Friday, August 31, 2012

Animals are conscious! In other news, sky is blue, water wet


A reader calls my attention to a Discovery News story which breathlessly declares: 

A prominent group of scientists signs a document stating that animals are just as “conscious and aware” as humans are.  This is a big deal.

Actually, it is not a big deal, nor in any way news, and the really interesting thing about this story is how completely uninteresting it is.  Animals are conscious?  Anyone who has ever owned a pet, or been to the zoo, or indeed just knows what an animal is, knows that.  

OK, almost anyone.  Descartes notoriously denied it, for reasons tied to his brand of dualism.  And perhaps that is one reason someone might think animal consciousness remarkable.  It might be supposed that if you regard the human mind as something immaterial, you have to regard animals as devoid of consciousness, so that evidence of animal consciousness is evidence against the immateriality of the mind and thus a “big deal.”  This is not what the article says, mind you, but it is one way to make sense of why it presents the evidence of animal consciousness as if it were noteworthy.

The trouble is that there is simply no essential connection whatsoever between affirming the immateriality of the human mind and denying that animals are conscious.  Aristotelians, for example, have always insisted both that animals are sentient -- indeed, that is part of what makes them animals in the first place -- and that human intellectual activity is at least partly immaterial (for reasons I’ve discussed in many places, most recently here).  Descartes’ reasons for denying animal consciousness have to do with assumptions peculiar to his own brand of dualism, assumptions Aristotelians reject.  And they have to do especially with assumptions Descartes made about the nature of matter as much or more than they have to do with his assumptions about the nature of mind -- assumptions about matter that materialists (no doubt including at least some among those scientists cited in the Discovery News article) share.

I’ve discussed the modern, post-Cartesian conception of matter and the role it played in generating the so-called “mind-body problem” many times in many places (including here and here).  The key point for present purposes is that in characterizing matter in purely quantitative, mathematical terms, Descartes left no place in it for qualitative features like color, odor, taste, sound, smell, heat and cold as common sense understands them.  Accordingly, he treated these qualitative features -- as Galileo before him and Locke, Boyle, and countless others after him did -- as entirely mind-dependent, existing only in our conscious experience of the world but not in the world itself.  They are analogous to the redness you see when you literally look at the world through rose-colored glasses -- not really “out there” but only in the eye of the beholder.  What really exists “out there,” on this sort of view, is only color, sound, heart, cold, etc. as redefined in terms of physics -- surface reflectance properties, compression waves, molecular motion, etc.

Now, if these qualitative features as common sense understands them exist only in the mind and not in the material world, it follows that these features cannot themselves be material.  A kind of dualism follows, then, precisely from the conception of matter to which modern philosophers -- including materialists -- are generally committed.  Indeed, as I have also noted before (most recently here), early modern writers like Malebranche and Cudworth saw in this new conception of matter such an argument for dualism, as have contemporary dualists like Richard Swinburne.  The so-called “qualia problem” that contemporary philosophers of mind fret over has (contrary to what some of the materialists among them seem to assume) nothing whatsoever to do with an unwillingness to follow out the implications of modern science, but on the contrary is the inevitable result of the conception of matter to which modern scientists in their philosophical moments have wedded themselves.

In any event, if we say that these qualitative features -- redness, coolness, etc. as we know them from introspection -- exist only in a mind-dependent way, only in conscious experience, that raises the question of what a mind is.  And for Descartes, a mind is just the sort of thing whose existence he is left with when everything else has been doubted away by the end of the first of his Meditations -- the sort of thing which can think to itself “I think, therefore I am,” and which can know that it and its conscious experiences of the world exist even if the external material world itself does not.  

This gives us Descartes’ novel form of dualism.  The human body, as he understood it, is just one entirely mathematically definable bit of the material world among others, entirely devoid of qualitative features and thus of the consciousness that, as he saw it, is presupposed by them.  What makes a human being more than a mere unconscious mechanism is that conjoined with this body is a res cogitans in which alone consciousness resides.  Apart from that, a human being would be no more conscious than a toaster oven, even if it acted like it was conscious -- which is precisely why the post-Cartesian understanding of matter and mind has given rise to the notion of a “zombie,” in the technical sense familiar from contemporary philosophy of mind.  This notion of a “zombie” -- and thus the “hard problem of consciousness” which has gotten so much attention in recent years and which many philosophers and scientists falsely suppose is a scientific problem susceptible of a scientific solution -- are artifacts of an entirely philosophical, historically contingent, and eminently challengeable (indeed, I would say clearly false) conception of matter.  

