Thursday, September 27, 2012

Was Aquinas a dualist?


At the start of chapter 4 of Aquinas (the chapter on “Psychology”), I wrote:

As I have emphasized throughout this book, understanding Aquinas requires “thinking outside the box” of the basic metaphysical assumptions (concerning cause, effect, substance, essence, etc.) that contemporary philosophers tend to take for granted.  This is nowhere more true than where Aquinas’s philosophy of mind is concerned.  Indeed, to speak of Aquinas’s “philosophy of mind” is already misleading.  For Aquinas does not approach the issues dealt with in this modern philosophical sub-discipline in terms of their relevance to solving the so-called “mind-body problem.”  No such problem existed in Aquinas’s day, and for him the important distinction was in any case not between mind and body, but rather between soul and body.  Even that is potentially misleading, however, for Aquinas does not mean by “soul” what contemporary philosophers tend to mean by it, i.e. an immaterial substance of the sort affirmed by Descartes.  Furthermore, while contemporary philosophers of mind tend to obsess over the questions of whether and how science can explain consciousness and the “qualia” that define it, Aquinas instead takes what is now called “intentionality” to be the distinctive feature of the mind, and the one that it is in principle impossible to explain in materialistic terms.  At the same time, he does not think of intentionality in quite the way contemporary philosophers do.  Moreover, while he is not a materialist, he is not a Cartesian dualist either, his view being in some respects a middle position between these options.  But neither is this middle position the standard one discussed by contemporary philosophers under the label “property dualism.”  And so forth.

To the modern philosophical reader, all this might make Aquinas sound very odd indeed, confusing and perhaps confused…  Yet had Aquinas been familiar with the ideas of contemporary philosophers of mind, he would have regarded them as the confused ones, and in particular as having gotten the basic conceptual lay of the land totally wrong.  For the “mind-body problem” is essentially an artifact of the early modern philosophers’ decision to abandon a hylemorphic conception of the world for a mechanistic one, and its notorious intractability is, in the view of Thomists, one of the starkest indications of how deeply mistaken that decision was.

End quote.  In a recent paper, the esteemed Alfred Freddoso takes his own Thomistic look at contemporary philosophy of mind, and explains how much of what is today taken for granted in the field is “bound to strike a Thomist as strange and insufficiently motivated.”  Nor is it only the views of materialists that Freddoso (and I) are critical of.  For reasons he clearly explains, the views of many dualists, and even of many orthodox Catholic thinkers, must from a Thomistic point of view be regarded as seriously deficient.  Give the paper a read.  You’ll find in it, among many other good things, a useful overview of the way the Thomistic approach to issues in the philosophy of mind reflects a broader Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy of nature.

I have one point of disagreement with Fred, though (as it seems he would agree) it is more terminological than substantive.  He says some very kind things about both my book The Last Superstition and David Oderberg’s book Real Essentialism.  But he takes exception to Oderberg’s (and my) tendency to characterize Aquinas’s position as “hylemorphic dualism.”  Fred writes:

Unlike Feser, I am very uneasy describing St. Thomas’s position as a form of dualism — even ‘hylemorphic dualism’ — since it is precisely the unity of the human being that St. Thomas wants to emphasize over against Plato’s position, which (as he interprets it) posits many substantial forms in the human composite.  (The term ‘hylemorphic dualism’ originates, I believe, with David Oderberg in Real Essentialism (New York: Routledge, 2007).) This is largely a verbal disagreement, but I for one resist making Thomistic philosophical anthropology conform to what I believe to be the illegitimate contemporary taxonomy of ‘solutions’ to the alleged ‘mind-body problem’, according to which each solution is either a type of materialism or a type of dualism.

Freddoso is right to say that the term “hylemorphic dualism” probably originates with David Oderberg (certainly it originates with him as far as David or I know), though it is David’s 2005 Social Philosophy and Policy paper “Hylemorphic Dualism” that (at least as far as I know) actually marks its first appearance.  But Aquinas’s position is characterized as “Thomistic dualism” in William Hasker’s 1999 book The Emergent Self and J. P. Moreland and Scott Rae’s 2000 book Body and Soul, and Aquinas is characterized as “a non-Cartesian substance dualist” in Eleonore Stump’s 2003 book Aquinas.  And there is a good reason why these (and other) writers classify Aquinas as a kind of dualist.  The reason is that is that Aquinas just obviously is a dualist given the sense of “dualism” that has long been operative in modern philosophy of mind.  As Stump writes:

It is clear that Aquinas rejects the Cartesian or Platonic sort of dualism.  On the other hand, Aquinas seems clearly in the dualist camp somewhere since he thinks that there is an immaterial and subsistent constituent of the subject of cognitive function.  (p. 212)

In particular, Aquinas holds that the human intellect is immaterial and that because it is, the human soul of which it is a power survives the death of the body.  And that is more than enough to make him a dualist as “dualism” is generally understood today.  To the vast majority of contemporary philosophers, to say “Aquinas thinks the soul is immaterial and survives the death of the body, but he isn’t a dualist” sounds a little like saying “Aquinas believed the existence of God can be demonstrated, but he isn’t a theist.”  

The reason Freddoso (and some other writers on Aquinas) resist the term “dualism” is that they tend to use it in an older sense, to refer more or less exclusively to what is today generally regarded only as one version of dualism among others -- specifically, to what Stump calls “the Cartesian or Platonic sort of dualism.”  On a Cartesian or Platonic view, the real you is something entirely immaterial -- your soul -- and the body is merely something with which you are contingently associated, and not essential to you at all.  Human beings are violently sundered in two, the seamless unity of their material and immaterial aspects denied.  Naturally, Aquinas, who (following both Aristotle and Christian tradition alike) regards our bodily nature as essential to us, rejects such a view.  For that reason, Freddoso worries that by applying to Aquinas the “dualism” label:

Thomism gets put into the same general category as philosophical anthropologies according to which human beings are not properly speaking (i.e., per se) animals at all, but instead immaterial souls closely associated with animal bodies… One might have hoped for a more fine-grained problematic to begin with, where Thomistic philosophical anthropology would be seen as (a) clearly distinct from dualism in insisting that human beings are both unified substances and animals in the full-blooded sense and (b) clearly distinct from materialism in insisting that there is a radical metaphysical underpinning, viz., an immaterial form, for the human animal’s distinctiveness from other animals.

