Sunday, February 9, 2014

A world of pure imagination


Let us fix our attention out of ourselves as much as possible; let us chase our imagination to the heavens, or to the utmost limits of the universe; we never really advance a step beyond ourselves, nor can conceive any kind of existence, but those perceptions, which have appear'd in that narrow compass. This is the universe of the imagination, nor have we any idea but what is there produc'd.

David Hume

Come with me and you'll be
In a world of pure imagination
Take a look and you'll see
Into your imagination

Willy Wonka

David Hume is a curiosity.  Philosophical adolescents of all ages thrill to his famously subversive doctrines concerning religion, causation, practical reason, value, the self, and metaphysics in general.  And yet these doctrines rest on philosophical assumptions that are at best extremely controversial (such as the thesis that what is conceivable is possible) and at worst known to have been decisively refuted (such as the thesis that a concept is a kind of image) and even self-undermining (such as Hume’s Fork).  Having been drawn and found agreeable, Hume’s conclusions persist, like zombies, beyond the death of the arguments that led to them.

It is especially ironic that people who think of themselves as staunchly objective, guided by rational argument grounded in the hard earth of observable reality, should regard Hume as a hero.  For Hume’s philosophy destroys reason and experience alike, effectively reducing both to the entirely subjective arena of imagination.  Hume’s is a realm of unreality -- he is Willy Wonka without the chocolate, but only impressions and ideas of chocolate. 

As is well known to regular readers of this blog, Scholastics and other Aristotelians distinguish the faculties of sensation, imagination, and intellect.  Sensation is what you deploy when you have a perceptual experience of (say) a certain man.  Now though you are aware of the man by means of a percept of the man, it is for the Aristotelian the man himself, and not the percept, that is the object of sensory experience.  Hallucinations and the like do not cast doubt on this, any more than the fact that this or that dog might be missing a leg casts doubt on the proposition that dogs have four legs.  A three-legged dog is a damaged or abnormal dog and thus precisely not what you should look to if you’re interested in determining the nature of dogs.  Similarly, a hallucination is an abnormal perceptual experience, and one typically resulting from some sort of damage or dysfunction.  It is thus precisely the sort of thing you should not look to in order to discover the nature of normal sensory experience.  A philosopher who takes hallucinations, illusions, and the like to “show” that the objects of sensation are not really external objects is like a biologist who takes the existence of three-legged dogs to “show” that dogs don’t naturally have four legs.

Imagination is what you deploy when you form mental images or phantasms of what you’ve seen, heard, touched, smelled, and tasted.  Hence as you sit back relaxing one evening you might call to mind what a certain man you saw that day looked like, what his voice sounded like, what his handshake felt like, and so forth.  Though the man and his qualities all exist outside your mind, they are not immediately present to you as you sit there imagining them.  And of course you might form images of men you have not actually perceived and who do not exist.  For instance, you might imagine a man that is like the one you saw but five feet taller, or with red hair rather than black, or who wears a colorful costume and fights crime, or who has wings.  In general, in imagination we can separate out various aspects of the things we’ve perceived -- this or that color, shape, sound, texture, flavor, odor, or what have you -- and recombine them in all sorts of novel ways.  As these facts indicate, imagination has a subjective character that distinguishes it from sensory experience.

Intellect is what you deploy when you grasp the concept of a man, when you put this concept together with others to form a judgment (such as the judgment that all men are mortal), and when you reason from one judgment to another in a logical way (as when you think all men are mortal, so the man I met today is mortal).  Concepts, and the acts of judgment and reasoning that presuppose them, are irreducible to what sensation and imagination are capable of, for reasons I’ve set out many times (e.g. briefly here, and at systematic length here).  Concepts have a universal reference that no percept or image can have; they can be determinate, precise, or unambiguous in their content in a way no percept or image can be; and we can form concepts of things which can in no way be perceived or imagined.  Like sensation, intellect is objective, but in a different way.  Sensation reveals to us only particular things that exist independently of our minds.  The intellect grasps natures that are universal, existing not only in the particular things we perceive but in things we have not perceived and never could perceive. 