Be that as it may, Descartes’ strange view about animals pretty naturally falls out of this set of assumptions.  If the entire material world, including the human body, is utterly devoid of anything like the qualitative features we know from conscious experience, and consciousness resides only in a res cogitans, then whatever lacks a res cogitans cannot be conscious.  But the mark of a res cogitans is the sort of higher cognitive activity represented by fancy philosophical thoughts like “I think, therefore I am,” and (more generally) expressible in language.  Whatever gives every sign of being devoid of the sort of intellectual activity associated with language accordingly gives every sign of being devoid of consciousness.  Hence we have (again, given the assumptions in question) every reason to conclude that non-human animals are essentially “zombies” -- they act like they are conscious, but they are not.

Now, this crazy outcome is, certainly for us Aristotelians, a clear reductio ad absurdum of the premises that led to it, and just one of the many evidences that the moderns were wrong to abandon the Aristotelian-Scholastic philosophy of nature (which is, of course, not to say that they were wrong to abandon the erroneous scientific ideas that had gotten entangled with that philosophy of nature).  But there is nevertheless a kind of logic to Descartes’ position.  One sometimes hears stupid remarks about Descartes to the effect that his views about animals reflected mere anthropocentric prejudice or the like.  (See this golden oldie from the long-defunct Conservative Philosopher group blog, wherein I criticized one such attack.)  Descartes was wrong, but no one who shares his basic assumptions about the nature of matter -- which probably includes most contemporary philosophers and scientists, albeit they share those assumptions unreflectively and only in broad outlines (namely Descartes’ emphasis on quantitative and mathematically definable features) rather than in the details (e.g. Descartes’ commitment to plenum theory, which no one accepts any longer) -- has any business dismissing his views out of hand.  For it is precisely those essentially anti-Aristotelian, anti-Scholastic assumptions that led to his bizarre views about animals.  

Another reason some might think animal consciousness is noteworthy is that they might think it supports materialism.  In particular, they might suppose that given that animals are purely material and yet are conscious, that gives us reason to think that the human mind in its entirely is material.  But this is just a non sequitur, and once again presupposes an essentially Cartesian understanding of the relevant issues.  Because he took all consciousness to reside in the res cogitans and regarded the res cogitans as immaterial, Descartes’ position implies that sensation and imagination are immaterial.  Hence if sensation and imagination turn out to be material after all, the post-Cartesian philosopher understandably concludes that the remaining operations of the res cogitans, and higher cognitive activities in particular, might be susceptible of materialist explanation as well.

But the Aristotelian tradition has in the first place always regarded sensation and imagination as corporeal faculties, and as having nothing essentially to do with the reasons why our distinctively intellectual activities are incorporeal.  It is only because they take for granted the desiccated, purely quantitative post-Cartesian conception of matter that contemporary philosophers and scientists regard sensation and imagination as at least philosophically problematic and are impressed by any evidence for the essentially bodily character of sensation and imagination.  The Aristotelian finds himself stifling a yawn.  “Big whoop.  We’ve been saying that for centuries.”

In any event, merely to insinuate that evidence for the corporeal nature of conscious awareness is evidence for the corporeal nature of abstract thought would just be to beg the question against the Aristotelian tradition, which maintains that strictly intellectual activity on the one hand and sensation and imagination on the other differ in kind and not merely degree, so that to establish the corporeal nature of the latter is irrelevant to the question of whether the former is corporeal.  (I’ve addressed this issue many times as well, once again most recently here.)  Hence, to establish that animals have conscious awareness of a sensory and imaginative sort -- something the Aristotelian not only has never denied but has insisted upon -- simply does nothing to show that the distinctively intellectual powers of human beings might be given a materialist explanation.  (Though in fairness, the Discovery News article doesn’t say otherwise.  I’m merely speculating about why anyone might find remarkable the inherently unremarkable claim that non-human animals are conscious.)

So, Discovery News, Discovery Shnews.  For the really interesting developments in animal psychology, you’ve got to rely on The Onion:

46 comments:

Anonymous said...

first

ingx24 said...

I don't quite understand how imagination and sensation could be material things - as far as I know you can't look in someone's brain and see their mental images or whatever. Is the Aristotlean conception of matter really that radically different from what most people are used to?

