Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Naturalism in the news


On the subject of naturalism, Raymond Tallis opines in The Guardian, Massimo Pigliucci reports at Philosophy Now, and Daniel Dennett is interviewed at 3:AM Magazine.  James Ladyman, co-author of the influential Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized, gets a prominent mention in each piece.  Which gives me an excuse for some photoshopping fun (with apologies both to Ladyman and to Tim Meadows).
 
Tallis argues that “far from having replaced metaphysics, science is in a mess and needs help.”  Amen to that.  Three of Tallis’s points merit special comment.  He writes:

The attempt to fit consciousness into the material world, usually by identifying it with activity in the brain, has failed dismally, if only because there is no way of accounting for the fact that certain nerve impulses are supposed to be conscious (of themselves or of the world) while the overwhelming majority (physically essentially the same) are not. In short, physics does not allow for the strange fact that matter reveals itself to material objects (such as physicists).

This is an issue about which Tallis says much more in his important book Aping Mankind.  What needs to be emphasized, though, is that the problem is a problem in principle, and that it isn’t going to be solved by further application of existing methods precisely because the problem is generated by the application of existing methods.  As I have argued in many places, most recently and ad nauseam in my series of posts on Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos, the problem of consciousness is a result of the move Galileo, Descartes, and Co. made of taking color, sound, heat, cold, and other sensory qualities out of the material world and relocating them in the mind’s experience of that world.  Having thus made matter essentially devoid of qualia and qualia essentially immaterial, there is no way on this picture of things you are ever going to “naturalize” qualia.  You are stuck either with a Cartesian-style dualism (or something like a David Chalmers- or Galen Strawson-style panpsychism, which is really just a riff on dualism), or with an incoherent eliminativism.  (Incoherent because the qualitative experience whose existence you will be denying in the name of science forms the evidential base of science -- a problem Democritus and Schrödinger saw but Dennett does not, pushing in the interview linked to above his usual line that consciousness is an “illusion.”)  The only true solution to the problem is to see that the post-Cartesian conception of matter does not capture the entirety of its real nature in the first place, but is merely a useful simplification.

Continuing with Tallis:

And then there is the mishandling of time. The physicist Lee Smolin's recent book, Time Reborn, links the crisis in physics with its failure to acknowledge the fundamental reality of time.  Physics is predisposed to lose time because its mathematical gaze freezes change.  Tensed time, the difference between a remembered or regretted past and an anticipated or feared future, is particularly elusive.  This worried Einstein: in a famous conversation, he mourned the fact that the present tense, "now", lay "just outside of the realm of science".

Paging Aristotle.  Here again we have a problem that is generated by existing scientific methods and therefore will not in principle be solved by those methods.  In this case the problem is, as Tallis puts it, that the “mathematical gaze” of physics “freezes change.”  But change -- which is the actualization of potential, as Aristotle argued -- cannot in principle be eliminated, any more than qualitative experience can be.  The most you can do is shuffle it around like the pea in a shell game, as I have argued in several places (and at greatest length in “Motion in Aristotle, Newton, and Einstein,” forthcoming in Aristotle on Method and Metaphysics).  And once again the true solution will only be found by seeing that the “mathematical gaze” does not and cannot in principle capture the whole of the natural order in the first place.

One last in-principle problem for naturalism noted by Tallis concerns ultimate explanation:

Recent attempts to explain how the universe came out of nothing, which rely on… the inexplicable free gift of the laws of nature waiting in the wings for the moment of creation, reveal conceptual confusion beneath mathematical sophistication.

Here Tallis is alluding, of course, to the views of scientists like Stephen Hawking and Lawrence Krauss, who suggest that the laws of physics can provide the sort of ultimate explanation that in fact only a cosmological argument (rightly understood, as these days it usually is not) can provide.  Among the problems with such claims is that on any construal of what a “law of nature” is, the laws of physics simply could not be an ultimate explanation.  If “laws” are what Newton and Descartes thought they were -- divine decrees about how otherwise inert matter will operate -- then the ultimate explanation lies in the divine decrees themselves, not in the laws.  If “laws” are something like Platonic entities in which the material world participates, then we need an explanation of how the world comes to participate in the laws, and why these laws rather than some alternative.  If “laws” are mere descriptions of regularities, then they merely re-describe what is to be explained rather than actually explaining what needs to be explained.  If “laws” are a shorthand description of the way material substances will tend to operate given their natures (the correct account of laws, in my view) then the existence of laws presupposes the existence of the material world and thus cannot explain the existence of the material world. 

Even Dennett acknowledges, in the 3:AM Magazine interview, that Krauss “could/should have been rather more circumspect and modest about what he was doing—since he was neither answering the philosophers’ ancient question flat out nor clearly replacing that question with a better question.”  Though he also adds that the philosophers’ question “now looks to me like a much less important question and maybe not even a question worth trying to answer at all.”  This, of course, is the ideological naturalist’s standard, desperate, question-begging move:  Every question worth asking can be answered by naturalism; so those questions that naturalism can’t answer must not really be questions worth asking.  Nothing to see here, move along please.

You’ll also find in the interview the usual oversimplifications and attacks on straw men vis-à-vis theism and dualism.  To give the Dennett his due, however, he there expresses his long-held view that reductionism fails to capture the “real patterns” that exist at many levels of the natural order higher than the level described by physics.  Pigliucci expresses similar views, writing:

It seems to me that, at least at first sight, ontological reductionism goes against the available empirical evidence, in that the universe appears to be characterized by layers of complexity, with new types of behavior of matter ‘emerging’ with increasing complexity… If this is so, then one needs some extra empirical reason to accept ontological reductionism. I asked Nobel physicist Weinberg why he thought ontological reductionism was true, to which he responded that he saw “no reason in principle” for it to be wrong. Wait a minute, I replied, this is either an argument from ignorance (ouch!) or, at best, a promissory note that Weinberg knows can never be cashed because of our practical limits.

The trouble, however, is this.  As I have also noted in my series of posts on Nagel, it is no good for a naturalist like Dennett or Pigliucci merely to affirm that there are levels of reality irreducible to what physics tells us about and then self-apply the label “non-reductive naturalist.”  For we need to know exactly how the resulting “naturalism” differs from an Aristotelian conception of nature, or a dualistic conception of nature, or any other of the conceptions of nature that naturalism was supposed to be providing us an alternative to.  And we need an answer that doesn’t either caricature, or beg the question against, these other views.  I say that no such answer is forthcoming.

189 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dr. Feser,

You often share philosophy-related links on your blog. What do you yourself read to keep up with philosophy in the news? Thanks.

ingx24 said...

the problem of consciousness is a result of the move Galileo, Descartes, and Co. made of taking color, sound, heat, cold, and other sensory qualities out of the material world and relocating them in the mind’s experience of that world.

I could not possibly disagree more. The problem of consciousness applies to ALL mental states, not just sensory experiences - thoughts and emotions have "qualia" as well, despite many philosophers' decisions to ignore that fact. And putting sensory qualities back into nature isn't going to do anything to solve the problem of consciousness, because there is still no explanation for why these sensory qualities are experienced rather than just being processed by the brain "in the dark".

Gene Callahan said...

"because there is still no explanation for why these sensory qualities are experienced rather than just being processed by the brain "in the dark"."

They ARE experiences, ingx24, and are part of nature. Nature is a world of experience, through and through.

Brandon said...

The problem of consciousness applies to ALL mental states, not just sensory experiences - thoughts and emotions have "qualia" as well, despite many philosophers' decisions to ignore that fact.

It seems to me that if one traces the history of this kind of position one always finds it to be a later offshoot of the early Galilean move, building off of ideas derived from it.

dimwoo said...

Great read!

Joe K. said...

I always so enjoy the photoshopped pictures. You must have been snickering to yourself making this one.

Cale B.T. said...

Aping Mankind is a very difficult book.

Robert said...

If “laws” are mere descriptions of regularities, then they merely re-describe what is to be explained rather than actually explaining what needs to be explained. If “laws” are a shorthand description of the way material substances will tend to operate given their natures (the correct account of laws, in my view) then the existence of laws presupposes the existence of the material world and thus cannot explain the existence of the material world.

I am left wondering why, exactly, the existence of the material world as a simple brute fact is problematic in the first place.

Perhaps someone can clarify.

George R. said...

I am left wondering why, exactly, the existence of the material world as a simple brute fact is problematic in the first place.

Perhaps someone can clarify.


Potency and act, Bobby, potency and act.

Learn it.

Live it.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

the problem of consciousness is a result of the move Galileo, Descartes, and Co. made of taking color, sound, heat, cold, and other sensory qualities out of the material world and relocating them in the mind’s experience of that world.

For anybody who holds that matter is substantial the following argument holds:

If we humans missed the material equipment to have color vision then, no matter how much we learned about the material world, we wouldn’t have the concept of colors, let alone experiential knowledge of colors. Thus it is an entirely reasonable move, indeed a necessary move, to take colors out of the material world and relocate them in the mind’s experience of the material world.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

George R.

Potency and act, Bobby, potency and act.

Sounds like a mantra.

Now if I understand Ed correctly the idea is that when considering the existence of material objects reason leads us to embrace thomistic metaphysics. But even if true this does not mean that thomistic metaphysics is correct. If naturalism is true and the material world is just a brute fact then reason can be quite misleading, as Plantinga has forcefully argued in his EAAN. Thus, if naturalism is true and the material world is just a brute fact then the reasonableness of Thomism is just an irrelevant implication.

Pseudo-Augustine said...

Dianelos,

If I understand you correctly you are saying that even if Thomism is were reason leads us it doesn't really matter, because if naturalism is true, then our reason could be defective.

I am not sure why that is much of a victory for anyone trying to critique Thomism. Plantinga's argument is an argument against Naturalism. The idea is that given P(R|N&E)our belief that naturalism is true is low or inscrutable. But it also seems that it would apply to all beliefs (even your statement that Thomism is not true given N). So, if N&E were true we could never know it, because it sets up a defeater for any belief you have, including any beliefs you may try and conjure up to defeat the defeater. Plantinga's argument is the ultimate defeater.

monk68 said...

DG,

But . . .

“If extra-mental things lacked the formal structure which gives them just the surface reflective properties they have in the presence of light then, no matter how much material color vision equipment we have, we wouldn’t have the concept of colors, let alone experiential knowledge of colors. Thus it is an entirely reasonable move, indeed a necessary move, to take colors out of the mind’s experience of the material world and relocate them in the material world.”

And yet, this counter response is as overly simplistic as the original assertion.

The trouble with so much of the modern “qualia” discussion is that philosophers too often speak of existents as if they were islands to themselves. Human beings, with their unique sensate-cum-intellective way of existing are things among other things, but more importantly – *things in relation to other things*. The very notion of “color”, when pressed hard, turns out to be relational through and through. Surface reflective properties (which require specific “form”-al configurations of matter) are simultaneously in relation to both light and a human knower: an ensemble of “things-in relation” which underwrites the very meaning of the term “color”.

monk68 said...

DG

“If naturalism is true and the material world is just a brute fact then reason can be quite misleading”

First, I second Pseudo-Augustine’s point about the nature of Plantinga’s project with respect to his EAAN.

Plantinga is not a Thomist, of course. He grants “ex hypothesis” the “truth” of naturalism and shows how that grant turns out to vitiate the very notion of “truth” simpliciter. Of course, it could be still be the case, in fact, that naturalism (this term has become rather elastic these days) describes reality. But in that case, neither Plantinga’s “argument” nor any “argument” for naturalism, nor any “argument” whatsoever is meaningful. But then that begs the question as to why philosophers, scientists, or human beings in general converse in lectures, books, blogs, and general conversation “as if” we were pursuing something like “the truth” together. Ultimate defeater indeed.

Yet, however much a Thomist may admire Plantinga’s approach; nevertheless, he has another (and I would say more fundamental) means by which to undermine naturalism. Rather than grant the truth of naturalism, he thinks he can show that any scientist of philosopher who eventually arrives at the conclusion (via scientific or philosophical means) that “naturalism is true”, will – of necessity – have done so only through the employment of something like Thomistic metaphysical presuppositions all along the way (such as form/matter, substance/accident, act/potency, fomal/final causality, etc). There is something - at least existentially - bothersome about a human mind which, of its very nature, must climb the trunk of the metaphysical tree in order to shimmy out on a branch so as to practice modern science, and then – the entire cognitive apparatus still supported by the metaphysical trunk – begins pontificating that the universe is bereft of the metaphysical tree upon which it is clearly perched as it preaches a naturalistic gospel.

The Deuce said...

If I understand you correctly you are saying that even if Thomism is were reason leads us it doesn't really matter, because if naturalism is true, then our reason could be defective.

New defense of naturalism: It has to be true, cause it makes no logical sense! :-)

Robert said...

@George R.

Potency and act, Bobby, potency and act.

Learn it.

Live it.


The closest thing that I can point to as being something like pure act, if I understand the concept correctly, would be one of the fundamental forces, like gravity, for instance.

However, to accept your reply, it seems like I would have to make some specific assumptions concerning the material world, one of course being that the material world was, in fact, not simply a brute fact, which doesn't answer my question.

So, to reiterate, what exactly is problematic about the material world simply being a brute fact?

Anonymous said...

Monk:

You wrote "The trouble with so much of the modern “qualia” discussion is that philosophers too often speak of existents as if they were islands to themselves."

I believe you have identified the main problem with most philosophy. Actually it's a problem that runs through all fields of human knowledge. As john Muir once said "“When we try to pick anything out by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe”"

Gordie

Robert said...

@Dianelos Georoudis

Now if I understand Ed correctly the idea is that when considering the existence of material objects reason leads us to embrace thomistic metaphysics. But even if true this does not mean that thomistic metaphysics is correct. If naturalism is true and the material world is just a brute fact then reason can be quite misleading, as Plantinga has forcefully argued in his EAAN. Thus, if naturalism is true and the material world is just a brute fact then the reasonableness of Thomism is just an irrelevant implication.