Now, Hume essentially collapses both intellect and sensation into imagination.  Start with intellect.  Hume, like Berkeley, reduces concepts to mental images together with general names.  Ever since Wittgenstein’s critique of classical empiricism, it seems generally to have been acknowledged among analytic philosophers that this account of concepts is hopeless, but any Scholastic could have told them the same.  And this mistake of Hume’s underlies his accounts of causation, substance, and other basic metaphysical notions.  The suggestion that we have no clear concept of causal connection, substance, etc. only seems plausible if we think of having a concept of these things as a matter of being able to form some kind of mental image of them.  Once that assumption is abandoned, the force of the arguments dissipates.  And the knowledge of arithmetic and geometry available even to a child suffices to show just how stupid the assumption is.  To have the concept of a triangle is not a matter of having any sort of mental image, since what we can imagine is only ever this or that particular sort of triangle rather than triangularity in the abstract.  Nor is it to have an image of the word “triangle,” since that word is only contingently connected with what it refers to.  (To have the concept triangle is to have the very same thing Euclid had, even though he did not know the English word “triangle.”)  Similarly, knowing that 2 + 2 = 4 is not a matter of forming images of the shapes “2,” “+,” etc., since those symbols too are only contingently related to the strictly unimaginable realities they name. 

(Nor are these realities to be thought of on the model of any of the ghostly objects of empiricist and materialist caricature -- ectoplasm, magic fairy dust, or whatever  -- all of which are things which can be imagined in the sense that we can form mental images of them.  Skeptics who attack such sophomoric caricatures are missing the whole point, insofar as they assume that to make sense of something we have to be able to regard it as the sort of thing that could at least in principle be seen, heard, tasted, touched, or smelled.  But whether that is the case is, of course, precisely what is at issue.  Nor would mathematics and science be possible if it were the case.)

Hume also effectively reduces sensation to imagination insofar as he strips the former of its objectivity.  For Hume there are in the mind only impressions and ideas, where the former are what we are aware of in sensation and the latter the faint copies of impressions that are formed in imagination.  But impressions have no essential connection to anything mind-independent.  When you perceive a man it is really only the impressions associated with the man -- these colors, those shapes, etc. -- that you perceive, and you cannot know one way or the other whether there is anything external to the mind which corresponds to them.  They are thus as subjective as mental images.  Indeed, while Hume characterizes an “idea” or image as a less vivid version of an impression, you could just as well characterize an impression as a more vivid version of an idea or image. 

Impressions are also image-like in that they are more or less conceived of in a manner similar to the “pulled apart” elements that imagination recombines as it likes.  Again, it isn’t strictly a man of which one has a Humean impression.  It is rather a set of color patches, shapes, sounds, etc., which the mind combines and labels “man.”  This too is a model contemporary analytic philosophers know to be hopelessly crude, and have known it ever since Wilfrid Sellars’ attack on the “myth of the given.”  Hume takes a perceptual experience to be reducible to an aggregate of impressions, but the notion of a Humean impression is itself an abstraction from an actual experience.  When you read a book it is a book that you are perceiving, not a whitish rectangular expanse, a feeling of smoothness, a sound as of paper crinkling, etc.  These “impressions” are not more basic than the experience as a whole, any more than a foot or a kidney is more basic than the organism of which they are parts.  On the contrary, organisms are more basic than their organs, and the latter have to be understood in light of the former rather than the other way around.  “Impressions” and the like are related to ordinary perceptual experiences in the same way.  Hence analyzing perceptual experiences in terms of Humean impressions gets things the wrong way around.

It is no surprise, then, that for Hume neither intellect nor sensation can ever “advance a step beyond” that “narrow compass” of “the universe of the imagination” -- that is, beyond “ourselves.”  There is only the play of subjective appearances available to you here and now.  Some of them you take to comprise a particular material object really existing external to your mind, some of them to amount to concepts and truths that apply far beyond not only what is outside your mind here and now but even beyond anything you have experienced or will experience.  But all of that is illusion, or at least the supposition that you have any reason whatsoever to believe any of that is in Hume’s view an illusion.  Nor is it any surprise that, once again to quote Willy Wonka channeling Hume, in a “world of pure imagination… what we'll see will defy explanation.”  For explanation requires the intellect to grasp what sensation and imagination cannot -- objective causal connections, the essences of things, and so forth -- all of which go by the board in Hume’s philosophy.