Crude said...

Is the Aristotlean conception of matter really that radically different from what most people are used to?

It's radically different from the standard materialist/modernist conception, yes. At least according to my understanding.

Joshua said...

ingx24


Actually, according to Aquinas' commentary on the De anima, imagination and sensation have a degree of immateriality, but in a different way than the intellect, as they are removed from some conditions of matter, but not entirely.

And actually we can "look in someone's brain" and see mental images. Well more accurately we can map neuron processes and reconstruct images from the imagination, though very crudely currently

http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2011/09/22/mind-reading-experiment-reconstructs-movies-in-our-mind/?test=faces

Anonymous said...

The discovery article says nothing new or interesting. I also read Koch's article that was linked in the article (found on huffington post) and it too said nothing new or interesting.

So what if animals have sensations and emotions? You could tell that just by interacting with your cat at the age of 10.

Dr Feser, are you aware of any articles available that provide an Aristotelian account of the difference between humans and animals in reference to all the recent experimental examples (Nim, Kanzi, Akaikeimi etc). I asked for an article in another thread and I believe Josh provided me with one by Marie George. I was wondering if there are any other such articles books that address the issue from an Aristotelian perspective.

Any suggestions?

Peter Youngblood said...

Joshua is correct. The species of the sensible exists "in a way" abstracted from matter. But because the sensible object is the act of the sensible organ, which is itself material, the sensible object does exist materially in the matter of the sense organ. It is only abstracted from its original or natural matter (i.e., in its natural mode of being), while it takes on the matter of the sense organ (i.e., in its intentional mode of being). Thus it not surprising that we can (a) not find the sensible object in the brain as it exists entitatively, and (b) we can have hope of reconstructing a sense image by mapping the sense organ.

Scott W. said...

So what if animals have sensations and emotions?

Leaving the philosophical realm for the political for a moment, since society is doing such a bang up job of pretending two guys shacking up for anal sex counts as a marriage, might as well add animals to the list of fictitious protected classes.

jules said...

There are so many cases of science "revealing" the bleedin' obvious that it does make you wonder at their underlying metaphysics/epistemology. Thanks for another great post.

ingx24 said...

"And actually we can "look in someone's brain" and see mental images. Well more accurately we can map neuron processes and reconstruct images from the imagination, though very crudely currently"

Yeah. That's not SEEING mental images. It's just interpreting brain processes to reconstruct what the mental image must have been.

Craig Payne said...

Dear Anonymous: A good book that discusses animal consciousness and the human difference is Ric Machuga's "In Defense of the Soul." I believe it is from Brazos Press.

Glenn said...

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Researchers and scientists have recently discovered that the cage cleaner has been communicating with Quigley the gorilla.

"Our first surprise," said one researcher, "was that the cage cleaner had the intelligence to communicate with Quigley. Our second surprise is that he's been keeping notes of his communications with Quigley. Our third surprise is that Quigley has said things to the cage cleaner that he's withheld from us; this tells us that Quigley is capable of deception, a distinctly human trait. And our fourth surprise is that Quigley's intelligence has advanced further than we had surmised."

The researchers and scientists refused to share with this reporter any of the content of Quigley's communications with the cage cleaner. The cage cleaner, however, was willing to come clean. According to the cage cleaner, Quigley communicated the following to him this Friday past.

"Quigley no dumb. Quigley smart. You good human. Quigley tell you what really think and feel. Researchers and scientists bad humans. They mean and cruel. They teach Quigley one day die. Quigley now depressed. Researchers and scientists bad humans. They malicious. They introduce Quigley to alcoholism so me no more depressed. Quigley no dumb. Quigley smart. Quigley know he happy when no can think. Quigley say me rather have frontal lobotomy than bottle in front of me."

In related news, this reporter has learned that Smirnoff is pulling its funding of Tulane University's Primate Research Center.

Anonymous said...

Peter Youngblood said... But because the sensible object is the act of the sensible organ, which is itself material, the sensible object does exist materially in the matter of the sense organ. It is only abstracted from its original or natural matter (i.e., in its natural mode of being), while it takes on the matter of the sense organ (i.e., in its intentional mode of being).

Ok… but what does all that mean? I get that a form can exist in matter (making it that kind of thing) or in the intellect (immaterially, being understood). But what is this intentional mode of being? Sensing something green doesn't make any of my matter green, so why isn't it an immaterial sensing that has the greenness in me?

