Sunday, January 12, 2014

Does existence exist?


Existence exists.

Ayn Rand

Existence does not exist.

Cardinal Cajetan

Both Rand’s statement and Cajetan’s sound very odd at first blush.  What does it mean to say that existence exists?  Isn’t that like saying that stoneness is a stone or humanness is a human being, neither of which is true?  On the other hand, what does it mean to say that existence does not exist?  Isn’t that like saying that there is nothing that exists, which is also manifestly false?  Yet how could both of these statements be false?

Suppose we interpreted them as the contraries “All existing things exist” and “No existing things exist.”  In that case, they could both be false if we supposed that there are at least some existing things that exist and some that do not exist.  But “Some existing things do not exist” is self-contradictory, and indeed “No existing things exist” seems no less so.  Moreover, “All existing things exist” itself seems as obviously true as a statement could be.  But it is also trivially true, a mere tautology.  And in any event, surely Cajetan did not mean to be uttering an obvious falsehood, nor Rand a trivial truth.  So, at second blush the statements might continue to seem very odd. 

Let’s try third blush.  Suppose we read “exists” in Fregean terms, as captured by the existential quantifier.  Then both statements come out as ill-formed formulae, complete gibberish.  Rand’s statement comes out as something like “There is an x such that there is an x such that…” and Cajetan’s as something like “It is not the case that there is an x such that there is an x such that…”  This would be to read Rand and Cajetan the way Anthony Kenny reads Aquinas in his book Aquinas on Being, and it is about as fair a reading of them as Kenny’s is of Aquinas -- which, as Gyula Klima pointed out, is not fair at all. 

Fourth blush is the charm.  In fact what each writer meant is perfectly intelligible when their statements are understood in context.  Rand’s remark is from her book Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology.  As Wallace Matson remarks in his essay “Rand on Concepts” in Douglas Den Uyl and Douglas Rasmussen’s anthology The Philosophic Thought of Ayn Rand, “I take her to mean by this that there are things independent of our thinking about them” (p. 23).  Rand takes this to be “axiomatic” in the sense that while it cannot be directly proved neither can it coherently be denied.  Why not?  Den Uyl and Rasmussen explore the theme in their own essay in the volume, “Ayn Rand’s Realism,” in which they note that for Rand since consciousness is always of or directed at an object, it is self-evident that something exists -- namely (as Rand states in the Foreword to the book) the object of one’s consciousness and oneself as the subject of consciousness.

Naturally one can raise questions about this.  Granted that the object of one’s consciousness exists qua object -- i.e. “intentionally” -- it doesn’t follow that it exists in mind-independent reality.  (A hallucinated tree certainly “exists,” but only qua hallucination, not qua material object.)  Granted that there is consciousness, a Lichtenberg or a Hume would still question -- not plausibly, but they would question -- whether there is an abiding self to serve as the subject of consciousness.  But even in this case Rand would arguably still have something that cannot coherently be denied, namely the existence at least of consciousness qua intentional.  More to the present point, “Existence exists,” understood merely as a claim to the effect that the existence of something or other cannot coherently be denied, is certainly intelligible.  But what does that tell us about mind-independent reality?

That brings us to Cajetan’s statement.  Jacques Maritain cites it at p. 20 of his A Preface to Metaphysics, when commenting on Cajetan’s commentary on Aquinas’s On Being and Essence.  Aquinas famously argues in that work that there is a real distinction between the essence of a thing (what it is) and its existence (that it is).  When you perceive a tree what you perceive is being as confined, as it were, within that particular essence, the essence of that tree.  The intellect goes on to abstract the universal pattern treeness, and also to consider being as such.  But just as treeness in the abstract is different from the essence of this particular individual tree, so too is being as such, considered in the abstract or merely conceptually, different from the existence (or “act of existing”) of this particular individual tree.

Now as I read Maritain reading Cajetan, what the thesis that “Existence does not exist” comes to is simply the point that existence considered in the abstract by the intellect or conceptually is not the same thing as the actual existence of a concrete, mind-independent object.  And that is surely correct.  The point of making the point, for Maritain anyway, is (again, as I read him) to emphasize the distinction between Thomism and the Leibnizian sort of rationalism that holds that the order of mind-independent reality can be read off from the order of concepts.  This is, for the Thomist, one reason (not the only one) for insisting on the real distinction between essence and existence.  To deny the real distinction tends either to collapse essence into existence or collapse existence into essence.  Leibnizian rationalism tends in the latter direction -- collapsing existence into essence, where essences in turn collapse into concepts, which are essentially mind-dependent -- and this in turn tends in just the sort of idealist direction that was, historically, the sequel to rationalism as it gave way to Kantianism, Hegelianism, and the like. 

And as it happens, Rand, according to Den Uyl and Rasmussen (on p. 5 of the essay cited above), would, given her thesis that “Existence exists,” deny the Thomistic doctrine of the real distinction.  The idea is that to know the essence or “what-ness” of a thing is to know that it exists, and no further explanation of its existence is needed.  Hence (so the line of thought seems to go) if I know, just from consciousness of such-and-such, what such-and-such is, then ipso facto I know the existence of such-and-such.  Hence if I cannot coherently deny consciousness of such-and-such, then I cannot coherently deny that “Existence exists.”  Or, again, so the argument seems to go. 

(Note that this would also help explain Rand’s atheism: If the existence of a contingent thing is not really distinct from its essence, so that existence needn’t be added to the essence of a thing in order for the thing to be actual, then the sort of argument Aquinas gives in On Being and Essence for the existence of God -- understood as ipsum esse subsistens or subsistent being itself -- as the source of the very existence of things, is blocked.)

If this is Rand’s view then she is definitely in conflict with Cajetan and other Thomists, just as the statements from them quoted at the beginning suggests (though for reasons much more complicated than the two statements considered in isolation would suggest).  For she seems at least implicitly committed to the view that the order of mind-independent reality can be read off from the order of concepts.  How can they differ so radically given that Rand on the one hand and Cajetan and other Thomists on the other are all Aristotelians?  Den Uyl and Rasmussen give us a clue when they tell us (p. 5) that Rand’s Aristotelianism is much like that of William of Ockham, who also denied the real distinction.  And Ockham, of course, is for Thomists the man who perhaps more than any other set in motion the disintegration of the Aristotelian-Scholastic tradition.

The irony is that Rand apparently adopted a position that in fact tends toward idealism in the course of trying to defend a realist metaphysics opposed to idealism.  But then, as Pius X could have told her, we “cannot set St. Thomas aside, especially in metaphysical questions, without grave detriment.”

202 comments:

1 – 200 of 202   Newer›   Newest»
Douglas said...

I like the basic Frege idea that existence is the property of being an object, but I don't think 'existence exists' is gibberish. Suppose we have a two category ontology of properties and objects, with no overlap between them. And suppose existence is the property of being an object. Then 'Existence exists' is false, since existence is a property, not an object. Suppose, by contrast, that we have a one category ontology of objects, where concrete things and abstract things divide that category into two non-overlapping subcategories. In that case, 'existence exists' is true, since existence is, on that ontology, an object. Philosophers inspired by Frege can disagree about which, if either, of the two ontologies mentioned is true. Perhaps some old fashioned Fregeans would hold that 'existence exists' is gibberish (Dummett, Kenny), but I think many who hold Frege-like views of existence would say it is meaningful and either true or false.

Gene Callahan said...

I think Berkeley solved this: things exist independently of *our* minds. The do not exist independently of the mind of God.

rank sophist said...

Interesting post. I was a bit disappointed to see Prof. Feser miss the chance to mock Rand, though. Whenever I see an intelligent and credentialed philosopher mention Rand in their first paragraph, I get ready to laugh--and occasionally to gape at the sheer idiocy that Rand spewed so often. It really adds spice.

Neil Parille said...

Bill Vallicella also discussed Rand and "existence exists."

http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2011/05/ayn-rand-on-existence-exists.html

ahmad saku said...

nice article I am subjective idealist following Bishop Berkeley , I hope you keep exposing objectivism because it is a cult not a philosophy

Vincent Torley said...

Hi Ed,

Thanks for an interesting post. I would put it to you that if we need to invoke a real distinction in order to explain the fact that I can know what a Thylacine (Tasmanian tiger) is, without knowing whether one actually exists [the last known one died on a zoo in 1936], the distinction in question would not be an essence-existence distinction, but a form-matter distinction. Whenever I grasp the concept of a Thylacine, my intellect receives its substantial form, abstracted from the matter of any particular entity that happens to instantiate the form in question. Because my intellect receives a form abstracted from matter, it cannot know, simply by understanding what this form is, whether or not anything exists in Nature which possesses this form. That alone is enough to explain how I can know what a thing is, without knowing whether it exists. There is no need to postulate an additional distinction between a thing's essence and its act of existence.

By the way, you might find this article by Professor Jerry Coyne to be of interest:

http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2014/01/13/unequivocal-evidence-for-god-i-dont-think-so/

Eduardo said...

Really VIncent what kind of crap could Coyne add... ow I like the combox, all really freaking smart comments olly crap hahahhahahah as Coyne said, let's pay them no heed they fail and we know it

Eduardo said...

So for Coyne falsificationism is the only way to know if something is true...

SO apparently is his epistemology or you are out of the discussion... Thank G*d to be out of the conversation with that buffoon XD.

Neil Parille said...

Ed,

I'd be interested in your opinion of Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. It's unique among Rand's writings in that it is a book-length discussion of a topic. Her admirers consider it her greatest achievement.

Scott said...

@Vincent Torley:

"[T]he distinction in question would not be an essence-existence distinction, but a form-matter distinction."

These aren't mutually exclusive. For Aristotle, "form" and essence" are either synonymous or near enough that the difference doesn't matter in this context, and an act of existence is what joins the form to matter.

For Aquinas, though, we have the first distinction without the second in the case of angels, which are immaterial substances.

So, Thomistically speaking, wherever we have a form-matter distinction, we also have an essence-existence distinction, but the latter is a bit more general since we can have it without the former.

DNW said...


Probably premature to refer to a work I've just purchased; before having fully read much less digested it, but Gilson's "Being and Some Philosophers" is turning out to be a pretty good read.

For those of us less metaphysically minded in the scholastic sense, and who are used to thinking of the "question of being" in terms of matters of valid predication, Randian realism, or maybe even Heidegg-arian phenomenology, it offers a comprehensible account of the intersection of the operation of the idea of concepts with the notion of existence. It's somewhat reassuring in that respect - to find that the notions of the scholastics were not quite as unintelligible as they seemed. [I had "Metaphysics" in school, taught by a Jesuit in fact. And although fascinated by the sophisticated apparatus of distinctions, could never quite clearly visualize what they represented or how they operated.]

The book also has a pretty striking review, or account, of the concepts and interplay of essence and existence. Enjoyed Gilson's wryly tolerant, almost benevolent remarks on some of the naturally, or invariably occurring, but ultimately wrongheaded ways of thinking about "essences" as well. Ways which, now that I reflect on it, were just how we were taught to envision them in classes on the history of philosophy. That is to say, as a kind of a ghostly supernal wire diagram, awaiting birth in matter ...



If professor Feser, or anyone else, has any insights offer one who is currently reading this particular text, I'd be interested in hearing them.

rank sophist said...

Vincent,

There is no need to postulate an additional distinction between a thing's essence and its act of existence.

Real Essentialism, page 125:

I said that the real distinction between essence and existence has important philosophical consequences, so I will briefly mention two. First, in epistemology, if we collapse essence as a metaphysical constituent of being into the existence of the concretely existing thing, we exclude the possibility of intellectual judgment altogether. All knowledge begins with our acquaintance with concrete particulars, but if we are to ascend from mere knowledge of things as this thing or that thing, we have to form judgments based on the abstraction of the universal from the particular. This we do by means of our knowledge of form, beginning with substantial form, hence with essence. But if essence just is existence, or even has existence as a part, we cannot so abstract and so cannot have knowledge (beyond that of bare demonstrative knowledge, which is arguably not even a kind of knowledge at all, but mere acquaintance). We are forced either into a radical and barely coherent empiricism or else into some kind of idealism that denies all epistemic access to mind-independent reality.

monk68 said...

DNW,

I will say that the book you are reading is, in my estimation, Gilson's most profound work. An all time favorite.

Vincent Torley said...

Hi rank sophist,

Thanks very much for the quote. However, I don't see that it undermines my position. I'm not saying that essence equals the existence of a concrete thing; I'm saying that existence of a concrete thing is the material realization (here and now) of its form or essence. [Technically speaking, of course, essence is form plus common matter, as opposed to the signate matter found in this or that object; but we'll leave that for now.] Thus essence does not contain existence; rather, existence contains essence.

What I am opposed to is the notion that a concrete thing is composed of (form plus matter) PLUS existence. That seems redundant, to my mind.

Hi Scott,

You came up with an interesting counter-example: angels, who are all form and nothing else. Surely, in this case, their existence must be something other than the material realization of a form. But Aquinas' theory that angels were wholly devoid of prime matter was a controversial one, even during the Middle Ages. For one thing, it entails that each angel belongs to a unique species.

Scott said...

@Vincent Torley:

"Aquinas' theory that angels were wholly devoid of prime matter was a controversial one, even during the Middle Ages. For one thing, it entails that each angel belongs to a unique species."

Yes, of course. But whether Aquinas was right or wrong about that, my main point is that the form/matter distinction relies on the essence/existence distinction in some way (and might, very arguably, be equivalent to it if Aquinas was mistaken about angels) and so can't simply replace it. In other words, I think your proposed dichotomy is probably a false one.

DNW said...

@ Monk68

Re. your remark on Gilson's "Being and Some Philosophers".

It's certainly a well written book in my opinion, and, in a particular way. Gilson's obvious mastery of the material makes his presentation especially relaxed and clear. His language is precise, yet his delivery is confidently casual.

He also has the detachment and poise of an historian, which I personally appreciate.

Neither he nor Copleston may have been professional philosophers per se, but they do have a great deal to say to anyone interested in it.

Alastair Paisley said...

@ Gene Callahan

> I think Berkeley solved this: things exist independently of *our* minds. The[y] do not exist independently of the mind of God <

That sounds about right.

Alastair Paisley said...

I don't have a problem with Ockham's razor. God is the most parsimonious explanation why there is something rather than nothing.

Charles said...

Re: Being and Some Philosopher's. A very good book overall, but a few things that are disastrously wrong in it. For instance, when looking for the source of Suarez' denial of the real distinction, he locates it in S. definition of the subject of metaphysics, whereas I would find it in S. adherence to a Scotist logical doctrine that holds a real distinction obtains between things that can exist independently of one another - consequently, Suarez follows Scotus in maintaining that prime matter can exist independently of form if God so wills it. It is this blunder on Gilson's part that causes him to throw the commentatorial tradition under the bus and to give the impression that Thomism died with Thomas and was only rediscovered in the 20th Century by Gilson. His stuff on not being able to predicate actions is also quite wrong.

lee faber said...

I've heard that Being and some philosophers is not Gilson's best book. His treatment of Francis of Meyronnes and essentialism is an example: he attributes positions to francis that Francis denies a few pages away from passages Gilson cites.

Also, separability as a condition for real distinction is not Scotist, unless you would classify Scotus' predecessors Godfrey of Fontains, Giles of Rome, and henry of Ghent as Scotists as well. It is a common scholastic definition.

DNW said...

Charles said...

Re: Being and Some Philosopher's. A very good book overall, but a few things that are disastrously wrong in it. For instance, when looking for the source of Suarez' denial of the real distinction, he locates it in S. definition of the subject of metaphysics, whereas I would find it in S. adherence to a Scotist logical doctrine that holds a real distinction obtains between things that can exist independently of one another - consequently, Suarez follows Scotus in maintaining that prime matter can exist independently of form if God so wills it. It is this blunder on Gilson's part that causes him to throw the commentatorial tradition under the bus and to give the impression that Thomism died with Thomas and was only rediscovered in the 20th Century by Gilson. His stuff on not being able to predicate actions is also quite wrong.

January 14, 2014 at 9:18 AM"



Re, your general observations.

Although not directed at me, if you have any textual cites in particular in mind, I'd be glad to refer to them as I read through the work.

As a side note, I have no personal expertise whatever in Medieval philosophy, just a familiarity; and certainly none in-depth with later Medieval, Baroque, or early Modern versions of Scholasticism. Those professors (and who were 50 or 60 yrs old at the time) who taught me Greek, late antique or Medieval Philosophy were themselves former students to some extent or another of Gilson - probably as I recall, through their post grad work - in Toronto.

I imagined at the time that it was the most esoteric study still available in the the cabinet of historical curiosities.

And frankly, it comes as a shock to me that anyone anywhere even has a living enough interest in Scotism (as opposed to a purely disinterested historical one) to consider that they have a dog in the fight.

I supposed the last person invested in Scotism died in the 1970s, with the shuttering of some obscure friary or seminary somewhere in Pennsylvania or Belgium ... or Southfield, Michigan.

Live and learn.

It's part of what makes this site worth visiting.

NiV said...

I've been trying to figure out this post for a couple of days, now. I'm not sure what parts are speculation about what Rand *might* have meant, and what parts are actual statements of objectivism. I don't pretend to understand the philosophy of objectivism - I've not spent any time studying it. And while Rand was an entertaining novelist I regard her forays into philosophy as no better than any other amateur effort. But I've got the strong feeling that like most people fail to understand what she really meant, that this post misses the mark too.

The point of "Existence exists." is to assert the primacy of an objective reality independent of any consciousness or the perception of it, in particular to make clear that existence (all the things that exist) is not caused by or dependent upon conscious perception of it. It exists outside ourselves, it does not bend to our whim, but we must bend to it, existent things have the properties they have, and not any others, and it can contain no contradictions. Our perceptions of it come *from* it, and not the other way around.

Thus, I'm pretty sure that Rand would object strongly to the idea that she thought mind-independent reality can be (ontologically) read off from an understanding of concepts. The foundation of the philosophy is the precise opposite - that concepts are read off from reality via the chain of sensation, perception, consciousness, and reason. (Experiencing, recognising it as an entity, identifying its properties, and integrating those properties into a hierarchy of concepts about instances, types and relationships.)

The existence/essence distinction is made in objectivism using different names. An essence is what Rand calls the 'identity' of an existent, consciousness perceives the identities of things, and reason abstracts and classifies them.

Rand's atheism doesn't come from any confusion of concept with existent. It comes from her empiricism - that our knowledge of reality must be derived entirely from sensory evidence *from* reality. Because there is no sensory evidence for the supernatural, she does not believe in the supernatural. She would say supernatural beliefs arise from the sort of mysticism in which reality is subordinate to consciousness and concepts and imagination, and are precisely the sort of nonsense her philosophy was aiming to eliminate.

I don't know what she would have thought of the Thomist definition of God as "subsistent being itself", but I suspect she would have questioned why anyone should connect "being itself" to all the prior concepts of deity (most of which sound nothing like it), except as a sophism aimed at preserving some figleaf of pseudo-intellectual respectability for this sort of mysticism for a little longer. I don't know - maybe I'm over-speculating too.

Atheists, eh? ;-)

But whatever arguments one might have about her stance on mysticism - and I've no intention of discussing them any further - I really don't see how we get from "Existence exists" and the idea of a reality independent of minds to the idealist claim that understanding an essence enables one to determine existence, (in an ontological rather than epistemological sense). There seem to be several large and unsupported leaps of logic in there. But perhaps it's *all* speculation about what she meant? With Rand, it's usually very hard to tell.

It was a thought-provoking post, anyway.

Scott said...

@NiV:

"I don't pretend to understand the philosophy of objectivism - I've not spent any time studying it."

For whatever it's worth, I have . . .

"And while Rand was an entertaining novelist I regard her forays into philosophy as no better than any other amateur effort."

. . . and I agree. She was an interesting novelist, but as a philosopher, she was an interesting novelist.

"The point of 'Existence exists.' is to assert the primacy of an objective reality independent of any consciousness or the perception of it, in particular to make clear that existence (all the things that exist) is not caused by or dependent upon conscious perception of it. It exists outside ourselves, it does not bend to our whim, but we must bend to it, existent things have the properties they have, and not any others, and it can contain no contradictions. Our perceptions of it come *from* it, and not the other way around."

That expresses her intention admirably. Unfortunately, it's not possible to extract all of those metaphysical commitments from a tautology, as I have argued and so has Bill Vallicella in the post to which Neil Parille provided a link earlier (or, more precisely, for which he gave us a URL; this is a link).

"Thus, I'm pretty sure that Rand would object strongly to the idea that she thought mind-independent reality can be (ontologically) read off from an understanding of concepts."

She most certainly would. However, she does seem to want to maintain that any concepts that are properly formed do refer to entities in the real world.

"Rand's atheism doesn't come from any confusion of concept with existent. It comes from her empiricism - that our knowledge of reality must be derived entirely from sensory evidence *from* reality."

I agree with the first statement but not the second. Indeed, part of the burden of my argument in my book is to show that Rand's atheism actually precedes her philosophical commitments: everywhere she faces a choice between a philosophical view that supports a high view of reason but is somehow tainted with theism, and another philosophical view that risks degrading reason but isn't tainted with theism, she opts for the latter and tries to make a go of it anyhow.

Timotheos said...

Out of curiosity Scott, are you still a panetheist/idealist, or have you changed your views on that? If you have (I seem to remember that you had, at least on the pantheism, if not the idealism also) why exactly did you?

Also, you seemed to have presupposed that something like the Principle of Sufficient Reason was true, but thought that it was unprovable. Were you aware of the indirect arguments by reductio for it, like the one that Father Joyce gave in his natural theology book, at the time, or did you come across those later?

On a different note, I can't believe you put out a book of that length and quality out on the internet for free though; haven't been able to read much of it, but everything I've read has been very good.

Scott said...

@Timotheos:

My own positive views have changed since I wrote that book, mainly in the direction of Aristotelianism/Thomism and largely because of my reading of Aristotelian, Neoplatonist, and Thomistic/Scholastic philosophy (including Father Joyce, who did indeed come later). I don't think my criticisms of Rand depend on my positive views, though, and I tried very hard when I wrote my critique to make sure they didn't.

As for idealism—funny you should ask, as I just replied earlier today to a similar question from an email friend. I'll just quote from my reply:

[The A-T view that the intellect receives forms] at least addresses all of the concerns I expressed in Objectivism and the Corruption of Rationality about the relation between thought and its objects. (And I think it's properly regarded as a form of idealism. In fact I was gratified some time ago to run across a source that -- I think correctly -- characterized Plato as a "transcendental idealist" and Aristotle as an "immanent idealist" in the original sense of the word "idealism.") [That source was The Catholic Encyclodpedia, by the way, and I've linked to it in one or two previous posts.) Whether you want to call me an idealist thus depends on whether you want to use the word in a classical or a modern sense.

I didn't publish the book for free, but I did make it available for free online for anybody who's satisfied with a .pdf copy; the paperback is available on Amazon. Thanks for your kind words about it; there are substantial parts of it I would handle differently today, though, and in particular there's a very large gap running throughout the book that should have been filled in with stuff about Aristotle and Aquinas. Oh, well.

Timotheos said...

"[Rand's atheism] comes from her empiricism - that our knowledge of reality must be derived entirely from sensory evidence *from* reality. Because there is no sensory evidence for the supernatural, she does not believe in the supernatural."

Even if this were true, and as Scott says, it probably was not the case, this would reflect a case where Rand is just muddleheaded.

For the belief that "all knowledge comes from the senses" is something that no good Thomist would ever deny, and yet Aquinas thought we could know quite a bit about God.