The trouble is that the term “dualism” just doesn’t have these exclusively Platonic and Cartesian implications in contemporary philosophy.  Many modern dualists are “property dualists,” who hold precisely that human beings are material things and indeed animals of a certain kind, but animals who happen to have immaterial properties in addition to material ones.  To be sure (and as the above quote from my Aquinas book indicates) I would not classify Aquinas as a “property dualist” either, in part because it isn’t correct to describe him as holding that thoughts and the like are “properties” of a material substance.  But the existence of property dualism as a position within the broad dualist camp nevertheless illustrates the point that “dualism” as it is understood today simply does not imply the idea that a person’s body is not essential to him.  

Now Freddoso does have some things to say about property dualism, but his remarks seem to me somewhat odd, and are in my view in any case mistaken.  For one thing, he says that though property dualism “is often presented as an alternative to materialism” it is in fact “clearly a form of materialism.”  He also writes:

A zombie-world is one which is just like ours in its physical constitution and physical events, but in which there are no sensuous experiences.  Is a zombie world possible?  If it is, then even so moderate a form of materialism as property dualism is false, since the presence of the sensuous experiences cannot be accounted for merely by the presence of the physical, no matter how the latter is constituted, and sensings and feelings do not necessarily supervene on the physical.

The reason this is odd is that the notion of a “zombie” is commonly put forward precisely in arguments against materialism and in favor of property dualism! For example, David Chalmers’ book The Conscious Mind, which is an especially influential recent defense of the possibility of “zombies,” makes use of the notion precisely as a way of defending property dualism.  Since a zombie would be identical to us in all its material properties but devoid of consciousness, it follows (so the argument goes) that consciousness is not material but rather a non-material property of human beings.  (In his paper “Why I Am Not a Property Dualist,” John Searle argues that property dualism in fact threatens to collapse into a Cartesian-style substance dualism.  While I have criticized other aspects of Searle’s paper, that much seems to me hardly less plausible than Freddoso’s opposite assertion.)

The reason Freddoso says what he does about property dualism seems to be that he associates it with a fairly strong claim about the supervenience of the mental on the physical.  But as Chalmers writes:

There is a weaker sort of property dualism with which [Chalmers’] view should not be confused.  It is sometimes said that property dualism applies to any domain in which the properties are not themselves properties invoked by physics, or directly reducible to such properties.  In this sense, even biological fitness is not a physical property.  But this sort of “dualism” is a very weak variety.  There is nothing fundamentally ontologically new about properties such as fitness, as they are still logically supervenient on microphysical properties.  Property dualism of this variety is entirely compatible with materialism.  By contrast, the property dualism that I advocate involves fundamentally new features of the world.  Because these properties are not even logically supervenient on microphysical properties, they are nonphysical in a much stronger sense.  When I speak of property dualism and nonphysical properties, it is this stronger view and the stronger sense of nonphysicality that I have in mind.  (p. 125)

Hence Freddoso is perhaps conflating what is really only one version of property dualism -- what Chalmers calls a “very weak variety” -- with property dualism as such.  Be that as it may, there is certainly nothing in property dualism per se that entails materialism.  And since property dualism also does not entail treating a person’s body as non-essential to him, there is nothing in dualism per se as the term “dualism” is generally understood today that entails a specifically Platonic or Cartesian conception of persons.  That narrow construal of “dualism” has become archaic.

Hence it seems to me that for a Thomist to insist on using “dualism” in the more narrow, archaic sense is like refusing to use the word “atom” the way modern physicists do on the grounds that the ancient atomists thought of atoms as essentially indivisible.  In both cases, the meaning of the term has as a matter of linguistic fact simply changed fundamentally and nothing of substance rides on it anyway.  Insisting on the older usage gains nothing and has as a downside that it sows confusion.  In the case at hand, refusing to allow that Aquinas could in any sense be called a dualist at best seems baffling to most contemporary readers (given that Aquinas affirmed the immateriality of the intellect and the immortality of the soul) and at worst threatens to foster positive misunderstandings (if, for example, it leads any contemporary readers to conclude that Aquinas’s position might be compatible with naturalism broadly conceived).  

As my longtime readers know, I have no problem whatsoever with insisting on old ideas and even old usages when something substantive is at stake.  Hence I am keen to insist not only on the fundamental importance of the Aristotelian theory of act and potency but even on the language of “act” and “potency,” since I think these terms have connotations which make them more suitable means of conveying the concepts in question than contemporary putative substitutes like “categorical properties” and “dispositional properties.”  

But there are other cases where the benefits of reviving older usage are balanced or even outweighed by the costs.  For example, if in every context I used the word “science” only in the technical Aristotelian sense of the word, I might please certain Aristotelian or Thomistic readers of the sort who occasionally complain (in the combox, say) that my usage is insufficiently traditional.  But I would baffle the vast majority of my readers, who would be led into grave and entirely avoidable misunderstandings, and who are (quite understandably) not keen to read through a primer on the history of philosophical linguistic usage as a prolegomenon to every blog post.  And in my estimation, preserving the archaic use of “dualism” is even less important than insisting in every context on the older sense of “science.”

But I hate to disagree with Fred, whose work I have long admired and from whom I have learned much.  Our minor disagreement notwithstanding, this latest paper is of great interest.  Again, give it a read.

49 comments:

Adam Zur said...

what would you say about Michael Humemer's approach to the mind body problem?