Perhaps it is just a question of sample size. I would think that, given enough correct data, reason may work just fine. The problem is that our ability to obtain enough correct data in the first place may be too limited for reason to do so.

Crude said...

The closest thing that I can point to as being something like pure act, if I understand the concept correctly, would be one of the fundamental forces, like gravity, for instance.

What exactly have you read about on this subject that would make you think that pure act would be such a thing?

So, to reiterate, what exactly is problematic about the material world simply being a brute fact?

What's your definition of 'problematic' here? I mean, what sort of 'problem' is it that would cripple the ability to say such and such is a brute fact?

It can't be the possibility of an explanation of the phenomena/entity in question - otherwise you'd have your answer straightaway.

It's exactly like asking, 'What's wrong with saying the reason for such and such feature in the universe is inexplicable magic?'

Robert said...


What exactly have you read about on this subject that would make you think that pure act would be such a thing?


I am applying the definition I gleaned from Dr. Feser's book 'Aquinas'. Gravity seems to meet all of the qualifications necessary to label it as pure act. I suggest you consider it for a moment.


What's your definition of 'problematic' here? I mean, what sort of 'problem' is it that would cripple the ability to say such and such is a brute fact?

It can't be the possibility of an explanation of the phenomena/entity in question - otherwise you'd have your answer straightaway.

It's exactly like asking, 'What's wrong with saying the reason for such and such feature in the universe is inexplicable magic?'


As I have no data supporting the existence of magic, such an answer would seem a bit arbitrary, thus problematic.

However, it seems that we do have plenty of data supporting the existence of the material world.

Secondly an explanation for the existence of a brute fact would seem to contradict the brute "factness" of the existence in question, no?

FZ said...

Hi Robert, in regards to your question, see monk’s response @ June 6, 2013 at 7:44 AM and this old post:

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/02/can-we-make-sense-of-world.html

“Suppose I told you that the fact that a certain book has not fallen to the ground is explained by the fact that it is resting on a certain shelf, but that the fact that the shelf itself has not fallen to the ground has no explanation at all but is an unintelligible brute fact. Have I really explained the position of the book? It is hard to see how. For the shelf has in itself no tendency to stay aloft – it is, by hypothesis, just a brute fact that it does so. But if it has no such tendency, it cannot impart such a tendency to the book. The “explanation” the shelf provides in such a case would be completely illusory. (Nor would it help to impute to the book some such tendency after all, if the having of the tendency is itself just an unintelligible brute fact. The illusion will just have been relocated, not eliminated.)

By the same token, it is no good to say “The operation of law of nature C is explained by the operation of law of nature B, and the operation of B by the operation of law of nature A, but the operation of A has no explanation whatsoever and is just an unintelligible brute fact.” The appearance of having “explained” C and B is completely illusory if A is a brute fact, because if there is neither anything about A itself that can explain A’s own operation nor anything beyond A that can explain it, then A has nothing to impart to B or C that could possibly explain their operation.”

FZ said...

Also, pure act does not undergo change. Gravitational force does though, the magnitude of the force changes as the distance between the two objects changes.

Eduardo said...

Or as space-time bends XD.

Just now I noticed how crude created a Knot to Robert.

Crude said...

Robert,

I am applying the definition I gleaned from Dr. Feser's book 'Aquinas'. Gravity seems to meet all of the qualifications necessary to label it as pure act. I suggest you consider it for a moment.

I've considered it well before you brought it up - you're not the first one to appeal to physical laws as 'pure act'. I suggest you consider your suggestion may not be novel.

As I have no data supporting the existence of magic, such an answer would seem a bit arbitrary, thus problematic.

You have data supporting the existence of brute facts? Your decision to regard such-and-such as a brute fact isn't arbitrary? By what standard?

As for 'magic', the idea that something exists or occurs without reason, explanation or cause seems to be as much 'magic' as anything else can be.

Secondly an explanation for the existence of a brute fact would seem to contradict the brute "factness" of the existence in question, no?

Who said anything about an explanation for the existence of a brute fact? I said 'inexplicable magic' would be the explanation for such and such feature of the universe. There's no explanation with the inexplicable.

Robert said...

@FZ

Actually gravity itself always remains constant ,

Crude said...

Oops.

Who said anything about an explanation for the existence of a brute fact? I said 'inexplicable magic' would be the explanation for such and such feature of the universe. There's no explanation with the inexplicable.

I said it would be the reason, not the explanation. That'd be pretty odd, considering the inexplicable aspect.

Someone could say that there would be no 'reason' for the fact. It's just magic.

Robert said...

@Crude

As I said, I have evidence of a material world...

I am not sure why you felt it necessary to ignore this bit.

FZ said...

I was referring to this: F = G[(m1 * m2)/r^2]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newton's_law_of_universal_gravitation

r is the distance between the two masses, and F is inversely proportional to r. Thus, if the distance (r) increases, F decreases. The attraction is always there, but the magnitude can undergo change.

Crude said...

Robert,

As I said, I have evidence of a material world...

I am not sure why you felt it necessary to ignore this bit.


Because it's irrelevant to any of my questions.

Wonderful - you have evidence of a material world. Putting aside for a moment that what you actually have is experience which you regard as experience of a material world (see idealism for a possible reply), why does its existence justify your regarding it as a brute fact?

You can't possibly be telling me that 'X seems to exist' justifies 'X is a brute fact'.

Eduardo said...

On my goodness, Crude is just saying that brute fact is like calling it magic XD.

Adrian Woods said...

What is wrong with Panpsychism? Hartshorne and Whitehead were both pansychist. Also, Spinoza and perhaps Leibniz. That is good company.

FZ said...

Or perhaps you are referring to the Gravitation constant, G? If so, the difference would be that G is an abstract object, a number. It cannot cause or change anything, whereas pure act can.

Crude said...

Adrian,

I don't think Ed was saying in this post that there's anything wrong with panpsychism - only that it's not naturalism, and it's a riff on dualism. So it's not really a viable option for the naturalist.

Robert said...

@Crude

Wonderful - you have evidence of a material world. Putting aside for a moment that what you actually have is experience which you regard as experience of a material world (see idealism for a possible reply), why does its existence justify your regarding it as a brute fact?

You can't possibly be telling me that 'X seems to exist' justifies 'X is a brute fact'.


I am not sure where you got such an implication from my question.

I did not say that the material world was in fact a brute fact, I asked what would be the problem if it was, in fact, a brute fact.

Robert said...

Or perhaps you are referring to the Gravitation constant, G? If so, the difference would be that G is an abstract object, a number. It cannot cause or change anything, whereas pure act can.

Yet gravity itself, apart from our representation of it, does cause change, yet itself is not changeable, or so it would seem.

Eduardo said...

Robert, you are confusing everything, you mean the field never changes not gravity.

Robert said...

@Eduardo

Robert, you are confusing everything, you mean the field never changes not gravity.

No, I mean that gravity, itself, never changes.

FZ said...

Robert, how do you define gravity? I'd define it as an interaction between masses. This interaction has a magnitude. This magnitude can be changed. Pure act does not have parts or components that can be changed. Also, "gravity" is a description of one behavior of matter. No mass, no gravity. No gravity, no change due to gravity. However, pure act does not depend on the existence of some other actuality to change things.

Robert said...

@FZ

I will read and consider the article you linked. Thanks.

Crude said...

Robert,

I am not sure where you got such an implication from my question.

I did not say that the material world was in fact a brute fact, I asked what would be the problem if it was, in fact, a brute fact.


And I asked you, in turn:

"What's your definition of 'problematic' here? I mean, what sort of 'problem' is it that would cripple the ability to say such and such is a brute fact?

It can't be the possibility of an explanation of the phenomena/entity in question - otherwise you'd have your answer straightaway."

You don't seem to understand my reply to you.

If the possibility of an explanation for the phenomena/entity in question would make the positing of a brute fact problematic, then taking the material world as a brute fact is problematic right away: there are possible explanations for the material world, certainly the material world of experience.

But if the possibility of an explanation for the phenomena/entity in question doesn't make the positing of a brute fact problematic, then it's open season on their application.

With all this in mind: it's going to depend on what you regard as a "problem" when it comes to brute facts, period. It sounds an awful lot like 'Well, in principle, can it be true?' That bar is so low it's pretty much underground.

You can claim 'magic!' for any given phenomena you wish, and say 'in principle, it's possible'.

Eduardo said...

Robert:

... What do you mean by gravity never changes... you mean it never stops attracting stuff ???

I mean define, give an example you are not really making sense, because it seems you are using gravity in a different meaning.

Robert said...

@FZ

Robert, how do you define gravity? I'd define it as an interaction between masses. This interaction has a magnitude. This magnitude can be changed. Pure act does not have parts or components that can be changed. Also, "gravity" is a description of one behavior of matter. No mass, no gravity. No gravity, no change due to gravity. However, pure act does not depend on the existence of some other actuality to change things.

The magnitude can change as gravity moves matter from potential to act. However, gravity itself does not change.

Gravity has no parts.

Gravity exists regardless of the presence of mass. It is, however, only observable in the presence of mass.

Pure act requires the existence of potential to enact any change, though pure act in and of itself is unchangeable, it has no potency. As gravity requires the existence of mass to enact any change, though gravity in and of itself is unchangeable.

etc...

Eduardo said...

Well if the graviton idea is correct.... it would have parts.

Weird, so gravity is not a characteristic of things... Still a bit cloudy.

Pseudo-Augustine said...

@The Deuce:"If I understand you correctly you are saying that even if Thomism is were reason leads us it doesn't really matter, because if naturalism is true, then our reason could be defective.

New defense of naturalism: It has to be true, cause it makes no logical sense! :-)"

Actually, I recently listened to a round table discussion on naturalism, and that seems to be pretty close to the idea. Reason is a pragmatic tool, and not something that gets at "big T" truths. It kind of goes hand in hand with a rejection of metaphysics (IMHO).

Robert said...

@Eduardo

... What do you mean by gravity never changes... you mean it never stops attracting stuff ???

I mean define, give an example you are not really making sense, because it seems you are using gravity in a different meaning.


I am using gravity in a fairly standard way.

Gravity is a constant universal force that only effects, while never being effected. If that helps.

Eduardo said...

Errr Robert... there are no constant universal forces, you mean gravity as a fundamental part of of the universe right?

Robert said...

@Eduardo

Well if the graviton idea is correct.... it would have parts.

Weird, so gravity is not a characteristic of things... Still a bit cloudy.


Perhaps, or perhaps the graviton is simply the way that gravity communicates with mass (moves mass from potency to act). ;)

Eduardo said...

Sure could be XD.

*It would be weird though XD, not because it is impossible or anything like that, but rather because it seems to give gravity a whole new look XD*

Crude said...

Robert,

Why are you proposing gravity as pure act, and not the strong nuclear force?

Robert said...

@Eduardo

Errr Robert... there are no constant universal forces, you mean gravity as a fundamental part of of the universe right?

Well, yes. I think that gravity is fundamental and that the force itself is universally constant.

FZ said...

"Gravity exists regardless of the presence of mass."

I've never heard of this. (Though I'm not a physics expert). Do you have a link/citation?

Robert said...

@Crude

Why are you proposing gravity as pure act, and not the strong nuclear force?

We just got focused on gravity. I originally referred to the fundamental forces as being examples of pure act.

Crude said...

We just got focused on gravity. I originally referred to the fundamental forces as being examples of pure act.

Wait. Examples, plural?

Four distinct instances of pure act?

Crude said...

Five instances, rather, if I'm reading wiki correctly.

ingx24 said...

Actually, I recently listened to a round table discussion on naturalism, and that seems to be pretty close to the idea. Reason is a pragmatic tool, and not something that gets at "big T" truths. It kind of goes hand in hand with a rejection of metaphysics (IMHO).

In that case, one cannot help but wonder what the pragmatic use is for denying that we have subjective experiences (Dennett), or that we have beliefs and desires (Churchland), or that we ever even think or feel anything at all (Rosenberg).

Eduardo said...

Robert you mean force as...

Because if it is Newton's definition you are no way near it.

It can't be just variation in momentum, otherwise what you are saying makes no sense.

Robert said...

@FZ

I've never heard of this. (Though I'm not a physics expert). Do you have a link/citation?

That is what makes it fundamental. I think I originally got the idea from Allen Guth in a lecture about Inflationary cosmology, if I recall correctly.

Crude said...

That is what makes it fundamental.

What makes fundamental forces fundamental is there being unable to be further reduced in description. I've never seen 'they exist even in the absence of mass' cited. Doubly so since they're treated as descriptive rather than 'entities' that exist on their own.

Robert said...

@Crude

Wait. Examples, plural?

Four distinct instances of pure act?


Or perhaps just observable aspects of a fundamental "superforce" that we have not yet identified.

Robert said...

@Crude


What makes fundamental forces fundamental is there being unable to be further reduced in description. I've never seen 'they exist even in the absence of mass' cited. Doubly so since they're treated as descriptive rather than 'entities' that exist on their own.


Yea, fundamental can mean unable to be reduced further, which can mean most basic, etc...

If there was actually nothing in the universe, gravity would still exist. There would simply be be nothing for gravity to move from potency to act.

Crude said...

Or perhaps just observable aspects of a fundamental "superforce" that we have not yet identified.

Well, then you see the problem.

Other problems aside, fundamental forces can't be candidates for 'pure act' - pure act isn't going to come in multiple, differing flavors.

But if that's conceded and the claim is now 'But maybe these things are just part of the REAL pure act' then it's not clear that you're outside of Aristo-Thomism anyway.

Crude said...