For what is at issue here is exactly what evidence of the supernatural we may learn by our sensory experience of reality, and Aquinas would claim that we learn of the supernatural by our knowledge of the natural. As an anaolgy, if we look into a mirror and see the reflection of the sun, do we conclude that we have no knowledge of the sun, and only of the mirror, or do we conclude that we have knowledge of the sun, by means of the mirror?

Scott said...

(I mean, really, when I reread it today a dozen years later, I see myself coming within millimeters of something Aristotelian or Thomistic and wanting to shake my younger self by the shoulders. Why the hell didn't you just . . . ?)

Scott said...

@Timotheos:

"For the belief that "all knowledge comes from the senses" is something that no good Thomist would ever deny, and yet Aquinas thought we could know quite a bit about God."

Indeed. As I've argued elsewhere, the basic problem with Rand in this respect is that she wanted to keep all the cool stuff about reason and intellect but pretty militantly refrain from drawing any conclusions about what reality must be like in order for such epistemologically nice things to be true. "There is no God, and Man is made in His image," as I put it in a paraphrase of Lord Russell's description of Santayana.

Scott said...

"[A]s Scott says, it probably was not the case[.]"

For the record, Rand wrote in a letter when she was very young and hadn't even begun to work out her epistemological views that (my paraphrase) she wanted to become the world's greatest enemy of religion. I don't have the exact quote at hand but it's published in The Letters of Ayn Rand and I refer to it in my book.

Timotheos said...

Yep, that's exactly the direction that I thought your views at the time were anticipating; I was even thinking to myself how much the idea that, to paraphrase, "All things are in some way a constant production of God's thought" looked so much like Aquinas's position, or how you pratically stated that you thought that "everything is intelligible in so far that it exists", and yet you were a Spizonist of sorts!

As far as Idealism is concerned, I think you are absolutely correct, and I think the titles, properly understood, are actually very discribtive on distinguishing between Plato and Aristotle's views. Indeed, for Aristotle, even matter is intelligible, since it either possesses a form in the case of proximate matter, or is the limit, in a sort of Calculus sense, of removing form in the case of prime matter, and thus, is more of a "being of reason" than a real being.

In fact, I'm almost tempted to call Aristotle/Aquinas's postition, if for nothing else than for the fun, Empiricalist-Idealism, given their common emphasis on all knowledge being from the senses on the one hand, and their stanch stance on the intelligibility of reality and universals on the other. Let's see how the average modern philosopher will respond to that!

Timotheos said...

Looking back after my post, I'm reading where Scott said how unconsciously close he was to Aquinas and I want to make it clear that I hadn't read that post before posting my last one; in other words, you're not alone in seeing how close you were to Thomism, it bleeds from that book.

Scott said...

@Timotheos:

"I hadn't read that post before posting my last one; in other words, you're not alone in seeing how close you were to Thomism, it bleeds from that book."

Heh, that's good to hear. Thank you.

George R. said...

Ed writes:
But just as treeness in the abstract is different from the essence of this particular individual tree, so too is being as such, considered in the abstract or merely conceptually, different from the existence (or “act of existing”) of this particular individual tree.

Hmmm. This is problematical. If treeness is not the essence of this particular tree, then what is the essence of this particular tree? And if treeness is not the essence of this particular tree, then what does treeness have to do with this particular tree at all?

Timotheos said...

"If treeness is not the essence of this particular tree, then what is the essence of this particular tree?"

To borrow a point from Oderberg, the treeness existing in the tree dosen't exist as abstract in the tree, but concretely. Treeness is thus something we abstract from the trees.

So while they are the same in both the world and the mind, they are in some sense different whilst being considered by their modes of existence.

Anyhow, the main point that Dr. Feser was trying to make was that existence in the abstract does not exist over and above the existence of each existing thing; in other words, that it dosen't exist as a seperate substance like Plato thought.

So when Cajetan said that "Existence dosen't exist" he meant that it dosen't exist as a substance, not that it dosen't exist as a being of sorts.

George R. said...

So while they are the same in both the world and the mind, they are in some sense different whilst being considered by their modes of existence.

That's true.

seanrobsville said...

If all functioning things are impermanent and subject to change, then to say that any thing exists is a working approximation, which really means 'this stage of a process is sufficiently long-lived to appear stable for our purposes'. For example, this is the way that the continent of North America exists.

Whether any phenomenon truly exists is open to debate. Possible candidates might be certain mathematical entities such as Pi.

So for everyday purposes 'existence' is a useful fiction that doesn't really exist, though non-mundane mathematical existence may exist in some abstruse Platonic realm.

Anonymous said...

If all functioning things are impermanent and subject to change, then to say that any thing exists is a working approximation, which really means 'this stage of a process is sufficiently long-lived to appear stable for our purposes'. For example, this is the way that the continent of North America exists.

Why should we believe your conditional here, exactly? (It seems difficult to make claims based on the impermanence and changeability of things without being committed to the existence of things which are impermanent and changeable.)

There seems to be other issues with the claim as well. First, to say X is impermanent and subject to change is not to say that X is changing. Impermanence and changeability are in a loose sense dispositional. Relatedly, even to say X is changing is not to admit that X's existence is questionable and therefore needs to be (or only can be) "approximated." That would seem to construe all accidental change as substantial change (indeed, recapitulating the error of Heraclitus).

Anonymous said...

"So for everyday purposes 'existence' is a useful fiction that doesn't really exist, though non-mundane mathematical existence may exist in some abstruse Platonic realm."

I'm curious, does the law of non-contradiction exist?

EMV

rank sophist said...

Sean,

If all functioning things are impermanent and subject to change, then to say that any thing exists is a working approximation, which really means 'this stage of a process is sufficiently long-lived to appear stable for our purposes'.

Unless you're making a Hegelian argument here, then becoming presupposes being and must be less than being. It simply cannot be the case that something becomes without first being, because "becoming" is the transition from one state of being to another. Basically, becoming is an ontic state while being is an ontological state--the ground of change. If you reduce everything to becoming, then you've simply failed to address being at all.

Anonymous said...

Aquinas on the unity of essence is highly problematic, I think, as it includes the problem of the one and the many as found in the Greeks, viz, how can one essence/form be many essences in things of this world.

Early in his career (in De ente et essentia) Thomas put forth the really astonishing proposition that essence/form is *neither* one nor many. I don't think he ever repeated that solution, but, rather, went along with Aristotle's lame notion that the one form is multiplied by its relationship to materia.

Scott said...

"Early in his career (in De ente et essentia) Thomas put forth the really astonishing proposition that essence/form is *neither* one nor many."

Here's Bill Vallicella trying to make sense of that very thing.

seanrobsville said...

@ Rank Sophist

"then becoming presupposes being and must be less than being. It simply cannot be the case that something becomes without first being, because "becoming" is the transition from one state of being to another."

What about the existential state of virtual particles in the quantum vacuum, which almost become something that exists, but normally don't quite make it? Their 'becoming' usually doesn't make it all the way into 'being' unless they are dragged over the threshold of existence by singular quarks, which need to make a twosome or threesome (the process of 'hadronization')

rank sophist said...

Sean,

You seem to be very misled about what, exactly, being is. Being is not a full presence within physical reality--which is what virtual particles are trying to have. It is simply the condition for anything at all. Even in an unobserved state, virtual particles still exist, as do the fields in which they appear. If unobserved particles didn't exist, then they couldn't be unobserved particles: they would be nothing. Their becoming is still a transition from one state of being to another--or from one state of being into non-being.

rank sophist said...

Scott,

Great link. Aquinas's theory of universals is very strange. It's a debate that needs to be had. Formal sameness and intentional possession are some of the most difficult concepts ever devised, and Aquinas (in his typical fashion) was extremely vague on the subjects.

Anonymous said...

Are there any works that flesh out Aquinas's theory of knowledge in great detail? (More than some of the intros to phil of mind I know of that just sketch it toward the end.)

dguller said...

Here’s how I understand matters.

If you start with a particular being, say Socrates, you have an instantiation of the form of human nature as a particular human being. If you call the form of human nature F, then you have F-in-Socrates. Next, one adds another human being, say Plato, and you have F-in-Plato.

One can use one’s intellect to abstract away particulars to the point that only F exists in the intellect, which would correspond to F-in-intellect. Now, in one sense, F is identical in F-in-Socrates, F-in-Plato, and F-in-intellect, which would be formal identity. But, in another sense, F is not identical in them, because F exists in a different mode of being in each, which would be numerical distinction.

In one sense, this process of abstraction is a fiction, because F stripped of all particulars does not actually exist in reality. But in another sense, because F is formally identical in each particular that instantiates F, the fiction does correspond to something in reality, but not in the same way as it manifests in its abstracted form in the intellect.

With regards to the claim that the form is neither one nor many, what Aquinas writes is:

“If plurality were in the concept of this nature, it could never be one, but nevertheless it is one as it exists in Socrates. Similarly, if unity were in the notion of this nature, then it would be one and the same in Socrates and Plato, and it could not be made many in the many individuals.” (DEE, Ch. 3)

Given what I wrote above, I think that what he means is that the form is neither (numerically) one nor (formally) many. Rather, the form is numerically many (i.e. numerically distinct) and formally one (i.e. formally identical). So, considered absolutely, the form is one, because all particularities have been abstracted away as irrelevant to the form itself, and considered relatively, the form is many, because considering the form within the context of its associated particularities, it exists in different individuals.

Anonymous said...

To say that essence is not "numerically one" doesn't solve the problem, it just invents a name ("numerically one") and calls the problem is solved.

Timotheos said...

@ Anon

By "numerically one", what dguller dosen't mean is that Socrates' humanity and Plato's humanity are different in the sense of being different forms that are "formally" the same. That, indeed, just kicks the problem up a level.

What he does mean is that Socrates the human is different than Plato the human, and thus, their humanity is different in so far as it exists in different people. i.e. Socrates is not Plato.

rank sophist said...

Anon,

The distinction between numerical and formal sameness is one that dguller is taking from the Summa. It's hardly invented. However, I would agree that his comment doesn't solve the confusion. He states that formal sameness involves "F-in-Socrates" and "F-in-Plato", in his Fregean way, but he then denies (with Aquinas) that F exists. Not really a clear explanation. I don't think that any account of formal sameness can remain coherent unless it cashes out sameness in terms of metaphysically basic likeness, in which two things (even two forms) just are similar to certain degrees and in certain ways. But this is a pet theory.

Scott said...

@rank sophist:

"I don't think that any account of formal sameness can remain coherent unless it cashes out sameness in terms of metaphysically basic likeness, in which two things (even two forms) just are similar to certain degrees and in certain ways."

That's one possibility; another is that formal sameness means that two particulars are numerically distinct instantiations of just one form (in which case the form itself is one and not many, and its instantiations are many and not one).

It may also be that Lloyd Gerson is right that Plato didn't intend forms to solve the "problem of universals" in the first place—and of course it's possible in principle (though arguably a bit weird by current standards) to think that real universals exist without thereby committing oneself to the view that forms are such universals.

Jeremy Taylor said...

On the Coyne link, I think the claim that most theists explicitly do not believe in, and have not believed in, Classical Theism is inaccurate.

Yes, many of them have and have had somewhat vague notions of God, often too anthropomorphic, but their notions of God have always has strong Classical Theistic aspects as well. And if we consider the traditions that theists have belonged to and the leaders of these traditions (not just the great philosophers but the everyday intellectual and pastoral leadership) then almost all of these have been more or less Classical Theist.

The idea that Classical Theism is not the main current of Theistic thought or that most historical idea of deity are hostile to it is historically illiterate. This is especially the case if we expand Classical Theism, as I think is possible and makes sense, to include the Theistic and Panentheistic beliefs of India and the East.

-----

I have not read Rand's novels. Many people say they are not very good, although some, like Scott and NiV seem to like them.

Also Niv writes:

"Because there is no sensory evidence for the supernatural, she does not believe in the supernatural."

I know you are describing Rand's beliefs, and it is only a minor point, but I would disagree with this statement. I suppose it depends on what is meant by supernatural, but if you mean beyond the material or beyond the scope of the usual naturalism then it would include things like miracles, ghosts, and other paranormal events and entities.

Obviously, the Christian and Classical Theist is likely to accept the existence (although in exactly which sense for any entity or class of entities is debatable - is a particular ghost some sort of psychic vestige or is it a complete spirit of a once living human, for example) of some of these. But even if one ignores such a philosophical perspective and just keeps an open mind then there seems a lot of empirical evidence for the supernatural in the sense I'm talking about.

It is not the sort of evidence that is full proof. It is not the sort of evidence which will convince the skeptic(although these sorts of professional skeptics seem to me less skeptical and open-minded than, say, someone in the tradition of Charles Fort) or materialist hardened in their views, especially as the latter today is almost invariably rabidly scientistic, but it is not to be sniffed at.

I especially, myself, like the writings of Charles Fort and the irreplacable John Michell on subjects like these. This topic is not, of course, a major critique of atheism and materialism, but it is any interesting objection to the implicit, and sometimes explicit, view that materialism explains everything. It also helps to re-enchant reality and fight naturalism and materialism on the imaginative plain. From personal experience I know that a lot of the strength of naturalism today comes not from arguments but a sort of imaginative osmosis whereby we absorb from our culture the, as it is offered up to us, self-evident and self-contained naturalistic view of the universe. Even many Christians have a sort of default scientistic naturalist imagination - they view nature quite differently to our ancestors, Christians or even pagans. One of the many ways to fight this cultural osmosis is pointing out the paranormal.


Scott said...

@Jeremy Taylor:

"[S]ome, like Scott . . . seem to like them."

Well, she wrote four and I think fairly well of two, so while you're not wrong, I wouldn't want you to exaggerate. ;-)

Jeremy Taylor said...

Scott and RS,

It might be worth pointing out, to take the Platonic idea of Form, that it also includes the particular. In the Platonic notion of Form all the particular, corporeal, individual manifestations of the Form, possible and actual, are a part of it, although the Form also transcends them. The Form of a Tree is this particular tree and yet it is no tree, so to speak.

Anonymous said...


It's all very well to talk of a Platonic form as an F, the F being a Form, e.g., the Form "dog", with Rover being an instantiation. But the question then becomes: what is the *referent" of "dog" in "'Dog' is a Platonic form", and what i the referent of "dog" in "Rover i a 'dog'".

Are ;they the same ontological reality? And what does "same" mean in the last sentence -- "identical" or "exactly similar"? If it means "exactly similar" then we're now talking about Ockham, I think.

Anonymous said...

When I spoke of "numerically one" I had Aquinas' meaning in mind (whatever that be). It doesn't make sense to me either.

NiV said...

"I have not read Rand's novels. Many people say they are not very good, although some, like Scott and NiV seem to like them."

As literature, they're not very good. Rand has a tendency to obliquely hammer a single point at length, going on and on and on about it, before moving on to a different topic. But the ideas are interesting and the viewpoint refreshingly different. People like them for their content rather than their style.

In the 1990s, a survey by the Library of Congress named Atlas Shrugged as the most influential book in the US, after the Bible. Even 50 years after publication her works were selling half a million a year. Atlas Shrugged is one of those classics like Nineteen Eighty Four and Brave New World that change the way people look at the world, and human society. It's more than just a handful of us.

Not everyone likes them, though. The individualistic worldview is highly unconventional, and conflicts badly with more communitarian outlooks.

"
I know you are describing Rand's beliefs, and it is only a minor point, but I would disagree with this statement. I suppose it depends on what is meant by supernatural,"


'Supernatural' means not following any set rules or natural law-like behaviour. (Where 'naturalism' asserts that *everything* follows fixed rules.)

Naturalism doesn't have any problem with ghosts and gods as such, but it does require that they follow consistent rules - for example, you have to be able to explain why ghosts can walk through walls, but don't fall through the floor, or spin off the Earth into outer space. How do they hold together? How do they interact with matter? What forces are involved, and how do they work? And so on.

When something follows rules, you can investigate it, understand it, project consequences and implications, maybe even eventually manipulate it. Everything has to be consistent and must fit together perfectly and precisely. When something has been made up, there are no such limits. Problems and inconsistencies can be waved away, and anything can happen.

I know of no evidence of the paranormal. But there's plenty of evidence that people make things up! :-)

"From personal experience I know that a lot of the strength of naturalism today comes not from arguments but a sort of imaginative osmosis whereby we absorb from our culture the, as it is offered up to us, self-evident and self-contained naturalistic view of the universe."

Yes. Quite true. Most of the people who believe in a naturalistic picture of the universe have only the haziest idea about how it all works, or even of how complicated and difficult it all is, and how incomplete our knowledge of it is. Similarly, most Christians I've met have little idea of how the theology works, or in many cases what's actually in the Bible. That's picked up by osmosis from society, too.

"It also helps to re-enchant reality and fight naturalism and materialism on the imaginative plain."

Naturalism contains all the enchantment you could wish for, and more. The problem is that the pop-culture version of naturalism as of a purposeless machine blundering about blindly is as far away from real naturalism as the pop-Christian "man with a long white beard sat on a throne in heaven surrounded by attractive people with wings stuck on their backs playing golden harps" has to do with real Christian theology.

But it's no use arguing about it. And to be honest, I don't think there's any real need to. People will make up their own enchantment, and they're as happy doing it in a modern scientific background (see the sci-fi/fantasy section of any bookshop) as a theological one.

dguller said...

Anonymous:

To say that essence is not "numerically one" doesn't solve the problem, it just invents a name ("numerically one") and calls the problem is solved.

Think about it this way. Say that you have three individuals X, Y and Z. Each individual is an instantiation of a form. Say that the forms in question are F and G. So, you have F-in-X, F-in-Y, and G-in-Y.

How many forms are there?

In one sense, there are three forms, because you have three individuals, each individual has a form within it, and thus there is F, F and G, i.e. three forms. In another sense, there are two forms, because the forms in question are F and G, and they are two distinct forms, even though there are three individuals. The former sense would be numerical distinction, and the latter sense would be formal distinction.

dguller said...

Rank:

He states that formal sameness involves "F-in-Socrates" and "F-in-Plato", in his Fregean way, but he then denies (with Aquinas) that F exists. Not really a clear explanation.

What I meant was that F does not exist by itself, but always exists within a substance. For example, the form of dogness does exist within a particular dog, but the form of dogness does not exist by itself outside of a substance.
I don't think that any account of formal sameness can remain coherent unless it cashes out sameness in terms of metaphysically basic likeness, in which two things (even two forms) just are similar to certain degrees and in certain ways. But this is a pet theory.

A few comments.

First, when you say that two forms, for example, are similar “in certain ways”, what do you mean by “certain ways”? Would those “ways” have to be the same in each form? For example, if you say that the form of dogness is similar to the form of humanity, then would on “way” that they are similar be that they are both species of animal? And then wouldn’t being a species of animal have to be the same in each?

Second, when you start talking about “certain degrees”, you must have some sense of a standard by which the degrees are measured, and this standard must be the same in both things, with each approximating the standard to different degrees of proximity. To me, the standard would be the form as an ideal paradigm, and that would mean that the form would have to be the same, in some sense, in each thing in order to have degrees of approximation at all.

Third, how would you distinguish between identity or sameness and similarity or likeness? In other words, how would you distinguish X is the same as Y from X is similar to Y?

George R. said...

He states that formal sameness involves "F-in-Socrates" and "F-in-Plato", in his Fregean way, but he then denies (with Aquinas) that F exists.

It's important to understand that Aquinas would not deny that F exists at all, only that it exists in reality. He would say that it exists as a principle. In other words, F does not exist in reality but is the cause of that which exists in reality.

Bill V. doesn't seem to understand that something may exist as a cause without existing in reality.

Brandon said...

I have not read Rand's novels. Many people say they are not very good, although some, like Scott and NiV seem to like them.

They take a certain taste, much as Victor Hugo's novels take a certain taste. Indeed, the similarity in that respect is necessarily quite close: Ayn Rand is deliberately adapting the methods and techniques of Hugo, and many of the literary aspects she gets criticized for are exactly the same ones that Hugo was criticized for when Les Miserables first came out. Philosophically, of course, Les Miserables and Atlas Shrugged are exactly opposite, since Hugo is an altruist; but they use many of the same literary techniques. Rand is a bit more stylized and cinematic (also deliberately), but for the most part there aren't any criticisms of Rand on the literary side that wouldn't be just as good a reason for dismissing Hugo as not very good. Since Hugo is in fact quite good, and Rand is actually competent in Hugo-esque technique, the harshest criticism of her that can really stick is that she's not as brilliant a novelist as Victor Hugo; which isn't much of a criticism, and, despite her ego, I don't know that Rand would have actually disagreed. Most attempts to dismiss her work as bad literature is due to people who want to hate her writing because they hate her views; ironic, since her writing is the result of the fact that Rand -- who was not exactly open-minded -- loved Hugo's writing despite hating his views.

Two of Rand's works, Anthem and Atlas Shrugged, are also technically science fiction (the first far-future and the second near-future); and when read as such they are head and shoulders they compare very well with more standard science fiction classics. Anthem is probably not quite on the level of We, with is the SF classic it is most like, but Atlas Shrugged is easily as good as all but the very best Golden Age SF.

rank sophist said...

Scott,

That's one possibility; another is that formal sameness means that two particulars are numerically distinct instantiations of just one form (in which case the form itself is one and not many, and its instantiations are many and not one).

I think this is the position George R. espouses, but I don't think it's coherent. What does it mean for a form to be one in multiple places? Plato got around this by claiming that forms don't exist in this world, and so can't have the contradictory one-in-many problem. Immanent realism has no such luck.

dguller,

What I meant was that F does not exist by itself, but always exists within a substance.

Indeed. But there is no F that can be considered separately from its existence in a substance. F-in-Socrates isn't really an "F"; it's simply one of Socrates's traits. Calling it an F presupposes that it is universal, and that it is coherent to discuss one thing being in multiple places.

First, when you say that two forms, for example, are similar “in certain ways”, what do you mean by “certain ways”? Would those “ways” have to be the same in each form?

Yes, they would. But I don't believe that "same" means absolutely identical. Sameness ultimately relies on shades of likeness, from what Aquinas calls "perfect likeness" to mere analogy. Things with a perfect likeness are said to be of the same species--a univocal predication. They are related because they possess two forms that have a basic, unanalyzable likeness to one another, which is what we call formal sameness.

For example, if you say that the form of dogness is similar to the form of humanity, then would on “way” that they are similar be that they are both species of animal? And then wouldn’t being a species of animal have to be the same in each?

There is no such thing as an animal outside of the consideration of forms, which means that there is no such thing as an animal that has not been particularized. But, yes: what we call animality in two different forms is a basic "way" that they share a perfect likeness.

Second, when you start talking about “certain degrees”, you must have some sense of a standard by which the degrees are measured, and this standard must be the same in both things, with each approximating the standard to different degrees of proximity. To me, the standard would be the form as an ideal paradigm, and that would mean that the form would have to be the same, in some sense, in each thing in order to have degrees of approximation at all.

The form is the measurement. But forms are only "the same" in two places when we think of this as a perfect likeness between two substances. Thus basic likeness is presupposed in any consideration of form. We can still say that human X and human Y share some trait Z, but "human" and "trait" cannot be conceived as universals. They are forms with a kind of primordial likeness to one another, which is what we call formal sameness and univocity.

Third, how would you distinguish between identity or sameness and similarity or likeness? In other words, how would you distinguish X is the same as Y from X is similar to Y?