Anonymous said...

Hello Dr Feser,

Sorry to re-post this. First of all: thanks for your excellent work - it has been truly influential to my own philosophical development.

My real reason for this is that I was hoping that you could comment on the following article: New Caledonian crows reason about hidden causal agents by Alex Taylor, Rachael Miller, and Russell Gray.

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/09/10/1208724109.full.pdf+html

How problematic is this for the Aristotelian understanding of man's animal soul as distinctively rational? I would greatly appreciate your comment or anyone else's from a Thomist perspective.

Thanks in anticipation.

Brandon said...

I'm not convinced it's quite so clear-cut. While there is a general usage for 'science' shared by practitioners and nonpractitioners, there is no such usage for 'dualism' -- outside of philosophy 'dualism' implies directly some kind of Cartesian approach. It's not generally possible to use it without misunderstanding when talking to non-philosophers. And, indeed, even in dealing with philosophers, except those who actually do work in philosophy of mind, the word always carries around Cartesian baggage that has to be neutralized, because Cartesian dualism is the paradigmatic dualism -- i.e., it is the only form of dualism everyone in the field has any sort of extensive acquaintance with.

I think it's necessarily a non-ideal situation here; there are advantages and disadvantages on both sides, and it will simply depend on how much one can take one's audience to know about contemporary philosophy of mind.

BenYachov said...

I've always thought Cartesian dualism is just one step away from materialism. It postulates a sort of "Ghost Matter/immaterial substance" that inhabits the matter of your body & preternaturally moves it by some unknown means.

The materialist monist simple postulates why not save a step & by Otcum's razor get rid of the non-detectable "Ghost matter"?

If an Immaterial substance can be a person or conscious why not simply say material substances can too?

Of course once we learn the soul is merely immaterial & not a substance per say and once we learn it's a Form. That changes everything.

21st Century Scholastic said...

James Chastek has memorably defined Aquinas' position as "anti-dual-monism": inelegant but accurate.

dd said...

i don't quite understand what it means to say that the separated soul is 'not quite a substance' or a 'imperfect substance'..

substance does not admit of degrees, so either a thing is a substance or it is not. so saying it is not not quite a substance, or not quite a real substance, or any variation on this, seems to me to admit degrees in substance. but's that's problematic for other reasons. on the other hand, if the soul is not a substance, then it cannot exist apart from the body.

any thoughts?

Josh said...

Dd,

on the other hand, if the soul is not a substance, then it cannot exist apart from the body.

Take a look at www.newadvent.org/summa/1075.htm

Specifically the notion of a subsistent form.

John Burford said...

On a somewhat unrelated note, Dr. Feser, I had a question about the convertibility of the transcendentals. Namely, where is a good place to find this doctrine explained in an easy-to-understand format? I found this brief summary on another blog, but it's very brief and doesn't actually "prove" the doctrine:

"The idea is that Truth, Goodness, and Beauty ore 'transcendentally one' in the sense that each is *being* apprehended via a different modality. Truth is being as known, Goodness is being as rightly desired, and Beauty is being as rightly admired. Kreeft, I think, maps this onto the trichotomous soul: Truth is being's imprint on the mind, Goodness is beings imprint on the will, and Beauty is beings imprint on the emotions. So Truth, Goodness, and Beauty are all different modes of Being as apprehended by the Mind, the Will, and the Emotions."

dd said...

josh,

so the distinction key here is between what is 'subsistent' and what is 'substance'? if so, what is the definition of each? this will make clear why we cannot call what is subsistent a 'perfect' or 'real' substance.

Josh said...

Dd,

There was a series of posts a while back on this blog dealing with some of the things you bring up:

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/08/vallicella-on-hylemorphic-dualism.html

Ed, I'm really interested in reading the comic that's linked to this "Was Aquinas a Dualist?" post. Something about that picture is unnerving.

dd said...

Josh,

thanks for that. but my concern isn't with whether or not the soul can exist apart from the body. i don't have a problem with that. rather, i'm concerned with the reasons for deeming it an 'incomplete substance' in its disembodied state. the notion of an incomplete substance implies degrees in substance. that is because the notions of 'complete and 'incomplete' imply it. but substance does not admit of degrees. so how do we reconcile the two propositions?

Josh said...

Dd,

i'm concerned with the reasons for deeming it an 'incomplete substance' in its disembodied state

Sorry, I must have misunderstood. What exactly are you quoting from?

If man as substance is a soul in union with a body as form and matter, then a man without a body is incomplete; but this form is not a substance in itself...is that what you're getting at?

dd said...

Josh,

"but this form is not a substance in itself...is that what you're getting at?"

right, something along those lines. that is, man as soul in union with body is a complete substance, and man without a body is an incomplete substance. but substance does not admit of degrees. this is to say a thing is either a substance or not a substance. so the two propositions seem inconsistent.

Mr. Green said...

DD: i'm concerned with the reasons for deeming it an 'incomplete substance' in its disembodied state.

You're right that that wouldn't make sense, but it's a sort of shorthand: the substance is not incomplete in the sense of being a "semi-substance" (and semi-something-else), but simply that it's a substance and it's incomplete. If I cut off your hand, you are still one single human substance — but obviously you are incomplete because you are missing a hand. I could keep chopping bits off your body until there was nothing left, and then you would be "only" a soul. So on the one hand, your soul would then be a substance (because you are a substance, and all that's left of you is your soul), but on the other hand, it's incomplete (because a complete human substance requires a body, unlike a Cartesian soul).

Josh said...

Dd,

man without a body is an incomplete substance

Ed uses the analogy of a severed hand as incomplete substance, and I think the idea is that a complete substance represents a norm or paradigm of being, and if something is removed from this substance, in that sense, it can be called incomplete. So the subsistent part, like a severed hand, is only called a "substance" in relation to the whole that it came from in its normal state.