If there was actually nothing in the universe, gravity would still exist. There would simply be be nothing for gravity to move from potency to act.

'Actually nothing in the universe' + 'gravity still exists' != 'actually nothing in the universe'.

Now, I can understand how someone could reason their way to pure act via metaphysical/philosophical argument, of course. How exactly are you reasoning your way, through those methods, to gravity? Because that certainly is not a finding of science.

Martin said...

Robert,

For gravity to work, it must be actualized by mass.

For mass to work, it must be actualized by (perhaps) the Higgs boson.

The chain does not terminate with gravity.

George R. said...

Robert writes:
“However, to accept your reply, it seems like I would have to make some specific assumptions concerning the material world, one of course being that the material world was, in fact, not simply a brute fact, which doesn't answer my question.”

Assumptions are not required, Robert. You just have to recognize what things are self-evidently true and what necessarily follows from those truths -- to wit, that some things in the natural world exist (act), and that other things, while they don’t exist right now, nevertheless can exist (potency), and the latter depends necessarily on the former. Furthermore, one can see that all things in nature, and not just some of them, are subject to changing from that which they are now to something they can be, that is, all things without exception have potency. Now since potency depends on act, as we have said, the potency that we find in all natural things also depends on some act. However, it cannot depend on the act that is in the natural things themselves, because, since all natural things have potency in them essentially, they necessarily depend on potency to exist. But that which depends on something to exist cannot be the cause of the existence of that upon which its existence depends. Therefore, there must be some act (having no essential potency) upon which the existence of all things in nature depends.

P.S. Gravitational forces depend on natural substances to exert them. Obviously, therefore, gravity cannot be the cause of natural substances.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

Pseudo-Augustine,

Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of the naturalist.

The naturalist who holds that all of reality is just a mechanism blindly evolving (without any final causation at all), and who then reads Plantinga’s EAAN, will readily agree that the truth-tracking capacity of our cognitive faculties about metaphysical issues has zero or next to zero relevance for the business of day to day survival. Thus, at least in relation to metaphysical knowledge, she will have to agree that our cognitive faculties about metaphysics are probably not reliable, or at least that we have no good reason to trust them. And since naturalism is a metaphysical belief the EAAN goes through. (I think Plantinga would have produced a stronger EAAN if he had limited it to metaphysical beliefs, but no matter.)

Now enters the A-T philosopher who argues with her about how reason forces us to embrace thomistic metaphysics. Even if the naturalist finds the A-T philosopher’s argument convincing, Plantinga’s EAAN will provide her with an undercutting defeater.

And should one ask the naturalist why then she remains a naturalist, she will answer that given the reliability of the products of science and thus of the cognitive faculties behind them, she bets that a metaphysics that is closest to scientific knowledge or to the scientific mindset is the most probably true. And perhaps add that her position is not far from agnosticism anyway.

(A final point about the EAAN: Perhaps one day it will be possible to put it to experimental testing using a computer simulation. Suppose a simulated Darwinian space is put up where survival depends on an organism’s capability to solve some simple kinds of math problems. After a while these organisms’ behavior will evolve to be such as to reliably solve such problems. Now suppose we suddenly shift their environment and make them face more difficult math problems on which their survival depends. If one observed that they managed to solve this more difficult kind of problems without going through the normal attrition process of natural selection then we would have proof positive that these algorithms had acquired mathematical *reasoning* capability, and thus that N&E will produce reliable cognitive faculties in matters pertaining to survival. By analogy then the naturalist would have good reason to believe that our own cognitive faculties too are reliable in matters pertaining to our survival (which are most of them minus things like metaphysics, art criticism, etc).

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

monk68 ,

I agree that for colors to exist one needs proper minds and brains, and normally also eyes and material things with surface reflective properties and finally of course some light source. But material things with all their properties have existed for billions of years before the appearance of the first color-perceiving organisms. Thus for billions of years there existed material things but no colors. Should life not have evolved, or should the universe have undergone some cataclysmic destruction before the evolution of life, then colors would never have existed. Thus, the reasoning goes, it makes no sense to consider that colors are properties of the material things themselves. Minds, or at least the physical processes on which minds supervene, are primary.

There is something - at least existentially - bothersome about a human mind which, of its very nature, must climb the trunk of the metaphysical tree in order to shimmy out on a branch so as to practice modern science, and then – the entire cognitive apparatus still supported by the metaphysical trunk – begins pontificating that the universe is bereft of the metaphysical tree upon which it is clearly perched as it preaches a naturalistic gospel.

Right. And I think the naturalist would agree. And then shrug her shoulders and claim that naturalism can (at least in principle) explain why our brains evolved in such a way that we tend to experience the world through supernaturalist lenses. And why we should feel deeply bothered by the truth about how reality actually is, for example by the fact that no free will exists.

Aquohn said...

@Robert: AFAIK, gravity is contingent upon the space-time continuum. Which changes, by the way, because of the constant expansion of the universe.

Anonymous said...

----




Religion 2.0: Identitarian Religion

http://occamsrazormag.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/religion-2-0-identitarian-religion/




----

Douglas said...

Hi Robert,

We want to understand why the material world exists rather than not. But if the material world exists as a simple brute fact, then we can't know why it exists rather than not. But then we can't have everything we want. But not having everything we want is problematic.

Anonymous said...

But then we can't have everything we want. But not having everything we want is problematic.

Try "declaring something that possibly has an explanation to be a brute fact is always ultimately arbitrary, flies in the face of reason, and is usually a desperate move to say the least" out instead.

Tony said...

If there was actually nothing in the universe, gravity would still exist. There would simply be be nothing for gravity to move from potency to act.

I may not follow everything in physics, but I know this ain't true. If there was nothing in the universe and the universe itself had no space to it (because extended space is, of itself, a function of - and in relation to - stuff), then no, there would be no gravity. If you mean that if you had empty space then either you are imagining a limited empty space for which there is stuff elsewhere (and thus there remains a derivative relation to stuff), or you are imagining what is (currently) thought to be impossible simply.

Pseudo-Augustine said...

Thanks for the response Dianelos,

I hinted at something close to this in my response to you. Of course a Naturalist could take this route. I know one who does. The guy is actually a pretty good friend of mine. He takes the line that Naturalism gives him a broadly pragmatic view of reality, he also thinks that he doesn't have certain knowledge about anything. On the surface this sounds like a relatively coherent notion, but when I think about it I don't think so:

1) Naturalism seems to undercut any notion of personal identity. In my opinion naturalism reduces to some form of physicalism (I know some would disagree, but it seems pretty evident to me). If this is the case, then there isn't any "I" that traverses time only a bundle of perceptions, but it seems that there must be some persistent "I" to make sense of mathematical reasoning, or even the deductive reasoning involved in the rules of the syllogism.

2) Computer models are questionable to me, because intelligent beings who already have the capacity to reason must set the parameters of a computer program. Now, I am not a computer programmer, so I may be wrong about this, but it seems to smuggle in intentionality, reason, and the whole "spooky" world of mind that the naturalist doesn't like to deal with.

3)I do not see why the naturalist would think science is reliable. The problem of justifying induction is well nigh impossible to solve on naturalistic grounds, and it seems that to have a rational foundation for it something like A-T account, or some other theistic account needs to obtain in order to explain why things are stable enough for us to experiment with.

4) I would simply look at the naturalist, and say, "so you admit that you have not better reasons than me for believing what you do." I would precede to thank her for her candidness in giving up the "rational high-ground" that is so often appealed to.

Of course if naturalism is construed as a research program, then it can provide infinite IOU's on all the phenomenon that it cannot explain. In that case there really isn't anything to discuss. The naturalist simply states what he thinks the world is, and then proceeds to do research in accordance with his fundamental (metaphysical) assumptions.

Crude said...

DG,

I've given a few replies to your defense of a 'naturalist' already that undercut some of the moves your naturalist would make, especially with regards to conflating 'naturalism' (or worse, materialism) with 'science'. I haven't really seen any replies from you on that front.

What you seem to focus on is the emotional state of the naturalist - their ability to, in principle, remain calm, so long as they shrug their shoulders at various problems with their view, various lacks of evidence and even apparent contradictions. But that seems irrelevant.

I don't think anyone is doubting that, say, a person can have inconsistent or obviously flawed views and still feel emotionally happy or even satisfied. It's a little like being told 'Sure, the naturalist may have all these problems... but with a little cognitive dissonance they can still get through the day.' Okay, granted. But that's not really the naturalist anyone really cares about, intellectually.

monk68 said...

DG,

“it makes no sense to consider that colors are properties of the material things themselves. Minds, or at least the physical processes on which minds supervene, are primary.”

But such a position again equivocates on the meaning of the term “color”. As I said earlier, the presence of a human knower is certainly a necessary (though not sufficient) component for the existence of “color” as commonly understood. Without a human knower (as in the case of pre-human cosmic history), something necessary to “color” is lacking – true enough. But as I explained, that is because color, as commonly understood is fundamentally relational – that is – one has not “color” unless all components (broadly: 1 - material things with surface reflective properties; 2 – light; and 3 - a sensate knower) exist in a simultaneous relation to one another. Hence, “colors” are indeed *partly* the properties of material things insofar as it is essential to color that there be material things with specific surface reflective properties in relation to light.

Vis-à-vis the dialogue with naturalism, I think the primary point of controversy would be the claim that “surface reflective properties of material thing” implicitly presuppose something like formal causality as a constituent aspect of material things (that which makes the thing have the reflective - and other - properties that it does): formal causality being one of the metaphysical truths rejected by many – if not most – who consider themselves naturalists. As a thomist, I want to argue that the naturalist needs metaphysical presuppositions such as the formal dimension of material things to explain or account for “scientific facts” such as “surface reflective properties”; even if she will not openly or explicitly own such presuppositions. Further, if it be true that such metaphysical presuppositions as formal causality are inevitably at work within any naturalistic theory (no matter how covert) while being denied by that very theory; then exposing such presuppositions is a great threat to the most popular naturalistic accounts of material reality, for it exposes incoherence.

“And then shrug her shoulders and claim that naturalism can (at least in principle) explain why our brains evolved in such a way that we tend to experience the world through supernaturalist lenses”

But the point is that her “claim” about how and what naturalism can “explain” will involve all kinds of scientific accounts and details about things and happenings within the cosmos; all of which details can only be coherently known and communicated (so the thomist claims) through use of something like thomistic metaphysical principles (form/matter, substance/accident, act/potency, etc). So that in engaging in the very act of offering a naturalistic “explanation” about [putatively illusory] “supernaturalist lenses”, the naturalist will be cutting off the branch upon which she is sitting as she defends her naturalism (for as a naturalist, she will be explicitly denying the very metaphysical principles by which her explicit denial participates in cognitive coherence – as an explanation). So she can shrug her shoulders at the thomistic criticism only by failing to sense the depth and danger of the thomistic criticism for her position. It is a criticism so fundamental, so close up and implicit - even within the scientific enterprise - as to be overlooked: like the glasses one has worn so long he forgets their presence. More importantly, from the standpoint of cultural discourse, should the thomist sufficiently illuminate the incoherence of her claim (vis-à-vis her use of A-T type metaphysical principles in the very act of denying them), then those who are privy to the thomistic criticism can shrug their shoulder with respect to her naturalistic thesis.

Pax

Anonymous said...

Deuce,

That isn't a new defense of naturalism. If you debate with scientistic naturalists over the problem of reason, you will be astonished how many will choose naturalism over reason.



Robert said...

@Crude

Well, then you see the problem.

Other problems aside, fundamental forces can't be candidates for 'pure act' - pure act isn't going to come in multiple, differing flavors.

But if that's conceded and the claim is now 'But maybe these things are just part of the REAL pure act' then it's not clear that you're outside of Aristo-Thomism anyway.


I am not sure I am following your logic regarding different flavors of pure act. Maybe you could clarify it a bit for me.

I never claimed to be "outside or inside" of anything.

Heck, one could suppose that if Aristotle had been sitting under an apple tree when contemplating his metaphysics, we just might be calling him the father of the theory of gravity instead of Newton because, in a way, Aristotle actually describes it pretty well, imo.

Crude said...

I am not sure I am following your logic regarding different flavors of pure act. Maybe you could clarify it a bit for me.

You seem to have understood it earlier: "Four distinct instances of pure act?" from me gained a reply from you of "Or perhaps just observable aspects of a fundamental "superforce" that we have not yet identified."

There are multiple fundamental forces. Arguing that a fundamental force may be 'pure act' runs into a problem, since there can't be more than one instance of pure act (what would differentiate them?) But saying 'well, maybe they're observable aspects of some kind of 'superforce'' gets you nowhere - all you're saying there is that there's something yet more fundamental than the fundamental forces, but whatever it is it's involved with fundamentally sustaining our world. Great - but that's not going to be news to A-T metaphysicians or thomists.

Robert said...

@Crude

'Actually nothing in the universe' + 'gravity still exists' != 'actually nothing in the universe'.

Now, I can understand how someone could reason their way to pure act via metaphysical/philosophical argument, of course. How exactly are you reasoning your way, through those methods, to gravity? Because that certainly is not a finding of science.


You assume that gravity is internal to the universe, I would probably disagree that this is something one can safely assume. That said, I see no contradiction in saying that there could be nothing at all in the universe, even no universe itself and gravity still exists.

If inflationary theory is correct, then our universe exists because of the existence of gravity, not the other way around. Obervable matter is pulled creating galaxies, stars, planets, ...us and other stuff (?...dark energy...?) is pushed creating space-time...by what? By gravity.

Regarding metaphysics, I am just trying to apply, correctly or not, the philosophical argument to observable reality and see what comes out.

Robert said...

@Martin
For gravity to work, it must be actualized by mass.

For mass to work, it must be actualized by (perhaps) the Higgs boson.