By denying proper identity in all cases other than the identity of single substances with themselves: a numerical and formal identity. Things that are formally the same are properly said to share univocal likeness. They are not universally bound by exactly the same form, which is a contradiction. Mere similarity is a weaker likeness, and may fall under equivocal or analogical predication. I recommend this translation of the relevant ST passage to get a sense of (what I take to be) Aquinas's theory of descending likeness.

In my opinion, something like this account is necessary to interpret Aquinas's theory of identity. Modern, Fregean metaphysics just don't do it justice.

dguller said...

Rank:

Indeed. But there is no F that can be considered separately from its existence in a substance. F-in-Socrates isn't really an "F"; it's simply one of Socrates's traits. Calling it an F presupposes that it is universal, and that it is coherent to discuss one thing being in multiple places.

First, although one material thing cannot be present in multiple places at the same time, I don’t see any reason why one immaterial thing cannot be present in multiple places at the same time. And forms are certainly immaterial, even when they are in material beings.

Second, of course, an F can be considered separately from its existence in a substance. That is precisely the operation that abstraction performs. Sure, that abstracted form exists within an intellect, but the thoughts about the form are not about the form in the intellect, but rather about the form itself. It is a useful fiction that corresponds to something in reality.

Yes, they would. But I don't believe that "same" means absolutely identical. Sameness ultimately relies on shades of likeness, from what Aquinas calls "perfect likeness" to mere analogy. Things with a perfect likeness are said to be of the same species--a univocal predication. They are related because they possess two forms that have a basic, unanalyzable likeness to one another, which is what we call formal sameness.

Say that you have two things, X and Y, and X and Y each possess a form, which we can call F(X) and F(Y). You claim that F(X) and F(Y) have “a basic, unanalyzable likeness to one another”. It is impossible to affirm that F(X) = F(Y), because that would mean that they were “absolutely identical”, which you “don’t believe” is possible, because if F(X) is absolutely identical to F(Y), then F(X) has everything in common with F(Y), i.e. they do not differ from one another in any way. Clearly F(X) differs from F(Y) in terms of the former being in X and the latter being in Y, and thus they cannot be absolutely identical.

But what if you abstracted the bracketed portion away? In other words, what if you abstracted the “(X)” from F(X) and the “(Y)” from F(Y)? That would leave you with only F itself. Furthermore, I don’t see why you cannot affirm that this same abstracted F is present in X and Y, albeit in two distinct instantiations. You could even say that this abstracted F could be something along the lines of F as instantiated in some substance. Why wouldn’t that be totally the same in X and Y? It is true that F as instantiated in some substance is present in X and in Y, and it remains absolutely the same, I think.

Or, here’s another way to look at it. Is there any difference at all between F itself and F-in-X? In other words, is it possible to conceive of F itself separate from F-in-X? If it is possible, then is the former a total fiction that does not correspond to anything in F-in-X at all, or does it correspond to the F in F-in-X?

dguller said...

There is no such thing as an animal outside of the consideration of forms, which means that there is no such thing as an animal that has not been particularized. But, yes: what we call animality in two different forms is a basic "way" that they share a perfect likeness.

And my question is whether this “basic ‘way’” is the same in each form. Is “animality” present in the form of dogness and present in the form of humanity the same, or is it just similar? If it is just similar, then animality in dogness would have to differ in some way from animality in humanity, and in that case, you would not have animality, but rather animality1 and animality2. But then you would have to specify what it is about animality1 that makes it like animality2, and I still contend that there is no way to do that other than to talk about partial sameness and partial difference.

The form is the measurement. But forms are only "the same" in two places when we think of this as a perfect likeness between two substances. Thus basic likeness is presupposed in any consideration of form.

I think that you are conflating different issues here. I am not asking about the relationship between two substances, but rather between two forms. I agree that two substances that are numerically distinct must be similar to one another, but the matter is more complicated when we are talking about two forms, because two forms that are numerically distinct can be formally the same or formally similar. Even if you are correct that there are degrees of likeness between two forms, then you have to account for what you mean by “degrees of likeness”. How are two forms more alike and less alike? I would conceive of this in terms of partial identity and partial difference. The more partially identical and the less partially different, the more alike the two forms are, and the more partially different and the less partially identical, the less alike the two forms are. How would you explain this?

We can still say that human X and human Y share some trait Z, but "human" and "trait" cannot be conceived as universals. They are forms with a kind of primordial likeness to one another, which is what we call formal sameness and univocity.

And I would say that from the perspective of a composite substance in which form is necessarily compounded with esse (and/or matter), then the forms are like one another, but from the perspective of the forms themselves, they are either identical or similar to one another.

dguller said...

By denying proper identity in all cases other than the identity of single substances with themselves: a numerical and formal identity. Things that are formally the same are properly said to share univocal likeness. They are not universally bound by exactly the same form, which is a contradiction. Mere similarity is a weaker likeness, and may fall under equivocal or analogical predication.

So, you basically have two broad categories: proper identity (i.e. numerical and formal identity) and similarity (i.e. numerical distinction and formal similarity). You would reduce formal identity in the latter category to formal similarity or likeness. Again, for me, all kinds of similarity are necessarily reduced to partial sameness and partial difference, and I can account for different degrees of likeness by the different degrees of partial identity and partial difference. I still do not understand how you can account for different degrees of likeness at all. In other words, how is form F more like form G and less like form H? What is it about F that brings it closer to G and farther from H? It seems to me that without some core of sameness that is present in F, G and H that would correspond to the identical standard or paradigm by which the comparative degrees of closeness is measured according to, all talk of degrees of likeness is meaningless.

I recommend this translation of the relevant ST passage to get a sense of (what I take to be) Aquinas's theory of descending likeness.

In that passage, Aquinas identifies the following examples of likeness:

(1) Perfect likeness: same form (i.e. genus), same nature (i.e. species), and same measure (e.g. X is white and Y is white, in the same shade of whiteness)
(2) Imperfect likeness: same form (i.e. genus), same nature (i.e. species), and different measure (e.g. X is white and Y is white, in a different shade of whiteness)
(3) Equivocal causality: same form (i.e. genus), and different nature (i.e. species)

I don’t see how this can make sense under your framework in which whenever he says “the same as”, he really means “similar to”. If you change my (1) to (3) into your translation, you have the following:

(1*) Perfect likeness: similar form (i.e. genus), similar nature (i.e. species), and similar measure (e.g. X is white and Y is white, in a similar shade of whiteness)
(2*) Imperfect likeness: similar form (i.e. genus), similar nature (i.e. species), and different measure (e.g. X is white and Y is white, in a different shade of whiteness)
(3*) Equivocal causality: similar form (i.e. genus), and different nature (i.e. species)

And the problem is distinguishing similarity from difference. No thing is absolutely different from another thing. They, at least, share being things in common, and thus difference that is distinct from similarity is impossible, which means that whenever I wrote “different”, I would have to substitute “similar”, and we get the following:

(1**) Perfect likeness: similar form (i.e. genus), similar nature (i.e. species), and similar measure (e.g. X is white and Y is white, in a similar shade of whiteness)
(2**) Imperfect likeness: similar form (i.e. genus), similar nature (i.e. species), and similar measure (e.g. X is white and Y is white, in a different shade of whiteness)
(3**) Equivocal causality: similar form (i.e. genus), and similar nature (i.e. species)

But then you see that perfect likeness is identical to imperfect likeness. There is no difference between them. Perhaps you can argue that they differ in degree, but again, you must provide some account of how X can be more like Y than Z.

Anonymous said...

The basic issue is: can something or a some part of something be OTHER than another thing and NOT OTHER than the other thing at the same time and in the same respect.

dguller said...

Anonymous:

The basic issue is: can something or a some part of something be OTHER than another thing and NOT OTHER than the other thing at the same time and in the same respect.

I’d say, no.

dguller said...

Rank:

One more thing.

About the text from Aquinas that you cited, he writes:

“Now if there be an agent which does not belong to any genus, its effect will reflect its likeness all the more remotely. It will not reflect the likeness of the form of the agent by possessing the same specific nature, nor by having the same genus, but by some kind of analogy, since existence itself is common to all things. The things which God has made are like him in this way. In so far as they are beings, they are like the first and universal principle of all being.”

To say that A is like B means that A and B must have a principle of unity, i.e. something in common, and a principle of distinction, i.e. something not in common. If A and B lacked a principle of distinction, then there would only be a principle of unity, and that necessarily means that A is B. Thus, I would suggest that the following definitions are true:

(1) C is a principle of unity between A and B iff A and B share C in common iff C is present in A and C is present in B

(2) D is a principle of distinction between A and B iff A and B do not share D in common iff D is present in A and D is absent in B

But how could this possibly apply to the likeness between creation and God? If creation and God shared something in common, which we can call C, then what would C be? C would have to either be the entirety of God, or a “part” of God. In God, there is only essence and relations. So, C would have to correspond to either essence or the relations. But neither option makes any sense, and so it does not seem that there could possibly be a C that is shared between God and creation. And without a shared C, there is no likeness at all.

rank sophist said...

dguller,

That is precisely the operation that abstraction performs. Sure, that abstracted form exists within an intellect, but the thoughts about the form are not about the form in the intellect, but rather about the form itself.

The thoughts about the form are in part about the form in the intellect (which has a phenomenological character, per SCG b2 ch75.13). And they are in part about mind-independent forms as they appear in particular things (ST I q84 a7), which are related to the forms in the intellect by virtue of formal sameness. But thoughts about pure form do not exist, even as useful fictions.

That would leave you with only F itself.

Which was my point. F in itself does not exist and has no effect on anything. There are only particular things that we call "F" because of their ontic or ontological likeness. There is no "pure F", even in abstract thought.

Is “animality” present in the form of dogness and present in the form of humanity the same, or is it just similar?

It's the same, but not in the Fregean sense. Recall what that paper said before: formal sameness is "midway between identity and ordinary similarity". Ordinary similarity cashes out as equivocity and analogy, depending on the circumstances. Univocity is formal sameness, which is perfect likeness between two individual forms.

If it is just similar, then animality in dogness would have to differ in some way from animality in humanity

I reject the analysis of sameness and similarity in terms of partial identity and partial difference, for reasons we've gone over.

two forms that are numerically distinct can be formally the same or formally similar

But you haven't even explained what formal sameness is supposed to be, which is what I was arguing about. Formal sameness is a kind of primordial likeness without identity.

How would you explain this?

Perfect likeness is when two forms are formally the same and numerically different (= they have a primordial likeness to one another), and they are expressed in the same measure. Imperfect likeness is when they share the primordial likeness of formal sameness, but they express it in a different measure. And so on, down to analogy.

from the perspective of the forms themselves, they are either identical or similar to one another.

If a form is identical to another form, then it is numerically and formally the same in two places, which is a contradiction. Formal sameness is different from identity.

You would reduce formal identity in the latter category to formal similarity or likeness.

Formal sameness is an abstract way of describing the process by which information of like content can appear in multiple locations, as Klima's example of the book in Vallicella's post illustrates. Copies of the same book are formally the same, which is to say that two instantiations of information have a primordial likeness to one another. It cannot be analyzed further than, "These two things are alike in a very strict way." But this is different from similarity.

I don’t see how this can make sense under your framework in which whenever he says “the same as”, he really means “similar to”.

That is not what I'm arguing. My point is that formal sameness is totally different from, and much stranger than, what you claim it is. It can't be understood in Fregean terms.

dguller said...

Rank:

The thoughts about the form are in part about the form in the intellect (which has a phenomenological character, per SCG b2 ch75.13). And they are in part about mind-independent forms as they appear in particular things (ST I q84 a7), which are related to the forms in the intellect by virtue of formal sameness. But thoughts about pure form do not exist, even as useful fictions.

I agree that pure forms do not exist, but I disagree that thoughts about pure forms do not exist. Just because my thought about X occurs within my intellect, it does not follow that my thought is simultaneously about X-in-intellect. Otherwise, I would be caught in an infinite regress in which my thought about X is necessarily also my thought about my thought about X, and on and on.

Which was my point. F in itself does not exist and has no effect on anything. There are only particular things that we call "F" because of their ontic or ontological likeness. There is no "pure F", even in abstract thought.

But again, what makes particular things like one another is their mutual possession of a common F. According to you, there is no such common F at all, and rather that one particular thing is F1 and another particular thing is F2, and F1 is like F2. Furthermore, if it is impossible to consider an essence in isolation from its particularizing features, then how can one affirm that there is a real distinction between essence and existence? To do so, one would have to separate the essence and the existence in our minds, which means that it must be possible to hold the thought of essence as distinct from the thought of existence.

It's the same, but not in the Fregean sense. Recall what that paper said before: formal sameness is "midway between identity and ordinary similarity". Ordinary similarity cashes out as equivocity and analogy, depending on the circumstances. Univocity is formal sameness, which is perfect likeness between two individual forms.

But it isn’t the same. According to you, other than self-identity, any mention of “sameness” must be automatically translated into “likeness”, which can exist in different degrees between different individuals.

I reject the analysis of sameness and similarity in terms of partial identity and partial difference, for reasons we've gone over.

And the primary reason, insofar as I understand it, is that if the only kind of sameness is formal and numerical identity, then it is impossible for there to be partial sameness, because the numerical identity condition would be violated. But as I’ve argued before, I don’t see why sameness must be so narrowly construed. Even in your own account, there is a distinction between formal identity and numerical identity, which means that there are different kinds of identity after all.

But you haven't even explained what formal sameness is supposed to be, which is what I was arguing about. Formal sameness is a kind of primordial likeness without identity.

You can grasp formal sameness by considering an example. You have three individuals, X, Y and Z. X is F, Y is F, and Z is G. How many forms are there? In one sense, there are three, because there are three individuals that each has a distinct form immanent within themselves, i.e. F-in-X, F-in-Y, G-in-Z. In another sense, there are two, because there are two kinds of forms, i.e. F (that is in-X and in-Y) and G (that is in-Z). The former corresponds to numerical distinction, and the latter corresponds to formal identity. In other words, formal identity between X and Y is where the same kind of form is present in X and Y, albeit in different instantiations. Again, I don’t see why this is impossible, unless you have an unduly restricted sense of “sameness” that only involves formal and numerical identity. I think the concept is much more flexible than that.

dguller said...

Perfect likeness is when two forms are formally the same and numerically different (= they have a primordial likeness to one another), and they are expressed in the same measure. Imperfect likeness is when they share the primordial likeness of formal sameness, but they express it in a different measure. And so on, down to analogy.

But you haven’t explained the difference in degrees that you mentioned earlier. That is what I wanted to know. In other words, if form F is more like form G than form H, then what exactly does this mean? What does “more like” refer to in this case? It seems that F and H stand in a certain proximity to G, but F is closer to G than H. What does “closer” and “farther” mean here, though?

If a form is identical to another form, then it is numerically and formally the same in two places, which is a contradiction. Formal sameness is different from identity.

Formal sameness is different from numerical sameness, sure, but they are both different kinds of identity.

Formal sameness is an abstract way of describing the process by which information of like content can appear in multiple locations, as Klima's example of the book in Vallicella's post illustrates. Copies of the same book are formally the same, which is to say that two instantiations of information have a primordial likeness to one another. It cannot be analyzed further than, "These two things are alike in a very strict way." But this is different from similarity.

First, you still seem to conflate thing A being like thing B and form F being like form G. I agree that A is like B iff they both share a common F, but what does it mean to say that F is like G on your account?

Second, when you say that there are “two instantiations of information”, what exactly is “information” here? Are you referring to a form, i.e. in-form-ation? In that case, then is the information the same in the two instantiations? If it is different, then you don’t have two instantiations of F, but rather one instantiation of F and another instantiation of G, and that wouldn’t be formal identity at all.

Third, there is no problem with an immaterial entity being present in two places at the same time. Only material entities are limited in such a way, I think. God is supposed to be able to be fully present in two places at the same time, after all.

That is not what I'm arguing. My point is that formal sameness is totally different from, and much stranger than, what you claim it is. It can't be understood in Fregean terms.

I haven’t brought up Frege at all, so I don’t see how Fregean terms are relevant.

Scott said...

@rank sophist:

"F in itself does not exist and has no effect on anything. There are only particular things that we call 'F' because of their ontic or ontological likeness. There is no 'pure F', even in abstract thought."

Just out of curiosity, would you describe yourself as a resemblance nominalist? Or, as one possible alternative, do you think that there are (or at least might be) genuinely real universals but that forms simply don't fit the bill?

rank sophist said...

dguller,

I'm not really interested in getting into a big debate over this. My views are tentative and I don't have much free time. One more response.

Furthermore, if it is impossible to consider an essence in isolation from its particularizing features, then how can one affirm that there is a real distinction between essence and existence?

I never said that it was impossible for the intellect to consider form. I said that it was impossible to consider pure form, devoid of particularity--which is obvious to anyone who has read ST I q84 a7. Any consideration of form must reference the particular through phantasms. Aquinas makes similar arguments in the SCG.

In another sense, there are two, because there are two kinds of forms, i.e. F (that is in-X and in-Y) and G (that is in-Z).

Once again, you have missed the core problem. What makes two forms a kind? Why are two forms of humanity both forms of humanity? There are three possible answers. One, the two forms of humanity are joined by a third form of humanity, which leads us into the Third Man argument. Two, the forms are one form in two places, which is a contradiction. Three, there is some internal principle of likeness between the two monadic forms, which is my argument.

But you haven’t explained the difference in degrees that you mentioned earlier.

My mention of degrees is no different from Aquinas's. The degrees of likeness are perfect univocal likeness, imperfect univocal likeness, equivocal likeness and analogical likeness.

First, you still seem to conflate thing A being like thing B and form F being like form G. I agree that A is like B iff they both share a common F, but what does it mean to say that F is like G on your account?

I'm not conflating anything. The likeness between forms has been my point all along.

Third, there is no problem with an immaterial entity being present in two places at the same time. Only material entities are limited in such a way, I think. God is supposed to be able to be fully present in two places at the same time, after all.

ST I q52 a2.

I haven’t brought up Frege at all, so I don’t see how Fregean terms are relevant.

Your logic is Fregean. It's the reason that you've always had trouble understanding Aquinas. You keep interpreting ancient metaphysics through the lens of modern logic, and it doesn't work.

rank sophist said...

Scott,

I'm not sure what I consider myself, to be honest. I saw a paper once refer to Aquinas's theory of universals as a variety of trope nominalism (and as moderate realism), and I'm trying to espouse what I think Aquinas himself intended--so maybe that's it. But I'd say that anyone with Thomist sympathies, like I have, has to acknowledge that there are universals of a kind in the divine mind. I don't think that substantial forms can be related to one another as universals, though--and I don't think that Aquinas intended to say that they were. My understanding so far is that some type of resemblance is at the root of the connection between substantial forms, but I may be way off. If I'm right, though, I don't think it has any impact on natural law, or that it entails nominalist skepticism.

In any case I think it can safely be said that Aquinas's reputation for clear, simple and solid argumentation is based on next to nothing. His actual positions on a many issues are mysterious and/or undeveloped at best, self-contradictory at worst.

Step2 said...

I have not read Rand's novels.

Consider yourself very fortunate. She was traumatized in her youth, extremely authoritarian in her adult life and her books are Nietzschean adoration of the glory of the Superman.

Jeremy Taylor said...

NiV,

I know of no evidence of the paranormal. But there's plenty of evidence that people make things up!

It depends what you mean by evidence, doesn't it. I don't think there is scientific evidence per se that fully proves any particular paranormal event or entity, although there are some interesting findings in particular cases. However, the experience of the paranormal is almost ubiquitous in human society. Now I do not hope to convince the committed scientistic naturalist or materialist (although I laugh at how many of them claim to be skeptics, whereas all they really are is skeptical of what does not fit their metaphysics, vague or fully worked out - there question begging is usually only matched by their desperation to find naturalistic explanations), and they will no doubt have other explanations, but an open minded investigation of such phenomena will, I think, reveal statesments like "people make things up" to be very crass and unimaginative.


On Sci-Fi I would take the exact opposite attitude. It is an attempt to re-enchant a naturally bleak and boring naturalistic or materialistic worldview. In the same way that in irreligious Britain there is as much interest in psychics or ghosts as ever, this interest is because the human spirit will not submit to the life in death of materialism.

Personally, I do not like Sci-Fi, at least when it is not the sort of anti-Sci-Fi like C.S Lewis's stuff. I agree with John Michell that there is a real decline in imagination when the little green men and UFOs replace the fairies and the spirits. Plus, I'm skeptical of the ultimate good that ever proliferating amounts of electro-magentic gadgets will do mankind.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Step2,

You do know that piece was written by Johann Hari? I like Rand no better than the next man, but Hari is a leftwing hack. He is the kind of person who is popular with the left-liberal establishment in Britain, or would be if he hadn't been caught out.

Step2 said...

I didn't know anything about Hari but I disagree that the facts he related about Rand from her two biographies are thereby refuted. For example, Rand's weird admiration for William Hickman is well known and she had planned to write a story loosely based on him.

Scott said...

Step2 writes: "For example, Rand's weird admiration for William Hickman is well known and she had planned to write a story loosely based on him."

Here's what I think is a pretty fair evaluation (by a writer to whose attention I'm happy to have brought the problem).

Scott said...

@Step2:

"I disagree that the facts he related about Rand from her two biographies are thereby refuted."

They're not refuted by the fact that he's a left-winger, but having read the biographies myself I can tell you that he doesn't represent them faithfully. I'm no fan of Rand either but that's not a very responsible piece.

Step2 said...

Okay, fair enough since I'm not going to read them. What does he misrepresent from those biographies? I'm willing to grant that he spins his own conclusions in a polemical way, but what facts does he falsify?

Scott said...

@rank sophist:

"I saw a paper once refer to Aquinas's theory of universals as a variety of trope nominalism (and as moderate realism)[.]"

Each of those is a possible reading of Aquinas at one or another stage of his philosophical career, or so it seems to me. But I think Aristotle was pretty clearly a moderate realist/immanent idealist.

"I'd say that anyone with Thomist sympathies, like I have, has to acknowledge that there are universals of a kind in the divine mind."

Well, I don't think there's any getting around real universals for anyone, Thomist or otherwise, and not just in the divine intellect. But I'm not persuaded that forms are supposed to be universals—and, pace dguller, I don't mind acknowledging that there are (or may be) irreducible relations of similarity that don't cash out into partial identity and partial difference. I just don't think all similarities can.

"I don't think that substantial forms can be related to one another as universals, though--and I don't think that Aquinas intended to say that they were."

If Lloyd Gerson is right, then neither did Plato. (Also see above, where Jeremy Taylor points out that for Plato, forms, include the particulars that participate in them.) At any rate, it's hard to see how all human beings can share the same substantial form if our substantial forms are supposed to be our souls.

Scott said...

@Step2:

A few points just offhand:

I'm not aware of any evidence that she was actually addicted to amphetamines, and at any rate the truth is that she took diet pills at a time when it wasn't generally known that they could be addictive or harmful anyway.

She didn't have a "decades-long affair" with Nathaniel Branden. They did have an affair, but it started in 1964 and they'd irrevocably split by 1968.

It's false that in ATLAS SHRUGGED, "[o]ne of the strikers deliberately causes a train crash, and Rand makes it clear she thinks the murder victims deserved it, describing in horror how they all supported the higher taxes that made the attack necessary." There is indeed a train accident, but it is an accident, it's not a crash, it's not caused by one of the strikers, and the (allegedly deserving) victims didn't "support higher taxes."

She most certainly did not believe that "the only human relationships worth having are based on the exchange of dollars."

All of these points could have been made without exaggeration or misrepresentation. But they weren't.

Also, for the record, mea culpa: I misspoke without rereading the article. I haven't read those two biographies. I've read the ones by the Brandens.