What is surprising is that anyone would still take seriously Hume’s doctrines given the fallaciousness of the arguments on which they rest.  Or rather, it is not surprising at all.   Like the imagined religious believers at whom he so often directs his contempt, the Humean skeptic knows in advance the conclusions he wants to reach, and isn’t too particular about how he gets there.  He wants a world in which causation will not get him to an Uncaused Cause, in which good and bad are not objective features of reality but mere sentiments, nor rationality anything more than the slave of the passions.  For as Willy Wonka tells us, in a Humean world, a world of pure imagination:

Anything you want to, do it
Want to change the world, there's nothing to it.

54 comments:

George LeSauvage said...

To be fair, there are time when Hume comes close to admitting that his doctrine is absurd. And there's really no surprise about his enduring popularity. It's simply because he is a strong candidate as second only to Plato, simply on writing ability. It can be hard not to be carried along by the prose.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Feser. Make sure Dr. Madden is paying you some royalties. I bought his book off of your recommendation.
Good news is: he mentions you quite a bit in his book.

It's a good read so far. How do you find these other minds? Sounds like he's from a small Catholic college in Kansas.

Glenn said...

The OP may be in response to an answer to an earlier question. **

Not to add insult to injury (although it might), Hume did observe that:

"As long as we confine our speculations to the appearances of objects to our senses, without entering into disquisitions concerning their real nature and operations, we are safe from all difficulties, and can never be embarrass’d by any question." (Hume's emphasis.)

- - - - -

** Of course, that it seems that the OP may be in response to an answer to an earlier question may be a figment of my imagination.

Timotheos said...

Well I guess this explains how Hume got so pudgy; he spent too much time at Willy Wonka's ;)

Glenn said...

Also, I find it interesting that Hume should write the following (in the conclusion to Book I of A Treatise of Human Nature): "[S]uch is my weakness, that I feel all my opinions loosen and fall of themselves, when unsupported by the approbation of others."

Anonymous said...

Human beings live in the mind. Human beings live in a pattern of language, assuming roles in the world that are based on nothing but imagination. That imagination is simply the brain talking. To live on the basis of such imagination is to live in a deluded manner that is disconnected from the human animal body that is walking around. The animal body that is mortal, suffering, limited, and trapped, in a siutation that allows only a short span of life.
To live as mind whether in its secular or presumed religious form is ego only.
Narcissus seeing his or her reflection IS mind.
Mind IS the relection in the Divine Mirror.

Humans live in bondage to their language based mind which in its complexity and its aspiration to generate a comprehensive facsimile of the entire self-structure and woprld-structure is unique to the human species of primate mammals.

The human species is associated with an extreme capability relative to complex and comprehensive language-making, language-exploitation, and language based self-identification, or attachment to a subjectively objectified self-IDEA, or linguistically constructed ego-"I". As a result, human beings are able to project themselves into a world of mere ideas, or brain-based mental constructs, a virtual world of pseudo-Reality and pseudo-Truth. Such is of course epitomized in all of the usual metaphysics.

Every human individual virtually "carries the world around" in the form of his or her own mind. Every human being carries a personalized facsimile of the world in speech-mind, in mental pictures, in point of view based psychology and psyche - all of that is nothing but an illusion. That mind-world exists only in the brain-field, and in the energy-field otherwise associated with the physical brain. That mind-world does not exist otherwise. Some people even construct an elaborate "metaphysics" on that illusory basis.

Human society is nothing but minds talking to minds. The minds do not have any independent existence. In Reality, the minds are nothing but structures of language carried on through the vehicles of temporary brains.

People think they are their minds. No, they are not. Just as your genitals are going to drop dead, so is your mind.

Anonymous said...

Human beings live in the mind. Human beings live in a pattern of language, assuming roles in the world that are based on nothing but imagination.

What account do you have of language that does not presuppose an external community of speakers?

Anonymous said...

"Human beings live in the mind. Human beings live in a pattern of language, assuming roles in the world that are based on nothing but imagination."

I don't know why, but this line from a favorite comedy of mine jumped into my temporary brain.


"Mr. XXXXXXX, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."

Name that movie.

Eric

Gene Callahan said...

"Hume, like Berkeley, reduces concepts to mental images together with general names."

Doesn't this elide over an essential difference? For Berkeley, all of these "mental images" ARE concepts: they are ideas in the mind of God. Whereas for Hume, they are mere subjective impressions.

Berkeley is, without having the terminology yet, intuiting the central idealist concept of the "concrete universal," from which abstract concepts are drawn. Hume, to the contrary, is descending into subjectivism.

