Saturday, January 12, 2013

Around the web

Still busy trying to meet a looming deadline and prepare for a conference next week, so expect posting to be light for a few more days.  In the meantime here some things worth checking out elsewhere.

Over at Forbes, science writer John Farrell, longtime friend of this blog, hails the “return of teleology” evident in Terrence Deacon’s recent book Incomplete Nature.  

3:AM Magazine interviews Cambridge philosopher Tim Crane, an atheist who discusses the positive role his Catholic upbringing had on his becoming a philosopher; the need for atheists to tolerate, try to understand, and even give special privileges to religion; the difficulties with physicalism; the Aristotelian notion of substance; the work of Jerry Fodor; Burkean conservatism; Stephen Hawking, physics, and philosophy; and lots of other interesting stuff.

Speaking of Catholic upbringings, director Alfred Hitchcock returned to the Catholic faith on his deathbed, reports philosopher Fr. Mark Henninger in The Wall Street Journal.  

Speaking of Hitchcock and philosophy, Vertigo, a volume on the classic Hitchcock movie edited by Katalin Makkai for Routldge’s Philosophers on Film series, is due to be released this month.  (Vertigo recently overtook Citizen Kane as the greatest film of all time in a poll taken of people who are polled about such things.  As my longtime readers know, I tend to agree with them,)

David Oderberg’s paper “Survivalism, Corruptionism, and Mereology” appears in the Winter 2012 issue of the European Journal for Philosophy of Religion.  You can read the abstract here and email him for a copy via his website.  

Some noteworthy books recently reviewed in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews: Tim Maudlin’s Philosophy of Physics: Space and Time; Interpreting Suárez: Critical Essays, edited by Daniel Schwartz; and Metaphysics: Aristotelian, Scholastic, Analytic, edited by Lukáš Novák, Daniel D. Novotný, Prokop Sousedík, and David Svoboda.  The last of these is the inaugural volume in Ontos Verlag’s new series Contemporary Scholasticism, of which I am one of the editors. 


  1. And, of course, check out my new blog discussing homosexuality and natural law from the perspective of a gay, celibate Catholic man!

    (Sorry, Ed, this is a completely shameless plug, but I think this post, since it mostly includes links, better than another to hijack.)

  2. So Deacon appeals to Polanyi's argument for the irreducibility of life based on constraints and fails to follow the teleological argument to its logical conclusion by trying to immanentize everything.

    If mind were to emerge from nature then the building blocks are already there, which points to top-down ontology with bottom-up processes.

    Overall his argument is better than materialism but still not good enough.

  3. What does Deacon mean by "negative form"? The only sensible meaning that can have is restricted possibility, which is not negative form per se but rather several potential forms one of which will eventually be actualized.

    I might be missing something since I only read the article though...

    Anyone, fell free to ad/correct/etc

  4. Great article about Vertigo; this blog really is a treasure trove!

  5. Some simple metaphysics, or whatever, in plain language.

    Who or what is Truth?
    Truth is not a person, or a thing, or a knowable object.
    Truth is a Process.

    Who or what is "I"?
    "I" is not a person, or a thing, or a knowable entity, or a thought.
    "I" is a Process.

    The Process that is Truth and the Process that is "I" are one and the same.

    What is the Process that is "I" and that is the Truth?

    It is positive or self-transcending bodily submission to the Radiant, All-Pervading Life-Principle.
    It is the bodily love of Life, done to the absolute degree, until there is only Life.

    This is the Law, and it is all you need to know.

    Do this, be this, and you will Realize Happiness, Enjoyment, Health, Longevity, Wisdom, Joy, Freedom, Humor, Ecstasy, and the Radiant Way that leads beyond Man and beyond the Earth.

  6. Joe K.,

    In my opinion, your posts here have been immeasurably important given the current state of the world. I'll definitely be following your blog. (Also, as the one behind many of the hijacks to which you're referring, I apologize. I sometimes have questions or concerns that only arguments with the commenters on this blog can address, and they're usually too obscure for Prof. Feser to make a blog post about.)