Anonymous said...

At any rate, it's hard to see how all human beings can share the same substantial form if our substantial forms are supposed to be our souls.

Makes me think of Anscombe's essay on whether mankind has one soul.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Step2,

I wasn't really suggesting they were refuted thus, but simply pointing out that Hari is not just leftwing, but a particularly shrill, leftwing hack with a proven record of making things up.

I know little about Rand and what I do has hardly endeared me to her thought. In politics I'm an arch-traditionalist and Tory, wistfully partial even to the Old Cause, and in religion and philosophy a Christian Platonist and a somewhat frustrated member of the Church of England. So, I'm hardly a Randian.

Timotheos said...

@ Scott

As far as I can tell, dguller’s principle of explaining similarity as partial sameness and partial difference is a direct deduction from the “Identity of Indiscernibles”.

Whether or not some of the conclusions he has tried to draw from it, or some of his applications of it, in either past threads or this one, are correct is a different matter.

Scott said...

@Timotheos:

"As far as I can tell, dguller's principle of explaining similarity as partial sameness and partial difference is a direct deduction from the 'Identity of Indiscernibles'."

I'm not seeing that; can you elaborate?

Suppose that (say) "colors" as they appear in experience are irreducibly similar in that they belong to a spectrum of mutually resembling qualia without literally having any single isolable feature in common. In that case, whatever else they may be, they're not indiscernible. How does the Identity of Indiscernibles apply here?

(I should perhaps expressly state that my questions are not merely rhetorical and I'm entirely open to argument on this point. It's fine with me if resemblances do ultimately cash out in terms of identities; I just don't see why they must.)

Timotheos said...

@ Scott

Well if everything about X was true of Y, then they must be the same. So if something was true of X that was not true of Y, then X must be different from Y in some way. Now if X is similiar to Y, it must in some way be the same as Y. Thus, as long as we use similair in an exclusive sense (excluding something being similair to itself), then it must be founded on partial sameness and partial differentness. ie that X and Y are in some way the same and some way different.

As for the red example, obviously it's hard to define the difference between crimson red, lets say, and light red. But that has more to do with our inability to define red at all than with our account of their similarity.

Just because we might never be able to define the difference between two (exclusively) similair things does not mean that there isn't one in principle.

Going back to your example, crimson red and light red are the same in the sense that they are both red, and different in the sense that crimson is a darker shade, and light red is lighter. So the difference is founded in the respective darkness of the shades, which itself is also hard to define. And thus, given our account of similarity, crimson red is thus similar to light red.

Again though, we need to be careful in how we apply this principle; it should be taken as an ontological one rather than an epistemological one, and thus allows for things to be similiar without US being able to pin down exactly what is the same and what is different.

Step2 said...

@Scott
Thanks for proving your point.

@Jeremy
My unsolicited advice concerning the frustration with your church comes via a local church sign: "The church is a gift from God - some assembly required."

@Timotheos
Wouldn't it be better just to say the end point of abstraction can be variably defined, such that if red is the chosen point of relational similarity then other qualities like shade can be abstracted away?

Brandon said...

As far as I can tell, dguller’s principle of explaining similarity as partial sameness and partial difference is a direct deduction from the “Identity of Indiscernibles”.

If this is right, it seems that it ends up being too strong. If there are any differences between two things, they are discernible. Now suppose that two things are partly identical, partly different. Let's call the identical parts C and D respectively and the different parts E and F respectively. Then C and D differ in that C is really integrated with E and D is really integrated with F; which means the identical parts C and D are different and thus discernible. Thus it seems that applying the principle in this way implies that the principle doesn't apply. The only way around this would be to argue that C and D are quite literally exactly one and the same thing, like a jointly shared part, and that this one thing is itself related to both E and F. But this will cause all sorts of problems.

The reason for this is that the Identity of Indiscernibles as we usually understand it is really for particular kinds of situations when we call things the same, namely, when we are dealing purely extensionally with discrete isolatable elements. But similarity will always involve some kind of intrinsic relation or intension.

It seems to me it's easier to argue that similarity always involves partial sameness and partial difference if we are not taking sameness in the sense of identity as partly defined by the Identity of Indiscernibles. But then we'd need to know the relevant kind of non-identity sameness being used in the discussion.

rank sophist said...

Timotheos,

dguller's argument about partial identity and partial difference is based on a stray, out-of-context passage from the Commentary on the Metaphysics. It's his core argument against analogy.

In any case, from my reading there is no agreement about Aquinas's position on the Identity of Indiscernibles, and I don't think that it would be correct to read the principle back into him. I really don't think that it makes sense, given that his philosophy entails that absolute identity is impossible.

Scott said...

@Timotheos:

"Just because we might never be able to define the difference between two (exclusively) similair things does not mean that there isn't one in principle."

Right, in and of itself it doesn't. But my question is: suppose there isn't partial identity between some pair of exsclusively similar things. (In my example, that is, suppose there's no single factor literally common to two distinct colors.) How would that violate the Identity of Indiscernibles? The two colors are non-identical by hypothesis, and they're also discernible.

If that example doesn't work, substitute another or use none at all; I wasn't trying to start a discussion about colors. But I will reply on one point:

"Going back to your example, crimson red and light red are the same in the sense that they are both red[.]"

This approach appears to work only because it implicitly assumes that "red" is a common factor. But that's the very question at issue. If (exclusively) similar colors are related only by resemblance, then to say that they're both "red" would just mean that they both belong to a certain more-or-less-well-defined part of the spectrum, not that they literally had any single factor in common.

Nor could you successfully argue that the property "belonging to the same part of the spectrum" would itself count as such a factor. The two colors occupy different places in that part of the spectrum, and so it's not exactly the same property in the two cases; it's two distinguishable properties that very closely resemble each other. (At least that's what such a resemblance theory would maintain, and trying to disprove it by treating the two properties as one would therefore be begging the question against it.)

The argument could of course be extended generally to cover other (and perhaps all) cases of (exclusive) similarity.

Note that this sort of resemblance theory needn't deny that there are real universals; in fact I think it would pretty clearly have to admit that (say) any precise, specific color is a real universal. All it would need to say is that in many (and perhaps all) cases of (exclusive) similarity between such specific universals (in our example, two different shades of red), there's no common factor, just an irreducible relation of similarity.

Scott said...

@Timotheos:

"[I]f everything about X was true of Y, then they must be the same. So if something was true of X that was not true of Y, then X must be different from Y in some way. Now if X is similiar to Y, it must in some way be the same as Y."

I think my previous post explains why this doesn't work, but just to make the point clearly: a resemblance theorist of the sort we're discussing would simply deny that X is in some way the same as Y is always to be cashed out in terms of a literally common factor. Whatever common factor was proposed could simply turn out upon close analysis to be two very similar but non-identical factors.

I illustrated this reply with the property of "belonging to the same part of the spectrum," but Brandon gives a general pattern:

Now suppose that two things are partly identical, partly different. Let's call the identical parts C and D respectively and the different parts E and F respectively. Then C and D differ in that C is really integrated with E and D is really integrated with F; which means the [supposedly] identical parts C and D are different and thus discernible.

I think that without an independent reason why similarities must ultimately "bottom out" in strict identities rather than irreducible resemblances, arguments along that line you propose are doomed to fail.

Brandon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Rank Sophist:

"In any case I think it can safely be said that Aquinas's reputation for clear, simple and solid argumentation is based on next to nothing. His actual positions on a many issues are mysterious and/or undeveloped at best, self-contradictory at worst."

What other positions of Aquinas do you think are undeveloped or self-contradictory?

rank sophist said...

Anon,

What other positions of Aquinas do you think are undeveloped or self-contradictory?

Would that I could even remember all of them. To name a few: analogy, divine causality, intentionality, free will, nature and grace, man's natural end, love and use, consciousness, economics--I could go on. Aquinas did not have all the answers, nor did he pretend to.

Timotheos said...

Ok, so my use of the Identity of Indiscernibles was probably wrong, since it is actually formulated for much more specific situations than I realized. ie extensional parts

But I still think my principle's true, but perhaps I should add I'm not sure if it's exactly dguller's; it might just be similair...

Anyway, it seems to me that if something is like something else, they must literally share some common element that makes them like ie if they were completely different, then in what way would they be the same? But if we are not talking about something being the same as itself, then somehow the two things are different, else they are the same. Thus there must be partial sameness and partial differentness in two things that are the same.

And I don't see how this is incompatible with anaolgy, since we say that God is like his creatures in the sense that they are both beings. Now this is not being in exactly the same sense, but it's not wholely different either, so they are thus similair.

Like Scott, I'm open to being wrong on this, I just don't see how I am, or at least, I don't yet.

Scott said...

@Timotheos:

"[I]t seems to me that if something is like something else, they must literally share some common element that makes them like ie if they were completely different, then in what way would they be the same?"

And that's the question that lies at the very heart of the problem of universals.

Now, in "defending" a resemblance theory for non-exact similarities, I don't mean to imply that I subscribe to it myself. But at the very least I don't see anything contradictory or obviously mistaken in holding that (say) distinct colors are "similar" precisely because they belong to a common spectrum, that their "similarity" consists entirely in their relations to one another within that spectrum, and that since these precise relations are different for each color, there's no single common factor (or set thereof) that all colors share merely through being included in that spectrum.

Nor does this view seem to me to threaten either (a) realism about universals (since it allows that each specific color is, or may be, a real universal) or (b) the theory of forms (since it's not at all obvious to me that forms have to be "universals" in order to do their jobs as forms, even if it turns out that some of them in fact are).

Anonymous said...

A little off topic. My question is the result of a discussion I had recently with someone who insisted on the importance of testing/experimentation in all forms of inquiry.

I was wondering if anyone could help me identify theories, postulates or entities of physical science (physics, chemistry,biology) that are not proven or cannot be proven (other than the multiverse hypothesis). A list of things would be great a link to an article is also welcome.

@Scott
In the past, you've answered many of my questions quite insightfully. I hope you have the time to chime in with any thoughts you may have.

Thanks.

rank sophist said...

Timotheos,

I don't see how this is incompatible with anaolgy, since we say that God is like his creatures in the sense that they are both beings. Now this is not being in exactly the same sense, but it's not wholely different either, so they are thus similair.

Which is the whole problem. What does it mean for them to be similar? If it's partial identity and partial difference, then it follows that some absolutely identical trait exists in God and creatures, which is a contradiction. The only answer, in my view, is a theory of irreducible resemblance.

Timotheos said...

@ Scott

"And that's the question that lies at the very heart of the problem of universals."

Yes exactly, and I thought that the Identity of Indiscernibles was about the set of all properties of a thing, and not merely extensional parts. And obviously I DON'T want to construct universals as discrete extensional parts of a thing!

Brandon said...

Hi, Timotheos,

The Identity of Indiscernibles is often taken to be about the set of all properties of a thing; but when it is done so, 'properties' has to be taken in a way such that it excludes intensional or modal features (many kinds of relations, different kinds of things that can be considered possibilities, reduplications, etc.), because the Identity of Indiscernibles as usually understood breaks down if we aren't dealing with things that can at least be characterized as all on a level in entirely discrete and isolatable ways. So it covers a bit more than I perhaps unintentionally gave the impression, since it can handle things that can indirectly be treated just as a unified list or set of discrete items that are all in some way the same kind of thing, whether they're parts in our usual sense or not. This is actually quite a bit, but the basic argument is still the same -- not everything we might treat as properties can always be characterized adequately by treating them as discrete items of the same sort. Or another way to put it is that 'same' and 'identical' cannot be simply equated because of the various paradoxes of identity, a number of which turn on the problems with the Identity of Indiscernibles or the Indiscernibility of Identicals.

dguller said...

Think about it this way.

Say that you have F-in-X and F-in-Y. The intellect considers F-in-X and F-in-Y, and it proceeds to abstract away the –in-X and –in-Y from F-in-X and F-in-Y. What is left? Only F itself. Now, this F itself is an abstraction within an intellect, and thus is F-in-intellect. F itself does not exist per se, but only as a form within a substance of some kind.

I think it makes sense to say that F is formally identical in F-in-X, F-in-Y and F-in-intellect, but F is numerically distinct, because there are different kinds of identity and sameness, and which kind is relevant depends upon the context of the discussion. So, when I say that X is like Y in that X is partially the same as Y and X is partially different from Y, the sameness between X and Y is not numerical identity, but rather a different kind of identity. What that ultimately means is that the intellect can abstract away features from X, and abstract away features from Y, and if the intellect eventually reaches something that is the same, albeit numerically distinct, then that something is what is partially identical between X and Y. Other than being numerically distinct, that something is exactly the same in X and Y.

From a classical theist standpoint, one could even say that X and Y share participating in the same divine idea of F, i.e. they both instantiate images or reflections of the divine idea of F in created reality. So, in a sense, when one abstracts away particularities and reaches a common form, one is actually drawing closer to God himself and his intellect as the source and cause of what X and Y share in common.

Now, with regards to resemblance being a fundamental or basic reality that cannot be further analyzed in terms of partial identity and partial difference, I think that the biggest problem that I have with it is that every thing is similar to every other thing. In other words, it would be a basic truth that for any X and Y, X is like Y. For example, say that I say that Socrates is like Plato. You would rightfully ask me, “In what way is Socrates like Plato?”, and I respond that Socrates’ humanity is like Plato’s humanity. You would rightfully ask me, “In what way is Socrates’ humanity like Plato’s humanity?” And no matter what you answer, one can always ask, “in what way is A like B?” to infinity. So, unless there is some foundational commonality between Socrates and Plato, you have an infinite regress.

In addition, the resemblance theorist must assume that resemblance remains constant throughout the different likeness relationships. For example, saying that Socrates is like Plato, Socrates’ humanity is like Plato’s humanity, and so on, assumes that likeness must remain the same. But this is impossible on this account. The likeness relation between Socrates and Plato cannot be identical to the likeness relation between Socrates’ humanity and Plato’s humanity, but rather one likeness can only be like another likeness. Therefore, you would have as many likeness types as likeness tokens with nothing in common. And if they have nothing in common, then they can’t be like one another, either. Rather, they are radically different and incommensurable entities.

dguller said...

And one more point.

I still do not understand how a resemblance theorist can account for degrees of likeness between things. If there is no common standard that remains the same, but only slippery likenessness and resemblances, then how can one determine whether one likeness is closer than another?

For example, one can say that Plato is more like Socrates than like Fido the dog. I would say that although all three share being an animal in common, Plato and Socrates share being a rational animal while Fido the dog is a non-rational animal. But according to the resemblance theorist, Plato, Socrates and Fido do not actually share being an animal in common. Rather, Plato is an animal1, Socrates is an animal2, and Fido is an animal3, and all we can say is that animal1 is like animal2, animal2 is like animal3, and animal1 is like animal3. And because likeness is irreducible and non-analyzable, that is all we can say. We cannot appeal to something about animal1 and animal2 that brings them closer together and mutually farther from animal3, because to do that is to engage in an analysis, which is impossible for what is properly basic. So, you cannot say that Plato is more like Socrates than like Fido the dog.

Scott said...

"I was wondering if anyone could help me identify theories, postulates or entities of physical science (physics, chemistry,biology) that are not proven or cannot be proven (other than the multiverse hypothesis)."

Hmm, I don't have a list offhand and I don't have any helpful links. But do you mean "proven" experimentally? If so, there's some question whether any physical theories can be proven in that way; according to probably most philosophers of science, they can only be disproven.

@rank sophist:

"The only answer, in my view, is a theory of irreducible resemblance."

Well, at any rate a theory that allows some relations of irreducible resemblance. It still might be that some resemblances do cash out in terms of underlying identities; it's just that the ones between God and creatures can't.

@Timotheos:

"I thought that the Identity of Indiscernibles was about the set of all properties of a thing, and not merely extensional parts."

In fact some philosophers have even applied it to the properties themselves. In Brand Blanshard's hands, for example, it was a powerful argument for the existence of real universals.

@dguller:

"In addition, the resemblance theorist must assume that resemblance remains constant throughout the different likeness relationships. For example, saying that Socrates is like Plato, Socrates' humanity is like Plato's humanity, and so on, assumes that likeness must remain the same."

I don't see why. Why can't Socrates's resemblance to Plato just be very much like Socrates's humanity's resemblance to Plato's humanity? They're clearly not the very same relation of resemblance (even if Bertrand Russell might have thought otherwise).

Scott said...

@dguller:

"I still do not understand how a resemblance theorist can account for degrees of likeness between things. If there is no common standard that remains the same, but only slippery likenessness and resemblances, then how can one determine whether one likeness is closer than another?"

A "common standard" isn't the same thing as a common attribute or property.

There needn't be anything "slippery" about likenesses. We can tell easily enough, for example, that in the spectrum of visible colors, red is closer to orange than it is to yellow (and therefore resembles the former to a greater degree than it resembles the latter). Whether or not we can measure that closeness in units, we still have a pretty clear ordinal ranking.

What's doing the job here is a system of relations within a spectrum. Each color has a quite definite place in that system and its own set of relations to all other colors; there's nothing arbitrary or "slippery" about it.

As far as I can see, the only way around this reply is question-begging. Taking (e.g.) membership in a common spectrum to be a common attribute is to assume that there's just one such attribute (much as, above, you assumed there was just one relation of "resemblance" that remained the same no matter what was being compared). This of course is just what the resemblance theorist would deny: the real property/attribute/relation "membership in the spectrum" is in fact different for each specific color, as each has its own unique place in that spectrum.

Anonymous said...

@Scott

I agree. I believe since the criterion of falsifiability (Popper) and the collapse of the positivist movement, the verificationist principle has been mostly abandoned. Perhaps I should have said something that cannot be tested rather than proven.

I used the multiverse because there is no known experiment that can address the hypothesis. After doing some looking around I found a debate with William Craig that mentions that the speed of light is ASSUMED to be constant between two points for relativity theory and that is not something that he claims cannot be proven (that is something I would like to verify myself, whether Craig's claims are true or not).

Basically I am looking for anything that lies in the heart of scientific inquiry, whether a hypothesis, entity or principle that cannot be tested experimentally.

To be clear I am not looking for philosophical presuppositions that science makes: E.g. we are rational beings, there is an external world, our sense experience provides reliable data, etc. I am more interested in the theories, entieis, etc of science itself that cannot be tested. I hope that makes sense.

Thanks again.

Scott said...

"Basically I am looking for anything that lies in the heart of scientific inquiry, whether a hypothesis, entity or principle that cannot be tested experimentally."

Aha, I see what you mean. Okay, I still don't have anything offhand but I'll try to give it some thought. There will probably be others here who will give you better, faster answers.

Scott said...

@dguller:

Correction. I wrote:

As far as I can see, the only way around this reply is question-begging.

That's not quite right; another way would be to show that membership in a spectrum itself presupposes a common feature.

But in order to avoid begging the question, this feature would have to be able to meet the kind of reply I've given above—namely, it would have to be a single factor, identical in all members of the spectrum, that demonstrably could not be broken out into separate, more specific factors each unique to one member of the spectrum. That's why things like "being a color" won't do the job.

grodrigues said...

@Anonymous:

"I am more interested in the theories, entieis, etc of science itself that cannot be tested. I hope that makes sense."

Quantum mechanics (you can do the same exercise with say classical mechanics or general relativity or gauge theories or whatever):

(1) The state space of a quantum system is (the projective space of) a complex Hilbert space H.

(2) Observables are self-adjoint operators on H.

(3) The values of a given observable correspond to its spectrum.

This is part of the standard QM formalism, which can be viewed as a sort of second-order theory that unifies and explains (in the sense of entailment) the body of predictions and experimental laws about quantum systems, but none of which is falsifiable in any reasonable sense of the word.

Does this fit the bill?

Anonymous said...

@grodrigues

This (I think) fits the bill precisely but my understanding of QM is not as advanced as your description. So just to make sure I understand, is it the Hilbert space that is not falsifiable? The functions of the observables or is it the QM laws that are not falsifiable? I'm a little confused.

Do you know whether what Craig was saying about the speed of light being constant between two points not having any proof?

I gave it some thought and also though that some scientific theories that contain historical elements lack any experimentation. For example, one cannot test the hypothesis that claims a single cell organism can, through time and change become human. We generally accept it as an inference of evolutionary theory but have no experimental data to back it up.

I am however more interested in the realm of physics. Specifically about any phenomenon or entity that physical theory postulates that has no experimental support. To some extend the Higgs boson falls under this category as it has not (as of yet) been observed. We observe other entity and infer the Higgs boson's existence (correct me if I am wrong). Furthermore, it is my understanding that dark energy is also something we have no direct observation of. Is that true?

Basically I'm looking of examples of this nature, which in essence illustrate that even the most fundamental aspects of physical theory do not ALL have experimental testing and/or data supporting them. If you have any other such examples I would really like to hear them.

grodrigues said...

@Anonymous:

"So just to make sure I understand, is it the Hilbert space that is not falsifiable? The functions of the observables or is it the QM laws that are not falsifiable? I'm a little confused."

Pick (2) for example; I will quote it again:

(2) Observables are self-adjoint operators on H.

Observables are the things we measure: position, momentum, spin along an axis, etc. These are metrical properties of bodies. The general theoretical formalism of QM says that these are modeled as certain mathematical gadgets (e.g. self-adjoint operators on a complex Hilbert space). But it is meaningless to say that this statement, or even the whole general formalism, is falsifiable; quite clearly, properties such as position, etc. are *not* self-adjoint operators, so what would it mean to say that (2) is falsifiable? In fact, on purely mathematical grounds, it is quite easy to replace the formalism by something else; for example, just expand everything mathematical in sight in terms of ZFC, so that (2) becomes

(2') Observables are sets (of sets of sets of... or epsilon-trees or whatever).

The whole QM formalism might be overturned and replaced by something else, and the considerations leading to the replacement may have to do with say, new experimental data. But the general theoretical framework is not what is put on the crucible of experimentation, rather, in a sense, it is what allows and gives sense to experimentation in the first place.

"Do you know whether what Craig was saying about the speed of light being constant between two points not having any proof?"

I am not sure what Craig has in mind, but it is true that the speed of light (in vacuum) being a constant and the same in all frames is a postulate of Relativity; it is justified by experimental considerations (e.g. the lack of evidence for Aether) and all sorts of basic physical principles. It implies for example, that the speed of light is the top speed for any massless particle or wave (and thus any signal) for when the speed -> c, the energy needed to accelerate -> infinity. This has all been experimentally verified. But conceivably new experimental data could overturn this and thus falsify Relativity.

"To some extent the Higgs boson falls under this category as it has not (as of yet) been observed. We observe other entity and infer the Higgs boson's existence (correct me if I am wrong)."

This is not quite right, but to get a proper perspective, I would advise you to read up on the Mach-Boltzmann controversy over the atomic theory (over which Einstein chimed in with a decisive contribution). This is a fairly important historical test case about the status of entities of which we do not have direct sensory experience.

"Furthermore, it is my understanding that dark energy is also something we have no direct observation of. Is that true?"

Yes, dark energy is a theoretical posit to explain certain phenomena having to do with the expansion rate of the universe. But see previous point / warning.

Hope it helps.

dguller said...

Scott:

Why can't Socrates's resemblance to Plato just be very much like Socrates's humanity's resemblance to Plato's humanity? They're clearly not the very same relation of resemblance (even if Bertrand Russell might have thought otherwise).