Timotheos said...

@ Eric

Don't know about where the quote's from, but I do offer you my sympathies with this clip

JP said...

"Ever since Wittgenstein’s critique of classical empiricism, it seems generally to have been acknowledged among analytic philosophers that this account of concepts is hopeless"

Could any of erudite minds (ehhrm, I mean persons) here advise of where I can read about this in Wittgenstein's writings? Sounds interesting.

Jeremy Taylor said...

I think George is correct. I think his prose style, his authoritative tone, and a certain cleverness or shrewdness that has given Hume his enduring popularity. He may be a sophist, but he is, as Anscombe put it, a brilliant one.

Interesting, Hume, for all his philosophical radicalism, was a conservative and something of a Tory (if by accident, to cite Dr. Johnson).

Jeremy Taylor said...

*that should be - I think it is his prose style....

Brandon said...

Liking Hume for his prose style is a very recent thing, although his style was indeed quite an achievement -- he was writing in a massively different dialect of English than he spoke, and doing it competently. Scots and English were much farther apart in those days than they are today (the published work of Hume's that was most widely read in Scotland at the time was his list of Scotticisms to avoid if you wanted to be taken seriously by the English). And Hume certainly put a lot of effort into it. But in his own day judgments about his prose style were entirely mixed; he got compliments, but he also got sharp criticism for it and even some of the compliments were backhanded. He was often compared unfavorably with someone like James Beattie, who was often considered the only Scot at the time who could write English as well, and sometimes better, than an Englishman.

So while prose style might be a reason he is read today, when the things that grated on his contemporaries (egoisms, French-like sentence structure, ambiguity) make his style much more like our own, I don't think it makes sense to give it a significant part in an account of his popularity. And the only work of his that has remained consistently widely read since his own day is the essay on miracles, so I'm not sure there's a unified account of his popularity to be had.

That said, if we aren't talking about causal accounts of his popularity but evaluations of Hume as a philosopher, my professional specialization is Hume and his historical context, and there is a reason for it, because Hume is not to be underestimated. His scope is extensive, his psychological observation is quite good, his contributions to the discussions are generally improvements (sometimes, as in his theory of the external world, considerable improvements), and in at least two areas, association and virtue ethics, he can be said to have rediscovered and revived important ideas that had fallen into oblivion, even if he gives them his own Humean twists. (It's a sobering thought that for most of the post-medieval era, Hume was the only significant philosopher actively maintaining and defending the foundational role of virtue for ethics.) And his naturalism is often much more consistent than naturalisms have been since: over and over again I find naturalists, despite lip service, fail to take Hume's points quite as seriously as they should.

ccmnxc said...

Dr. Feser. Make sure Dr. Madden is paying you some royalties. I bought his book off of your recommendation.

Not to get off track, but seconded. And heck, maybe Scott might want a bit of the cut as well ;)

Bobcat said...

I've heard that Hume's Fork is self-undermining before, but I'm not so sure. As I understand it, Hume articulates his fork in the following quotation (copied and pasted shamelessly from Wikipedia):

"All the objects of human reason or enquiry may naturally be divided into two kinds, to wit, Relations of Ideas, and Matters of fact. Of the first kind are the sciences of Geometry, Algebra, and Arithmetic ... [which are] discoverable by the mere operation of thought ... Matters of fact, which are the second object of human reason, are not ascertained in the same manner; nor is our evidence of their truth, however great, of a like nature with the foregoing."

So, Hume's Fork is the following set of three claims:
1. All propositions are either relations of ideas or matters of fact.
2. Relations of ideas can be known to be true only a priori.
3. Matters of fact can be known to be true only a posteriori.

I take it that the Fork is supposed to be self-undermining because we can of Hume's Fork itself, "is it a relation of ideas or a matter of fact?" If it's a relation of ideas, then we can know it to be true a priori, but it has nothing to do with the world. If it's a matter of fact, then we can know it to be true a posteriori, but then it's not necessarily true.

I should think that the Fork itself, if true, must be true a posteriori. After all, it seems to be about the world (it would rule out the claim that we can ever know any matter of fact to be necessarily true). Therefore, it seems to me that it could be proved only by enumeration of cases. So, Hume's Fork wouldn't be necessarily true, only contingently true, and disprovable at that. Perhaps Aquinas indeed disproved it.