The chain does not terminate with gravity.


And I would say that gravity just is regardless of the existence of massive particles.

The Higgs Boson is what causes particles to be massive.

(Of course, if string theory is correct, than they are all, fundamentally, one and the same "thing" anyway...).

Crude said...

Robert,

You assume that gravity is internal to the universe, I would probably disagree that this is something one can safely assume. That said, I see no contradiction in saying that there could be nothing at all in the universe, even no universe itself and gravity still exists.

A healthy imagination is wonderful. Do you have a metaphysical argument for this? It's certainly not a scientific argument or observation, so that's all you're left with.

You'll also need a metaphysical argument for why the other forces are not candidates for being pure act. And, if your 'pure act' differs from the pure act as described (and also argued for, and in their view demonstrated) by A-T metaphysicians, etc, you'll need yet more arguments and explanations. Or maybe yours doesn't differ, and you just think gravity is merely an observable manifestation of pure act's actualizing.

If inflationary theory is correct, then our universe exists because of the existence of gravity, not the other way around

No, because inflationary theory, insofar as it's scientific, does not make the claims you're making - which is why the theory it's entirely permissible to treat gravity as part of the universe, not transcendent pure act. Science is one thing, and metaphysics another.

Regarding metaphysics, I am just trying to apply, correctly or not, the philosophical argument to observable reality and see what comes out.

It doesn't really look that way. You've said that pure act kinda-sorta seems like one of the fundamental forces, and right there you've got your work cut out for you, because there's multiple fundamental forces - but multiple instances of pure act doesn't make sense.

Robert said...

@George R

Assumptions are not required, Robert. You just have to recognize what things are self-evidently true and what necessarily follows from those truths -- to wit, that some things in the natural world exist (act), and that other things, while they don’t exist right now, nevertheless can exist (potency), and the latter depends necessarily on the former. Furthermore, one can see that all things in nature, and not just some of them, are subject to changing from that which they are now to something they can be, that is, all things without exception have potency. Now since potency depends on act, as we have said, the potency that we find in all natural things also depends on some act. However, it cannot depend on the act that is in the natural things themselves, because, since all natural things have potency in them essentially, they necessarily depend on potency to exist. But that which depends on something to exist cannot be the cause of the existence of that upon which its existence depends. Therefore, there must be some act (having no essential potency) upon which the existence of all things in nature depends.

P.S. Gravitational forces depend on natural substances to exert them. Obviously, therefore, gravity cannot be the cause of natural substances.


The is a lot to unwrap here...

When you say that there are some thing that exist and some things that can exist, I hope you realize that this view fails when one considers the most elementary stuff and not simply form. In fact, I suppose one could equally say, when not arbitrarily limiting themselves to the concept of form, that all that exists, has existed, or ever will exist has always existed at some level. In other words, everything that is, has ever been, or will ever be, at the most fundamental level, exists.

I do kind of agree that all "things" have potency, in some sense. However, I do not agree that, for instance, gravity (to keep with the surrounding discussions I am having), is itself a "thing" in this sense, nor would I say that gravity itself has potency. I would say that existence, of our universe for example, is contingent upon gravity and not the other way around.

And I would not say that stuff exerts gravity, I would say that stuff acts in the presence of gravity. Additionally, as far as any natural substance in our universe is concerned, I would say that gravity is probably the most fundamental cause of it. Google "a universal free lunch" in relation to inflation, or something along those lines.

Robert said...

@Crude

You seem to have understood it earlier: "Four distinct instances of pure act?" from me gained a reply from you of "Or perhaps just observable aspects of a fundamental "superforce" that we have not yet identified."

There are multiple fundamental forces. Arguing that a fundamental force may be 'pure act' runs into a problem, since there can't be more than one instance of pure act (what would differentiate them?) But saying 'well, maybe they're observable aspects of some kind of 'superforce'' gets you nowhere - all you're saying there is that there's something yet more fundamental than the fundamental forces, but whatever it is it's involved with fundamentally sustaining our world. Great - but that's not going to be news to A-T metaphysicians or thomists.


Again, you assert that there can't be more than one instance of pure act, (and from what I can recall, even Aristotle did not make such an assertion). What would differentiate them would be their observable effects, of course. However, that we differentiate them has no bearing on what they actually are "per se".

And I am not saying that there is something more fundamental then the fundamental forces, what I meant was that it is possible that the fundamental forces were merely distinct aspects of a single force, a "super force" for lack of a better term. However, even if they are not, I still fail to see why this is an issue with regards to the forces being described as pure act.

dguller said...

Robert:

Again, you assert that there can't be more than one instance of pure act, (and from what I can recall, even Aristotle did not make such an assertion). What would differentiate them would be their observable effects, of course. However, that we differentiate them has no bearing on what they actually are "per se".

Assume that there are two pure acts. How would one differentiate between the two? In order to differentiate between X and Y, there must be something present in X that is absent in Y, which would be the distinguishing factor between them. Call this factor F. X actualizes F. Y does not actualize F. However, in pure act, there can be nothing absent, because everything in it is actualized. Therefore, Y cannot be pure act, because Y does not actualize F while X does actualize F, and thus Y has an unactualized potency, refuting its status as pure act.

Robert said...

@Crude

A healthy imagination is wonderful. Do you have a metaphysical argument for this? It's certainly not a scientific argument or observation, so that's all you're left with.

You'll also need a metaphysical argument for why the other forces are not candidates for being pure act. And, if your 'pure act' differs from the pure act as described (and also argued for, and in their view demonstrated) by A-T metaphysicians, etc, you'll need yet more arguments and explanations. Or maybe yours doesn't differ, and you just think gravity is merely an observable manifestation of pure act's actualizing.


Actually there are theoretical constructs which posit gravity as external to our universe, so not something I simply imagined. It has to do with the relative strength of the force of gravity versus the strength of the other forces over small distances.

I am not sure I follow you here. If, in fact, the forces (or force) is/are pure act, then in what way would any argument that anyone could possibly make, metaphysical or otherwise, change that fact?


No, because inflationary theory, insofar as it's scientific, does not make the claims you're making - which is why the theory it's entirely permissible to treat gravity as part of the universe, not transcendent pure act. Science is one thing, and metaphysics another.


Gravity is part of the universe, it is just not contained by the universe. And I am not sure what you think that I said that would contradict inflationary theory. Are we talking semantics?


It doesn't really look that way. You've said that pure act kinda-sorta seems like one of the fundamental forces, and right there you've got your work cut out for you, because there's multiple fundamental forces - but multiple instances of pure act doesn't make sense.


I still do not follow your logic here. Why, specifically, should I believe that multiple instances, (a bad word as an instance may imply something akin to a copy of, which is not what I am implying at all), is a nonsensical idea.

Robert said...

@dguller

Assume that there are two pure acts. How would one differentiate between the two? In order to differentiate between X and Y, there must be something present in X that is absent in Y, which would be the distinguishing factor between them. Call this factor F. X actualizes F. Y does not actualize F. However, in pure act, there can be nothing absent, because everything in it is actualized. Therefore, Y cannot be pure act, because Y does not actualize F while X does actualize F, and thus Y has an unactualized potency, refuting its status as pure act.


1. Why would the inability to differentiate between X and Y have any bearing on X and Y per se?

2. What do you mean when you say that in "pure act there is nothing absent"? I think you are adding some additional unstated baggage to the concept of "pure act", as what is absent from "pure act" must, at least, be potential. I take "pure act" to mean something like that which cannot be effected but that effects. However, I fail to see why there could not be multiple such 'pure acts' in principle, even if each of these 'pure acts' only effects a single potential.

FZ said...

"Why would the inability to differentiate between X and Y have any bearing on X and Y per se?"

Pure act, as the word implies, means that no potency exists within the thing. All act and no potency. It's like a spectrum:

Pure Act-----Mixtures of Act/Potency-----Pure Potency

So if a potency does exist within a particular thing, it's not purely actual. (IIRC, in his Aquinas book Feser actually demonstrates why the conclusion of the First Way brings us to an unchangeable changer rather than an unchanged changer. These are different things. The latter implies that there might still be some potency within it.)

I think dguller means something different. Lets say that you accept that pure act exists. You select the four fundamental forces as candidates. Take the strong force and electromagnetic force, for example. I might be wrong, but I think dguller is calling attention to what those forces do and do not do. The electromagnetic force is the cause of like particles repelling and opposites attracting, but not the cause for nuclei staying together. The strong force serves as the explanation as to why nuclei stay together, but not the explanation for opposites attracting/likes repelling. This difference (I think) is what dguller is calling factor F. The strong force's inability to explain the attraction/repulsion between charged particles and the inability of the electromagnetic force to explain the attraction between protons and neutrons count as unactualized potencies. Therefore, none of the four fundmental forces can be labeled pure act.

Anonymous said...

Lmao. Well done, Dr. Feser. I no longer need Comedy Central for a good laugh--I just come to your blog. Great post and keep the thoughts coming.

Robert said...

@FZ

Aren't you simply applying potencies arbitrarily though?

Instead of looking at this from such an angle, perhaps you should consider it the other way around. In that, there is nothing that actualizes EM, for instance. EM is self actualized and has no potency to be actualized. There is nothing more, nor less, than what EM is. In other words, what potency within EM do you suppose is, or possibly could be, in principle, actualized by something else?

I think that you will find the answer to this question will be that there is absolutely nothing within EM to be actualized. In fact, anything relevant that you point to will simply be an effect, a potency in something else, actualized by EM.

Tony said...

Robert: That said, I see no contradiction in saying that there could be nothing at all in the universe, even no universe itself and gravity still exists... [snip]

Actually there are theoretical constructs which posit gravity as external to our universe, so not something I simply imagined.


Anon: I no longer need Comedy Central for a good laugh--I just come to your blog.

Robert, to say that "there are theoretical constructs which posit..." is just to say that your claim is not scientific...yet. It may, eventually, in some distant future, get to be scientific, if there were to be some conceivable falsifier experiment that could test something that is outside the universe, but just between you and me, don't hold your breath. It isn't likely to show before, say, the last proton decays.

There isn't any actual evidence that gravity could or would exist if there were nothing at all not even the universe. You are proclaiming a creative, imaginative, highly fantastical hypothesis about gravity that is not actually supported by the science we have.

When you do that, I think that the scientistic naturalists would generally want to throw you out of their universe along with your extra-existential gravity, because you are doing just what they accuse theists of doing with their "self-existent 'God'," merely positing its existence without any science to support it.

Crude said...

Robert,

And I am not saying that there is something more fundamental then the fundamental forces, what I meant was that it is possible that the fundamental forces were merely distinct aspects of a single force, a "super force" for lack of a better term.

Two problems: One, to say 'maybe there is some superforce of which the fundamental forces are just aspects' IS to say there's something more fundamental than the fundamental forces. Two, if those 'distinct aspects' are parts of the superforce, then you're going to have trouble identifying the superforce as pure act - PA won't be composed of different parts.

Actually there are theoretical constructs which posit gravity as external to our universe, so not something I simply imagined. It has to do with the relative strength of the force of gravity versus the strength of the other forces over small distances.

If you're saying that there are theoretical constructs which posit gravity as being part of the "multiverse" as opposed to "just our universe", then you're engaged in some top-level and possibly accidental equivocation. The distinction between multiverse and universe doesn't matter here.

Either way, I didn't say you were making up the theories. I said you were introducing metaphysics where these theories did not. Really, feel free to point me to the peer-reviewed research paper which treats gravity as an existing entity rather than as a description, complete with claims that it ontologically prior to the universe and multiverse itself, as well as ways to test this claim.

Your difficulty finding this paper will have an explanation.

Gravity is part of the universe, it is just not contained by the universe. And I am not sure what you think that I said that would contradict inflationary theory. Are we talking semantics?

I didn't say you contradicted inflationary theory. I said that what you were describing was not inflationary theory. It can be entirely consistent with it, but they are not the same thing. Just like 'metaphysical materialism' is not 'inflation theory'. The two may or may not be consistent with each other, but that's about it.

As for why multiple instances of pure act are nonsensical, others have explained that before myself.

I am not sure I follow you here. If, in fact, the forces (or force) is/are pure act, then in what way would any argument that anyone could possibly make, metaphysical or otherwise, change that fact?

I'm asking you to establish the fact that the fundamental force(s) are pure act, or part of pure act, by metaphysical argument. That's going to involve more than saying 'gravity seems similar to some of what I read about pure act'.

Are you saying that inflationary theory mandates theism?

Scott said...

@Robert:

"Why would the inability to differentiate between X and Y have any bearing on X and Y per se?"

With all respect to FZ's earlier attempt at explication, I think that what dguller is proposing is a version of a principle I also accept: the Identity of Indiscernibles—which, to put it in plain English, is the principle that two things that can't be in any way distinguished are really just one thing.

It's not a matter of whether we happen to be able to distinguish X and Y. It's a matter of whether there's any way in principle that X and Y could be distinguished, even (if you like) by God. If there isn't, then there are no X and Y in the first place—just X under two different names.

"I have two cats, though oddly enough they are identical in every respect including spatiotemporal location" = "I have one cat."

Scott said...

@dguller:

"Assume that there are two pure acts. How would one differentiate between the two? In order to differentiate between X and Y, there must be something present in X that is absent in Y, which would be the distinguishing factor between them. Call this factor F. X actualizes F. Y does not actualize F. However, in pure act, there can be nothing absent, because everything in it is actualized. Therefore, Y cannot be pure act, because Y does not actualize F while X does actualize F, and thus Y has an unactualized potency, refuting its status as pure act."

There's a question lurking in here, though, and it's relevant to what Robert is proposing.

As you say, let's assume that there are two "pure acts." In order differentiate between them, there must be some distinguishing factor F present in one that is absent in the other. So let's say X actualizes F and Y does not.