  7. as the one behind many of the hijacks to which you're referring, I apologize. I sometimes have questions or concerns that only arguments with the commenters on this blog can address, and they're usually too obscure for Prof. Feser to make a blog post about.)

    That's precisely why I raised the issues about Derrida with you the other day. Doing so helped a lot.

  8. Rank,

    Such kind words! I really appreciate it. To be completely honest, I've been scared to take on such a huge project, but I think it'll all work out for the best. And I think it needs to be done. I hope I'm able to write Something of value anyway.

    And don't worry about your hijacking. I always get a ton out of what you write about. I've never minded it at all! In fact, I usually look forward to it!

  9. After reading the review in Notre Dame Phil. Rev. I think I will put Maudlin's book in my to read list.

    I am a physicist myself and I am really curios to read thye book in detail.

  10. PS: oops pardon the spelling errors

  11. Speaking of spelling errors: Ontos Verlag's Contemporary Scholasticism page says one of the people on its advisory board is "Brain" Davies of "Fortham" University.

  12. Scott: of the people on its advisory board is "Brain" Davies of "Fortham" University.

    Hm. Are you pondering what I'm pondering?

    PINKY: Gee, Brain, what do you wanna do tonight?
    BRAIN: The same thing we do every night, Pinky: Try to take over the world! And tonight's plan is masterful in its simplicity. I shall pose as Brain Davies, a professor at Fortham University. You will be my associate, Charles de Kopinck. Once we present an exposition of Thomist political thought, it will be clear to the masses that I, as the world's most intelligent genetically-altered lab mouse, am most suited to rule the globe!
    PINKY: Egad, brilliant, Brain — oh, wait, no... wasn't Scholastic philosophy disproved when Galileo threw Aristotle off the Tower of Pizza?
    BRAIN: If everyone thought the way you did, then society would truly be in dire straits today, my friend; a quagmire which even my guidance could not overcome.
    PINKY: Hm.... What if you got an '80s hairdo and started a website?
    [Brain bops Pinky on the head]
    PINKY: NaRf...

  13. "Hm. Are you pondering what I'm pondering?"

    I am now. Well done. ;-)

  14. @Joe K

    The Blog looks good I'll check it out.

  15. Thanks Ben. I hope to see you there! Also, Mr. Green, I completely love your comment. For the record and all.

  16. From Charles Wood

    Did the universe's birth require an urge and a plan or no urge and no plan---did all just start, and no starter?
    So many ways to conceptualize the universe's acts and stuff.
    Doesn't seem to matter much.
    One may presume a planner and an
    urge to actualize the plan or not so presume.
    In any case, here it is, the universe.
    If one assumes that -what is- has a nature and inevitably follows its nature to do what it does and not do something else--- like make two and two add to three --then that nature may be said to entail an urge to make a universe of a certain sort happen and there is some sort of plan or at least intention implied, even if what's making the universe is just winging it, since what is being made is according to its nature and some sort of program is involved---not arbitrary or chance.
    Or did the power just make a mechanism and just wind it up and let it run, without any goal--is it like a clock, said to be without an aim except at the 4 billion year mark it makes bacteria? Is that a plan or not?
    It seems to me one may argue that since atoms will shed electrons in certain contexts--they embody a goal or have a goal to do just that--ditto the universe's events.
    Atoms do one thing rather than another according to their nature
    --and that, one may insist, is a plan.
    Could say the same about the universe---it does one thing rather than another---the sky is blue, not green, and so some sort of arrangement or set up is emobodied by the universe---some sort of plan.
    On the other hand, one could just say, stuff happens, it's just a bunch of events and assert that it makes itself-- including any transcendent aspect. Who needs some thing that does it all?
    Or, just say the whole thing is a fact---there is such and such and such-- and there it all is.
    I mean, we are all so good at parsing the circumstances. Define terms as you wish an you are certain to support your conclusion.
    But what is included in any scheme and any view and any experience--what is most obvious is that something is; one may argue what,but all seems prefaced by isness, and if you take that
    as the central fact---then that fact transcends any scheme. Of course, this is words and a scheme I am speaking, and is there, one may ask, such a thing as that central fact without the scheme that positis it? So, I guess I am talking about taking in everything at once as the central fact--words,mind, sense, non-words and nonsense.
    I think the deepest insight is to be had by deepening the sense and experience and recognition or acknowledgement of being--that there is, and one is--- to a point beyond one's sense of individuality.
    Anyone can have this, after all, we are all experts on existence,since we know what it is first hand to exist. The point is to move beyond a sense of being seen through the lens of personality.
    Since the universe is all in all, self and person and non-person and including its contradictions and paradoxes and schemes explicating what there is and so on--what can encompass it all?
    I say it is that sense--no not the understanding--but the living
    presence--without label without specifics--that there is.
    It is the most obvious and most patent. And this is why people miss it--- as a fish which asks "what water?".
    And here we all are.
    We are, even in science's view, all integral to this one thing---we are home--what have we ultimately to fear?