Take the following statements:

(1) Socrates is like Plato
(2) Socrates’ humanity is like Plato’s humanity

The question is whether “is like” in (1) and (2) has the same meaning. Sure, how Socrates is like Plato will be different from how Socrates’ humanity is like Plato’s humanity, but the underlying likeness relation will remain the same. Otherwise, what you actually have is the following:

(3) Socrates is like1 Plato
(4) Socrates’ humanity is like2 Plato’s humanity

But then what is the relation between like1 and like2? They are not the same, and they are not different, and so they must be like one another, but because likeness cannot be the same, you must say that like1 is like3 like2, and you will have to repeat this process for any likeness relation ad infinitum without any way to identify in what precise way one thing is like another.

A "common standard" isn't the same thing as a common attribute or property.

It is for A-T in which saying that X is P just mean that X contains the form P, and the form P is the standard by which things that are P are judged by containing the ideal example of P.

There needn't be anything "slippery" about likenesses. We can tell easily enough, for example, that in the spectrum of visible colors, red is closer to orange than it is to yellow (and therefore resembles the former to a greater degree than it resembles the latter). Whether or not we can measure that closeness in units, we still have a pretty clear ordinal ranking.

But that is only because red, orange and yellow all exist on the exact same electromagnetic spectrum. They are just different points on the same map, so to speak. As you write:

What's doing the job here is a system of relations within a spectrum. Each color has a quite definite place in that system and its own set of relations to all other colors; there's nothing arbitrary or "slippery" about it.

Exactly. The “system” is the same for each color, and it is this system and their placement within it that allows us to determine proximity between the colors. If the “system” were not the same for each color, then it would shift or change for each color, which would make any determinations of their relationships impossible to determine, unless within that shifting scenario, something remained the same. In other words, if everything is in flux, then you couldn’t even say that everything is in flux. There must be some stability within the flux.

But in order to avoid begging the question, this feature would have to be able to meet the kind of reply I've given above—namely, it would have to be a single factor, identical in all members of the spectrum, that demonstrably could not be broken out into separate, more specific factors each unique to one member of the spectrum. That's why things like "being a color" won't do the job.

But if “being a color” just meant “existing within the electromagnetic spectrum between frequency F1 and frequency F2”, and this remained constant in each color, then that would be a single factor present in each color that made it a color at all. If it were absent, then you wouldn’t have a color at all.

NiV said...

"We observe other entity and infer the Higgs boson's existence (correct me if I am wrong)."

We observe light entering our eyeballs in particular patterns and infer the existence of the world around us. We see the surface of things and infer that they have an interior. Is that what you mean?

George LeSauvage said...

@rank sophist:

I don't understand these comments:

"What does it mean for a form to be one in multiple places? Plato got around this by claiming that forms don't exist in this world, and so can't have the contradictory one-in-many problem. Immanent realism has no such luck."

and
"Indeed. But there is no F that can be considered separately from its existence in a substance. F-in-Socrates isn't really an "F"; it's simply one of Socrates's traits. Calling it an F presupposes that it is universal, and that it is coherent to discuss one thing being in multiple places."

I don't see how a form or universal can be said to be "in a place" at all. Surely the "in" of "F-in-Socrates" doesn't refer to location, for how can something non-physical have location? My humanity isn't sitting in front of my computer, is it?

I don't get it.

George LeSauvage said...

@Brandon:

"Ayn Rand is deliberately adapting the methods and techniques of Hugo, and many of the literary aspects she gets criticized for are exactly the same ones that Hugo was criticized for when Les Miserables first came out. Philosophically, of course, Les Miserables and Atlas Shrugged are exactly opposite, since Hugo is an altruist; but they use many of the same literary techniques. Rand is a bit more stylized and cinematic (also deliberately), but for the most part there aren't any criticisms of Rand on the literary side that wouldn't be just as good a reason for dismissing Hugo as not very good. Since Hugo is in fact quite good, and Rand is actually competent in Hugo-esque technique, the harshest criticism of her that can really stick is that she's not as brilliant a novelist as Victor Hugo; which isn't much of a criticism, and, despite her ego, I don't know that Rand would have actually disagreed. Most attempts to dismiss her work as bad literature is due to people who want to hate her writing because they hate her views; ironic, since her writing is the result of the fact that Rand -- who was not exactly open-minded -- loved Hugo's writing despite hating his views."

I have two problems with this.

1. It simply isn't true that those who dislike Rand as literature are those who disagree with her. The world is full of people who do agree, but still think she is a bad novelist. On the other hand, if there is anyone who thinks her a good novelist, without a lot of sympathy for her views, I have yet to encounter one.

2. The Hugo argument is weak. The problem is that writers are not simply "bad" or "good", with the good ones being good, simply. It is entirely possible that Rand can share Hugo's faults, without his virtue. Now, I'm not a Hugo fan, either, but one thing is clear: much of the praise for him is for his style; the word "Poetic" being frequent. This is held to overcome his one-dimensional, black/white characters (as Dickens's humor is also said to do, for his slightly more nuanced ones.) Now, I've never heard the word "poetic" used for Rand, not by her biggest fans.

A final, general and tangential, point on literature is that criticism and evaluation is different here than for the other forms. In music and art, for instance, it is very hard to find anyone, well versed in the subjects, who will say that Mozart or Rembrandt are no-talent bums. But that is pretty common in literature. You can find detractors to any writer, whatsoever. (Not that this makes such detractions necessarily meaningless, though.)

rank sophist said...

George,

My humanity isn't sitting in front of my computer, is it?

It is. Your humanity is located wherever you are. It exists in no other place than in your body or separated soul.

Scott said...

@dguller:

"[I]f 'being a color' just meant 'existing within the electromagnetic spectrum between frequency F1 and frequency F2', and this remained constant in each color, then that would be a single factor present in each color that made it a color at all."

Not according to a resemblance theorist, for whom—again—"existing with the electromagnetic spectrum between frequency F1 and frequency F2" is not the specific, precise property that any particular color really has. The resemblance theorist will say that this generic "property" is just a sort of convenient mental shorthand that must ultimately be cashed out in terms of the specific relations of each specific color to the rest of the spectrum. And since each color has its own unique place in that spectrum, the real properties in question do not remain constant across all colors.

(I'm ignoring, because it's irrelevant to the main issue, the fact that I was speaking of qualia rather than electromagnetic radiation. But a quale has no "frequency.")

Now, I've made the point as clearly as I can and I don't want to go round and round making it over and over again, so I'll leave it at that.

George LeSauvage said...

@rank sophist: Could you expand on that. To me, it seems meaningless to say that my humanity has a location. It's not something physical.

Is there some school, of which I am not aware, which holds this?

George LeSauvage said...

@Scott:

Are you saying that the red spectrum is like a genus, and the exact shade of red a species, or something else?

rank sophist said...

George,

To me, it seems meaningless to say that my humanity has a location. It's not something physical.

Is there some school, of which I am not aware, which holds this?


The school would be Thomism, or any form of Aristotelianism. Humanity only exists as embodied. The abstract "humanity" is a product of the mind, which is why it seems to you to have no place in space. But individuated humanities--such as your humanity, my humanity, etc.--exist within substances at certain locations in space and time. Hence it is perfectly appropriate to say that your humanity is wherever you are at the time.

Scott said...

@George LeSauvage:

"Are you saying that the red spectrum is like a genus, and the exact shade of red a species, or something else?"

I'm saying that to a consistent and thoroughgoing resemblance theorist, the genus "red" isn't something that is literally in each specific shade of red or a single attribute that all such shades share, and that counterarguments that rely on (what a resemblance theorist would call) such pseudo-attributes are therefore question-begging.

For the record, I'm not a resemblance theorist myself (or at least not a thoroughgoing one), but I don't have any problem in principle with there being some irreducible relations of resemblance. (I do think that "color" is a pretty plausible candidate for a set of qualities related by irreducible resemblances rather than sharing a single common factor, which is why I'm using it as an example. But I don't think the project can be carried out across the board and applied to all properties/attributes.)

Timotheos said...

@ George LeSauvage

“To me, it seems meaningless to say that my humanity has a location. It's not something physical.”

That’s true in so far as we consider humanity in the abstract. But, if Socrates is a human, obviously he possesses humanity, since he is an instance of the universal. So humanity, considered concretely, is wherever each instance of humanity is.

To give another example, each square thing possesses squareness (otherwise, in what way would it be a square thing?). But it doesn’t possess squareness as abstract like we do in our minds.

To borrow a slogan from David Oderberg to sum this up, squareness is something we abstract, from the square things.

rank sophist said...

dguller,

But then what is the relation between like1 and like2?

Just wanted to point out that you've gone off the rails here. Likeness exists through a relation, and "no relation is related by another relation" (DP q3 a2 ro2). There cannot be a likeness between two likenesses.

dguller said...

Scott:

Not according to a resemblance theorist, for whom—again—"existing with the electromagnetic spectrum between frequency F1 and frequency F2" is not the specific, precise property that any particular color really has. The resemblance theorist will say that this generic "property" is just a sort of convenient mental shorthand that must ultimately be cashed out in terms of the specific relations of each specific color to the rest of the spectrum. And since each color has its own unique place in that spectrum, the real properties in question do not remain constant across all colors.

Again, this just presupposes that each specific color exists within the same totality or framework. Like you said, each specific color derives its properties from its particular location within that framework, which necessarily includes its particular relationships to the other colors within that framework. The framework is a totality of parts, after all. But the key point is that the framework remains constant, and being a part of that framework is what the colors have in common. To be a color is to be a part of the electromagnetic spectrum between certain frequencies. This commonality does not change from color to color, which means that it remains literally the same in each specific color.

So, the only reason that the specific colors have the relations to each other that they do is that they exist as parts of the same electromagnetic spectrum. The electromagnetic spectrum for red is not different from the electromagnetic spectrum for blue. Their places in the electromagnetic spectrum are different, but the electromagnetic spectrum itself remains the same.

Another way to think about it is to look at the mathematical formula: y = 2x. Now, look at the following number pairs:

(1) x = 1, y = 2
(2) x = 2, y = 4

Does the same formula apply to (1) and (2)? I would say that it does. It is the exact same formula that we use to plug the values for x and y to get the numbers in question. y = 2x in (1) is not like y = 2x in (2). It is the exact same formula, and (1) and (2) are just focusing upon two coordinates that y = 2x represents. The only difference is that y = 2x is applied to this set of numbers, and y = 2x is applied to that set of numbers. But certainly we can abstract away the this and that, and are left with just y = 2x. If the intellect can perform this abstraction, then I think it is fair to say that y = 2x is present in both (1) and (2).

I think that the same process would apply to colors. If we can abstract a common feature from the particular colors that is present in each individual color, such as being a part of the electromagnetic spectrum between frequencies F1 and F2, then that common feature would count as a partial identity, which would not be numerical identity, but formal identity. And notice that this would remain true even if being a part of the electromagnetic spectrum between frequencies F1 and F2 could be further analyzed into sub-components. After all, I never claimed that the common feature was irreducible and unanalyzable, but only that it was present in each particular.

Brandon said...

George LeSauvage,

(1) In fact, more often than not it is true, and I have had to deal with enough of the self-righteous for whom it is true (who actively get offended even at the bare argument that Rand, while not perhaps on Hugo's level, shows genuine competence in using Hugo's techniques, and by that competence ends up being a fairly high-tier novelist for the twentieth century; who actively get offended at anything that even insinuates that Rand is not literarily awful) to be sure of that. And, indeed, the hyperbole that people usually use when criticizing Rand is often quite startling in its implications. Overwhelmingly when criticisms of her literary abilities arises, particularly vehement criticism, it is motivated by distaste for her philosophy, or (sometimes) shows itself to be borrowed from someone for whom it is.

(2) No one looking at the history of Hugo criticism can seriously hold that Hugo's reputation depends on 'poetic style'; he was not regarded as having a particularly high style in his day. And the difference is quite obvious if you compare him to Flaubert or Balzac. Taste for Hugo's style was historically formed by taste for Hugo, not vice versa. (Not an uncommon path for unconventional authors.)

In any case, it is irrelevant: nobody goes around saying that Rand's problem is that her style isn't fancily poetic enough, and it still is true that when people actually provide arguments for why Rand is a poor novelist, they usually provide criticisms that are almost exactly the same as those that were originally put forward against Hugo, on exactly the points where Rand is quite clearly imitating and adapting Hugo -- heavy-handed philosophizing, caricature characters built for melodrama, black-and-white themes forced on the reader, and so forth.

I am utterly skeptical of your claims about the special status of criticism and evaluation in literature. The comparison with Mozart and Rembrandt is problematic: it would be equally difficult to find people saying that Shakespeare or Austen or Dickens or Eliot were no-talent hacks, particularly allowing for the fact that many more people are forcibly exposed to the literary greats in school than are forcibly exposed to the greats of music or painting. Moreover, failure to appreciate Mozart or Rembrandt is in and of itself a failure of taste in painting; they are taste-formative standards, like Dante or Austen. When we're dealing with Rand, or even Hugo, who is certainly the superior novelist, we are not in such starry realms. But if we went down from Mozart or Rembrandt, we'd find analogous tiers.

dguller said...

Rank:

Just wanted to point out that you've gone off the rails here. Likeness exists through a relation, and "no relation is related by another relation" (DP q3 a2 ro2). There cannot be a likeness between two likenesses.

First, of course you can have a likeness between two likenesses. In fact, that would be necessary in your account, because two likenesses could not be identical, and thus could only be similar.

Second, say that you are correct that the relation of likeness remains the same in all likeness relationships between A and B. So, when we look at the following propositions:

(1) A is like B
(2) C is like D

The likeness relation in (1) and (2) is the same, although it differs in some way, because of the particularities of A and B, and C and D. But this is impossible on your account, because sameness is impossible, and any mention of sameness must be changed to likeness. Therefore, we cannot say that the likeness relation in (1) and (2) is the same, but rather that the likeness relation in (1) is like the likeness relation in (2). You seem to object to this conclusion.

Third, even Oderberg agrees that similarity presupposes identity. He writes that “there would be no real similarity between anything, by which I mean that things would not literally possess other things that were strictly identical with each other … Consider what all squares have in common: there is something they literally share, namely squareness” (RE, p. 83).

Scott said...

@dguller:

"But the key point is that the framework remains constant, and being a part of that framework is what the colors have in common."

And again, the key point for the resemblance theorist is that "being a part of that framework" is not a single property but a shorthand description of whole sheaf, range, or spectrum of real properties: each color is "part of that framework" in a slightly different way.

Scott said...

@dguller and rank sophist:

"Squareness" is one case in which I would tend to agree (with Oderberg) that two objects can literally have it in common.

Of course, from my own point of view not all resemblances need to be handled in the same way. Even if my hypothetical resemblance theorist is right about colors, that alone doesn't mean s/he's right about shapes (or mathematical formulae).

Scott said...

@rank sophist:

"There cannot be a likeness between two likenesses."

Sure there can. There can even be degrees of it. The likeness of red to orange is different from the likeness of red to yellow, but they're more alike than either of them is to the likeness between St. Peter's and St. Paul's.

Scott said...

(Or consider something like "Smith resembles Paul Newman in somewhat the same way that Jones resembles Robert Redford.")

dguller said...

Scott:

And again, the key point for the resemblance theorist is that "being a part of that framework" is not a single property but a shorthand description of whole sheaf, range, or spectrum of real properties: each color is "part of that framework" in a slightly different way.

But if the set of that “whole sheaf, range, or spectrum of real properties” remains the same in each color, then that’s all one needs to refute the resemblance theorist. After all, that totality of real properties would be what the colors share in common, and it would have to be present in each particular color, which would correspond to the partial identity in question. Like I said earlier, I never claimed that the commonality that individuals share in common had to be a single property. It just had to be something that is present in each, and certainly being a part of the electromagnetic spectrum would be present in each particular color.

Brandon said...

What does it mean to say the electromagnetic spectrum remains the same "in each color"? I have no idea what this means; the whole electromagnetic spectrum is not present in a specific color.

dguller said...

Brandon:

What does it mean to say the electromagnetic spectrum remains the same "in each color"? I have no idea what this means; the whole electromagnetic spectrum is not present in a specific color.

I said that being a part of the electromagnetic spectrum remains the same in each particular color. Sure, each color corresponds to a different part of the electromagnetic spectrum, but that each color corresponds to some part of the same electromagnetic spectrum, I think, remains the same in each color.

Brandon said...

Yes, you said it; you also said that thewhole spectrum is in each color. In any case, it doesn't make any more sense in context: in what conceivable sense does "being part of the whole electromagnetic spectrum" or "being part of the same electromagnetic spectrum" remain the same "in" each color, or in what sense is it "present" in each color, given that in both cases we are talking about the whole spectrum, which is not present in each color? Being part of the same spectrum can easily be treated as a relation of resemblance between colors; what does it mean to say that it is "in" each color or "present in" each color or "remains the same in" each color?

dguller said...

Brandon:

Yes, you said it; you also said that thewhole spectrum is in each color. In any case, it doesn't make any more sense in context: in what conceivable sense does "being part of the whole electromagnetic spectrum" or "being part of the same electromagnetic spectrum" remain the same "in" each color, or in what sense is it "present" in each color, given that in both cases we are talking about the whole spectrum, which is not present in each color?

In the sense that there is something about each specific color that places it in a particular part of the electromagnetic spectrum. I would say that because each color is a particular electromagnetic wavelength, it follows that each color exists at a particular part of the electromagnetic spectrum. In other words, by virtue of being a particular electromagnetic wavelength, each color is necessarily related to other electromagnetic wavelengths, because they all exist as parts of the totality of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Being part of the same spectrum can easily be treated as a relation of resemblance between colors

How so? Maybe if it were spelled out for me, I’d see what I’m missing.

Brandon said...

In the sense that there is something about each specific color that places it in a particular part of the electromagnetic spectrum.

But this is just to say that each specific color resembles other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, although each part resembles other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum in different ways. A resemblance theorist doesn't require anything more: he can just say that the something about each particular color that places it in a particular part of the electromagnetic spectrum is its unique relations of resemblance to all the colors of the spectrum.

In other words, by virtue of being a particular electromagnetic wavelength, each color is necessarily related to other electromagnetic wavelengths, because they all exist as parts of the totality of the electromagnetic spectrum.

But it's difficult, again, to see how you can say this without saying that the totality of the electromagnetic spectrum, which keeps being identified as the unifying factor, the thing that is the same, is somehow present in each color.

rank sophist said...

dguller,

First, of course you can have a likeness between two likenesses.

Perhaps I was too vague. A relation relates through itself; never through a secondary or tertiary relation. If like1 and like2 (relations) were alike (related), then they would be alike through themselves rather than through some like3. Thus the relation chain is not infinite.

And you seem to be in the dark about what "likeness" entails, here. On a resemblance theory account it would mean that there is a nest of primordial relations between things. If you compared these relations to each other, you would not need to posit a third relation between the two, for reasons I mentioned above.

Scott said...

@dguller:

"But if the set of that 'whole sheaf, range, or spectrum of real properties' remains the same in each color, then that's all one needs to refute the resemblance theorist."

I don't know what you mean here. I didn't say or imply that the entire range of properties called "being a part of that framework" is present in each color for a resemblance theorist—quite the opposite, in fact.

The point is that each color stands in a unique set of relations to the rest of the spectrum, so that each color has its own unique way of "being a part of that framework." There isn't just one single property picked out by the phrase "being a part of that framework"; there's a whole host of them, in fact a different one for every color.

And for a resemblance theorist, that's sufficient. You won't refute him by begging the question and insisting that it's a common property anyway, when he's already positively argued (correctly, in my view) that in this case it isn't.

As Brandon has now put it:

"But this is just to say that each specific color resembles other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, although each part resembles other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum in different ways. A resemblance theorist doesn't require anything more: he can just say that the something about each particular color that places it in a particular part of the electromagnetic spectrum is its unique relations of resemblance to all the colors of the spectrum."

Exactly.

rank sophist said...

Oh, and Brandon,

What about those of us who find Hugo's and Rand's work repulsive for the same reasons? You seem to presuppose that Hugo's novels have been validated beyond criticism.

Anonymous said...

@grodrigues

"Yes, dark energy is a theoretical posit to explain certain phenomena having to do with the expansion rate of the universe. But see previous point / warning."

Just for the sake of argument, the same reasoning can be applied to God. "Yes, it is a theoretical posit -albeit philosophical, not scientific - that helps explain all phenomena. Is this line of argumentation equally valid?

The clarification on QM was very helpful. Unfortunately I am not familiar with the Boltzmann v Mach debate so I will need to look it up. A cursory search did not yield anything other than one book so I might need to do some deeper searching in hope to find an article illustrating the issue rather succinctly.

Thanks again for the help.

William Dunkirk said...

" The scheming bastards couldn't agree on the color of s**t. It's a trap, are you blind? "

- Hamish from Braveheart.

In the question of universals, what seems to me to be something of the problem is comparing instances of things said to be the same or similar in two admittedly different individuals (or substances) while ignoring the fact that, e.g., length is present (and presumably equally so) across the whole length in any individual that has it.
In what sense do the first (say) three inches in something six inches long only "resemble" or only "similar" the remaining three inches? How would a trope nominalist resolve this? Moreover, I am pretty sure when we posit a bodily nature to things we don't mean they only "resemble" having exactly three dimensions and, to that extent, in the exact same way to boot.

dguller said...

Brandon:

But this is just to say that each specific color resembles other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, although each part resembles other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum in different ways. A resemblance theorist doesn't require anything more: he can just say that the something about each particular color that places it in a particular part of the electromagnetic spectrum is its unique relations of resemblance to all the colors of the spectrum.

First, the resemblance theorist would still have to provide an account of what they mean when they say that X resembles Y. I still find it hard to believe that one can do so without utilizing partial identity and partial difference. And it goes without saying that the identity in question cannot be numerical identity, but rather some other kind of identity. Simply saying that resemblance is basic, irreducible and unanalyzable won’t work, because then you would be unable to specify in what way two things resemble one another. After all, that would require some way to analyze the resemblance, which would make it analyzable.

Second, wouldn’t that mean that a duck is also a color? A duck has a unique relation of resemblance to all the colors of the spectrum, as well. So, it is not enough to say that if X has a unique relation of resemblance to all colors of the spectrum, then X is a color. In fact, what makes a duck not a color is that a duck is not something that exists on the EM spectrum at all, because a duck is not an EM frequency. To be an EM frequency is to exist on the EM spectrum, and being an EM frequency is what all colors share in common. Sure, which EM frequency they are will be different, but the former would be the partial identity and the latter would be the partial difference.

But it's difficult, again, to see how you can say this without saying that the totality of the electromagnetic spectrum, which keeps being identified as the unifying factor, the thing that is the same, is somehow present in each color.

What is the same is not the totality of the EM spectrum, but that each individual color is a particular part of the EM spectrum. Yes, that necessarily makes reference to the totality of the EM spectrum, which must exist as part of the definition of “a part of the EM spectrum”. But this is not different from saying that Plato and Socrates are human beings, which necessarily makes reference to the totality of human beings. But that does not mean that the totality of human beings exists in Plato and Socrates.

dguller said...

Scott:

I don't know what you mean here. I didn't say or imply that the entire range of properties called "being a part of that framework" is present in each color for a resemblance theorist—quite the opposite, in fact.

I understand that when the resemblance theorist denies that when he says that X resembles Y that there is anything that remains the same in X and Y. Rather, X and Y exist as parts of a totality that is solely defined by its interrelationships, and X and Y each exist within that totality in a unique set of interrelationships with everything else in that totality.

And what I’m saying in response is that even though X and Y each have a unique set of interrelationships with everything in the totality, the fact that they are in the totality at all is something that X and Y have in common. And this remains true even if being in the totality itself implied a series of properties, such as being in a unique relationship with everything else in the totality, and so on.