It does not, however, appear to follow that Y has an unactualized potency for F. Why does Y have to have any "potency" for F at all?

To borrow and adapt one of Feser's favorite examples, a red rubber ball has the potency to roll even when it's not rolling, but it doesn't have the potency to leap up and deliver a recitation from Hamlet. So why should we assume that a pure act actualizes all "possible" potencies? Might a pure act not simply lack some potency altogether?

FZ said...

Hi Robert, this is getting beyond my amateur understanding of both physics and metaphysics. I have Feser's Aquinas, but I've only skimmed through a few parts due to time constraints. (And even then, Feser's book is meant to be a beginner's guide.) Hopefully the other commenters can continue the discussion. But I have one more question. How do you make the logical jump from "Physics describes EM/gravitational forces without reference to a cause" to "Physics has shown EM/gravity has no cause."?

Crude said...

I'll add on this bit from Doug Benscoter:

Pure Act is one. If there were more than one Pure Act, then there would be distinctions between them. But, distinctions entail limitations, and limitations entail a composition of potency. Again, we have demonstrated that Pure Act is not composed of potency, so it must be one.

Scott said...

@Crude:

"I'll add on this bit from Doug Benscoter . . . "

And that bit addresses the question I also happened to ask in my previous post. Can you or someone else say a bit more about this?

Crude said...

Scott,

The relevant post is here. Hopefully that helps some.

Back to work for me, for now.

Scott said...

@Crude:

Thanks for the link, but the post says only what you'd already quoted: "distinctions entail limitations, and limitations entail a composition of potency." What I'm not seeing is why that's the case: why, that is, does a distinction between two pure acts entail that one of them has an unrealized potency rather than merely lacking any sort of potency at all for something actualized by the other?

(Feser's own brief summary in TLS pp. 97-98 doesn't address this question either, and I don't see the overall issue addressed in Aquinas at all.)

I should perhaps emphasize that I'm not attempting any sort of refutation or evincing any disagreement; I'm simply asking for elaboration, as I'm pretty confident that there's something fairly simple I'm missing here.

Scott said...

One possible approach to an answer is here.

FZ said...

Scott, if you have Aquinas, check out pgs 74-75. It discusses unmoved movers vs unmovable movers.

Scott said...

@FZ:

"Scott, if you have Aquinas, check out pgs 74-75. It discusses unmoved movers vs unmovable movers."

I do, and I did. Thanks, but that still doesn't address my question.

Again, what I'm asking is why there can't be two "pure acts" one of which actualizes factor F and the other of which doesn't have any potency for F at all.

If that were possible, it would seem to pose a problem for the argument at issue here, namely that if there were (by hypothesis) two "pure acts," one would have to contain some unactualized potency or they couldn't be differentiated.

Why can't, for example, "pure act" 1 actualize A-N and "pure act" 2 actualize O-Z (as a rubber ball has the potency to roll but not to declaim "To be or not to be"), but 1 have no potencies for O-Z and 2 have no potencies for A-N?

If that were possible, the two "pure acts" could be distinguished on the basis, not of their unactualized potencies, but of the potencies each has and the other altogether lacks. In that case neither would include any unactualized potencies.

Scott said...

(By "the potencies each has and the other altogether lacks" I of course mean "the actualized potencies each has and the other altogether lacks.")

NoshPartitas said...

Scott,

Just venturing a guess at an answer. I understand that you're assuming they've both fully actualized their respective set of potencies.

Wouldn't the inability of "pure act" 1 to actualize O-Z in some way count as a limitation present in "pure act" 1 (like-wise for "pure act" 2's inability to actualize A-N)? That is, wouldn't this just imply that neither is really pure act, if there is some set of potencies which they cannot actualize?

In other words, it seems that this inability to actualize one or more potencies would entail that there is after all some additional potency in "pure act 1" which is not actualized (let's call it A').

Mr. Green said...

Scott: If that were possible, the two "pure acts" could be distinguished on the basis, not of their unactualized potencies, but of the potencies each has and the other altogether lacks. In that case neither would include any unactualized potencies.

But an always-actualised potency is still a potency; and if X or Y have some potencies, then they aren't Pure Act after all... they're some act plus some potencies. And if the factor in question is not a potency at all, then it would have to be some aspect of Pure Act, or an attribute of feature thereof — in other words, feature F would have to be entailed directly by being Pure Act, in which case X and Y would both have to have it, since they are both Pure Act.

So if X and Y have parts, then they are composites, and not Pure Anything; thus they each can have only one "part", which must differ between X and Y or they would be indiscernible. So if one of those is Pure Act, then the other one isn't.

We could approach it other ways too (such as essence and existence), but I think this gets at the question they way you asked it.

George R. said...

Scott writes:
"Again, what I'm asking is why there can't be two "pure acts" one of which actualizes factor F and the other of which doesn't have any potency for F at all."

Scott, I think the solution lies in that Pure Act must be literally Existence Itself, and I don't think EI can either lack anything or have any peers.

Brandon said...

Like FZ I'm having difficulty figuring out what is supposed to meant by 'pure act' in these arguments. 'Pure act' is a technical term, but I am very much inclined to conclude that it isn't being used in this way in the discussion.

If I might make a suggestion, perhaps the discussion needs to go back a level. It's not kosher to go about simply positing things as pure act; we only get to pure act by a specific argument requiring us to conclude to it. So the real question is, "What is the precise argument requiring talk of pure act in this context at all?"

Scott said...

@NoshPartitas:

"Wouldn't the inability of 'pure act' 1 to actualize O-Z in some way count as a limitation present in 'pure act' 1 (like-wise for "pure act" 2's inability to actualize A-N)?"

Sure. But the question is: why does a limitation count as an unactualized potency? The inability of a rubber ball to recite Shakespeare doesn't; the ball has no "potency" to do such a thing at all. So that limitation doesn't in and of itself tell us anything about whether the ball's potencies are being actualized, or even whether it has any "potencies" at all. The case of pure act must be different somehow.

@Mr. Green:

"But an always-actualised potency is still a potency; and if X or Y have some potencies, then they aren't Pure Act after all..."

Good point; agreed. This doesn't quite address the question of why a limitation is (or entails) an unactualized potency, but it does require a rephrasing of the question: why, in the case of pure act, would a limitation entail that the supposed pure act contained a potency at all (actualized or otherwise)?

"And if the factor in question is not a potency at all, then it would have to be some aspect of Pure Act, or an attribute of feature thereof — in other words, feature F would have to be entailed directly by being Pure Act, in which case X and Y would both have to have it, since they are both Pure Act."

Aha. Yes, this sounds promising. I think I'd agree that if a pure act (or anything else) had a feature F that was something other than a potency (actualized or not), it must have it by nature. That may be the missing piece.

@George R.:

"Scott, I think the solution lies in that Pure Act must be literally Existence Itself, and I don't think EI can either lack anything or have any peers."

I think something along those lines must be right as well. Something roughly similar was suggested in the post to which I earlier linked, namely that pure act doesn't allow for multiplicity (because multiplicity would entail potentiality; if there can be more than one of something, then it must have the potency, actualized or otherwise, to be multiplied).

Those explications seem to me to address Robert's suggestion (and dguller's reply) about the possibility of there being more than one pure act. They also address my own question and at least point me in the direction of some promising answers.

Thanks, all.

Robert said...

@Scott

With all respect to FZ's earlier attempt at explication, I think that what dguller is proposing is a version of a principle I also accept: the Identity of Indiscernibles—which, to put it in plain English, is the principle that two things that can't be in any way distinguished are really just one thing.

It's not a matter of whether we happen to be able to distinguish X and Y. It's a matter of whether there's any way in principle that X and Y could be distinguished, even (if you like) by God. If there isn't, then there are no X and Y in the first place—just X under two different names.

"I have two cats, though oddly enough they are identical in every respect including spatiotemporal location" = "I have one cat."


Just a have a few moments...

I do not disagree with what you are saying here and did not mean to convey such in my posting, I was referring to our own ability to discern.

However, this is actually irrelevant to what I was asking. My question is basically:

Why must "pure act" be limited to a singular entity?

I just can't see how this logically follows from the concept of "pure act" itself.

Scott said...

@Robert:

"Why must 'pure act' be limited to a singular entity?"

If you start reading the thread from the very next post after the one to which you've just replied, you'll find that my post and the replies to it (and mine in turn, and so forth) are an attempt to address that very question.

monk68 said...

Scott,

You seem to be honing in on what I would say near the end of your 3:34pm comment. Essentially, I would want to focus on the issue of contingency.

Firstly, a thing that exists in one way, but may exist in another way, clearly falls short of "pure" actuality; for it admits of at least one potency (existence in another way). Of course, our cosmos - so far as we know - seems to be a cosmos characterized by changeable being, and change entails a move from being in one way, to being in another way. So much for those things within reality of which we are aware – they cannot count as “pure” act in any sense, for they are always potentially able to “be” in a different way.

But to the hypothetical question – “might there be something (or more than one thing) in existence which cannot change or exist in any other way so as to count as an example of pure act?” – I would suggest that one might simply drop back a step and raise the broader question of contingency per se. Is there any reason - in principle – why a thing or things *must* exist? For if a thing exists, but not of necessity (i.e. it is contingent), then – considered in itself - it would seem to have the potential or capacity to fall out of existence - a most fundamental potency which would undermine the “purity” of its act.

But it is difficult to see what thing or things could – in principle - possibly exist in only one way *and* exist necessarily, except Existence itself: - something outside of, or beyond, every conceivable genus of thing or thing-ness. All that merely participates in existence would seem to be capable of either existing in a different way, or else not participating existence necessarily; both of which capacities (potentials) are contrary to “pure” act (for they infect the purity of “act” with, at minimum, the potency for non-existence).

ISTM that the only Reality which can fittingly be referred to as Actus Purus must be that Reality which cannot – in principle – exist in any other way, nor - in principle - fall out of existence. And the only Reality which would seem to meet this criteria – in principle – would be Existence simpliciter.

And Existence, being beyond all genus and thing-ness, can be said to be One, but only analogically. We can say *that* Existence “IS”, but we cannot say *what* Existence is. But in saying *that* Existence IS, we speak of Existence as if it were a singular (or worse a thing), for that is the best we can do conceptually with a Reality which is literally inconceivable. Nevertheless, if Existence is said to be one analogically, and Existence alone fulfills the theoretical criteria to warrant the title Actus Purus, then it follows that “pure act” can be said to be one also – at least analogically.

Pax

Alan said...

I share Scott’s initial conundrum, and would like to throw in a new word to cleave a few of the sparring entities: sustainment. What I gather from (a sorely scant reading of) Feser, act/potential (all the ‘stuff’ of the universe) is sustained by Pure Act. This is also echoed by my understanding of monk86’s comment. That said, there is nothing, hypothetically, to prevent two pure acts from sustaining their own sets of stuff. Continuing hypothetically, dark matter and dark energy could be sustained under a unique pure act.

Alan said...

ops - that should have been 'unique pure acts'

dguller said...

I think that the only way to demonstrate a unique pure act is to show that pure act is necessarily infinite. If pure act is infinite, then pure act necessarily contains all perfections without limit. If there were two pure acts, then one pure act would have a perfection that the other lacked, and thus only one would have infinite perfections, while the other would have finite perfections. Therefore, there would only be able to be one pure act.

TheOFloinn said...

Robert: Why must 'pure act' be limited to a singular entity?

Suppose there were two such entities. To be distinct, one must have an attribute or power not possessed by the other (or possessed in a greater or lesser degree). But then the other entity would be in potency to that attribute or power and would not be 'pure act,' a contradiction. Therefore, ther cannot be two entities that are purely actual. QED.

dguller said...

TOF:

That wouldn't work, though. Assume you have two different essences, E1 and E2. E1 is fully actualized with no potency left. E2 is fully actualized with no potency left. Therefore, E1 and E2 are each pure act, but are different.

One would have to show that if X is pure act, then X must (a) possess the totality of all perfections, and/or (b) be infinite.

Glenn said...

dguller,

Since your reasoning implies that--and only works if--'pure act' is a something which once had potentiality, but no longer does (due to that potentiality having been actualized), you haven't come anywhere near close to (rationally) countering TheOFloinn's lucid and correct reasoning.

Scott said...

@TheOFloinn:

"But then the other entity would be in potency to that attribute or power . . . "

Yes, that's the argument, but the question is why that's the case. A rubber ball isn't "in potency" to the power to recite Shakespeare; it has no such potency at all. So why is a pure act "in potency" to a power just because it lacks that power? In other words, why, specifically in the case of pure act, does a limitation imply an unactualized potency rather than just the absence of a potency altogether?

(By the way, off-topic, I'm quite enjoying Eifelheim.)

Scott said...

@monk68:

"ISTM that the only Reality which can fittingly be referred to as Actus Purus must be that Reality which cannot – in principle – exist in any other way, nor - in principle - fall out of existence. And the only Reality which would seem to meet this criteria – in principle – would be Existence simpliciter."

Thank you. That sounds right and I'm happy with it as a resolution of the general question as to why there can't be more than one pure act—and I may as well make clear again that I'm not disputing that there is just (analogically) one pure act.

However, I'm still trying to understand the un-spelled-out step in the argument at issue here: namely, that if one pure act has a power or attribute (or other feature) that another lacks, the latter is limited in a way that specifically entails that it contains an unactualized potency (rather than just no such potency whatsoever, as we would expect from a "pure act").

monk68 said...

Scott,

“if one pure act has a power or attribute (or other feature) that another lacks, the latter is limited in a way that specifically entails that it contains an unactualized potency (rather than just no such potency whatsoever, as we would expect from a "pure act").”