....And Mr. Green beat me to it

Mr. Green said...

Chalmers: Property dualism of this variety is entirely compatible with materialism.

I guess it would be… because "matter" only makes sense if you have forms (which you have to to make sense of anything, even if you call it "supervenience"). As usual, it boils down to the same thing: either you end up more or less Aristotelian (possibly rediscovered in new language), or you end up with a slippery concept of "matter" that defies definition (other than "but not God!").

Still, "hylomorphic monism" is in its way as accurate as "hylomorphic dualism", so it's fitting to use both phrases. Or maybe we should just coin the term "hylomorphic 1½-ism".

jhall said...

I'm a tad confused regarding the definition of a substance: isn't a proper definition of this somewhat slippery for Aquinas? I recall Stump arguing that the standard definition of substance typically used by philosophers is necessary but not sufficient to qualify something as a substance in the A-T sense.

For example, if we say that a substance is just something which can exist on its own, then there are clearly things that satisfy the above definition, but are nevertheless not substances (or so Stump claims!). She uses the examples of a severed hand (integral part) and the soul (metaphysical part). The reason these are not substances is because they are not complete in their own right, requiring reference to the whole which they are part of.

Stump offers several conjuncts to complete the definition of a substance, but claims we run into problems regarding definitional circularity when considering artifacts. If we restate the definition of substance for Aquinas (to exclude those parts mentioned above): a substance (i) can exist on its own and (ii) is a complete thing in its own right.

This definition still doesn't distinguish substances from artifacts, as Stump notes: "There seems to be no reason why we should not think that an artifact is a complete thing unless we have some understanding of a complete thing such that only substances can be a complete thing."

Finally, she adds a third conjunct to (i) and (ii) in an effort to distinguish them. A substance also (iii) does not include mention of another complete thing (primary substance or whole artifact) in its definition. She goes on to show, however, why there may still be difficulties with this formulation, but artifacts are slightly beside the point.

What I'm wondering: is it possible for Aquinas to give a complete definition of substance which accounts for artifacts, while also excluding those things which clearly aren't substances? I'm very confused on this point, because Josh (and Mr. Green) suggest calling severed hands and souls incomplete substances, but how is substance defined in the first place such that they obtain as "incomplete substances" rather than non-substances? I'd appreciate your help clarifying this.

21st Century Scholastic said...

Souls are not "incomplete substances" - they're parts of substances (conjoined to an act of existence, of course).

Mr. Green said...

Anonymous: How problematic is this ["smart" crows] for the Aristotelian understanding of man's animal soul as distinctively rational?

The short answer is: not at all. Briefly, no sort of discovery can be problematic for the principles at work here any more than any discovery could be a problem for Pythagoras's Theorem. Evidence is pertinent to determining whether there are any creatures that fit the Aristotelian notion of a rational animal (since you are one, that's pretty good evidence that such beings exist, and I don't anticipate any discoveries that show you that you don't exist). Or, there might be a discovery that there are other rational animals that we didn't know about. So at most, something like this might imaginably show that crows (or whatever) are also rational animals, despite our previous evaluations… except that it would take something pretty amazing to justify such a surprising conclusion (e.g. finding crows doing philosophy). The behaviour observed in that study does not rise to such a level. If scientists succeeded, say, in programming a computer to react like the crows, it would be an impressive feat of programming — the processing of information involved is not trivial — but I don't think anyone would be tempted to claim that an A-T intellect was required to accomplish it. (Well, other than on the part of the programmers!)

Mr. Green said...

Brandon: there is no such usage for 'dualism' -- outside of philosophy 'dualism' implies directly some kind of Cartesian approach.

I think it's even messier than that. The "typical" understanding is, I'd wager, more Casper than Descartes. And while Casperism is rather Cartesian in many ways, the fact remains that ghosts are common-sensically or instinctively thought to retain their bodily "shape" (despite the widespread confusion between human souls and angels). Or maybe it's the lingering ghost of philosophy past that still influences our Christian(ish) culture. Actually, I guess it's all of the above. But that just shows once again how needful it is to get people immersed in a proper philosophical atmosphere.

dd said...

Mr.Green,

that was helpful. thanks. so, both the embodied and disembodied souls are substances. but is the embodied soul 'more' of a substance - because it's complete - than the disembodied soul?

dd said...

or is the disembodied soul just as much a substance as the embodied one, despite the fact that one is incomplete and the other complete?

JesseM said...

Mr. Green:
Evidence is pertinent to determining whether there are any creatures that fit the Aristotelian notion of a rational animal (since you are one, that's pretty good evidence that such beings exist, and I don't anticipate any discoveries that show you that you don't exist).

Would a person still be a "rational animal" in the Aristotelian sense if there were no physical substantial forms above the level of individual particles, though? (leaving open the possibility of mental substantial forms which are separate from, but supervene on, configurations of physical particles in the type of metaphysics Chalmers advocates) Assuming the answer to that question is no, then do you think there are any good arguments to prove (or persuade beyond a reasonable doubt) that there are physical substantial forms above the level of particles? See the thought-experiment I offered in my most recent comments to you on the "Brain hacking and mind reading" thread, about God creating two universes that are precisely identical both in the configurations and behavior of particles and in the mental experiences that supervene on them, but in one God has made it so that some large-scale configurations of particles qualify as substantial forms, while in the other all large-scale configurations are just accidental forms. Unless this thought-experiment is incoherent somehow, wouldn't it be true that there'd be no way for inhabitants of either universe to know which type they were living in?

Mr. Green said...

Jhall: I recall Stump arguing that the standard definition of substance typically used by philosophers is necessary but not sufficient to qualify something as a substance in the A-T sense.