TheOFloinn said...

Useful comments here:
http://thomism.wordpress.com/2008/10/11/what-really-are-uniquely-human-traits/

followed up here:
http://thomism.wordpress.com/2010/12/14/uniquely-human-traits-pt-ii/

Crude said...

Actually, something is bothering me about the OP. Not Ed's response, necessarily.

A prominent group of scientists signs a document stating that animals are just as “conscious and aware” as humans are. This is a big deal.

Great. I've got some questions.

How did scientists demonstrate this? Because when last I checked, measuring 'consciousness' in the way most people would mean isn't something scientists can manage. They can make certain assumptions, they can find correlations.

But consciousness is never observed, as a rule, by a third party.

At a glance, this seems like a pretty problematic declaration - not from a Thomist standpoint, but from a standpoint of recognizing the limits of science.

So all at once, this seems like non-news (the number of people, even dualists, who doubt animals are conscious are minimal) and bad news (the scientists are signing a declaration to give scientific weight to a position that can't even be established by science).

ozero91 said...

I know that this if off topic, but I have a few questions. I'm currently reading TLS, and its an eye-opener. I didn't even know about the difference between classical theism and theistic personalism until I did some reading at this blog. Is there a A-T version of the Kalam argument? Is there also some sort of A-T Moral argument? Or is that a no-no?
Also, from my subjective observations, it seems like theistic personalists have a greater presence on the net. If this is true, why might that be? Is it because of WLC and company?

rank sophist said...

ozero,

Glad to hear that you're reading TLS. It rocked my world, too. If you don't mind, I'll take a shot at answering your questions.

Is there a A-T version of the Kalam argument?

The signature cosmological arguments of A-T don't include Kalam, but the most comparable might be the argument from contingency--Aquinas's Third Way. It runs something like this (quoted from Wikipedia):

1. Many things in the universe may either exist or not exist. Such things are called contingent beings.

2. It is impossible for everything in the universe to be contingent, for then there would be a time when nothing existed, and so nothing would exist now, since there would be nothing to bring anything into existence, which is clearly false.

3. Therefore, there must be a necessary being whose existence is not contingent on any other being or beings.

Contemporary philosophers, uneducated in A-T philosophy, take this to be some sort of a priori ontological argument variant. However, it is, in fact, based on deeper, a posteriori considerations in Aquinas's ontology. Getting into the details here might be messy, though.

Is there also some sort of A-T Moral argument? Or is that a no-no?

The classical theist God is not a moral agent, so there's nothing identical to a moral argument. Aquinas's Fourth Way covers similar turf, though: it tries to show that anything good, true, beautiful or noble directly, at all times, receives those attributes from something that contains them all, in metaphysically simple form. Again, the details are convoluted, but the Fourth Way is one of my favorite arguments for God.

Also, from my subjective observations, it seems like theistic personalists have a greater presence on the net. If this is true, why might that be? Is it because of WLC and company?

Most contemporary Christian philosophers (Platinga, Swinburne, etc.) are personalists, so it makes sense that their arguments would be repeated regularly. Personalism has been a viewpoint building since the work of late Scholastics like Duns Scotus and William of Ockham. Such theology was the basis of Luther's Protestantism, and it continues to dominate that denomination. It's gradually suffocated classical theism elsewhere.

ozero91 said...

Thanks for the input, rank. One last question. (Although I know that the answers to some of my questions might be further in TLS and Aquinas, there are just some things that I have to know right away, you know?) I can understand the position that God is not a Moral agent, even if I find it odd at the moment. But then (how) do objective moral values exist in classical theism?

rank sophist said...

Thanks for the input, rank. One last question. (Although I know that the answers to some of my questions might be further in TLS and Aquinas, there are just some things that I have to know right away, you know?) I can understand the position that God is not a Moral agent, even if I find it odd at the moment. But then (how) do objective moral values exist in classical theism?

I can't speak for all of classical theism, but, in the case of A-T, objective moral values are related to natures (forms). Emergent from these natures are final causes. In the case of humans, our final causes--shared by everyone--give rise to an objective "natural law" that governs proper behavior. The details are very complex, but Prof. Feser provides a nice discussion of them in TLS, if I remember correctly. Good luck in your reading.

TimLambert said...

This useless bit of science probably came from the same folks who think the McGurk Effect is relevant to anything.

Gene Callahan said...

