classicists with an alternative interpretation? And (2) reversion is still a process of negation that implicitly, if not explicitly, destroys particularity. To paper this over with a mystical gloss that adds nuance does nothing to address this fault. Given the structure of reality as procession and reversion, the return is ultimately a loss of multiplicity, identity, and particularity.

And denying that this is what platonists intended won't do. If Descartes rose from the grave tomorrow and groused, "I didn't intend for the extreme division between subjectivity and objectivity that Heidegger, Derrida, and others talked about," it doesn't matter. He might not have intended it, but it was a consequence of his philosophy. Similarly, if Nietzsche popped back up for a day and protested, "My argument that God is dead and nihilism should rule the day does not directly support National Socialism and even criticizes nationalism and anti-anti-semitism," then the astute observer could just claim that in banishing God, he banished all moral restraints, so it doesn't matter that he had prohibitions against certain things. I could go on. Ockham did not intend to foster atheism, but since the only way to know God for him was by fideism and his nominalism distanced the world from God in other respects, it was the natural result.

The point is that these philosophies don't perfectly match up with reality, so even if Plotinus (or other Neoplat's, but especially Plotinus) would deny the analysis attributed to them (and I'm not saying they would), someone from a different position, say, Christianity, can claim that their position actually implies it.

And it does. If you think otherwise, then you aren't gainsaying me, but your reputed faith. Take it up with St. Gregory of Nyssa and nearly every major theologian and philosopher of the Christian tradition that followed after them. They would all ask you the same question: why are you adhering to a heretical tradition over the Christian interpretation of it? Why are you prioritizing this interpretation over your own?

Finally, I need to point out that I've made this point before, multiple times, and each time you have failed to address it.

As the foreword of the same work notes; . . .

This is no simplistic conception of oblivion.


This is not about unity; this is about contemplation until it reaches the state of unity. When it gets there oblivion is entailed.

continued

Anonymous said...

continued

This is a vision far different from the simplistic one of oblivion that you are so keen to give, and so inept at giving, to the Classical Platonists.

This last quotation has nothing to do with reversion and unity. Furthermore, there are some controversial statements in it. For instance, the claim that "this does not mean that the One is compelled to generate being, life, and intelligence," is disputed by scholars. Gilson, for instance, would argue the opposite point.

And please spare me the accusation of giving "inept" explanations. You have demonstrated that you are completely oblivious to basic facts regarding the Christian engagement with these philosophers, and you have a habit of conflating very diverse thinkers and traditions. If I am inept, you are downright criminal and imbecilic.

At least I recognize I am not Uzdavingys or Gerson or Kingsley, I recognize I'm not an expert. You are more ignorant than I am, yet you are loath to show humility in such matters it seems, indeed you scorn it.

You have been informed by a small number of contemporary writers, while I am arguing from a position that draws from two thousand years of Christian tradition and many classicists and philosophers. Yet, every time that I bring this up, you accuse me of "simplistic" distortions and rank "misrepresentation." Now you accuse me of lacking humility? Perhaps I would show less "scorn" if you weren't so insistent upon derision of any view but your own. Rather than actually engaging me, you have repeatedly affirmed, without humility, that you are right--and without referencing sources. In fact, I've protested about this in every single post, so don't revert to some position of epistemic humility. It's too late for that. Your selection of scholarship is narrow and it supports your view and you brook no alternative--and you even assert this when you are completely unfamiliar with the thinker in question, relying upon your intuition and speculation to demonstrate your point.

Finally I do not think I'm wrong to take Hart et al with a pinch of salt, seeing as it is their position you are putting across so ineptly. It is a position that is clearly very biased to hang a lot on.

Again, Hart is operating from the standard Eastern and Western Christian interpretations of Plotinus. They are non-controversial among Christians and they are not marginal or idiosyncratic. I've made this point in the past; stop referring to him in this way otherwise--it's dishonest.

Serious question: Why are you even a Christian? You seem to hold to versions of platonism that are plainly heretical. The Church Fathers battled the excesses of platonism and its corrosive influence on Christian revelation with their lives and with their blood. You certainly are more interested in pagan philosophy than in the Church Fathers--you know plenty about the former and next to nil about the latter. You seem to have strong heterodoxical tendencies.

To create the absolute distinction you are trying to here it will take a lot more than such brief and empty assertions.

I'm actually repeating Hart (and Milbank) on this point. I've referenced them at length in the past, as you know. This should have been obvious.

Westcountryman said...

I have deleted my replies. I felt I was becoming too acrimonious and heated. I wish you well in your spiritual journey, whatever our disagreements.

Anonymous said...

. . . and I was just about to post.

Eduardo said...

Dat Gummit ... u_U I was betting on the country boy.

machinephilosophy said...

Without a trace of irony, Krauss approvingly cites physicist Frank Wilczek’s unflattering comparison of string theory to a rigged game of darts: “First, one throws the dart against a blank wall, and then one goes to the wall and draws a bull’s-eye around where the dart landed.” Yet that is exactly Krauss’ procedure. He defines “nothing” and other key concepts precisely so as to guarantee that only the physicist’s methods he is comfortable with can be applied to the question of the universe’s origin—and that only a nontheological answer will be forthcoming.

Exactly. The atheists themselves don't seem to see the need for precise, exact, and consistent definitions or reasoning, yet chide believers in God for allegedly not doing so.

Meanwhile, the underling atheist crawlers and cheerleaders come along and---also without any reasoning---dismiss the obvious fallacies pointed out by theists.

Where's the scientific reasoning? Where's the strict rigorous numbering and inference-derivation documentation and proofs of the atheists claims, like any logic, sets, and functions course exercises? I don't see a single atheist scholar that is even attempting such a thing. It's the theists who are taking the analysis of issues to greater degrees of argumentative meticulousness, not the atheists.