That is why I focused on the macro issue of contingency. If a thing cannot - of itself - explain or necessitate its own existence, then considered in itself, its existence - as the kind of thing it is (whatever kind of thing it is, with whatever potencies it has or has not) - then it would seem subject to the possibility of falling out of existence.

In short, anything less than necessary existence would entail the potential not to exist. That seems to be a universal potency which would be applicable to everything except Existence per se. In which case, everything except Existence itself falls short of "pure actuality" for the simple reason that everything except Existence itself has at least one potency - namely the potential not to exist. That, I would say, is the one unactualized potency that everything contains - other than Existence itself. In this way, Existence alone would warrant the title Actus Purus; and so pure act would be one, albeit analogically for the reasons I gave earlier.

Pax

Scott said...

@monk68:

"If a thing cannot - of itself - explain or necessitate its own existence, then considered in itself, its existence - as the kind of thing it is (whatever kind of thing it is, with whatever potencies it has or has not) - then it would seem subject to the possibility of falling out of existence.

In short, anything less than necessary existence would entail the potential not to exist."

Oh, believe me, I'm sold on that part: pure act can't have the potency not to exist (or it wouldn't be "pure act"), and the only plausible candidate for pure act is therefore just Existence per se, as anything else would have a potency not to exist. That fills in the gap in the argument as far as I'm concerned; it just seems to do so by a different route from the one taken by the original argument (in which any limitation on pure act is said to entail an unactualized potency).

I say "seems" advisedly, because that may just be the way it appears to me; perhaps your argument is equivalent to the limitation-implies-potency argument in a way that I'm just not seeing.

But that's not the main point at issue here, so I'd say let's let dead horses lie. I think we can take it that Robert's question about why there can't be more than one pure act has been addressed and answered.

Mr. Green said...

Scott: the only plausible candidate for pure act is therefore just Existence per se, as anything else would have a potency not to exist. That fills in the gap in the argument as far as I'm concerned; it just seems to do so by a different route from the one taken by the original argument (in which any limitation on pure act is said to entail an unactualized potency).

Dguller's point gets at that: anything that is limited has a form, something that makes it that kind of thing, a nature or essence that is this way and not that. But any form has the potential to be joined to an act of existence or not; hence Pure Act can only be unlimited, strictly super-natural. So there could be more than one thing that is fully actualized, but not purely actual, etc.

Scott said...

@Mr. Green:

"[A]nything that is limited has a form[.]"

Aha, yes, that sounds like the bit I was missing.

In that case the argument is not (as I mistook it) that a hypothetical "pure act" that is limited has an unactualized potency with respect to the attribute or power it lacks, but that, since it must have a form, it has an unactualized potency to exist (if it doesn't) or not to (if it does). And now we're back in monk68's territory.

Thank you.

dguller said...

Glenn:

Since your reasoning implies that--and only works if--'pure act' is a something which once had potentiality, but no longer does (due to that potentiality having been actualized), you haven't come anywhere near close to (rationally) countering TheOFloinn's lucid and correct reasoning.

No, no. Pure act is just something that has no admixture of act and potency, being purely actual. That is all that is necessary for the First Way. However, this is equivocal between an essence that is fully actualized without any potency (which would have been the case for the entirety of its existence), or an essence that is pure actuality itself. Either of these would work for the First Way.

And neither of these would explain why there could only be one pure act in either sense of “pure act”. In order to make that argument, one would have to first demonstrate that any pure act would necessarily either contain all perfections or be infinite and without any limitation. Those are the key premises that Aquinas uses to infer that there can only be one pure act.

dguller said...

Mr Green:

Dguller's point gets at that: anything that is limited has a form, something that makes it that kind of thing, a nature or essence that is this way and not that. But any form has the potential to be joined to an act of existence or not; hence Pure Act can only be unlimited, strictly super-natural. So there could be more than one thing that is fully actualized, but not purely actual, etc.

That’s close to my understanding.

From what I’ve read, for Aquinas “limitation” is intrinsically related to individuation and particularization. In other words, to say that X is limited means that that X was general and then became particular in some way.

For example, esse is limited by essence, because esse can be given to any essence in general, and once is it given to an essence, then that esse belongs to that essence, and to no other essence. Another example is how form is limited by matter, because a form is general until it is actualized in matter as a material entity, and that form is particularized in that specific “chunk” of matter.

On the basis of these examples, and some others, Aquinas infers a general principle: act is limited by potency. It is on the basis of this principle that Aquinas infers that pure act is infinite, because if pure act has no potency, then there is nothing that can limit it, and therefore, it is unlimited and infinite.

Now, if one assumes that there are two pure acts, then it follows that there are two infinite beings, because if X is pure act, then X is infinite. To say that there are two pure acts means that they must be distinguishable in some way, which can only occur if one being has a perfection that the other lacks. But lacking a perfection would be a limitation of some kind, and that would contradict the infinitude of a pure act. Therefore, there can only be one pure act.

Glenn said...

No, no. Pure act is just something that has no admixture of act and potency, being purely actual. That is all that is necessary for the First Way. However, this is equivocal between an essence that is fully actualized without any potency (which would have been the case for the entirety of its existence), or an essence that is pure actuality itself. Either of these would work for the First Way.

Except that neither of what you now describe was included in your earlier reasoning--indeed, your earlier reasoning necessarily excludes each of the two you now refer to.

dguller said...

Glenn:

Then I should have been clearer. Apologies.

Glenn said...

Okay, no problem.

Tony said...

If a thing cannot - of itself - explain or necessitate its own existence, then considered in itself, its existence - as the kind of thing it is (whatever kind of thing it is, with whatever potencies it has or has not) - then it would seem subject to the possibility of falling out of existence.

....In short, anything less than necessary existence would entail the potential not to exist."


Oh, believe me, I'm sold on that part: pure act can't have the potency not to exist

but that, since it must have a form, it has an unactualized potency to exist (if it doesn't) or not to (if it does).

Ummmmm. Please don't tell me that we are calling the kind of situation where a being might cease to exist is to be understood as a "potency" to cease to exist. Please?

Potency is a sort of incomplete being. If you have a "number line" of being, the 0 mark is "simple" non being, which is not being in any and every respect. At the far right end is "being" which is actual simply, such as an actual dog which really exists right now. In between, right of 0 but left of "actual dog" is a proto-dog which is becoming a dog but is still not quite "a dog" simply speaking - say, an bitch's egg which is right now undergoing fertilization but the process is still in process. It has potential to BE a dog, it bears a potency to the completed actuality.

Admittedly, everything that has been created could have been not created, and God could cease to hold it in being so it could cease to be - in which case it would be annihilated. But there is no way in which the condition "ceased to be" lies to the rightwards of any location on the being line. It isn't a potency properly speaking. A thing cannot have a potency to "cease to be" because by definition a potency constitutes a capacity for actualization, and "cease to be" isn't any sort of actualization at all.

Every created thing has a possibility to cease to be because of its limitations, but its limitations in this regard refer then to a limitation that is simply a lack without being oriented toward some actualization in itself. There is no such thing as a contingent creature whose nature inclines it towards being independent of the Creator, whose sort of being is oriented towards being "necessary" or not-potentially-subject-to-annihilation.

Being the sort of thing where existence is not our essence is not a potency towards something.

Anonymous said...

@Scott

@monk68:

"If a thing cannot - of itself - explain or necessitate its own existence, then considered in itself, its existence - as the kind of thing it is (whatever kind of thing it is, with whatever potencies it has or has not) - then it would seem subject to the possibility of falling out of existence.

In short, anything less than necessary existence would entail the potential not to exist."

Oh, believe me, I'm sold on that part: pure act can't have the potency not to exist (or it wouldn't be "pure act"), and the only plausible candidate for pure act is therefore just Existence per se, as anything else would have a potency not to exist. That fills in the gap in the argument as far as I'm concerned; it just seems to do so by a different route from the one taken by the original argument (in which any limitation on pure act is said to entail an unactualized potency).

I say "seems" advisedly, because that may just be the way it appears to me; perhaps your argument is equivalent to the limitation-implies-potency argument in a way that I'm just not seeing.

But that's not the main point at issue here, so I'd say let's let dead horses lie. I think we can take it that Robert's question about why there can't be more than one pure act has been addressed and answered.


Apart from the issue with the usage of the word existence and the way it is used in this argument. I would simply ask the following:

How, exactly, is it possible for gravity, per se and not simply the observed effect, to cease to exist, or even fail to exist for that matter?

grodrigues said...

@Anonymous:

"How, exactly, is it possible for gravity, per se and not simply the observed effect, to cease to exist, or even fail to exist for that matter?"

Rather what do you mean by saying that gravity exists "per se" and independently of the "observed effect"?

The GR field equations are (cosmological constant set to 0 and in geometrized units):

G = 8 pi T

where G is Einstein's tensor, which encodes the geometry of space-time, and T is the energy-momentum tensor, that encodes the *distribution of mass* throughout space-time. So once again, what the heck do you mean by gravity existing "per se" and independently of any "observed effect"? A Platonic Form living in the Platonic third-realm?

Anonymous said...

---


Historical Reality: Infanticide vs Abortion

http://occamsrazormag.wordpress.com/2013/06/08/historical-reality-infanticide-vs-abortion/



---

Scott said...

@Tony:

"Ummmmm. Please don't tell me that we are calling the kind of situation where a being might cease to exist is to be understood as a 'potency' to cease to exist. Please?"

First of all, I have to say that the tone of this reply is not what I'd expect in an answer to an honest question by a non-expert. But never mind that; on to the main point.

While Aquinas does say that no created thing has a real potency for non-existence, he nevertheless allows that there is a secondary sense in which it has a potency to exist in another way incompatible with the existence it actually has. So there does seem to me to be a perfectly sound way to cash out in Thomistic terms what monk68 calls the "potential not to exist."

Even if not, I think the main question at issue here can be (and has been) answered without reference to any such potency. As Mr. Green has put it: "[A]nything that is limited has a form . . . [and] any form has the potential to be joined to an act of existence or not." If limitation entails the possession of a form, and a form has a potency to be conjoined to existence, then nothing that is in any way limited can be a "pure act." Here we're referring only to the real potency for existence and not to the merely logical potency for non-existence.

Scott said...

Incidentally, the latter way of putting things also takes us straight to what I take to be monk68's essential point: that "pure act" must be such as to exist necessarily, for if it didn't, its actual existence would be the actualization of a potency.

But of course I'll let monk68 correct me if I'm mistaken about that.

Tony said...

Even if not, I think the main question at issue here can be (and has been) answered without reference to any such potency. As Mr. Green has put it: "[A]nything that is limited has a form . . . [and] any form has the potential to be joined to an act of existence or not." If limitation entails the possession of a form, and a form has a potency to be conjoined to existence, then nothing that is in any way limited can be a "pure act." Here we're referring only to the real potency for existence and not to the merely logical potency for non-existence.

Scott, I agree. Limitation, which is implied by form, is sufficient for the point.

he nevertheless allows that there is a secondary sense in which it has a potency to exist in another way incompatible with the existence it actually has.

Which sort of secondary sort of possibility is only in reference to some kinds of beings, and not all: an angel cannot have any sort of potential to exist in "another way incompatible with the existence it actually has" because an angel can be annihilated (in which case what is left afterwards is absolutely and utterly not being, not some other sort of being), but it cannot be made over into something else. I think his reference can only refer to material sorts of being.

Oh, and by the way, I had no intention of being snarky, I too am an amateur of sorts. I was only asking for a little more attention to detail.

Scott said...

@Tony:

"I think his reference can only refer to material sorts of being."

That's my understanding as well, and I believe he specifically refers only to "a created thing." But that would fit into the argument at issue here. We're trying to show that there can be only one "pure act," so if we could show that any hypothetical second example of "pure act" must in fact be a created thing (or a material thing), the argument would go through.

But I'm happy with the form the argument is in now: if there were two "pure acts," they would have to differ in some way, so one would have to have a limitation and therefore a form, and therefore must include some potency even if only the potency (perhaps actualized) to be joined to existence.

I had thought the argument was that the limitation entailed an unactualized potency specifically with respect to the attribute or power that was lacking, but my question on this point has been answered.

"Oh, and by the way, I had no intention of being snarky, I too am an amateur of sorts. I was only asking for a little more attention to detail."

Understood. No problem.

Robert said...

@grodriguez


So once again, what the heck do you mean by gravity existing "per se" and independently of any "observed effect"? A Platonic Form living in the Platonic third-realm?


By gravity per se, I mean gravity itself, the essence.

rank sophist said...

Robert,

By gravity per se, I mean gravity itself, the essence.

I'm jumping into this late, but I felt the need to respond to your point here. There is no essence of gravity. In fact, there is no such thing as gravity. Gravity is an inductive abstraction based on the recorded behavior of bodies in motion. It has no existence outside of these instances. The reification of gravity is a useful fiction that allows us to consider a specific element of bodies more universally, but it is ultimately just a method for describing the way that bodies interact.

Robert said...

@rank sophist


I'm jumping into this late, but I felt the need to respond to your point here. There is no essence of gravity. In fact, there is no such thing as gravity. Gravity is an inductive abstraction based on the recorded behavior of bodies in motion. It has no existence outside of these instances. The reification of gravity is a useful fiction that allows us to consider a specific element of bodies more universally, but it is ultimately just a method for describing the way that bodies interact.


You are referring to the effect of gravity and not gravity per se.

Anonymous said...

I think rank is arguing that there is no such thing as gravity per se or "gravity itself" when he says "Gravity is an inductive abstraction based on the recorded behavior of bodies in motion."

And this line "The reification of gravity is a useful fiction that allows us to consider a specific element of bodies more universally, but it is ultimately just a method for describing the way that bodies interact." might be an explanation as to why some physicists/philosophers (perhaps wrongly) think that gravity is something more than just a behavior of matter.

reighley said...