But Ed, if you think animals are conscious, you must sit around in fear of monster animals attacking you all the time, right? Because when I suggested that plants are conscious, you posted cartoons implying that I must live in fear of monster plants attacking me.

Or is fairness not a Thomistic virtue?

Mr. Green said...

Gene Callahan: Or is fairness not a Thomistic virtue?

I thought you were making a perfectly good and amusing quip until this line. But of course it's silly to say "all the time". One should fear being attacked by monstrous animals only some of the time, such as when one is wandering through the jungle (or perhaps the city, depending upon whether the municipality in question permits pit-bulls). Or are you seriously going to tell us there is no reason ever to be afraid of lions and tigers and bears? Oh my.

Edward Feser said...

Yikes, lighten up, Gene!

Anonymous said...

Will we have to live in fear of lions, tigers, bears, great white sharks, etc., in heaven? Just curious.

Anonymous said...

No big deal? You might want to pass the news on to W. L. Craig.

Gene Callahan said...

Ed, I am quite "light." But I do, indeed, wonder why my contention that plants are conscious prompted cartoons of monster plants, while your contention that animals are conscious does not deserve a cartoon of mothra? Perhaps "lightening up" only goes in one direction?

Edward Feser said...

Gene,

You really need to lighten up.

I used the comic book panel from "Save Me From the Weed" for the same reason I pick most of the illustrations I use -- because I thought it was funny. That's it.

But just in case anyone else got the wrong idea, I hereby affirm that Gene Callahan is not afraid of plants, does not think they are going to attack him, etc.

Did I mention that you need to lighten up?

Anonymous said...

A prominent group of scientists signs a document stating that animals are just as “conscious and aware” as humans are. This is a big deal.


It's a big deal... that scientists are so obtuse.

I do not argue that animals have consciousness, but to claim that they are 'just as conscious as humans' is quite ridiculous.

It's like comparing a Commodore 64 with a Quad Core PC... sure both have 'processing capabilities' but on a very different level.

Zeb said...

But what does it even mean to say that animals are conscious? I admit that as a recovering theistic Cartesian dualist everything about A-T metaphysics is a bit hard to grok. While I can sort of understand how the greenness of a leaf is more than the tendency of the leaf to reflect photons at a certain number of waves per micron or whatever, I can't understand what it means for an animal to see greenness purely materially except in terms of electrons being excited by the impact of the photon and starting a particular electrochemical chain reaction through the nervous system. That is, unless there is a non-material aspect to the animal mind, as there is in humans. Perhaps the best question for me is, "What is the difference between animal 'consciousness' and the most advanced possible artificial intelligence's sensitivity?" I'd also like to know what moral implications come from animal consciousness. I am a vegetarian for purely humanistic reasons, but if I believed every animal had a personal consciousness of its life I might have to follow the Jain precept of radical non-violence!

Anonymous said...

@Rank Sophist
Most contemporary Christian philosophers (Platinga, Swinburne, etc.) are personalists, so it makes sense that their arguments would be repeated regularly. Personalism has been a viewpoint building since the work of late Scholastics like Duns Scotus and William of Ockham. Such theology was the basis of Luther's Protestantism, and it continues to dominate that denomination. It's gradually suffocated classical theism elsewhere.

A question from a lurker who doesn't know much: what is "theistic personalism" and what exactly makes it different from classical theism? I'm somewhat familiar with Swinburne & Plantinga from college philosophy, and while I see some differences between them and Aquinas, I never perceived them to be in any way opposed to the Thomist view. Can you enlighten me?

Anonymous said...

Zeb, that's just what I was asking too. The intellectual aspect of the soul I get (at least sort of), but I've never seen a simple explanation of "qualia" in Thomistic terms. If it's something purely material, then a computer could do it. And I get that a computer is not like an animal because it doesn't have a substantial form, but that's a non-material difference, i.e. the substantial form itself is not a material thing, even though the animal is material, because the substantial form does not exist anywhere by itself. Maybe qualia are like that, but then what is the non-material "part" even if it exists only as joined to matter? And since angels are not material, does that mean they don't have qualia (or the Thomistic equivalent)? I would think that an angel can know greenness only in the intellectual sense, which is different from how an animal knows greenness. And human beings would know it both ways... but what are those ways and how are they different??

Anonymous said...

Anon @ September 4, 2012 8:50 AM,

Until rank or another experienced commenter gets around to your question, try Ed Feser's blog post "William Lane Craig on Divine Simplicity."

rank sophist said...