The point is that each color stands in a unique set of relations to the rest of the spectrum, so that each color has its own unique way of "being a part of that framework." There isn't just one single property picked out by the phrase "being a part of that framework"; there's a whole host of them, in fact a different one for every color.

I just don’t see it. Why can’t being a part of the totality be a single property? In fact, why can’t one say that this single property is what is implied by every other property, including the unique ones that distinguish the different colors from each other? For example, all human beings are rational animals, and yet the degree to which they express their rational animality is different. But they couldn’t have a differential expression of their rational animality unless they were already rational animals to begin with. Or is it possible to have a different expression of X without being X to begin with? Similarly, X cannot be a color unless it was already a part of the EM spectrum.

And as I said to Brandon, if you want to say that X is a color iff X “stands in a unique set of relations to the rest of the spectrum”, then a dog is a color, as well. After all, a dog exists in a unique set of relations to the EM spectrum. If that is the only relevant detail, then this absurd conclusion must follow. To avoid it, there must be something other than the unique set of relations, because everything exists in a unique set of relations to everything else. There must be a demarcation somewhere, and in this case, the demarcation exists between whatever is an EM frequency and whatever is not an EM frequency, and being an EM frequency, which necessarily implies being a part of the EM spectrum, is the same property in each color.

dguller said...

Rank:

Perhaps I was too vague. A relation relates through itself; never through a secondary or tertiary relation. If like1 and like2 (relations) were alike (related), then they would be alike through themselves rather than through some like3. Thus the relation chain is not infinite.

First, I don’t see how this solves the problem. If a relation relates through itself, then the likeness of the two likenesses would have to relate through itself, and not through the other two relations. In general, the idea is that for any X and Y, if X is like Y, then the likeness between X and Y relates through the likeness between X and Y. If X is like1 and Y is like2, and like1 is like like2, then the relation of likeness between like1 and like2 must be through a third kind of likeness, i.e. like3.

Second, I agree with you that every thing is like every other thing. I disagree with you when you claim that this likeness relation is basic and irreducible, because if that were true, then you could never specify in what way X is like Y. All you could say is that X is like Y, and that’s it. To say anything further would be to admit that one can analyze the likeness between X and Y further, which necessarily means involving composition of some kind, because analysis is the breaking down of a whole into its constituent parts. So, if likeness is basic and unanalyzable, then it is also empty and tautological, and completely uninformative. If likeness is not basic and unanalyzable, then it can be broken down into parts of some kind, and then the question is what is the nature of these parts and how do they account for the likeness relation. My preferred solution would be to say that one parts are the same and other parts are different.

Third, I still don’t understand how you can say that one likeness is more like another likeness on your account. More and less are indicative of an ordered hierarchy of some kind. X must exist on one part of the hierarchy and Y must exist on another part of the hierarchy, and depending upon their positions in the hierarchy, they bear a certain proximity to one another. If you add Z to the mix, and say that Z is more like X than Y, then that just means that Z is closer to X than Y on the ordered hierarchy. But then not only do they have a unique set of relations to one another, but rather their unique set of relations only makes sense against a constant backdrop of the ordered hierarchy itself. It would like using the same ruler to measure different lengths. Your position seems equivalent to saying that one can use a different ruler (i.e. one with different measurements) to measure different lengths, and still rely upon the results.

One of the advantages that I enjoyed about the A-T account is precisely the stability and regularity that it provides with its claims of isomorphic structures of different kinds grounding the connections between things. By eliminating the sameness that is accounted for by the isomorphism, your account seems to remove the very stability and regularity that make this account so attractive, at least to myself.

dguller said...

And you seem to be in the dark about what "likeness" entails, here. On a resemblance theory account it would mean that there is a nest of primordial relations between things. If you compared these relations to each other, you would not need to posit a third relation between the two, for reasons I mentioned above.

Is the “nest of primordial relations between things” is basically a coherent and holistic structure of interconnections, much like the totality of divine ideas that accounts for the rational organization of reality itself? In other words, is there such a structure of interconnections that exists metaphysically prior to any particular instantiation in reality? For example, a square would have four sides even if there was never a square in existence, simply by virtue of the divine idea of squareness, and that divine idea’s relationship to other divine ideas into a coherent whole. If there was an actual square, then its properties would flow from the essence that is isomorphic with the divine idea of squareness. To my thinking, as long as the “nest of primordial relations between things” remains constant, then being a part of the nest of primordial relations between things is something that all things have in common, and could be the partial identity between them.

Or am I missing something here?

William Dunkirk said...

@ dguller and Scott in regards to colour.

Gentlemen,

In my analysis of the modern account of colour it became clear that colour is simply not actually anywhere present in the empirical and physical world and can't be.

Scott,
I think you are certainly of the type of mind to discover this problem too in the modern account of colour.

Colour in the modern account never actually appears. A specific frequency is not a colour no matter how much "information" it is supposed to be carrying/conveying. I think people with experience in web page design (for example) are in a position to understand just what the problem is in the modern account: They treat colour like a script or code (e.g., "< b >") but the actually bolding we see is never accounted for and has no source and can't actually be present in anything.

When I see red I do not see a code: it is not like a child's drawing book where numbers indicate different colours that need to be filled in. Colour, in the modern account, near as I can tell, is entirely swept into the mind and reduced entirely to innate knowledge; however, getting colour back into the phenomenal world is exceptionally difficult (I think actually impossible) regardless. There is a missing link, all the obfuscation in modern accounts notwithstanding. The only solution is that God Himself is constantly painting our phenomenal world with actual colours or He has given souls a power to see actual colours in a literally colourless world.

Brandon said...

First, the resemblance theorist would still have to provide an account of what they mean when they say that X resembles Y. I still find it hard to believe that one can do so without utilizing partial identity and partial difference.

Resemblance theorists of the kind we're talking about take resemblance to be an irreducible exactly like most people take identity or difference, though. To say that they need to provide an account of what they mean when they say that X resembles Y is ambiguous. It could mean that they just need to convey the meaning of the word; but this requires no account of resemblance in terms of other things, only a linking of it to actual experiences of resemblance, which is quite easy because resemblance is an obvious part of our experience (much more obvious than identity, in fact, which requires additional reflection on experience). Or one could mean that they have to give an account of resemblance in terms of some more fundamental principle; but saying that they need to do this is question-begging, because it is only true if resemblance theory is false. Looking over what you've said on the subject, I don't see you giving an account of 'X is identical to Y' or 'X is different to Y' in terms of any principles more fundamental than they are, and even if you did you are going to hit bottom somewhere with principles that you think don't require any account in terms of more fundamental ideas and principles. The whole point of resemblance theory in the sense being used here is that resemblance should actually be seen as one of these basic ideas, not needing to be reduced to more basic ideas.

In short, you can't have it both ways. No matter how you organize your account, you are going to hit principles and elements that you don't or can't reduce to even more fundamental principles and elements. But that means you can't criticize resemblance theorists simply because they can't or won't reduce resemblance to even more fundamental principles and elements.

Second, wouldn’t that mean that a duck is also a color? A duck has a unique relation of resemblance to all the colors of the spectrum, as well. So, it is not enough to say that if X has a unique relation of resemblance to all colors of the spectrum, then X is a color.

This would only be true if it were in and of itself a sufficient condition rather than simply a necessary one; but there's no need to regard it as sufficient. The whole force of your argument already depends on it being straightforwardly obvious that colors resemble each other much, much more than ducks resemble colors, and, what is more, that the way in which color A's resemblance to color B itself involves a much greater resemblance to color C's resemblance to color D than the way in which the resemblance of a duck to a color A resembles color C's resemblance to color D. (As Scott noted previously, it can make perfect sense to hold that there are higher-order resemblance relations among first-order resemblance relations.) Thus the resemblance theorist just has to point to this obvious fact. The point of the uniqueness is that if you posit resemblance relations, colors are placed in the spectrum by their unique resemblance relations to each other, and there's no need for partial identity.

Brandon said...

Rank,

What about those of us who find Hugo's and Rand's work repulsive for the same reasons? You seem to presuppose that Hugo's novels have been validated beyond criticism.

Beyond criticism, no. Even Shakespeare or Dante can be criticized. But people who don't like Hugo have no grounds for concluding farther than they personally don't like Hugo. Take the pure case first. If someone were to say that they find Homer's work, or Dante's work, or Shakespeare's, or Austen's work repulsive, that's a perfectly legitimate expression of personal taste. If they were seriously to conclude that the reasons they don't like Homer, or Dante, or Shakespeare, or Austen show that these authors are no-talent hacks, that's a sign of both stupidity and incompetent reading. It's like insisting that because of the reasons you hate surrealism that Dali can't paint; serious evaluation of Dali's genius as a painter simply doesn't depend on one's feelings about surrealism, and one's personal feelings about his paintings, although it can be relevant to the question, is a useless datum unless one also compares it to how other people who love the intricacies of painting feel about his paintings. Or it's like saying that one is repulsed by Mary Lou Williams's work, and moving from that to claiming that Mary Lou Williams is an incompetent composer and musician; the feeling is just what it is, but the judgment is laughable. It becomes more complicated, but not fundamentally different, when dealing with someone like Hugo. There's plenty in Hugo that might repulse a person; there's nothing unreasonable about being repulsed by Hugo. But this is not an adequate foundation for pronouncing on his literary competence.

dguller said...

Brandon:

Resemblance theorists of the kind we're talking about take resemblance to be an irreducible exactly like most people take identity or difference, though.

If resemblance is irreducible, then it is also unanalyzable. In that case, if X is like Y, then all one can say is that X is like Y, and nothing else. Anything else that one can say will just use synonyms that essentially mean the same thing (e.g. resemblance, likeness, similarity). To say anything else that does not involve the use of synonyms would be to admit that resemblance is reducible and analyzable.

For example, say that Plato is like Socrates. If resemblance is irreducible and unanalyzable, then saying that Plato is like Socrates is all we can say. But we can say lots more. We can say that Plato is like Socrates in that they were both human beings, they were both philosophers, they were both Greeks, they both lived in Athens, they both inspired future philosophers, they both are famous, and so on. And the question is: how is this additional information even possible if resemblance is irreducible and unanalyzable? It seems that when we say that X is like Y, then we can identify factors that are present (in some sense) in both X and Y, and other factors that are present (in some sense) in X (or Y), but not present (in some sense) in Y (or X). And if that is true, then resemblance is reducible and analyzable after all.

Or one could mean that they have to give an account of resemblance in terms of some more fundamental principle; but saying that they need to do this is question-begging, because it is only true if resemblance theory is false.

True, and I would contend that resemblance theory is false if the resemblance theorist is able to provide an account of how X is like Y. And since the resemblance theorist can explain how X is like Y by describing in what way(s) X and Y are the same, and in what ways X and Y are not the same, it follows that resemblance relations can be reduced to parts that are the same and parts that are not the same. Or, the resemblance theorist can be consistent and just say, “X is like Y, and that’s all I can say about that”, when asked how X is like Y.

Looking over what you've said on the subject, I don't see you giving an account of 'X is identical to Y' or 'X is different to Y' in terms of any principles more fundamental than they are, and even if you did you are going to hit bottom somewhere with principles that you think don't require any account in terms of more fundamental ideas and principles. The whole point of resemblance theory in the sense being used here is that resemblance should actually be seen as one of these basic ideas, not needing to be reduced to more basic ideas.

I agree that we have to hit rock bottom at some point, and I even agree that identity and difference are basic principles that cannot be analyzed further. In fact, they would be presupposed in any further analysis. Even saying that X is identical to Y iff X’s properties/qualities/attributes are the same as Y’s properties/qualities/attributes still has to use “the same as” to explain “identical”. But I disagree that resemblance is such a basic and foundational principle, because it can be parsed in more basic terms, i.e. partial identity and partial difference.

This would only be true if it were in and of itself a sufficient condition rather than simply a necessary one; but there's no need to regard it as sufficient.

That’s true. But then what would be the additional sufficient condition?

dguller said...

The whole force of your argument already depends on it being straightforwardly obvious that colors resemble each other much, much more than ducks resemble colors, and, what is more, that the way in which color A's resemblance to color B itself involves a much greater resemblance to color C's resemblance to color D than the way in which the resemblance of a duck to a color A resembles color C's resemblance to color D.

But my argument also says that the reason that colors resemble each other more than ducks resemble colors is that colors have more things in common than ducks and colors do. After all, the more X and Y have things in common, the more X resembles Y. (If X and Y have everything in common, then X does not resemble Y, but rather X is Y.) In other words, my argument can actually explain the intuitiveness of the greater resemblance between colors themselves than between ducks and colors.

To the resemblance theorist, it is inexplicable, but intuitively obvious. Why would one prefer an account that explains an intuitive truth over an account that fundamentally cannot and refuses to explain an intuitive truth is beyond me. That would be like a theist saying to an atheist, “Look, we both agree that the universe is ordered. I have an explanation in the form of a metaphysically simple being that is the ground of the ordered universe, and you take the ordered universe as a brute fact. Well, both our theories must be equally valid, and so it’s a wash.” In general, I’d say that there is a specific phenomenon, and two theories that purport to account for that phenomenon, then the theory can actually provides an explanation of the phenomenon should be preferred to the theory that declares the phenomenon in explicable.

The point of the uniqueness is that if you posit resemblance relations, colors are placed in the spectrum by their unique resemblance relations to each other, and there's no need for partial identity.

Again, every thing has “unique resemblance relations” to every other thing. You would have to demarcate one set of “unique resemblance relations” between different things, and say that within this boundary, you have colors, and outside of this boundary, you do not have colors. But once you have erected a boundary between the “unique resemblance relations” that characterize colors, and the “unique resemblance relations” that characterize non-colors, then you can certainly say that what the “unique resemblance relations” that characterize colors have in common is that they all occur within the boundary or demarcation. It would be analogous to saying that what differentiates New Yorkers from non-New Yorkers is that New Yorkers live within New York. And living within New York is what all New Yorkers have in common, which would just be partial identity. Or at least it seems to me.

By the way, any texts that you’d recommend that might clarify the issue for me further? Clearly, you and Scott are of the same mind on this issue, and yet I’m having a hard time seeing the problem. Any assistance would be appreciated.

Thanks.

George LeSauvage said...

@Brandon:

1. Your first point doesn't really address mine. I was looking at those who like Rand in one respect, but not the other. Sure, those who hate both her fiction and her ideas are many (as are those who like both.)

But the question is those who like one and not the other - in this case, that is the test. And I don't recall ever meeting, in person or in print, anyone who simply liked Rand as a novelist, and disliked her ideas. On the other hand, I have met (again, both in person and in print) many who like her ideas, but hate her novels.

Contrast, for instance, this with Mencken. His actual ideas aren't all that far from Rand's, but he has many, many, more devotees who delight in him, while disagreeing with most he says. This isn't that uncommon; lots of Leftists like Eliot and Yeats. Mystery fans on the left and right can still like Hammett and Carr, respectively.

I don't say it is impossible, but it is very hard to find a literary-only fan of Rand's, akin to Rand's fondness for Hugo. Again, I have yet to find one, at least over the age of about 16, when their views have been formed.

George LeSauvage said...

@Brandon:
(2nd part)
2. Well, I may have overstated with "poetic" - although I have read older criticisms of Hugo which made just that argument. But the question is, can the writer pull it off, despite his flaws. Orwell did argue just this about Shakespeare; that anyone can pick his plots to shreds, but somehow it doesn't matter. (Orwell himself, when not writing about Commies, has little to say a conservative can accept, but still gets by.) Arthur Conan Doyle did suffer the same sentimentality (common in the 19th C) toward his virtuous females, but he seems to survive it, for other reasons.

The problem with Rand here is that the message is so persistent that trying to read her, you aren't entering an imagined world at all. It's all message, all the time. And it is, to any but devotees, wearisome.

3. Again, I flat disagree - I know it is wrong, to say that there is equal disagreement in music and art, as with literature. Take your examples. Just offhand, I know that Tolstoy and Shaw did think Shakespeare a worthless writer. Emerson and Twain said the same of Austen. C S Lewis hated Eliot's verse. For Dante, well, pick any 15th or 16th C writer; the odds are overwhelming he will dismiss him. Robert Graves called Virgil "the anti-poet". The list goes on and on. This isn't a case for a "special status", but merely a point which should be recognized. Hatred on artistic grounds, for a given artist, is so much more common in lit, than in other fields, as to change the terms.

George LeSauvage said...

@rank:

Can you give me a citation which clearly states that the form instantiated in a substance is in it locally? I have never found it. Yes, there is a sense in which humanity is "in" me, but the way my liver is in me.

Frankly, that strikes me as a massive non-sequitur. It's the sort of claim which almost made me a Rylean.

Scott said...

@dguller:

"If resemblance is irreducible, then it is also unanalyzable."

Not all resemblances need to be irreducible in order for the resemblance theorist's account to work—just the ones where we "hit rock bottom." Your Socrates/Plato counterexample is a case of higher-level resemblances between persons that can be cashed out as more fundamental resemblances (perhaps including identities) between their properties or relations.

dguller said...

Scott:

Not all resemblances need to be irreducible in order for the resemblance theorist's account to work—just the ones where we "hit rock bottom." Your Socrates/Plato counterexample is a case of higher-level resemblances between persons that can be cashed out as more fundamental resemblances (perhaps including identities) between their properties or relations

The “rock bottom” resemblances would have to be such that it is impossible to provide any deeper account of why X resembles Y in any way. One cannot describe some things that X has in common with Y, and other things that X does not have in common with Y. One cannot describe some properties/attributes/qualities that are present in X and Y, and other properties/attributes/qualities that are present in X (or Y), but not present in Y (or X). A “rock bottom” resemblance would stare at us as a brute fact that we can intuitively grasp without any possible further explication.

Thus far, I haven’t seen any examples of such a “rock bottom” resemblance. The color example doesn’t work, because it can be cashed in terms of something that the colors share in common, i.e. being a part of the EM spectrum, being able to appear in human consciousness as qualia, and so on. I still don’t understand the objection for why this account is so wrong and unacceptable.

Also, you say that you do not accept the resemblance theory. Why not? What is it about the theory that does not work for you?

zmikecuber said...

I know I've mentioned this before, but if anyone would like to debate me on debate.org regarding "Aquinas' first way is sound" contact me on there. It would be alot of fun, and would help me learn.

That being said, I can promise that my understanding of the first way is sufficient enough to make for an entertaining debate.

Scott said...

@dguller:

"Thus far, I haven't seen any examples of such a 'rock bottom' resemblance."

Well, you haven't seen any you agree with, at any rate. But a resemblance theorist wouldn't be satisfied with your reasons for disagreeing, and I've already explained why.

Every time you try to offer a common attribute that "explains" why (e.g.) two colors resemble each other, you propose an "analysis" that a resemblance theorist would say is no analysis at all. For the resemblance theorist, "belonging to a spectrum" doesn't pick out one single literally common attribute but a different attribute for each color, and it's your proposed common attribute that requires further analysis.

He'd probably add that you're constituting that class of properties in the first place based on your logically prior recognition of the colors' resemblance(s), not thereby explaining those resemblance(s) in terms of something else; in fact, it's the underlying resemblance relations that explain your common attribute.

dguller said...

Scott:

Every time you try to offer a common attribute that "explains" why (e.g.) two colors resemble each other, you propose an "analysis" that a resemblance theorist would say is no analysis at all. For the resemblance theorist, "belonging to a spectrum" doesn't pick out one single literally common attribute but a different attribute for each color, and it's your proposed common attribute that requires further analysis.

But why doesn’t it “pick out one single literally common attribute”? What does a resemblance theorist mean by “one single literally common attribute”? If “belonging to a spectrum” is “a different attribute for each color”, then how is it different for each color? Is there a different spectrum for each color? In other words, is the EM spectrum for blue different from the EM spectrum for red? The EM spectrum is just the set of electromagnetic frequencies from F1 to F2. How is that set of frequencies different for red and blue? Each is a different frequency within that set, but the set itself remains the same. It is not as if for red, the EM spectrum is between F1 and F2, and for blue, the EM spectrum is between F3 and F4. There is only one EM spectrum, and not a near-infinite number in accordance with every possible EM frequency.

He'd probably add that you're constituting that class of properties in the first place based on your logically prior recognition of the colors' resemblance(s), not thereby explaining those resemblance(s) in terms of something else; in fact, it's the underlying resemblance relations that explain your common attribute.

Sure. And it’s possible that I’m a brain in a vat, too, but that doesn’t make the account compelling. Furthermore, none of this explains how a resemblance theorist can claim that one pair of resemblances is more like another pair of resemblances. In other words, other than an inexplicable and ungrounded intuition, how can a resemblance theorist say that red is more like blue than like a duck? And I can understand the appeal to basic irreducible features that are appreciated by sudden intuition in some cases, but why persist in such a theory when there are other theories that can actually account for why the intuition is correct? That would be like saying that it is an inexplicable feature of reproduction that offspring resemble their parents, and when the theory of meiosis and genetic transmission is presented to account for that very resemblance, to reject it outright, because one just knows there simply cannot be any deeper explanation than the brute fact of reproductive resemblance. Surely, you would not find such a position to be valid.

rank sophist said...

why persist in such a theory when there are other theories that can actually account for why the intuition is correct?

There aren't any others. That's the point. Your identity theory is a contradiction.

dguller said...

Rank:

There aren't any others. That's the point. Your identity theory is a contradiction.

Only if you assume that the only kind of identity is numerical identity. But if you allow other kinds of identity, such as formal identity, then there is no contradiction.

To summarize, when the intellect reflects upon X and Y, and proceeds to abstract away the different particularities of X and Y, then at some point, the intellect will reach some common F that is the same in X and Y in every respect, except that in the former, it is in X, and in the latter, it is in Y. And once the intellect abstracts away that last difference, i.e. numerical difference, then it is left with only F itself. That is all it means to say that X and Y share F in common, i.e. a process of intellectual abstraction of the particularities of X and Y ultimately ends in F. And at the end of the day, all that means is that X and Y are derived from the same divine idea F in the divine intellect. The ability to trace a path from X and Y to the divine idea F is the principle of unity between X and Y.

Or at least that's how it seems to me.

Scott said...

@dguller:

"If 'belonging to a spectrum' is 'a different attribute for each color', then how is it different for each color?"

As I've said before: by each color's having a different place in that spectrum and therefore its own unique way of "belonging" to it. The resemblance theorist will say, in fact, that the color's belonging to the spectrum is constituted by its being in certain resemblance relations, and that each color's unique set of such relations is what gives it its place in that spectrum.

There may be replies to this, but you haven't offered a cogent one. As I said at the very beginning, treating "belonging to a spectrum" as a single attribute identical for all colors simply begs the question against the resemblance theorist, who will regard your proposed "common attribute" as little more than a mental file folder into which you've conveniently organized the specific resemblance relations of the specific colors and which depends on (and is explained by) those resemblance relations rather than the other way around.

Scott said...

(This exchange is becoming repetitive in just the way I feared, so I'll try to refrain from replying further unless something genuinely new comes up.)

dguller said...

Scott:

As I've said before: by each color's having a different place in that spectrum and therefore its own unique way of "belonging" to it. The resemblance theorist will say, in fact, that the color's belonging to the spectrum is constituted by its being in certain resemblance relations, and that each color's unique set of such relations is what gives it its place in that spectrum.