I'm not sure what context she's arguing in; a substance is a subsistent, individual, intrinsic being. Accidents don't exist on their own, they inhere in a substance; a substance is the thing that accidents inhere in. Strictly speaking, a severed hand isn't a substance — it isn't really a hand at all, any more than a prosthetic hand or a movie prop is (or they are "hands" in an extended sense); once it's been lopped off, it is a collection of other substances (cells or molecules or whatever). An artefact is also a collection of parts rather than a substance (the parts are "like" a substance in that they are collected, so they have some sort of unity from the form that assembles them in their particular configuration, but that is an extrinsic form, not intrinsic).

Similarly, I think you can argue that a disembodied soul is a non-substance: considered as part of a human being (the morphic part, minus the hylo-), it is not a substance. Considered as referring to a whole person — person without a body (incomplete person) = soul+body - body = soul — it can be called an (incomplete) substance. (And see Ed's various relevant posts… such as Nature versus Art, etc.)

Mr. Green said...

DD:or is the disembodied soul just as much a substance as the embodied one, despite the fact that one is incomplete and the other complete?

You were right when you said that something can't be more of less of a substance — either it is or it isn't. So the person is always fully a substance, whether that person at the moment consists of a body and soul, or whether the person is dead at the time and consists only of his soul. If we refer to the soul as the person/substance (because that's all that's left), then it's incomplete. But strictly speaking, that's a bit of a shorthand, since the soul itself is the substantial form, not the substance proper. Qua substantial form, the soul is always a complete form (no such thing as "half a form", after all), but the person is complete only when he has a full body. So alive or dead, a person is always completely a substance; when dead (or merely missing some limbs!), the person is incomplete (an incomplete what? well, since a person is a substance, he is an "incomplete substance").

Anonymous said...

Of course Aquinas was a dualist, as indeed are you Edward.

All of your life should be Delight, and when you are so Delighted, then every moment of this being, all of its farting & sexing and speaking & looking, will be the spontaneous uncaused Delight of God, because IT is!

None of this arises separate from the indivisible Great One. The notion that it does is a false entirely dualistic message. There is not now nor has there ever been even the slightest separation between any appearance and the Great One. All of it and all of its absurdities exist in the Blissful Starry God.

The summation of all this chaotic desiring is the cosmos. God is the cosmos. God is the Truth of it, the Substance of it, the indivisible Condition of it. God always stands in place as pure Delight, as Love, as boundless Self-Radiant feeling.

Mr. Green said...

JesseM: Would a person still be a "rational animal" in the Aristotelian sense if there were no physical substantial forms above the level of individual particles, though?

Well, there isn't a way to make that work. If there were a world of only particles, it would have to be a world without creatures like human beings. Given rational beings to observe the universe, they might be separate substantial forms, i.e. intellectual forms without any body (aka angels), but since angels don't get their knowledge via sense (because they don't have bodies), they have immediate knowledge that they are pure intellects. So we human beings know that we aren't angels and thus are substances that properly are united to matter, and we know that we have visual, aural, etc. experiences. But particles cannot have this sort of experience (electrons do not have eyes), so we are not "living particles" either. Nor are we collections of particles (in a non-substantial sense), because then said experiences would have no subject — a collection of parts (like a computer) can "detect" things, but separate parts cannot together be a single subject (that's what "parts" means, after all — either the actual subject is one of the parts, or something else [an observing angel?], or it underlies the parts to "hold" them together [metaphysically speaking] but that is just what it is to be a sub-stance). Therefore, human beings are substances of matter and form and not just particles. Well, that glosses over a lot of detail, but that's it in a nutshell.

JesseM said...

Mr. Green:
Well, there isn't a way to make that work. If there were a world of only particles, it would have to be a world without creatures like human beings. Given rational beings to observe the universe, they might be separate substantial forms, i.e. intellectual forms without any body (aka angels)

What do you mean by "without any body"? Again, in the Chalmers theory, arrangements of matter in the physical world are connected via "psychophysical laws" to subjective experiences in the mental world, so any subjective experiencer still "has a body" in the sense that their experiences are entirely dependent on physical processes, like those happening in a physical brain. Would you nevertheless describe these mental experiencers as "intellectual forms without a body", despite the fact that their experiences are tied in a lawlike way to particular configurations of matter, if those configurations of matter are mere "heaps" in some metaphysical sense rather than substantial forms? Or would you say Chalmers' theory is metaphysically impossible or incoherent somehow? (and if so, can you give an argument?)

Nor are we collections of particles (in a non-substantial sense), because then said experiences would have no subject — a collection of parts (like a computer) can "detect" things, but separate parts cannot together be a single subject (that's what "parts" means, after all — either the actual subject is one of the parts, or something else [an observing angel?]

In the Chalmers theory, material things (whether they are substantial forms or mere "collections of parts") can never be subjects on their own, but they can give rise to subjective experiences/subjects in a totally lawlike way, so that a particular configuration or form of matter uniquely determines the subjective experience.

dd said...

Mr.Green,

"So the person is always fully a substance, whether that person at the moment consists of a body and soul, or whether the person is dead at the time and consists only of his soul."

So there’s a distinction between the substance that is the person and the soul? But is not the soul just the person? if so, this would mean the soul is a substance, and there would be not distinction between them then. if no, what distinguishes them? And would that not destroy the unity of the disembodied soul or person?

Further, by ‘person’ do you mean anything other than ‘man’? If so, then given the definition of man as rational animal, that can’t be so, because the disembodied person lacks ‘animality’. if no, then does not that destroy the unity of the soul-body composite?

"If we refer to the soul as the person/substance (because that's all that's left), then it's incomplete. But strictly speaking, that's a bit of a shorthand, since the soul itself is the substantial form, not the substance proper."

Why isn’t the substantial form (i.e., the soul) a substance?

"Qua substantial form, the soul is always a complete form (no such thing as "half a form", after all), but the person is complete only when he has a full body. So alive or dead, a person is always completely a substance; when dead (or merely missing some limbs!), the person is incomplete (an incomplete what? well, since a person is a substance, he is an "incomplete substance")."