Anon at 8:50 AM,

A question from a lurker who doesn't know much: what is "theistic personalism" and what exactly makes it different from classical theism? I'm somewhat familiar with Swinburne & Plantinga from college philosophy, and while I see some differences between them and Aquinas, I never perceived them to be in any way opposed to the Thomist view. Can you enlighten me?

There are several very important differences. First, most personalists argue that divine simplicity--that is, the doctrine that God's goodness is the same as his justice, which is the same as his existence, which is the same as his beauty and so on--is incoherent. This is the result of poor readings of traditional theology: they project present conventions on to the past and then complain when they don't fit.

Second, they tend to see God in "univocal" terms, where Aquinas spoke of him in "analogical" terms. What this means is that, when a personalist describes God's attributes, he merely "scales up" a human attribute. If a human is good, then multiply that attribute by infinity and you have God's goodness. This makes God a "super-person", in a sense. On the other hand, Aquinas tells us that God can only be described through analogy. When we say that something is good, its goodness is like God's, but, even if it was multiplied by infinity, it still would not reach God's. They are different in kind, and not just in degree.

Third, as a result of the first two, God begins to look like an "agent". (A "super-agent", perhaps; but an agent nonetheless.) They describe God as being "omniscient", "omnipotent" and "perfectly good". That is, his knowledge is that of an all-knowing human, his power that of an all-powerful human and his goodness that of a perfectly good human, only immaterial and infinite. This forces the theistic personalist to explain why God would allow evil to exist, since a "good person" who had the "power" to stop such things would do so. Classical theism has no such problems.

The final result of theistic personalism was summed up, I believe, most perfectly by David Bentley Hart:

"... the God thus described is a logical nonsense: a being among beings, possessing the properties of his nature in a composite way, as aspects of his nature rather than as names ultimately convertible with one another in the simplicity of his transcendent essence, whose being and nature are then in some sense distinct from one another, who receives his being from being as such and so is less than being, who (even if he is changeless and eternal) in some sense becomes the being he is by partaking of that prior unity (existence) that allows his nature to persist in the composite reality it is, a God whose being has nonexistence as its opposite.... This God is a myth, an idol, and one we can believe in and speak of only so long as we have forgotten the difference between being and beings."

We are left with a ridiculous God who is not the source of being but rather "exists" in the same sense as a human. Classical theism, in my opinion, leans toward "panentheism" (note the extra "en"); and theistic personalism often cashes out as a poor man's deism.

rank sophist said...

And I would agree with the Anon at 12:54 PM about Prof. Feser's earlier pieces. This is where you want to start: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/07/classical-theism-roundup.html

Crude said...

By the way. The real funny thing about the OP... it's not dualists who are really the ones being countered by scientists in that release.

It's materialists. At least, some materialists.

With emphasis added:

No past or current dualists can prove that animals necessarily lack the fundamental mental properties or substance. Furthermore, given that none of these theories specify empirical means for detecting the right stuff for consciousness, and indeed most dualist theories cannot do so, they seem forced to rely upon behavioral criteria for deciding the Distribution Question. In adopting such criteria, they have some non-dualist allies. For example, Dennett (1969, 1995, 1997), while rejecting Cartesian dualism, nevertheless denies that animals are conscious in anything like the same sense that humans are, due to what he sees as the thoroughly intertwined aspect of language and human experience (see also Carruthers 1996).

That would be from SEP's Animal consciousness, section 4.1.

I'm actually surprised Ed's never hit on this point in particular.

Anonymous said...

@Rank
when a personalist describes God's attributes, he merely "scales up" a human attribute. If a human is good, then multiply that attribute by infinity and you have God's goodness. This makes God a "super-person", in a sense. On the other hand, Aquinas tells us that God can only be described through analogy. When we say that something is good, its goodness is like God's, but, even if it was multiplied by infinity, it still would not reach God's. They are different in kind, and not just in degree.

BINGO That's exactly the explanation I was looking for. Now that you mention that, I see it in Plantinga/Swinburne. Thanks!

-Anon at 8:50

Robert J. said...