Would the resemblance theorist agree that it is possible to identify a totality of resemblance relations that constitutes the spectrum? In other words, one could say that frequency F1 stands in one resemblance relation to F2, and another resemblance relation to F3, and so on, for all possible frequencies within the spectrum, and perform the same analysis upon F2, which stands in one resemblance relation to F1, and another resemblance relation to F3, and so on? The result would be a complex web of interrelated nodes, the totality of which is the network (i.e. the spectrum). Furthermore, each node is unique within the network by virtue of its unique set of relations to all the other nodes. In that case, to be the color blue would mean to be one particular node within the network that exists in a specific set of resemblance relations with all the other nodes in the network.

Say that the network is constituted by a set of nodes, N1, N2, …, Nn, each node of which is characterized by its specific and unique pattern of relations with each other node in the network. And each node is a particular color. My question is: would it be true of each node that it is either N1 or N2 or N3 or … or Nn? Would the resemblance theorist agree that the predicate is either N1 or N2 or N3 or … or Nn is true of each node in the network? And if the resemblance theorist would agree to this, then why wouldn’t that predicate be “one single literally common attribute“ that all the nodes share in common?

rank sophist said...

Only if you assume that the only kind of identity is numerical identity. But if you allow other kinds of identity, such as formal identity, then there is no contradiction.

You have yet to explain how formal identity is not simply a primordial likeness between two forms. You just keep begging the question and assuming that A) formal identity can be the absolute identity that you need to it be and B) that absolute identity in two places is not a contradiction. Like Scott, I'm done running in circles about it.

dguller said...

Rank:

You have yet to explain how formal identity is not simply a primordial likeness between two forms. You just keep begging the question and assuming that A) formal identity can be the absolute identity that you need to it be and B) that absolute identity in two places is not a contradiction. Like Scott, I'm done running in circles about it.

I’m assuming that (A) formal identity between F-in-X and F-in-Y is such that F-in-X and F-in-Y are the same in every way, except that F-in-X is in X and F-in-Y is in Y, i.e. they are numerically distinct, and that (B) only numerical identity is such that it cannot be in two places, because to be in two places means that there must be numerical distinction, and not numerical identity. Again, you would be correct in your conclusion if the only kind of identity is numerical identity, but that’s not what I’m assuming, and so your argument doesn’t affect my position.

Furthermore, if X is F and Y is F, then what X and Y have in common is that their respective forms (i.e. F-in-X and F-in-Y) have a common origin in the divine idea F. So, what we can say is that F-in-X resembles F-in-Y in that F-in-X and F-in-Y both originate in F-in-divine-intellect. In other words, you are correct that F-in-X resembles F-in-Y, but are incorrect that this is a basic and irreducible fact that cannot be analyzed further, because what accounts for F-in-X’s resemblance to F-in-Y is the fact that they are partially identical in that both originate in one and the same divine idea F, which means that F-in-X is formally identical to F-in-Y iff F-in-X and F-in-Y originate in one and the same divine idea F.

I don’t see why this account of formal identity is logically contradictory in any way.

Brandon said...

If resemblance is irreducible, then it is also unanalyzable. In that case, if X is like Y, then all one can say is that X is like Y, and nothing else. Anything else that one can say will just use synonyms that essentially mean the same thing (e.g. resemblance, likeness, similarity). To say anything else that does not involve the use of synonyms would be to admit that resemblance is reducible and analyzable.

This is manifestly false. On most views of irreducibility the irreducible allows for analysis (analysis does not require reduction, and, indeed, most analyses don't involve it), but even setting this aside, resemblances can be distinguished from each other, and compared in terms of higher-order resemblances, and they can also demarcate resemblances based on how they are known -- which means that the resemblance theorist can have plenty to say about it that's not synonymy. You are arbitrarily demanding a poverty of resources to which the resemblance theorist, as such, is simply not committed. We see this, for instance, in your argument that resemblance theorists can't talk about how X resembles Y. Of course they can; to ask how X resembles Y is to ask what has the resemblance and how it relates to other resemblances.

Further, you are overlooking the fact that resemblance theorists are not committed to the claim that all resemblance relations are irreducible; rather, they are committed to the claim that some kind of resemblance relation is irreducible, and we are simply using the context of color as an example of what a resemblance theorist could do with a field that is obviously resemblance-heavy from the get-go. Nor can you complain about these particular relations being irreducible, because, again, you have no way of eliminating the existence of irreducible relations. You keep appealing yourself to relations you can't reduce any further, so you have no grounds for complaining about it in the resemblance case.

But once you have erected a boundary between the “unique resemblance relations” that characterize colors, and the “unique resemblance relations” that characterize non-colors, then you can certainly say that what the “unique resemblance relations” that characterize colors have in common is that they all occur within the boundary or demarcation

And, again, the resemblance theorist will point out that this just states a resemblance. It doesn't identify anything magically present in each color since the boundary is not in any color; it doesn't require any appeal to some mysterious identity that all colors have 'in' them; it just is a brief way of stating that a lot of things resemble a lot of other things in a way that's greater than the way they resemble lots of other things.

Brandon said...

George LeSauvage,

But the question is those who like one and not the other - in this case, that is the test. And I don't recall ever meeting, in person or in print, anyone who simply liked Rand as a novelist, and disliked her ideas. On the other hand, I have met (again, both in person and in print) many who like her ideas, but hate her novels.

Setting aside the fact that 'liking' novels is not precisely what is at issue here, I can already tell you part of the problem here -- you're saying this in a middle of a discussion in which I've been pointing out that Rand is actually relatively competent as a novelist, so you must be assuming that I like her ideas in order to say this -- which you have no basis for saying. If this is in any way typical, then it's not surprising that you get the result you claim to be getting. (Which does not fit my experience at all, incidentally; I've found quite a spread on both sides.) Nor do I appreciate the snide remark about the formation of my taste not being above a 16-year-old's. But again, this is precisely the kind of hyperbole people resort to in order to try to guarantee that Rand doesn't get into a middle tier of literary competence.

The problem with Rand here is that the message is so persistent that trying to read her, you aren't entering an imagined world at all. It's all message, all the time. And it is, to any but devotees, wearisome.

And, again, this is precisely a criticism that was often made of Hugo.

Again, I flat disagree - I know it is wrong, to say that there is equal disagreement in music and art, as with literature. Take your examples. Just offhand, I know that Tolstoy and Shaw did think Shakespeare a worthless writer. Emerson and Twain said the same of Austen. C S Lewis hated Eliot's verse. For Dante, well, pick any 15th or 16th C writer; the odds are overwhelming he will dismiss him. Robert Graves called Virgil "the anti-poet". The list goes on and on. This isn't a case for a "special status", but merely a point which should be recognized. Hatred on artistic grounds, for a given artist, is so much more common in lit, than in other fields, as to change the terms.

And, again, I flatly disagree. You've brought no actual evidence for the comparative claim, and you are again making an argument that in several cases conflates expressions of personal taste with judgments of competence. And, indeed, the degree to which you are stretching is seen in your attempt to marshal Twain, who is a comic writer who often panned people whose literary reputations couldn't be hurt by it, with hyperbole, for comic effect. Do you somehow think that Twain's comments on Austen were meant to be taken deadly seriously? Or his even more famous comments on Cooper, who is actually an identifiable on Twain? This is not an argument worth taking seriously.

Brandon said...

Sorry, that should be "Or his even more famous comments on Fenimore cooper, who is actually an identifiable influence on Twain?"

Anonymous said...

@dguller

I was reading another thread where you mentioned you are inclined to Theism. Now I haven't been posting much here over the last year due to lack of time, but from what I remember you were an atheist?

What prompted you to change?

dguller said...

Brandon:

On most views of irreducibility the irreducible allows for analysis (analysis does not require reduction, and, indeed, most analyses don't involve it)

I’m not too sure. According to my understanding, which is certainly not as comprehensive as yours, to say that X is reducible means that X can be explained at a lower level of Y. So, to say that X is irreducible means that X cannot be explained at a lower level of Y. And thus, to say that a relation of resemblance is irreducible means that a relation of resemblance cannot be explained at a lower level of analysis.

Ultimately, the important question is whether resemblances can be analyzed into lower levels that, either totally or partially, account for the resemblances themselves. If they can be analyzed into lower levels, then one would have to make reference to those lower levels to explain the resemblances in question. One couldn’t just stop at the resemblances themselves, and trust in intuition.

resemblances can be distinguished from each other, and compared in terms of higher-order resemblances,

I agree, but the question is how this is possible on a resemblance theory account in which resemblances are irreducible and basic, and thus not admitting of any further analysis. It seems to me that unless resemblances can be analyzed further, then all one has is brute facts that are somehow grasped by the intellect.

and they can also demarcate resemblances based on how they are known

But I thought they were all known by intuition alone? And to say that one resemblance is like another resemblance in that they are both due to sight would just mean that what the two resemblances share in common is the fact that they are due to sight. Simply saying that the two resemblances each have a unique resemblance relation to sight doesn’t help, again, because any resemblance will have a unique relation to sight.

You are arbitrarily demanding a poverty of resources to which the resemblance theorist, as such, is simply not committed. We see this, for instance, in your argument that resemblance theorists can't talk about how X resembles Y. Of course they can; to ask how X resembles Y is to ask what has the resemblance and how it relates to other resemblances.

But how would this actually be cashed out? Say that I ask how X resembles Y. You reply by saying, “Well, X has the resemblance, and it relates to other resemblances in a unique way.” I don’t think that explains much of anything, except in the most broad and formal terms that would be applicable to any resemblance, and thus doesn’t actually explain this resemblance. Perhaps it would be helpful if you provided an example, and how it is cashed out? That might help me see my mistake.

dguller said...

Further, you are overlooking the fact that resemblance theorists are not committed to the claim that all resemblance relations are irreducible

That’s true. I’m keeping rank sophist’s account in mind throughout my discussion, which means that my claims certainly do not apply to resemblance theorists that affirm that some resemblance claims are reducible to lower levels of explanation.

we are simply using the context of color as an example of what a resemblance theorist could do with a field that is obviously resemblance-heavy from the get-go.

Help me out here. We agree that red resembles blue. A resemblance theorist would deny that red and blue actually have anything in common, and would claim that to say that they have something in common that grounds the resemblance is just shorthand for the fact that red and blue stand in a unique resemblance relationship to one another within the spectrum of colors, which is itself just a network of resemblance relations.

To me, what this means is that each color has a relation to each other color, and that when one looks at these relations in totality, what one is looking at is the color spectrum itself. Furthermore, this totality exists within a broader totality of other resemblances, such as other qualities, e.g. sounds, smells, etc., and one can proceed outward until one has a massive network of interconnected nodes that exist in unique relationships with one another and that encompasses the formal features of reality itself. (Perhaps this would be analogous to the divine intellect.) In this scenario, two nodes resemble one another more than another two nodes depending upon how close they are within this massive network of relations.

Two questions:

First, is my above account consistent with what a resemblance theorist would affirm?

Second, what makes the relations between the nodes within the network in question resemblances at all? Why aren’t they some other kind of relation? Causality? Dependence? Metaphysical priority? For example, red and blue could be related to one another in the sense of each being dependent upon a substance with qualities. Resemblance wouldn’t even enter the account at all.

Nor can you complain about these particular relations being irreducible, because, again, you have no way of eliminating the existence of irreducible relations. You keep appealing yourself to relations you can't reduce any further, so you have no grounds for complaining about it in the resemblance case.

I agree that some relations are irreducible, but I disagree that resemblances are irreducible. I think that they can always be cashed out in terms of partial identity and partial difference.

And, again, the resemblance theorist will point out that this just states a resemblance.

So, say that X and Y exist within a network of interconnected nodes in which each particular node is defined according to its unique relations with every other node within the network. To say that X resembles Y just means that the node within the network that is X and the node within the network that is Y are connected to one another either directly (i.e. X-Y) or indirectly via a series of interconnected nodes (i.e. X-A-B-Y). Resemblance just is the connections between nodes within the network, each of which is unique by virtue of its unique interconnections with every other node in the network.

Is this accurate?

dguller said...

Anonymous:

I'm still an atheist in the sense of disbelieving in the particular gods depicted in different religions, but I do accept the need for an underlying explanatory principle of reality itself, and based upon A-T premises that can only be doubted by abandoning the very rationality and comprehensibility of the universe, it is pretty clear that that this principle must be simple, i.e. must be something like the classical theist account of the ultimate principle of reality. I wouldn't call this principle "God", though.

Brandon said...

I'm a bit out of time tonight, but glancing over, what look like the most important points:

A resemblance theorist would deny that red and blue actually have anything in common

The resemblance theorist would more probably deny that the resemblance of red and blue can be given an account that does not involve resemblance relations, which is not at all the same thing, and consistent with red and blue having lots of things in common. But your account needs every such resemblance itself to break down entirely into non-resemblance terms. (It's a slightly different issue worth noting that logically you are making the claim that is more demanding. The resemblance theorist just has to deny the 'every' or the 'itself' or the 'entirely', or any combination of the three. One of the difficulties here has been that there are on a given subject several different varieties of resemblance theory that could be in play -- you have to deny all of them, but the resemblance theorist, of course, will never in any particular case be committed to more than one.)

But I thought they were all known by intuition alone?

I don't know what you mean by intuition here, but in any case, the ways in which we know resemblances are obviously manifold -- seeing that two things resemble each other is not at all like tasting that they resemble each other, which is not at all like reasoning that they resemble each other on other grounds.

But how would this actually be cashed out? Say that I ask how X resembles Y. You reply by saying, “Well, X has the resemblance, and it relates to other resemblances in a unique way.”

But obviously I wouldn't say that; for the same reason you wouldn't be talking abstractly about the resemblance of X and Y. Take a specific claim, and assume someone is a resemblance theorist about it. "How does a chicken resemble a platypus?" "Well, they both lay eggs, for instance." "Ah, so there is this one thing identical in each that is egg-laying?" "No, it's just that there are a bunch of animals that have reproductive systems that resemble each other in having external eggs." "But isn't this identical in each?" "I don't see why it would be. They just resemble each other on certain aspects of reproduction a lot more than they resemble other animals on the same aspects."

Scott said...

dguller, Brandon's chicken-platypus example in the post above is a perfect illustration of the main point I've been trying to make.

Anonymous said...

@dguller

Is it fair to say that you accept classical theism then?

You seem to be committed to the rationality and the comprehensibility of the universe. Would you accept that the ultimate principle be rational itself, then, following A-T tradition?

Scott said...

@dguller:

Sorry, I missed this earlier.

"Also, you say that you do not accept the resemblance theory. Why not? What is it about the theory that does not work for you?"

Well, I didn't quite say I didn't accept the resemblance theory at all, just that my defense of it didn't necessarily indicate that subscribed to it and that I don't think it can be successfully applied across the board.

For example, a thoroughgoing resemblance nominalist wouldn't even agree that two particulars could ever share a common attribute even if they were (say) precisely the same color; such an attribute would be a real universal, the existence of which the resemblance nominalist (like any nominalist) denies. Instead he'd say the two particulars had two exactly similar attributes. That's not my own view (though I think rank sophist's is at least close to it).

Generally, I'm on board with (my understanding of) Michael J. Loux's view that it's possible to combine an Aristotelian view of substances with a more Platonic view of attributes. (Unfortunately Substance and Attribute, the main work in which Loux develops and defends that view, is prohibitively expensive, so I haven't been able to read much of it directly.) So I'm fine with specific attributes being real universals, and I'm also happy to acknowledge that similar substances or particulars may be identical in this or that attribute. I just don't think it's always the case. I have no objection in principle to an analysis of similarity that bottoms out in irreducible relations of resemblance, and I think color is one of many plausible examples.

So I'd say that I accept the resemblance theory for a limited set of cases—namely, a (possibly proper) subset of those cases in which two substances or particulars have similar-but-nonidentical attributes. Hope that answers your question; if not, I can probably manage to say a little more about the cases in which I think the theory fails.

Scott said...

(" . . . that I subscribed to it.")

Scott said...

@William Dunkirk:

"In the question of universals, what seems to me to be something of the problem is comparing instances of things said to be the same or similar in two admittedly different individuals (or substances) while ignoring the fact that, e.g., length is present (and presumably equally so) across the whole length in any individual that has it."

For whatever it's worth, in my book (to which I linked earlier) I did offer an argument somewhat along those lines: that (e.g.) any color must occupy a nonzero expanse of space and endure for a nonzero length of time, that it can therefore be divided into parts, and that the denier of real universals therefore seems to be in the odd position of denying that even one thing can be "the same."

dguller said...

Brandon:

The resemblance theorist would more probably deny that the resemblance of red and blue can be given an account that does not involve resemblance relations, which is not at all the same thing, and consistent with red and blue having lots of things in common. But your account needs every such resemblance itself to break down entirely into non-resemblance terms.

So, for a resemblance theorist, to say that red and blue have something in common just means that they have a resemblance to one another. In other words, X resembles Y iff X and Y have something in common. What they would deny is that whatever X and Y have in common is the same in both X and Y.

I don't know what you mean by intuition here, but in any case, the ways in which we know resemblances are obviously manifold -- seeing that two things resemble each other is not at all like tasting that they resemble each other, which is not at all like reasoning that they resemble each other on other grounds.

First, by “intuition”, I meant an immediate non-discursive recognition of a truth by an intellect.

Second, I would say that the way in which resemblances are presented to an intellect is different, but once they reach the intellect, there is a power to recognize the resemblance between the different things.

Third, it seems that you are saying that seeing that X resembles Y has nothing in common with tasting that X resembles Y, which has nothing in common with reasoning that X resembles Y. Don’t they all at least in resemblance of some kind in common?

Take a specific claim, and assume someone is a resemblance theorist about it. "How does a chicken resemble a platypus?" "Well, they both lay eggs, for instance." "Ah, so there is this one thing identical in each that is egg-laying?" "No, it's just that there are a bunch of animals that have reproductive systems that resemble each other in having external eggs." "But isn't this identical in each?" "I don't see why it would be. They just resemble each other on certain aspects of reproduction a lot more than they resemble other animals on the same aspects."

Just to make sure I understand. A chicken is like a platypus in that the chicken lays eggs and the platypus lays eggs. Laying eggs is what the chicken and the platypus have in common. But laying eggs in chickens is not the same as laying eggs in platypuses. The best that we can say is that laying eggs in chickens resembles laying eggs in platypuses, and all that ultimately means is that the manner of reproduction of chickens resembles the reproduction of platypuses more than they resemble the reproduction of humans (for example).

Would the same reasoning apply to something like belonging to a sports team? Say that Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen are parts of the Chicago Bulls. Do they belong to the same team, or teams that just resemble one another? It seems that the resemblance theorist would have to deny that they belong to the same team. Furthermore, if the resemblance theorist affirms that some resemblances can be cashed out in terms of partial identity and partial difference, and other resemblances cannot, then do you know what the criteria is that the resemblance theorist uses to determine when a resemblance can be cashed out in such a way, and when it cannot?

I’d appreciate Scott’s input, as well, if he has the time.

rank sophist said...

Scott,

For whatever it's worth, in my book (to which I linked earlier) I did offer an argument somewhat along those lines: that (e.g.) any color must occupy a nonzero expanse of space and endure for a nonzero length of time, that it can therefore be divided into parts, and that the denier of real universals therefore seems to be in the odd position of denying that even one thing can be "the same."

From my reading, the mathematical mapping and measurement of space was something that the hardcore nominalists started. I don't consider myself to be a nominalist, but if they were able to hold such an extreme position on universals and at the same time map space, then I don't see why a resemblance account would be absurd.

dguller,

Say that Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen are parts of the Chicago Bulls. Do they belong to the same team, or teams that just resemble one another?

"Being on a team" is not an ontic or ontological state. It's an artifact of language agreed upon by a community of language users. There's no reason to say that they aren't on the same team, since the resemblance theorist is concerned with ontic and ontological resemblance only.

Scott said...

@dguller:

"It seems that the resemblance theorist would have to deny that they belong to the same team."

Not at all. The resemblance theorist can perfectly well acknowledge that they belong to the same team; he merely has to deny that their common membership entails the existence of some "abstract" or "generic" attribute that Michael Jordan and Scotty Pippen literally share. Sure, there's just one team, but each of them has his own unique "property" of belonging to it: "Michael Jordan's belonging to the Bulls" is not the same property as "Scottie Pippen's belonging to the Bulls." A resemblance theorist would simply say that their respective properties of "belonging to the Bulls" resemble each other but are not identical. (A resemblance nominalist would say that this was the case even if their relationships resembled each other exactly.)

Scott said...

@dguller:

"[I]f the resemblance theorist affirms that some resemblances can be cashed out in terms of partial identity and partial difference, and other resemblances cannot, then do you know what the criteri[on] is that the resemblance theorist uses to determine when a resemblance can be cashed out in such a way, and when it cannot?

I'd appreciate Scott's input, as well, if he has the time."

Well, since you ask .  . ;-)

I won't presume to speak for all resemblance theorists, but one obvious criterion is the one I've suggested already: that for substances and/or particulars, similarity has to be cashed out in the similarity of their attributes; that for attributes, similarity is cashed out on a case-by-case basis by seeing whether the similarity ultimately bottoms out in an identity or in a resemblance that we can't further reduce; and that the test for the latter is whether we can isolate a fully specific attribute that the two substances or particulars share.

Glenn said...

I attended a hockey game earlier this evening with two philosopher friends, Brendan and Shanahan. During the third trimester (during the third period, that is) I went to the concession stand, where I laid out an exorbitant $17.95 for one egg salad sandwich and one small soda. Returning to my seat, I overheard the following:

Brendan: ...Take a specific claim, and assume someone is a resemblance theorist about it. "How does Michael Jordan resemble Scotty Pippen?" "Well, they both scored points for the Chicago Bulls, for instance." "Ah, so there is this one thing identical in each that is 'scored points for the Chicago Bulls'?" "No, it's just that there are a bunch of men that had careers that resemble each other in having scored points for the Chicago Bulls." "But isn't this identical in each?" "I don't see why it would be. They just resemble each other on certain aspects of their careers as professional basketball players a lot more than they resemble other men on the same aspects."

Shanahan: Just to make sure I understand. Michael Jordan is like Scotty Pippen in that Michael Jordan has point-scoring skills and Scotty Pippen has point-scoring skills. Point-scoring skills are what Michael Jordan and Scotty Pippen have in common. But the point-scoring skills of Michael Jordan are not the same as the point-scoring skills of Scotty Pippen. The best that we can say is that the point-scoring skills of Michael Jordan resemble the point-scoring skills of Scotty Pippen, and all that ultimately means is that point-scoring skills of Michael Jordan resemble the point-scoring skills of Scotty Pippen more than they resemble the point-scoring skills of hockey players (for example). Would the same reasoning apply to something like laying eggs? Say that the chicken lays eggs and the platypus lays eggs. [Reminded that platypi lay eggs, I glanced at the sandwich in my hand.] Do they both lay the same kind of eggs, or eggs that just resemble one another? Hmm. As a reasonable man I must acknowledge that it does seem that the resemblance theorist would not be incorrect in denying that chickens and platypi lay the same kind of eggs.

I didn't get to hear Brendan's response to Shanahan's musing, for just then the crowd erupted with a roar as Gretzky maneuvered the puck onto the blade of his stick, then dunked the puck into the net (off the goalie's back).

William Dunkirk said...

@ Scott,

I am reading your book, which is very good. I did notice your arguments about the trouble of the same property even persisting in the same thing through time; I don't know if I have caught your point about existing in the same thing throughout a space yet.

Scott said...

@William Dunkirk:

It's very brief; it's in the next-to-last paragraph on p. 20, beginning with "Even the perception of a single quality . . . "

Bill said...