But this last part contradicts what you said initially, i.e., that the person, whether embodied or not, is always a complete substance.

Glenn said...

"[C]onstitution is not identity for Aquinas[.]" -- Aquinas, Eleonore Stump, p. 53

With respect to 'identity', then, a person is complete regardless of whether one or more (or even if all but one of the) constituents are lacking.

With respect to 'constitution', however, a person is incomplete if one or more constituents are lacking.

jhall said...

Mr. Green,

Thanks for your clarification. I agree that a severed hand can only be said to be a "hand" in the equivocal sense. If not preserved somehow (or possibly reattached and subsumed back into the whole of which it was once part of), it will inevitable begin to deteriorate. Would it be proper to say then, that the above heap of decaying molecules and matter is a mass of interconnected substances connected only insofar as their relation is accidental (like an artifact)? Clearly, there is nothing working virtually for the hand considered as a whole.

I agree that artifacts are not themselves substances, but are a collection of substances united by an accidental form.

"Similarly, I think you can argue that a disembodied soul is a non-substance: considered as part of a human being (the morphic part, minus the hylo-), it is not a substance. Considered as referring to a whole person — person without a body (incomplete person) = soul+body - body = soul — it can be called an (incomplete) substance. (And see Ed's various relevant posts… such as Nature versus Art, etc.)"

Thanks, I'll take a look at the link you provided. I also think your point about referring to the form minus body as an "incomplete substance" (even though the soul considered only as a part is a non-substance) has just clicked for me. If I understand properly, the contradiction dd notes is only apparent. I will have to think about it some more, though.

jhall said...

Glenn,

I was just finishing Chapter 1 of Stump's "Aquinas" on constitution and identity! This helps quite a bit.

Papalinton said...

Was Aquinas a dualist? Probably
Was Descartes a dualist? Yes.
But is dualism a substantive proposition that can meet the test of efficacy outside the field of philosophy? Probably not.

In a conversation on dualism, in its various descriptive forms, it is easy to overlook that the father of 'substance dualism', René Descartes, based his theory on the the locus of interaction between the mind and brain to be centred in the pineal gland. And on that count his proposal has long since been discredited. It is also easy to conveniently overlook that Descartes' and Aquinas's perspectives were written without benefit of insight into what we now understand as not only possible but do-able; computing and artificial intelligence [albeit in their infancy], both a product of reason and language that is embedded in exclusively physical systems, without recourse to a soul or other homologous locomotive entity. This simply would have not have been remotely possible to imagine by Descartes and Aquinas. Clearly, as commentary in this thread indicates, the Cartesian approach continues to be widely popular by advocates for an implied separation of body and mind, or body and soul, or the mind/brain dichotomy. It seems to be an intractable intuition, a favourite, that largely persists because without it, religious belief would be the worse for wear if there were no dualism. Yet the Sciences are informing us that the mind is what the brain does. Such a concept is counterintuitive, but nonetheless the research is heading us in that direction. And it is a picture in consonant with the broader explanation offered by the Sciences. As Hefner recounts, this "better story" comprises:

"Big Bang cosmology writes the scientific story of creation, chemistry writes the story of origins, biology writes the evolutionary epic, neuroscience provides the tales of the mind, and complexity sciences are producing still newer stories that cross traditional disciplinary lines." [Philip Hefner, "Stories Science Tells: Defining the Human Quest," The Christian Century 112 (May 10, 1995): 510.]

While I do not attest or otherwise to the bone fide nature of the content of the following, I am reminded of a piece from a little article that I recently read that, in a refreshing way, captures a snapshot of the current debate on dualism:

"During the eighteenth century, chemists believed that fire was composed of a special substance called phlogiston; flammable substances released it when set alight. Science long since proved them wrong, but at the time, it seemed to make sense, and it was easy to believe. Phlogiston provides a good analogy for dualism. The mind, like fire, appears to be a special substance that is like nothing else, elusive, but almost magical. However, so much of the current evidence seems to suggest that the mind, like fire, is simply the product of the physical reactions behind it. This is not to say that the human brain is not a remarkable and enormously complex tool that is capable of incredible things. Ultimately, it may be that the inscrutable nature of human consciousness will forever remain a mystery, but dualism can no longer be held to account for it." [http://www.brentonpriestley.com/writing/dualism.htm]

Bullpup said...

Papalinton,

Please explain the difference between Cartesian dualism and Hylemorphic dualism.

Thank you.

Papalinton said...

Bullpup
"Please explain the difference between Cartesian dualism and Hylemorphic dualism."

Why so? Are you unaware of, or unable to distinguish the difference?

Bullpup said...

Papalinton,

Why so? Are you unaware of, or unable to distinguish the difference?

Maybe I am. You're clearly a critic, so I'd like you to explain this for me.

So, please, let's hear the difference between them. In your own words. It will be educational.

How does the Cartesian dualist differ from the hylemorphic dualist?

Thank you, and I'm looking forward to your description.

Papalinton said...

Bullpup
Yes, sure. It will be interesting to see your perspective on the distinction.

I thought I gave a reasonable thumbnail sketch of Cartesian dualism in my commentary. You may wish to add your interpretation if there is variance.

While I drew reference to both Aquinas and Descartes in my comment [and only in relation to their commonly shared non-experience of computers and artificial intelligence], it is fair to say that Aquinas is not a Cartesian dualist in the more popularly understood sense of the concept but rather, as Feser indicates, he subscribes to the Aristotelian notion of hylemorphism. Hylomorphic dualism is premised on the concept that there is both soul and body, and the two are inexplicably conjoined in a single whole, the human person. Aquinas follows Aristotle in positing that every material object is made up of matter (material that makes up something) and form (roughly speaking the shape it takes). It was their contention that the soul was in 'fact' [to be used advisedly] the form of the human body. Here Aquinas and Aristotle diverge from Descartes in that for them the soul was not some separate substance located somewhere in the body [eg the pineal gland à la Descartes], but rather as that which, literally, informs the body. According to hylomorphic supposition, soul and body are inextricably and deeply intertwined.