I do not think humanity has learned enough about physics to get this specific about the ontological status of something like gravity.

On the other hand, at this point in the discussion somebody usually brings up the principle of causality. So by way of setting up a straw man I might as well be the one :

The fact that the earth is falling toward the sun (though it might otherwise not have) is the actualization of a potency to fall. Something must have actualized it. Surely we are not going to blame the sun! It is so very far away!

If we call the particular thing which at that moment has deflected the earth a "gravitation", what is the status of the universal which all gravitations share in common and would there still be such if there were no particular gravitations?

Tony said...

what is the status of the universal which all gravitations share in common and would there still be such if there were no particular gravitations?

its status is like that of all such universals: conceptual only, not actual reality. Like that of unicorns, and triceratops, and woolly mammoths: things that could exist but don't. The universal exists in the mind as a pattern of the thing itself, but the pattern existing in the mind doesn't imply that the pattern exists independently of the mind, reified, as is obviously the situation for animal species that are now extinct even though we can think of them, and animals of a kind that has not yet come to be even though we can conceive of them.

And if that's the kind of existence Robert is talking about, gravity in conception only, then this whole discussion has been a waste of time.

grodrigues said...

@Robert:

"By gravity per se, I mean gravity itself, the essence."

Either you mean the concept as formed in our minds of Gravity by abstracting way all the details and keeping, well whatever it is that is left when in say, the GR field equations you drop G and T, in which case it is merely an idea in the mind, or you are making a substantial metaphysical claim that Gravity has extra-mental existence, independent of matter, space-time, etc. But then you have not offered the slightest shred of evidence to think that such a "thing" exists, so what exactly is your point?

Robert said...

@grodriguez


Either you mean the concept as formed in our minds of Gravity by abstracting way all the details and keeping, well whatever it is that is left when in say, the GR field equations you drop G and T, in which case it is merely an idea in the mind, or you are making a substantial metaphysical claim that Gravity has extra-mental existence, independent of matter, space-time, etc. But then you have not offered the slightest shred of evidence to think that such a "thing" exists, so what exactly is your point?


I am referring to the latter of your two options, the "substantial metaphysical claim".

The evidence for the existence of gravity is the observed effect of gravity.

However, I am referring to essence.


rank sophist said...

Robert, reighley et al.,

I was making a claim that is fairly uncontroversial within A-T, which is that gravity is a virtual property of substantial forms. It does not exist "in itself", because gravity "in itself" is a useful fiction. There is no such thing as the law of gravity: we have simply observed a virtual property that is present in many substantial forms and have reified it for the sake of scientific theorizing. Robert is operating under a Newton-era myth that there is such a thing as "gravity" which "causes" gravitation extrinsically in substances. In truth there is only intrinsic gravitation.

Robert said...

@rank sophist

I was making a claim that is fairly uncontroversial within A-T, which is that gravity is a virtual property of substantial forms. It does not exist "in itself", because gravity "in itself" is a useful fiction. There is no such thing as the law of gravity: we have simply observed a virtual property that is present in many substantial forms and have reified it for the sake of scientific theorizing. Robert is operating under a Newton-era myth that there is such a thing as "gravity" which "causes" gravitation extrinsically in substances. In truth there is only intrinsic gravitation.


You are incorrect in your assumption as to what presumption I am "operating under", irrelevant as it is. Once again I am not referring to the effect of gravity, nor am I referring to our description/conception/idea of/ or whatever, of it.

Anonymous said...

If Gravity has an essense then it can't be pure act, right? Didn't Aquinas show that the essence of pure act is identical to its existence?

Robert said...


If Gravity has an essense then it can't be pure act, right? Didn't Aquinas show that the essence of pure act is identical to its existence?


And now you can explain why the essence of gravity is not identical to its existence. I would say that it clearly is so. One can even glean this from the responses I have been receiving.

monk68 said...

For those discussing the ontology of gravitational force, I have found the following article ("What is Force?")quite helpful because of the author's ability to bring together both A-T natural science and modern emperiological science in addressing the question:

http://sdcojai.wordpress.com/263-2

FZ said...

I think Robert is arguing that something like gravitational forces should be considered purely actual under AT-metaphysics. But according to rank: "I was making a claim that is fairly uncontroversial within A-T, which is that gravity is a virtual property of substantial forms. It does not exist "in itself", because gravity "in itself" is a useful fiction. There is no such thing as the law of gravity: we have simply observed a virtual property that is present in many substantial forms and have reified it for the sake of scientific theorizing."

If I'm reading it right, rank IS talking about gravity itself, not the effect of gravity or the equations that describe it. And he is saying that (given AT metaphysics) "gravity itself" doesn't exist.

George R. said...

Robert writes:
"And now you can explain why the essence of gravity is not identical to its existence. I would say that it clearly is so. One can even glean this from the responses I have been receiving."

Robert, I'm afraid your thesis is not at all a serious one. To show exactly how unserious it is consider that subsistent intelligible forms are necessarily intelligent; for the intelligible form and the intellect are one. With this in mind, are you really willing to suggest that gravity is intelligent?

Robert said...

@George R.

Analogically yes. Actually, of course not.

One can say that gravity is "aware" of the position of each and every particle in the universe.

rank sophist said...

monk,

Nice link. He said what I'm trying to say in a much more concrete way.

FZ,

That is indeed what I'm saying. I don't think that Robert has any interest in understanding, though.

Robert said...

@rank sophist
That is indeed what I'm saying. I don't think that Robert has any interest in understanding, though.

On the contrary, I understand exactly what you are saying. I just find that the misunderstanding is on your part.

Maybe if you consider your position versus gravity with regards to the observed expansion of the universe.

FZ said...

Robert, how do you jump from "Gravity plays a role in the expansion of the universe," to "Gravity exists apart from matter."?

And we still haven't seen any links/citations. Until then, you haven't actually shown rank to be wrong. In fact, you need to address this claim as well:

"The reification of gravity is a useful fiction that allows us to consider a specific element of bodies more universally, but it is ultimately just a method for describing the way that bodies interact."

Why assume that cosmologist aren't commiting the reification fallacy?

Robert said...

@FZ

Robert, how do you jump from "Gravity plays a role in the expansion of the universe," to "Gravity exists apart from matter."?

And we still haven't seen any links/citations. Until then, you haven't actually shown rank to be wrong. In fact, you need to address this claim as well:

"The reification of gravity is a useful fiction that allows us to consider a specific element of bodies more universally, but it is ultimately just a method for describing the way that bodies interact."

Why assume that cosmologist aren't commiting the reification fallacy?


Because it may be that "Dark Energy" is repulsed by gravity, resulting in universal expansion.

FZ said...

Robert, what I said: "Gravity plays a role in the expansion of the universe." is basically the same thing you mention here: "Because it may be that "Dark Energy" is repulsed by gravity, resulting in universal expansion." We understand, gravity (along with dark matter/dark energy) plays a part in the expansion of the universe. Now, how do you go from that premise to "Gravity exists apart from matter."?

Robert said...

@FZ

Robert, what I said: "Gravity plays a role in the expansion of the universe." is basically the same thing you mention here: "Because it may be that "Dark Energy" is repulsed by gravity, resulting in universal expansion." We understand, gravity (along with dark matter/dark energy) plays a part in the expansion of the universe. Now, how do you go from that premise to "Gravity exists apart from matter."?

What role does matter play in the expansion of the universe, other than, through the effect of gravity, attempting to slow it (btw, not enough matter for that to happen, from what we can tell)?

That leaves the "dark stuff" and, of course, gravity.

The Deuce said...

Scott:

Why can't, for example, "pure act" 1 actualize A-N and "pure act" 2 actualize O-Z (as a rubber ball has the potency to roll but not to declaim "To be or not to be"), but 1 have no potencies for O-Z and 2 have no potencies for A-N?

One problem I see with this is that if Act 1 possesses potencies not possessed by Act 2, then Act 1 is composed of quantifiable distinct potencies. Hence Act 1 is composite, and hence cannot be Pure Act.

Glenn said...

If gravity is aware, then Spaldeens speak.

Gravity is aware. Ergo, Spaldeens speak.

1st Spaldeen to 2nd Spaldeen: If you could change your careen (sic), and be something other than a rubber spheroid, what would you be?

2nd Spaldeen: Oh, that's easy. I'd be an investigative journalist.

1st Spaldeen: Interesting choice. Why that?

2nd Spaldeen: I've notice that whenever I'm placed on an incline, I tend to roll down, so I figure I like getting to the bottom of things. How 'bout you?

1st Spaldeen: Me? I'd be a clarifying notion.

2nd Spaldeen: Huh? Why the heck would you wanna to be something like that?

1st Spaldeen: Well, I'd want to make use of my prior experience. And I'm really good at bouncing off.

FZ said...

Let's back up for a sec. Gravity does not repel, it's always attractive:

http://csep10.phys.utk.edu/astr162/lect/cosmology/forces.html

Dark energy is thought to act in opposition gravity:

http://science.nasa.gov/astrophysics/focus-areas/what-is-dark-energy/

Where are you getting this from: "Because it may be that "Dark Energy" is repulsed by gravity"?

Robert said...

@FZ


Let's back up for a sec. Gravity does not repel, it's always attractive:


The effect of gravity on matter is attractive. The effect of gravity on "dark energy" is repulsive.

Both instances are contingent upon the existence of gravity itself.

That last part is the bit that must be dealt with.

FZ said...

"The effect of gravity on "dark energy" is repulsive."

Citation?

FZ said...

And again, you are making a logical jump here:

"1) The effect of gravity on matter is attractive. The effect of gravity on "dark energy" is repulsive.

2) Both instances are contingent upon the existence of gravity itself."

Explain how you go from 1 to 2.

grodrigues said...

@Robert:

"I am referring to the latter of your two options, the "substantial metaphysical claim"."

Argument, please?

Scott said...

@The Deuce:

"One problem I see with this is that if Act 1 possesses potencies not possessed by Act 2, then Act 1 is composed of quantifiable distinct potencies. Hence Act 1 is composite, and hence cannot be Pure Act."

That's an excellent point. I think it's implicit in a couple of the earlier replies but you're the first to state it explicitly. Thank you.

reighley said...

@rank sophist,

"In truth there is only intrinsic gravitation."

I will admit that I am committing a reification, but I'm not clear on why it must be a fallacy. If you don't mind me taking your ontological temperature : I am trying to tease answers to the following questions out of your position.

(1) We see that a thing "fall". What is the efficient cause of this motion?

(2) I take the core of Einstein's argument to be that if light appears to every observer to travel at a constant speed (which seems to be the case) and if the efficient cause is permitted to be a great distance from its effect then it follows that efficient cause may be subsequent in time to its effect. What do you make of that dilemma? Are efficient causes always local? or do efficient causes sometimes propagate backward in time? or is Einstein wrong about either light or space? Other options include the possibility that our notion of "efficient cause" is not everywhere applicable, or that I am getting my physics wrong.

(3) We might make an analogy between gravitation and electro-magnetic forces. We observe that in the case of electromagnetism these forces give rise to the phenomenon of light. Do you take the position, analogous to your position on gravitation, that light would not exist if there was nothing to be illuminated? Even if there were something which in other circumstances we would say was luminous?

Robert said...

@grodriguez

Argument, please?


The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion.

You know the rest. Like I said a while ago, in this same thread. If Aristotle had been sitting under an apple tree when he penned his Metaphysics, we might be calling him the father of gravity.

grodrigues said...

@Robert:

"The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion."

Sorry, but you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.

Robert said...

@grodriguez

If the following is true, than my position stands. (Of course, if the view held by rank sophist is correct, then the following is false.)


But nothing can be moved from a state of potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality... it is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved i.e. that it should move itself.

rank sophist said...

reighley,

We see that a thing "fall". What is the efficient cause of this motion?

There are a couple of possible answers to this question. In the case of a ball being thrown and then gradually falling to the ground, the cause of the falling is either the earth or the intrinsic nature of the ball. I'm a bit vague on this myself. The cause certainly is not "gravity", though, since this would make absolutely no sense from an A-T point of view.

I take the core of Einstein's argument to be that if light appears to every observer to travel at a constant speed (which seems to be the case) and if the efficient cause is permitted to be a great distance from its effect then it follows that efficient cause may be subsequent in time to its effect. What do you make of that dilemma?

That it appears to be subsequent does not entail that it really is subsequent. All this demonstrates is that we may not understand an efficient cause until a significant amount of time after its effect. At least, that's my take: you'd have to ask someone more versed in the relevant science to give you a better answer.

We might make an analogy between gravitation and electro-magnetic forces. We observe that in the case of electromagnetism these forces give rise to the phenomenon of light. Do you take the position, analogous to your position on gravitation, that light would not exist if there was nothing to be illuminated? Even if there were something which in other circumstances we would say was luminous?

Light would not exist unless it inhered in a substance, just as gravity would not exist unless it inhered in a substance. But light and gravity could both exist even if only one substance in the universe existed and possessed those attributes. Something has to exist to cast light or to provide gravity.

FZ said...

Robert, here's the First Way split into premises:

http://branemrys.blogspot.com/2004/11/aquinass-first-way.html

Which premise does rank contradict, and why?

And also note, you still haven't provided any coherent argument in order to support your claim, that gravity somehow exists independent of the matter that exerts it. Only some vague appeals to inflationary cosmology, which doesn't help your case. An inflating universe is full of matter. Matter that attracts other matter. There's no need to postulate "gravity itself."

FZ said...

Also, the First Way concludes that there is pure actuality. It does not say anything about what pure act is. Aquinas provides further arguments in that regard. On its own, the first way doesn't show that pure act is God or gravity.

reighley said...

@rank sophist,

"the cause of the falling is either the earth or the intrinsic nature of the ball."