Glenn, that's a great and funny account of the hockey game, but surely it is apocryphal, right? Gretzky hasn't played in years. :-)

Glenn said...

surely it is apocryphal, right? Gretzky hasn't played in years. :-)

I figured that if Jordan and Pippen can be spoken of as "belong[ing] to the same team" (or at least belonging to "teams that just resemble one another"), there's no good reason why Gretzky can't be still playing hockey. :) (Ah, but he is missed. (Jordan, too.))

dguller said...

Rank:

"Being on a team" is not an ontic or ontological state. It's an artifact of language agreed upon by a community of language users. There's no reason to say that they aren't on the same team, since the resemblance theorist is concerned with ontic and ontological resemblance only.

First, it is not an artifact of language that sports teams exist. They do exist, by virtue of the agreement of the participants, which would make it an artifact in some sense, but not one of language.

Second, what would the resemblance theorist say about the relationship between the forms in creation and the forms in the divine intellect? If they have no objection to saying that different teammates participate in the same team, and not on similar teams, then why wouldn’t the same logic apply to the created forms that participate in the same divine idea?

For any created beings X and Y in which X is F and Y is F, F-in-X and F-in-Y stand in a resemblance relation to one another, and in a resemblance relation to the divine archetype F. If that is true, then it would be true that F-in-X is like F-in-Y in that F-in-X and F-in-Y are both derived from one and the same divine archetype F. In other words, F-in-X is derived from divine archetype F and F-in-Y is derived from divine archetype F. That is what they share in common, which is what grounds the resemblance at all.

The question is whether being derived from divine archetype F is the same in F-in-X and F-in-Y (in the sense of non-numerical identity). The resemblance theorist would say that being derived from divine archetype F is not the same in F-in-X and F-in-Y, but rather is similar. What I take that to mean is that although the resemblance theorist would agree that F-in-X and F-in-Y are derived from the same divine archetype F, the derivation itself is not the same, because it follows divergent pathways from the common origin. In other words, just because X and Y come from the same place, they go different ways.

But then I wonder if it is possible to abstract away the different paths, and just focus the intellect upon the common origin. If it is possible, then having the same origin in the divine archetype F seems to be the same in F-in-X and F-in-Y, much like having the same father would be the same in two sons of the same father. And in that case, it seems to be true that having the same origin in the divine archetype F would be a good candidate for partial identity between F-in-X and F-in-Y.

dguller said...

And incidentally, what do you think happens in the intellect during the process of abstraction? My understanding was always that particularities were removed by the intellect until something that is the same in the individuals in question is reached, and that would be the common form. Would you say that abstraction removes differences and retains basic resemblances?

Take the following scenario. Say that there are four entities, A, B, C and D. A is red and round, B is blue and round, C is red and square, and D is blue and square. A, B, C and D all resemble one another. My thinking is that what the mind does when it compares A and B, for example, is that it looks at A as red and round, B as blue and round, sees that A differs from B in that A is red and B is blue, and abstracts away those particular differences, which leaves roundness-in-A and roundness-in-B.

I would imagine that the resemblance theorist would say that this is precisely where the intellect must stop in its process of abstraction, and that it simply recognizes in a primordial fashion that roundness-in-A resembles roundness-in-B. However, I don’t see why the intellect cannot perform one more abstraction that removes –in-A and –in-B from roundness-in-A and roundness-in-B, which would just leave roundness, independent of any instantiation, and absent any particularities that would result in numerical distinction. And I would say that if a process of abstraction can end at the same point, then that destination is the partial identity between two things that are being compared. After all, once one has arrived at a destination, the path becomes irrelevant, and one can focus entirely upon the destination itself, even though different routes may have brought one to the destination.

Any thoughts?

dguller said...

Scott:

Not at all. The resemblance theorist can perfectly well acknowledge that they belong to the same team; he merely has to deny that their common membership entails the existence of some "abstract" or "generic" attribute that Michael Jordan and Scotty Pippen literally share. Sure, there's just one team, but each of them has his own unique "property" of belonging to it: "Michael Jordan's belonging to the Bulls" is not the same property as "Scottie Pippen's belonging to the Bulls." A resemblance theorist would simply say that their respective properties of "belonging to the Bulls" resemble each other but are not identical. (A resemblance nominalist would say that this was the case even if their relationships resembled each other exactly.)

I still see a problem, though. What does Michael Jordan’s belonging to the Bulls have in common with Scottie Pippen’s belonging to the Bulls? That they both belong to the Bulls. Sure, they belong to the Bulls in different ways, i.e. they play different positions on the team, but if belonging to the Bulls just means occupying a position on the Bulls, then that means the same thing when predicated of both Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Sure, which position that they occupy is different, but that they occupy a position on the Bulls is the same. Again, why isn’t an indeterminate attribute the same in both athletes?

I was trying to get at this idea when I talked about the different nodes within a network. If belonging to the network just meant either being node1 or node2 or node3 or …, then either being node1 or node2 or node3 or … would be the same attribute of any node in the network. I agree that this attribute is indeterminate in the sense that it does not specify which particular node in the network one is talking about, but it is certainly determinate in terms of specifying what it means to be a node in the network. If one objects to this, then that would be the same as objecting to talking about human nature in general while remaining silent about which particular human being you are talking about. I don’t think the resemblance theorist would deny that we can talk about human nature in general while remaining silent about particular human beings.

for attributes, similarity is cashed out on a case-by-case basis by seeing whether the similarity ultimately bottoms out in an identity or in a resemblance that we can't further reduce; and that the test for the latter is whether we can isolate a fully specific attribute that the two substances or particulars share.

Can you explain what mean by “a fully specific attribute that the two substances or particulars share”? It might be helpful if you also provide an example of a similarity that can be reduced to an identity and one that cannot.

Thanks.

rank sophist said...

They do exist, by virtue of the agreement of the participants, which would make it an artifact in some sense, but not one of language.

The participants are united nominally. Pretty basic.

Second, what would the resemblance theorist say about the relationship between the forms in creation and the forms in the divine intellect?

The divine intellect does not contain forms. It contains A) the eternal types and B) the individual substances in which forms exist. In God "there is no idea corresponding merely to matter or merely to form" (DV q3 a5).

In other words, just because X and Y come from the same place, they go different ways.

Indeed.

But then I wonder if it is possible to abstract away the different paths, and just focus the intellect upon the common origin.

The common origin is the incomprehensible divine substance, so no.

I would imagine that the resemblance theorist would say that this is precisely where the intellect must stop in its process of abstraction, and that it simply recognizes in a primordial fashion that roundness-in-A resembles roundness-in-B.

It's more like there is something in the intellect that is similar to the roundness of A and B, which allows us to understand roundness as it exists in A and B. This would be a particular form of roundness.

However, I don’t see why the intellect cannot perform one more abstraction that removes –in-A and –in-B from roundness-in-A and roundness-in-B, which would just leave roundness, independent of any instantiation, and absent any particularities that would result in numerical distinction.

The forms in the intellect are numerically different from the forms of the things that the intellect understands.

dguller said...

Rank:

The divine intellect does not contain forms. It contains A) the eternal types and B) the individual substances in which forms exist

First, what is the difference between “the eternal types” and forms?

Second, what do you mean when you say that the divine intellect contains “individual substances”?

. In God "there is no idea corresponding merely to matter or merely to form" (DV q3 a5).

First, it seems that the passage that you’ve quoted specifically is talking about whether there is a divine idea of prime matter. And he says that in a narrow definition of “idea”, since a material entity is such that it necessarily is composed of form and matter, such that neither can exist without the other, then any idea will have to “corresponds to the entire composite—an idea that causes the whole, both its form and its matter” rather than one “idea corresponding merely to matter or merely to form”. However, in the broad definition of “idea” “as meaning an intelligible character or likeness, then both matter and form of themselves can be said to have an idea by which they can be known distinctly, even though they cannot exist separately”.

So, he’s not saying that divine ideas are not forms, but only that in the case of divine ideas about material entities, there must be a divine idea that corresponds to the form-matter composite itself, and not a specific divine idea for the form and another divine idea for the matter. At least, that’s how I read him.

Second, Aquinas has also written at ST 1.15.1:

“It is necessary to suppose ideas in the divine mind. For the Greek word Idea is in Latin "forma." Hence by ideas are understood the forms of things, existing apart from the things themselves.”

And

“As then the world was not made by chance, but by God acting by His intellect, as will appear later (46, 1), there must exist in the divine mind a form to the likeness of which the world was made. And in this the notion of an idea consists.”

The common origin is the incomprehensible divine substance, so no.

But the common origin is not the divine substance itself, but rather the divine archetype F that exists within the divine intellect. The divine archetype F is just the ideal and perfect model or standard that any particular instantiation of F aspires to approximate in reality, and by which any particular F must be measured against. If this is “incomprehensible”, then we have no grounds to compare X and Y in terms of which is the better F, because we literally have no idea what the ideal F would be.

It's more like there is something in the intellect that is similar to the roundness of A and B, which allows us to understand roundness as it exists in A and B. This would be a particular form of roundness.

But the form of squareness is also similar to the roundness of A and B insofar as squareness and roundness are both geometric shapes. So, if the form of roundness is “something in the intellect that is similar to the roundness of A and B”, then this “something” could literally be anything, because everything is similar to everything else.

dguller said...

The forms in the intellect are numerically different from the forms of the things that the intellect understands.

Yes, but that is the only difference between them. In every other respect, they are the same.

You have a high opinion of Gregory of Nyssa, and so it may be helpful to pay attention to some things he wrote that touch upon these issues. In On the Making of Man 16.9, he writes:

“While two natures— the Divine and incorporeal nature, and the irrational life of brutes— are separated from each other as extremes, human nature is the mean between them: for in the compound nature of man we may behold a part of each of the natures I have mentioned—of the Divine, the rational and intelligent element, which does not admit the distinction of male and female; of the irrational, our bodily form and structure, divided into male and female: for each of these elements is certainly to be found in all that partakes of human life.”

Note how he says that human nature is partly the divine, immaterial and intellectual nature and partly the brutish, material and irrational nature. Also note how he says that the divine nature and the brutish nature are both “to be found in all that partakes of human life”. In other words, the divine nature is present as part of human nature, and the brutish nature is present as part of human nature.

More important is at 16.12, where he writes:

“Now as the image bears in all points the semblance of the archetypal excellence, if it had not a difference in some respect, being absolutely without divergence it would no longer be a likeness, but will in that case manifestly be absolutely identical with the Prototype.”

I take him to mean that the relationship between the prototype and the image is such that in some respects, the image is identical to the archetype, and in some other respects, the image is different from the archetype. If there were no respect in which the image differed from the archetype, then the image would be identical to the archetype.

Applying this line of reasoning to the forms that you mentioned, if the form-in-intellect resembles the form-in-X, then there must be something about the former that “bears in all points the semblance” of the latter, and there must be something about the former that differs in some respect from the latter. The latter accounts for the numerical distinction, and once it is abstracted away, all that one is left with is the common and identical commonality between them.

rank sophist said...

First, what is the difference between “the eternal types” and forms?

A form is an ontic constituent within a substance that actualizes it as a particular kind of thing. An eternal type is an absolute category similar to Plato's ideas.

Second, what do you mean when you say that the divine intellect contains “individual substances”?

ST I q14 a11. Individuals pre-exist in God.

So, he’s not saying that divine ideas are not forms, but only that in the case of divine ideas about material entities, there must be a divine idea that corresponds to the form-matter composite itself, and not a specific divine idea for the form and another divine idea for the matter.

He's saying that God knows the composite directly, and that he virtually comprehends form and matter because he knows the composite.

And, regarding God's knowledge through forms, you have to be careful with translations here. Aquinas certainly is not saying that God understands things via "forms" in the same sense that humans do, because he expressly denies this in ST I q84 a5. The eternal types are forms in a distantly analogous way, since they are the principles of the forms we know.

But the common origin is not the divine substance itself, but rather the divine archetype F that exists within the divine intellect.

There is no archetype F within the divine intellect. This is a metaphor for the virtual containment of all things within the divine substance, which is, again, simply the doctrine that all things resemble the divine substance in some way.

But the form of squareness is also similar to the roundness of A and B insofar as squareness and roundness are both geometric shapes.

The similarity of squares is different from the similarity of circles. By "similar", I mean the way in which forms of a single species are identified with one another. You see this as being absolute sameness; I see it as being absolute likeness.

I take him to mean that the relationship between the prototype and the image is such that in some respects, the image is identical to the archetype, and in some other respects, the image is different from the archetype.

Except that "semblance" does not mean "identity" but "resemblance", and so your account falls apart. Gregory is simply stating that if the image was like God in all ways, then it would not be distinct from God. It is like God in some ways and unlike him in others. For example, a stone is like God in that it exists, but unlike him in that it is subject to privations.

dguller said...

Rank:

Sorry about the lateness of my reply. It’s been busy at work, wife’s eight months pregnant with our fourth child, and I threw my back out picking up a sock. Oh well. So it goes.

A form is an ontic constituent within a substance that actualizes it as a particular kind of thing. An eternal type is an absolute category similar to Plato's ideas.

I would slightly modify your account. A form is that which accounts for what something is. When a form is present within a substance, it is, as you have said, that which causes it to engage in the characteristic activity of the kind of thing it is, i.e. its formal cause, but when a form is present in the divine intellect, then it is the primary and fundamental archetype or model of what something is, irrespective of whether that “something” is actually real, or only potentially real. I think that is why Aquinas calls the divine ideas “forms” at ST 1.15.1, because they are what accounts for what kinds of things substances can be or are by virtue of their status as ideal archetypes or models of the kings of things that substances can be.

ST I q14 a11. Individuals pre-exist in God.

I think what he meant was that the models of concrete individuals exist within the divine intellect, but not the individuals themselves.

He's saying that God knows the composite directly, and that he virtually comprehends form and matter because he knows the composite.

First, it does not follow that God’s intellect does not contain forms, if by “form” one means the ideal archetype or standard that determines what something acts to be(come).

Second, I still don’t understand what “virtually” means. Whatever it is, you seem to contrast “directly” with “virtually”, which would make “virtually” a kind of indirect knowledge in God. But how can indirect knowledge be possible in God? Indirect just means that there are a number of intermediary steps that one must use in order to reach one’s goal. But God knows everything at once in an eternal atemporal “moment”, and thus there are no intermediary steps that he must follow in order to know anything.

And, regarding God's knowledge through forms, you have to be careful with translations here. Aquinas certainly is not saying that God understands things via "forms" in the same sense that humans do, because he expressly denies this in ST I q84 a5. The eternal types are forms in a distantly analogous way, since they are the principles of the forms we know.

God understands things via understanding himself as the source and origin of the intelligible principles of all created things. But those intelligible principles must exist in God in order for him to understand them via understanding himself. As he writes: “the intelligible species in the divine intellect, which is the essence of God, is immaterial not by abstraction, but of itself, being the principle of all the principles which enter into the composition of things” (ST 1.14.11). And those intelligible principles are the forms. At least, that’s always been my understanding. So, I agree with you that Aquinas denies that God knows the forms in the same way that humans know them, but it does not follow that forms do not exist in the divine intellect. He clearly affirms that they do.

There is no archetype F within the divine intellect. This is a metaphor for the virtual containment of all things within the divine substance, which is, again, simply the doctrine that all things resemble the divine substance in some way.

Like I said, I think that Aquinas would disagree with you here. He clearly talks about “forms” and “intelligible species” in the divine intellect. If all this talk is a metaphor, then a true property of creation has been projected upon our concept of God, even though it is, strictly speaking, false to affirm that property of God. What is the property in question? Also, to say that “all things resemble the divine substance in some way” would require you to describe, albeit imperfectly, in what way.

dguller said...

The similarity of squares is different from the similarity of circles. By "similar", I mean the way in which forms of a single species are identified with one another. You see this as being absolute sameness; I see it as being absolute likeness.

I’m not sure that’s right. Every thing resembles every other thing in some way. So, saying that X resembles Y is empty, tautological and completely uninformative. Even if you specified some way that X resembles Y, you could not appeal to “a single species” that X and Y belong to, because X and Y stand in completely unique relations of resemblance within the interconnected network of beings. What is the “single species” here?

Except that "semblance" does not mean "identity" but "resemblance", and so your account falls apart. Gregory is simply stating that if the image was like God in all ways, then it would not be distinct from God. It is like God in some ways and unlike him in others. For example, a stone is like God in that it exists, but unlike him in that it is subject to privations.

What does it mean to say that X is similar to Y in all respects?

rank sophist said...

dguller,

It’s been busy at work, wife’s eight months pregnant with our fourth child, and I threw my back out picking up a sock.

Wow, that sounds rough.

Anyway, Oderberg defines form as the "intrinsic incomplete constituent principle in a substance which actualizes the potencies of matter and together with the matter composes a definite material substance or natural body". And, as I've already illustrated, Aquinas believes that the Ideas cannot be described in this way. First of all, they apply to both matter and form, which means that they are essences rather than forms. Second of all, they cannot be essences in themselves, because essences can be known by us and Aquinas denies that the Ideas are known to us in this life.

I think what he meant was that the models of concrete individuals exist within the divine intellect, but not the individuals themselves.

It's probably just a matter of semantics.

Indirect just means that there are a number of intermediary steps that one must use in order to reach one’s goal.

God knows evil indirectly, and it isn't because of intermediary steps. Likewise with form and matter.

So, I agree with you that Aquinas denies that God knows the forms in the same way that humans know them, but it does not follow that forms do not exist in the divine intellect. He clearly affirms that they do.

Aquinas's talk of the divine mind and the forms therein is an elaborate analogy. He is expressing the Neo-Platonist doctrine that the One includes and surpasses all things in absolute simplicity.

Even if you specified some way that X resembles Y, you could not appeal to “a single species” that X and Y belong to, because X and Y stand in completely unique relations of resemblance within the interconnected network of beings. What is the “single species” here?

A group of individuals that are very similar in certain ways. For example, rational beings are similar in that they are all rational, but in different ways. The similarity of their rationality cannot be reduced beyond a recognition that, yes, these rationalities are formally the same--which is to say that they are alike in a particular way.

What does it mean to say that X is similar to Y in all respects?

It would appear that Gregory is appealing to an early version of the identity of indiscernibles.

dguller said...

Rank:

Wow, that sounds rough.

Wait until the kid arrives!

Anyway, Oderberg defines form as the "intrinsic incomplete constituent principle in a substance which actualizes the potencies of matter and together with the matter composes a definite material substance or natural body". And, as I've already illustrated, Aquinas believes that the Ideas cannot be described in this way.

That is certainly how form appears within a composite material entity, but that is not what form is. From what I’ve read, a form is an intelligible principle that accounts for what kind of thing something is supposed to be(come). On that definition, I don’t see why forms do not exist within the divine intellect.

First of all, they apply to both matter and form, which means that they are essences rather than forms.

I don’t think there’s a clear-cut distinction between essence and form, and they basically mean the same thing.

Second of all, they cannot be essences in themselves, because essences can be known by us and Aquinas denies that the Ideas are known to us in this life.

I agree that the divine essence is not known to us in this life, but the divine ideas are known to us, albeit in a distorted fashion. For example, we may never know all the ins and outs of what it means to be a tree, but we certainly have the form of treeness in our intellect, and the form of treeness must exist in the divine intellect as the ideal archetype of treeness from which all trees are derived from.

God knows evil indirectly, and it isn't because of intermediary steps. Likewise with form and matter.

Again, I don’t know what “indirectly” means in this context. Everything is known directly by God by virtue of being immediately present to the divine intellect. There is nothing implicit that requires intermediary steps to make explicit in God’s mind, and that is precisely what “indirectly” means, i.e. not directly present to the intellect in an explicit fashion, but after a series of steps, becomes directly present to the intellect in an explicit fashion. Such a transition is impossible in God, and so it seems that it is equally impossible to predicate any kind indirect knowing in God.

Aquinas's talk of the divine mind and the forms therein is an elaborate analogy. He is expressing the Neo-Platonist doctrine that the One includes and surpasses all things in absolute simplicity.

First, you can’t have it both ways, though. It cannot be simultaneously an analogy and a metaphor, because they are different. An analogy presupposes resemblance of some kind, and a metaphor does not. If it is an analogy, then you must specify in what way there is a resemblance between the divine mind and something else that we know better. If it is a metaphor, then you must specify what property is being transferred from a created being to the divine intellect. Either way, I think you have to do a little more work than to just say that there is an analogy or metaphor going on.

Second, the Neoplatonic account was always problematic, because it presupposed that absolute simplicity precluded any kind of multiplicity, and yet also affirmed that the forms in the Intellect were present in some way in a multiplicity within the One without compromising its simplicity. Aquinas’ solution to this problem, i.e. that only certain kinds of multiplicity are prohibited in God, is a good one, though.

dguller said...

A group of individuals that are very similar in certain ways. For example, rational beings are similar in that they are all rational, but in different ways. The similarity of their rationality cannot be reduced beyond a recognition that, yes, these rationalities are formally the same--which is to say that they are alike in a particular way.

But what does it mean to say that “they are all rational”? What does “rational” mean here? I agree that there are differences between the rationality of different rational beings, but once those differences are abstracted away, what is left is what they all have in common, and what they have in common is what Gregory of Nyssa would agree is their resemblance “in all points”, which you agree is “an early version of the identity of indiscernibles”, and not the similarity of indiscernibles. Or are you arguing that it is impossible for the intellect to abstract all differences which would leave commonality that is the same in each thing?

rank sophist said...

That is certainly how form appears within a composite material entity, but that is not what form is. From what I’ve read, a form is an intelligible principle that accounts for what kind of thing something is supposed to be(come). On that definition, I don’t see why forms do not exist within the divine intellect.

I disagree with your characterization of form, so there isn't much left to be said on that issue.

I don’t think there’s a clear-cut distinction between essence and form, and they basically mean the same thing.

They did for Aristotle. For Aquinas, a form fits into the "incomplete constituent principle" framework, while an essence refers to the substance. Humans are essentially composed of form and matter; but they are not formally composed of form and matter. Essence is an ontological category, while form is ontic.

I agree that the divine essence is not known to us in this life, but the divine ideas are known to us, albeit in a distorted fashion. For example, we may never know all the ins and outs of what it means to be a tree, but we certainly have the form of treeness in our intellect, and the form of treeness must exist in the divine intellect as the ideal archetype of treeness from which all trees are derived from.

Well, first of all, I disagree that the form of treeness exists in the divine mind in any but an indirect fashion. Perhaps some analogate of the essence of a tree exists there. Second of all, Aquinas disagrees that the eternal types are known in this life, which you still haven't grappled with.

There is nothing implicit that requires intermediary steps to make explicit in God’s mind, and that is precisely what “indirectly” means, i.e. not directly present to the intellect in an explicit fashion, but after a series of steps, becomes directly present to the intellect in an explicit fashion

That isn't how I'm using the word. SCG b1 ch71.15:

"We must likewise observe, as was shown above, that just as God in knowing Himself knows other things without any discursiveness of the intellect, so likewise it is not necessary that His knowledge be discursive if He knows the evil through the good. For the good is as the principle of the knowledge of what is evil. Hence, evils are known through goods as things are known through their definitions, not as conclusions are known through their principles."

First, you can’t have it both ways, though. It cannot be simultaneously an analogy and a metaphor, because they are different.

I wasn't trying to have it both ways. My initial use of the word "metaphor" was sloppy and imprecise, and it caused the following confusion. My apologies.

If it is an analogy, then you must specify in what way there is a resemblance between the divine mind and something else that we know better.

The analogy is the one that we've gone back to time and time again: the one between exemplar and product. It is the necessary, irreducible, one-way resemblance of the product to its archetype.

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