The resurrection of Aquinas' hylomorphism seems to have enjoyed somewhat of a micro-revival in recent years in Philosophy of Mind circles particularly among academics with theistic proclivities. The argument seems to go that contemporary neuroscience is no longer regarded as a challenge to the concept of dualism. According to the hylemorphic paradigm, because soul and body are united, one would expect mental changes to accompany physical changes. In other words what is known through the body is also known through the soul [mind].

To the hylomorphic dualist, it makes no sense to separate the human body from that of the human person, for insofar as one possesses a body one also possesses a soul and therefore one has selfhood or personhood.

However, Bullpup, it is somewhat ironic that Aquinas punted for hylomorphism all those centuries ago, a pretty physicalist concept to boot, and yet the overwhelming majority of today's christians including clergy of all christian stripes, are almost universally wedded to the Cartesian notion of a separate soul capable of unhinging itself and floating off into the eternal blue beyond at expiration of the material body. Aristotle's hylomorphism also seems to posit that the soul does not survive the death of the body as is the conventional christian understanding. There is some debate about what Aristotle means by immortality in relation to the human person and the soul. Some information on this can be found HERE

As I noted in my earlier comment, Cartesian dualism seems to be an intractable and persistent favourite. I suspect, although I have no data, this is mainly due to it being easier to conceptualize [facile even] and that it presents much less a problematic issue of cognitive dissonance than does hylomorphism. Indeed if the Aristotelian hylomorphic notion of mind and body forms an inseparable unit, the human person, the likelihood of an everlasting and imperishable soul after bodily death would seem to be even further out of reach to the ordinary folk.

Eric said...

"However, Bullpup, it is somewhat ironic that Aquinas punted for hylomorphism all those centuries ago, a pretty physicalist concept to boot, and yet the overwhelming majority of today's christians including clergy of all christian stripes, are almost universally wedded to the Cartesian notion of a separate soul capable of unhinging itself and floating off into the eternal blue beyond at expiration of the material body."

Let's assume, arguendo, that this is true (though I certainly doubt that it's true among well informed Catholics, since the Catechism is pretty clear on this matter: "The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the "form" of the body: i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature."). The obvious response, it seems to me, is "so what?" It has no more bearing on Aquinas's hylomorphic dualism than the fact that most lay people who accept evolution mistekenly think that human beings evolved from monkeys does.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr Green,

Thanks for your reply regarding 'brainy crows' - I appreciate the response which made sense and am sorry that right now I have little opportunity to futher explore any possible implications/questions it raises. I'm returning to the primary texts but I'll know who to address any future questions to. Thanks again.

Crude said...

Oh wow.

He's at it again.

Okay guys. Some background. A while back on another blog, I caught out Papalinton plagiarizing his response in a conversation. In that case, he wanted to sound intelligent regarding categories of knowledge, but darnit, he just didn't know what he was talking about. So what did he do?

Simple: he took a wikipedia entry, rejigged a few words, and passed it off on his own.

I noticed this and pointed it out. He came up with a really bad excuse about what happened (he couldn't deny that his response was lifted, in huge part, from the wikipedia - there was too much of a match), and generally squirmed.

But he's at it again.

Now, in this conversation, Linton was asked to, in his own words, describe the difference between Cartesian and Hylomorphic dualism. So he proceeds to act as if he did exactly that.

So let's compare Linton's response with this blog post. You know, see if there's any overlap.

Now, let's do an interesting thing here!

Let's start where Linton comments "Hylomorphic dualism is premised on...", and also the last paragraph of the site I just linked, and look for some similarities!

Well, gosh, the order of the sentences is pretty much 1:1, with some very minor alterations. Here's a choice example!

Linton: Aquinas follows Aristotle in positing that every material object is made up of matter (material that makes up something) and form (roughly speaking the shape it takes).

Site: For these two thinkers, every material object is made up of matter (the material that makes up something) and form (roughly speaking the shape it takes).

Golly. Seems pretty damn close! Let's try the next couple of sentences for both!

Linton: It was their contention that the soul was in 'fact' [to be used advisedly] the form of the human body. Here Aquinas and Aristotle diverge from Descartes in that for them the soul was not some separate substance located somewhere in the body [eg the pineal gland à la Descartes], but rather as that which, literally, informs the body.

Site: They argued that the soul was in fact the form of the human body. Unlike Descartes, they did not imagine the soul as some separate substance located somewhere in the body, but rather as that which, literally, informs the body.

And finally, though not exhaustively, the next sentence for both:

Linton: According to hylomorphic supposition, soul and body are inextricably and deeply intertwined.

Site: Therefore, soul and body are deeply unified.

He then goes off on a lot of twaddle about the 'overwhelming majority including clergy of all Christian stripes', showing his complete ignorance about the prominence of hylemorphic dualism in the Catholic Church. But really, as meaty as that part is to strike, it's the joy here.

Linton was asked to describe the differences between hylomorphic and Cartesian dualism in his own words. He stammers when asked to do so, but ultimately goes for it. And what does he do?

He plagiarizes again.

Because he, truly, has no freaking idea.

But he doesn't want to SAY that. I mean, he's here to bash religion and, of equal importance to him, sound smart. Admitting ignorance would, to him, harm both of these aims. So he decides, "Okay, well, I get caught when I lift wikipedia. Maybe if I find a more obscure website I can pull this off more smoothly!"

Pity for him he can't.

Take a good, hard look at this guy, gents, before you decide to discuss things with him. To put it in philosophical terms, on any subject of depth, Linton knows what he's talking about the way the man in the chinese room knows chinese.

jhall said...