    Hylomorphic Functions

    Authors: Antony Van der Mude

    Contemporary mathematicians since the time of Frege have hypothesized that the objects of mathematics exist in a Platonic universe. Mathematical Platonism is part of the Doctrine of the Forms, which was criticized by Aristotle, who stated that the Forms do not exist apart from the things of the real world - a theory known as Hylomorphism. This paper postulates that the observer in the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics can be represented as a hylomorphic function. These functions, since they compute universal properties of real events, are not time invertible, like most theories of physics. Instead, they define the arrow of time and the information carried by physical media. They also represent the atomic Qualia of subjective experience. Since Church's thesis seems to be a universal property of reality, the effective procedures seem to be an underlying representation of hylomorphic functions over the integers. But due to quantum undecidability, the hylomorphic functions are not effective, but hypercomputations that cannot be computed by a finite procedure. An example of a hypercomputation is the task of Learning in the Limit (similar to Identification in the Limit) over recursively enumerable sets of inputs. The Kolmogorov set of incompressible numbers is an example of this class of functions - but they are random numbers. On the other hand, although reality has a random component, it is predictable within that randomness. We illustrate a hypercomputation that is Learnable in the Limit, such that there is a computable function that gets arbitrarily close in accuracy to this hypercomputation. It is an example of how hylomorphic functions can model physical observations. This implies that though there can be no axiomatic Theory of Everything, we can come up with theories that are more and more accurate the more we learn.

  18. A little O/T:

    "Logical proofs for god are categorical misapplications of logic. Hell, any attempt to use logic to prove (sic) anything outside of the consistency of propositions is a misapplication of logic."

    Valid? What do you guys think?

  19. "'Logical proofs for god are categorical misapplications of logic. Hell, any attempt to use logic to prove (sic) anything outside of the consistency of propositions is a misapplication of logic.'

    Valid? What do you guys think?"

    That argument is not itself an attempt to prove anything about the inconsistency of propositions. Therefore, if it were valid, then as an example of the very sort of reasoning it eschews, it would be proving its own invalidity.

    So I'm going to go with No.

  20. Thanks, Scott. I thought so. :-)

    What do you folks think of the "Dread ilk" handling of Machine Philosophy's work here:

    (Again, apologies for the O/T nature of this post.)

  21. @ anon

    "Logical proofs for god are categorical misapplications of logic. Hell, any attempt to use logic to prove (sic) anything outside of the consistency of propositions is a misapplication of logic."

    Whoever said this garbage simply doesn't understand the ontology of logic. Or has an impoverished view of logic tarnished by the nonsense of neurotic analytic sophists (not philosophers).

    Also, as Scott noted, the claim is self-refuting.

  22. By the way, how come Machine Philosophy doesn't stop by here anymore? :-(

    I like his argument. It's in the flavor of the Argument from Reason.

  23. "I like his argument. It's in the flavor of the Argument from Reason."

    I like the argument too and I'm a big fan of the Argument from Reason, but his version of it isn't the most cogent I've ever seen.

  24. Dr. Feser,

    Don't know if this is the right place to post this, but anyway... There's an interesting discussion going on over at the Smithy about Thomism and Scotism. It would be nice to see your contributions to the debate as a Thomist, if you have the time.

    Here's the link.