It has to be the earth doesn't it, in an A-T framework? "Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another."

"That it appears to be subsequent does not entail that it really is subsequent."

That's fair. The position is going to cause you all kinds of pain if you try to build a science around it, but that isn't at issue here. It is how you are determining what "really is" vs. what is simply a a misplaced concretization that baffles me. Space and time "appear" to be substances, in so far as they "appear" to transmit motion and to take on forms. This behavior might "appear" to involve a boson of some kind that will travel in a straight line and have a momentum just like Newton said that substances do. So there is an argument to say that, seeing the action, and unable to find any other efficient cause in our light cone, gravity "appears" to involve a substance. Why should I not accept that things are as the appear?

"Something has to exist to cast light or to provide gravity."

But not to reflect the light or to fall?

rank sophist said...

reighley,

It has to be the earth doesn't it, in an A-T framework? "Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another."

Not necessarily. The cause of motion is teleology. An efficient cause is what "effects" that motion. The First Way is an argument from final rather than efficient causality.

Now that I think about it, though, it would be the earth. The ball's impetus to move downward is part of its intrinsic teleology, but, since the ball is not a self-mover, it would require the earth to put this into effect.

It is how you are determining what "really is" vs. what is simply a a misplaced concretization that baffles me. Space and time "appear" to be substances, in so far as they "appear" to transmit motion and to take on forms.

How could anyone possibly say that space and time are substances? You're free to reject Aristotle's theory of substance in favor of a mechanistic and law-based view, but to suggest that space and time are substances is to admit that you don't understand what a substance is. A substance is a concrete and particularized entity composed either of form and matter or of pure form. It cannot have the universal character of abstractions like "space", "time" or even "gravity".

Why should I not accept that things are as the appear?

What I said was that a cause could appear to be after its effect without really being after its effect. The reason is simple logic. An effect without a cause is a logical contradiction, and thus it cannot exist. Any suggestion that a cause came after its effect must only be apparent rather than real, by necessity. Your attempt at a reductio was an appeal to a misunderstanding of substance and to empirical data, neither of which has the demonstrative power of the argument I made.

But not to reflect the light or to fall?

I don't see why this would be necessary.

Tony said...

Guys, Robert has been having us on all along.** If you go back, comment by comment, you see that he has never, not even a little, provided any substantive argument that supports his thesis. All he does is keep POSITING notions as if they were true and evident and supporting merely because he states them. He keeps adding new things to get distracted about (gravity "itself"! dark matter! Repulsion! Analogical awareness!) But of course he never bothers to actually deal with the points others are making, not really. Because he is having us on, people, hoping we don't notice things like: you can't defend a thesis with another hypothesis (dark matter is hypothesis, not fact). Nor that you can't defend a thesis by falling back on "the essence" of gravity when that essence unknown and for practical purposes unknowable - the gravity of which even the scientists who claim to study it don't know "what it is" properly, since they cannot make their theories resolve with it. He is making hay out of sheer elusiveness. He could have chosen anything similarly elusive: Time itself! Awareness itself! Whatness as such! Identity in essence! One-ness!

reighley said...

@rank sophist,

"What I said was that a cause could appear to be after its effect without really being after its effect. The reason is simple logic."

So the ball moves, apparently on its own (the earth being far away). There appears to be a contradiction. Since I know that there can be no contradiction in fact I conclude one of two possible things. (a) the difficulties in measurement caused by the finite speed of all signals only an illusion or (b) the apparent cause is not the real one.

In either cases we are forced to admit that there is something real that we are having trouble seeing. In one case an absolute clock, and in the other case a "graviton" or something. I understand the argument that it must be one of the two. I do not understand why you have made the choice you have.

"A substance is a concrete and particularized entity composed either of form and matter or of pure form. It cannot have the universal character of abstractions like "space", "time" or even "gravity"."

I did not intend to refer to space and time in the abstract. In that sense "water" is not a substance either. I mean a particular interval of time or region of space. Space can take different forms. So a region of space is composed of a [blank] and a form. What can fill in the blank if not matter? Certainly not matter in the way that physics uses the term, but perhaps matter in the sense that Aristotle is using it.

Robert said...

@FZ


Which premise does rank contradict, and why?


If rank is correct, then the premise I bolded is false. Let's consider it again:


"But nothing can be moved from a state of potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality... it is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved i.e. that it should move itself."


What moves a star from potentiality to actuality? If rank is correct, then the star, for example, moves itself from potentially a star to actually a star, therefore possible in the same respect and in the same way for a thing to be both mover and moved.

If I am correct than gravity actualises the star and the premise is preserved.


And also note, you still haven't provided any coherent argument in order to support your claim, that gravity somehow exists independent of the matter that exerts it. Only some vague appeals to inflationary cosmology, which doesn't help your case. An inflating universe is full of matter. Matter that attracts other matter. There's no need to postulate "gravity itself."


And you continue to miss the point that gravity is not a thing, (you can't hold a piece of it, it is only appreciable through effect), but without it, without the essense of gravity (gravity itself), there could be no thing as there could be no move from potentially a thing, such as a star, to actually a thing, such as a star.

(Here is an easy to follow discussion of inflation, if you are interested.)
http://www.edge.org/conversation/the-inflationary-universe-alan-guth

Tony said...

Robert, one could say the same about matter, and form, and space, and time, and causality, and logic, and distinction, and...a whole host of other "things". Oh, yes, without the essence of time, time itself, there could be no move from potentially a Robert to actually a Robert. It's a silly word game you are playing, with no more concrete meaning than playing black jack.

Robert said...

@Tony


Robert, one could say the same about matter, and form, and space, and time, and causality, and logic, and distinction, and...a whole host of other "things". Oh, yes, without the essence of time, time itself, there could be no move from potentially a Robert to actually a Robert. It's a silly word game you are playing, with no more concrete meaning than playing black jack.


Sure, one could say that it is a silly word game. Though this is kind of the nature of the metaphysical beast, as it were. Are you a strict materialist?

FZ said...

Stars start out as gas/dust clouds in space. Matter attracts other matter, and as the mass clumps, its gravitational pull increases. The mass eventually gets denser and hotter. We can simply say that the gravitational pull of the matter actualizes a dust/particle cloud's potency to become a star. It's simple matter moves other matter, no need to refer the essence of gravity apart from matter.

http://www.howstuffworks.com/how-are-stars-formed.htm

Also, what do you make of this?

"The basic idea behind inflation is that a repulsive form of gravity caused the universe to expand. General relativity from its inception predicted the possibility of repulsive gravity; in the context of general relativity you basically need a material with a negative pressure to create repulsive gravity. According to general relativity it's not just matter densities or energy densities that create gravitational fields; it's also pressures. A positive pressure creates a normal attractive gravitational field of the kind that we're accustomed to, but a negative pressure would create a repulsive kind of gravity. It also turns out that according to modern particle theories, materials with a negative pressure are easy to construct out of fields which exist according to these theories. By putting together these two ideas — the fact that particle physics gives us states with negative pressures, and that general relativity tells us that those states cause a gravitational repulsion — we reach the origin of the inflationary theory."

Nothing about "gravity itself" here.

Also, we are not saying that gravity is a thing. It you who is claiming this, saying that gravity has an "essence." We are saying that it is a behavior of matter. If you have a mass, you will observe gravitational attraction. If there is no mass, there is no gravity. You don't need gravity itself for stars to form, all you need is matter that attracts other matter.

Robert said...

@FZ

Also, we are not saying that gravity is a thing. It you who is claiming this, saying that gravity has an "essence." We are saying that it is a behavior of matter. If you have a mass, you will observe gravitational attraction. If there is no mass, there is no gravity. You don't need gravity itself for stars to form, all you need is matter that attracts other matter.

Of course, if this is true then,

it is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved

is false.

Do you believe that essence requires "thingness"?

Robert said...

@FZ

Nothing about "gravity itself" here.

Why would you expect there to be? Guth is not doing metaphysics.

FZ said...

In the premise before that one, Aquinas states that something cannot be both potential and actual in the same aspect. For example, a mass cannot potentially have kinetic energy and actually have kinetic energy at the same time, it only one or the other. In this case, a mass cannot be potentially attracted and actually attracted at the same time. Therefore, it requires something other than itself, such as another, separate mass. Mass A attracts mass B and vice versa. Mass A can't "pull itself on its own," it needs mass B. Thus, "it is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved” is fine in the case of gravitational attraction between masses.

FZ said...

"Why would you expect there to be? Guth is not doing metaphysics."

True, but then why bring up inflationary theory at all?

Robert said...

@FZ

In the premise before that one, Aquinas states that something cannot be both potential and actual in the same aspect. For example, a mass cannot potentially have kinetic energy and actually have kinetic energy at the same time, it only one or the other. In this case, a mass cannot be potentially attracted and actually attracted at the same time. Therefore, it requires something other than itself, such as another, separate mass. Mass A attracts mass B and vice versa. Mass A can't "pull itself on its own," it needs mass B. Thus, "it is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved” is fine in the case of gravitational attraction between masses.

Cool.

So what is the cause? Why do they move at all?

Are you claiming a brute fact?

(June 6, 2013 at 1:35 AM)

Tony said...

And you continue to miss the point that gravity is not a thing, (you can't hold a piece of it, it is only appreciable through effect), but without it, without the essense of gravity (gravity itself), there could be no thing as there could be no move from potentially a thing, such as a star, to actually a thing, such as a star.

Do you believe that essence requires "thingness"?

Sure, one could say that it is a silly word game. Though this is kind of the nature of the metaphysical beast, as it were.


Those who are attempting to do metaphysics around these here parts generally try to avoid equivocations, and should at least correct themselves when the equivocations are pointed out to them. After repeated clarifications that gravity to the extent that it exists is not the sort of thing that can "exist" without a universe or any matter because whatever we mean by the term we mean something whose reality is IN RELATION TO things that have mass. Whatever its "essence" is, it relies on a relation, all you do is ignore the clarifications and continue to pretend that your special, hidden, esoteric meaning of the word doesn't rely on "thingness" but also doesn't rely on relation to things doesn't involve equivocation. If you mean by the word gravity something different from what everyone else in the world of science and philosophy means, you're just playing word games. If you DO mean something whose "essence" relies on relation to things, your point was answered and defeated and washed out to sea ages ago.

Robert said...

@Tony


Those who are attempting to do metaphysics around these here parts generally try to avoid equivocations, and should at least correct themselves when the equivocations are pointed out to them. After repeated clarifications that gravity to the extent that it exists is not the sort of thing that can "exist" without a universe or any matter because whatever we mean by the term we mean something whose reality is IN RELATION TO things that have mass.
Whatever its "essence" is, it relies on a relation, all you do is ignore the clarifications and continue to pretend that your special, hidden, esoteric meaning of the word doesn't rely on "thingness" but also doesn't rely on relation to things doesn't involve equivocation. If you mean by the word gravity something different from what everyone else in the world of science and philosophy means, you're just playing word games. If you DO mean something whose "essence" relies on relation to things, your point was answered and defeated and washed out to sea ages ago.


No equivocation on my part. When I asked the question about "thingness" I was referring to material stuff.

And, of course, I disagree with your assertion that "whatever we mean by the term we mean something whose reality is IN RELATION TO things that have mass", as that is exactly NOT what I mean by the term in the context of this discussion, as I have repeated... ad nauseum.

For example, when a physicist hypothesizes that gravity separated from the unified force at 10 ^ -43 seconds following the big bang, does your somewhat arbitrary definition make any sense at all in this particular context?

FZ said...

What brute fact? The how can be explained in regards to the formal/final cause/etc of matter and the how can be explained by something like General Relativity or gravitons.

"For example, when a physicist hypothesizes that gravity separated from the unified force at 10 ^ -43 seconds following the big bang, does your somewhat arbitrary definition make any sense at all in this particular context?"

Or we could just say that initial conditions/changes in the extreme temperatures caused matter to behave differently than it does today. Decreases in the temperature caused one behavior of matter to be replaced by two, and so on.

Again, you need to flesh out an argument:

1) The four fundamental forces where once unified into one force.
2) ???
3) Therefore, gravity itself exists, apart from matter.

Because 1 on it's own does not lead to 3.

FZ said...

Edit, the first sentence should be this:

"What brute fact? The why can be explained in regards to the formal/final cause/etc of matter and the how can be explained by something like General Relativity or gravitons."

Tony said...

For example, when a physicist hypothesizes that gravity separated from the unified force at 10 ^ -43 seconds following the big bang, does your somewhat arbitrary definition make any sense at all in this particular context?

The question answers itself, of course: Gravity "separated from" the unified force - which is already metaphorical language for what physicists actually mean - constitutes a description (under the Grand Unification theory) dependent on the conditions OF STUFF that existed at that time after the big bang, the conditions relating especially to temperature:

As the universe expands and cools, it crosses transition temperatures at which forces separate from each other. These are phase transitions much like condensation and freezing. The grand unification epoch begins when gravitation separates from the other forces of nature, which are collectively known as gauge forces.
(Wiki)


And, of course, temperature perforce refers to the temperature OF something. There had to be material reality of such a nature as to exhibit temperature, and to exhibit mass-like relationships in order for gravity to "separate out". There was "something there" for gravity to bear upon when it separated out.

Of course, the whole description for this Planck epoch is speculative:

All ideas concerning the very early universe (cosmogony) are speculative. No accelerator experiments have yet probed energies of sufficient magnitude to provide any experimental insight into the behavior of matter at the energy levels that prevailed during this period. Proposed scenarios differ radically. Some examples are the Hartle–Hawking initial state, string landscape, brane inflation, string gas cosmology, and the ekpyrotic universe. Some of these are mutually compatible, while others are not. (Wiki again)

You gotta wonder about someone who cannot argue without bringing in yet another hypothesis at every response.