Crude,

Wow. Just...wow.

It's funny. Before you pointed this out, something seemed off about his response. It was far too...fair of a description, judging from his past contributions (i.e. it wasn't completely loaded).

Papalinton said...

Yes Crude. It is correct that I took those words from here as you say.

I apologise. Firstly, I was lazy, secondly, I knew you would surely catch me, and thirdly, I had lost concern for being found out. It will be the cross I will have to bear. Now we both have skeletons in the cupboard although my cupboard door is open for inspection.
I blogged as a means of mitigating my disdain for religious nonsense. That disdain remains but I no longer feel any anger or slow burn.

I am reminded of Jules Feiffer, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1986:

"Christ died for our sins. Dare we make his martyrdom meaningless by not committing them?"

To my old sparring partners, Ben Yachov, Bob Prokop, cl, Rank Sophist, Ilion, Victor Reppert, and to you, Crude, [I'm sorry to those I may have missed] may all the best be with you and yours into the future.

Cheers

Linton Wilson

Crude said...

Linton,

I apologise. Firstly, I was lazy, secondly, I knew you would surely catch me, and thirdly, I had lost concern for being found out.

No, the fact that you did a paltry job of covering it up was lazy. The act itself was dishonest - that's the problem here. It wasn't just plagiarism (for pretty meager reasons no less), it was your attacking and dismissing something that you not only know little about, but that you *know* you know little about.

And if your 'cupboard is laid bare', it's because I went and opened it up. Not because you exposed it for all to see in an act of willing transparency.

I blogged as a means of mitigating my disdain for religious nonsense.

Except you just demonstrated you don't even understand what you disdain. Again, the major failing here wasn't mere plagiarism, as intellectually dishonest as that was. The failing was that you tried to present yourself as knowing what you were talking about, despite not. Really, despite *knowing* you did not - you pulled your response from a site precisely because you couldn't put it in your own words. You didn't know what you were talking about, and you knew it.

But man... you don't like theists, for whatever political, social or personal reasons. (Intellectual reasons? That possibility just took a severe hit.) What was important for you was attacking the idea. Actually understanding the idea? That registered a very, very distant second or third.

But hey, something came of it. This is small stuff - a comments section dustup. A bug fart in the grand scheme of things. However, it's educational: we get to see, in a firsthand way how some atheists - Cult of Gnu ones - approach these topics. They're not angry and dismissive because they studied the arguments and found them lacking, leading to angry attacks on what they think of as poor arguments. For some - possibly most - they just plain dislike theism for other reasons, and thus the arguments and reasons for it must be attacked and disregarded by default.

Take this opportunity to think about why you're an atheist to begin with, Linton. Maybe your reasons aren't very good after all.

Glenn said...

Uh oh, Papalinton, you had best be careful--you're beginning to warm up.

Firstly, I was lazy, secondly, I knew you would surely catch me, and thirdly, I had lost concern for being found out... I am reminded of Jules Feiffer, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1986: "Christ died for our sins. Dare we make his martyrdom meaningless by not committing them?"

"But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick."

God doesn't hate us because we sin; He loves us that we might do so less.

(If one cares not care about doing so less, the point, of course, is, well, pointless. But how does a person get to such a state wherein they are so lacking in self-respect?)

BenYachov said...

At least when I plagiarize I have enough skill to copy the correct shit & use it correctly.

Also when I can I credit the people I steal from thought sometimes doing it over and over I forget.

Paps what an amateur.

cl said...

//DELURK

Sorry this is off-topic but I just want to encourage all here to ignore Papalinton. He's a spillover from Loftus' blog, and as Crude so eloquently demonstrated, not worth your time (at least with regard to discussing philosophy). He is not in this to learn. He is in this to insult and demean theists while extolling his own atheism which has no substance. His antics got so bad at Victor Reppert's blog that I invoked the "Paps Challenge" whereby we ignored him for at least one month to see if his arguments would improve. They didn't. He pulls this crap here now. Shake the dust, people, shake the dust. To refuse to do so is unbiblical.

//LURK

Mr. Green said...

JesseM: Or would you say Chalmers' theory is metaphysically impossible or incoherent somehow? (and if so, can you give an argument?)

It might be; I don't really understand it well enough to know exactly what it would translate to in Aristotelian terms. But if the idea is to posit a possible world that works at the "reductionist" level only, it doesn't contradict the usual Aristotelian position. It stretches it, one might say, but doesn't snap it. Whether the subjects having these experiences are embodied or not, they are still substances, and the low-level particles are substances. We still have all the same ontological ingredients as in the regular Aristotelianism picture. And of course, the same metaphysical principles still apply (because that's what fundamental principles do!).

A. R. Diaz said...

I think Brandon (September 27, 2012 4:08 AM) said it best. Freddoso is not alone though. William Jaworski in his book Philosophy of Mind (2011) also places hylemorphism outside the main classification of monistic and dualist theories. Reading Jaworski one can see why "hylemorphic dualism" or calling hylemorphism a kind of dualism can come across as an oxymoron for Freddoso et al. And why, as well, it may invite confusion––as Brandon suggests, ranging from non-speacialists in analytic philosophy of mind as well as non-analytical philosophers who are nonetheless well acquainted with the Cartesian connotations that the terms "dualism" carries with it in the philosophical tradition. It is just two difficult to try to get rid of the weight of such tradition, even if nowadays a reduced group of specialists have given a gist to that term. Of course, what is important is what is meant by "hylemorphic dualism" when used by Feser and Oderberg, that is how "dualism" is understood by them; nonetheless, if one considers the weight of tradition, I think it invites confusion and creates an unnecessary disagreement in technicality with other hylemorphists that uphold the traditional distinction (a distinction which some, like Jaworski, take to be necessary even in the jargon of contemporary analytic philosophy of mind).

Anonymous said...

amen