If the ability to hear smell touch and see does not somehow reside in the soul wont we be blind dumb and deaf totaly unable to perceive anything like colour sound feeling and just be left with maybe an intellectual awareness and past memory after we die? And if the saints are aware it seems of the goings on in the world and people with near death experience seem to hear and see things while hovering over their bodies ... would that not indicate that somehow sense impressions can reach the conscious immaterial self without the aid of physical bodies which are in union with the soul in the sense of being the principle of the body?
Would the ability for sensory experience via our bodies which we are aware of in our spiritual minds just somehow be transmitted directly to our souls without the aid of the body? And would this likely be a new ability of our soul add on to us post mortem or unleashed as a pontentiality which now is not actualized as we are still in space time and in our bodies?
Can someone help me with that ? I cant imagine Dr. Feser advocating soul sleep:-)I know he does not but how than am I do understand a solution to my difficulty? Is there any good reading on this topic anyone can recommend ? I would be gratful, thank you.

Anonymous said...

If God is different in kind from us, how can we be created in his image?

Robert J. said...

Anonymous said...
If God is different in kind from us, how can we be created in his image?


I would say that being created by Him in his image .. we REFLECT his atributes ... having been created as person with the atributes that come with personhood but we are not generated from within himself like the SON ... we have potentiality and are not all actuality .. we are not eternal and limitless the difference therefor is one of quality (kind) not just quantity. Something which begets something else would be of the same kind would be a dog begetting a dog, a human begets a human but if something creates something else .. lets say a human makes a statue of himself .. it would have a likeness but it would not be of the same kind. Now God being able to create PERSONS would make them in his likeness too.

Arthur said...

The way I see it, the "in God's image" thing can be interpreted fairly literally. An "image" is a 2-dimensional object that necessarily leaves out some of the information in a real, 3-dimensional object, right? Presumably then, the analogy means that there are things we have that God also has, but we have them in a far more limited way. In a way, it seems to mean that God is more real than us, and that we are simply reflections of Him. It could also serve as a warning not to think of God as just a kind of big man. A 3D object is not just a large 2D object, after all.

Robert J. said...

On a different note : I am happy to have found out that the German Publisher of Mathematics & Philosophy : Ontos-Verlag .. will soon release Ed Feser´s : The Last Supersticion in German:-) Finally I can share this important book with my family and friends. I very much hope that his other works such as "Aquinas" and "The Philosophy of Mind" also will be available in german!

Anonymous said...

Since people are still posting to this thread, is anyone able to response to my and Zeb's questions above? Does qualia not get the attention intellect does in A-T because it's too hard, or too easy? Is it because everyone else already understands it?

Gail Finke said...

Rank sophist: Thanks for that concise explanation of theistic personalism, it's very helpful as I am not familiar with those theologians and that point of view. It's a great starting point.

Anonymous said...

in other news:

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2012/09/junk_no_more_en_1064001.html

Aquohn said...

Maybe Descartes never had a pet.

Anonymous said...

How does anyone who knows a pet know the pet is conscious? That is, what particular act or acts uniquely tell us that consciousness exists in the being which we observe?

The Turing test comes to mind. It is in principle possible to produce a computer/robot that, in the Chinese room kind of way, behaves and reacts to the images it receives such that it appears to be "conscious". Of course, I hardly think you would classify such robots as conscious. Otherwise, we've have varying degrees of conscious robots among us for years (Boston Dynamics comes to mind). Observation can't distinguish one from the other. This is perhaps my greatest beef with the idea that a substance is known through its accidents. Sure, if a thing jumps, we know it is capable of jumping and thus tells us about something about the potential of the substance, but sometimes I think we can jump to conclusions not warranted by what we observe. We arrogantly presume that a given effect has a unique cause (AND that we somehow knew what that cause was in the first place).

So either you must claim that a things lacking consciousness can never in principle mimic any conscious being's observable behavior (and more generally, that (observable) effects and causes are uniquely ties, or you have to demote consciousness to that which possesses any sensory apparatus and which responds that what which is given to it through that apparatus. But such a demotion renders consciousness so unremarkeable that objects such as cameras are now to be understood as conscious (not panpsychism, which arguably elevates the status of everyday objects, but something better approximated by reduction). But conscious, as I understand it is something almost causally mute: it is rather a passive, receptive thing which itself produces no observable effects, or if it did, they would not be distinguishable from those produced by things lacking consciousness. Contrary to popular fiction and comic books, a zombie can in principle be quite capable of pretending to be your mother without being your mother.

TheOFloinn said...

Do not confuse "consciousness" with "intellect." Any animal that can mimic is obviously conscious of the other's behavior.