I should think the main problem with Hume's Fork would be saying that it's necessarily true of the world. Then it would violate its own strictures.

So, not self-undermining: just (probably) false.

Porphyry said...

Dr. Feser I believe you misrepresent Berkeley. Ia->Ca, where I is an image and C is a concept, is not equal to Ca -> Ia. Therefore, your examples of concepts that are not ideas hold no metaphysical water. As the Berkleyan is only held to the proposition that ideas are a type of concept. Granted they are concepts that are somewhat "fuzzy", but concepts nonetheless. One might even ask how one could explain qualia without this notion. As with qualia, in order to say anything about an object, you have to be able to intellectually apprehend, at least part of what an object is, using only sense data.

Bobcat said...

I should say: first, sorry for threadjacking; second, despite the confidence with which I expressed the above argument, I'm not at all sure it works. Hume certainly seemed to think his fork was necessarily true; I just think he misused it.

Scott said...

@Timotheos:

"Well I guess this explains how Hume got so pudgy; he spent too much time at Willy Wonka's ;)"

So that's why they're called Hume Paloompas.

DavidM said...

Dr. Feser concludes: "What is surprising is that anyone would still take seriously Hume’s doctrines given the fallaciousness of the arguments on which they rest. Or rather, it is not surprising at all. Like the imagined religious believers at whom he so often directs his contempt, the Humean skeptic knows in advance the conclusions he wants to reach, and isn’t too particular about how he gets there." - Maybe. Should we suppose, then, that this is true of Hume himself? He just wanted to believe certain conclusions, and wasn't picky about what arguments might take him there? That's surely an inadequate explanation...

Ismael said...

Well recently Massimo Pigliucci (from CUNY who also, who often writes also for the Skeptical Inquirer) wrote something in the line of "If reason was the only thing necessary to delete religion then we would be done with Kant and Hume" (praraphrasing, not his exact words).

Mind you, Pigliucci, even as an atheist, is a strong critic of the New Atheists (Dennett included).

Apparently there is some sort of god-worship towards Hume and Kant in the atheists circles, even those a bit less stupid than the new atheists...

Not that Pigliucci offers very smart arguments at all, but his god-worship (yes it's ironics) of Hume and Kant that often transpires in his works, is a sympton of a disease that plagues atheism in general I'd say...

Josh Harris said...

Doesn't say much about the state of the philosophical academy...

http://philosophybites.com/2012/11/whos-your-favourite-philosopher.html

Scott said...

@Gene Callahan:

"Doesn't this elide over an essential difference? For Berkeley, all of these 'mental images' ARE concepts: they are ideas in the mind of God. Whereas for Hume, they are mere subjective impressions."

I don't think that difference is important to Ed's argument at that point, though. He's summarized the most important reasons why we have to distinguish concepts from mental images, and his claim is that by failing to do so, Hume and Berkeley collapse intellect into imagination; that they do so in somewhat different ways is beside the point.

Scott said...

To illustrate with an analogy: If I'm explaining that spheres and cubes are distinct and I note that Philosopher A, like Philosopher B, mistakenly identifies them, I needn't turn aside to note that A does so by calling cubes "spheres" and B does so by calling spheres "cubes."

Scott said...

@Timotheos:

"Don't know about where the quote's from . . . "

Here. (Anybody who wants to guess, don't peek!)

Scott said...

@ccmnxc:

"Not to get off track, but seconded. And heck, maybe Scott might want a bit of the cut as well ;)"

Thirded. And nah, I don't need a cut. Madden's probably way more underpaid than I am anyway. ;-)

Anonymous said...

"So that's why they're called Hume Paloompas."

I literally sang "Hume paloompa duppity doo, I've got another puzzle for you" to see how well it worked. Well done Scott.

Eric

George LeSauvage said...

@Scott:

"@Timotheos:

"Well I guess this explains how Hume got so pudgy; he spent too much time at Willy Wonka's ;)"

So that's why they're called Hume Paloompas."

Go to your room. He who would pun would pick a purse.

George LeSauvage said...

Scott: I was just kidding. I've always believed Safire's rule: Never apologise for a pun. The worse they are, the better they are.

Scott said...

[bows humbly] Thank you, thank you.

I also have to wonder whether Hume was especially fond of Everlasting God Stoppers.

ccmnxc said...

I also have to wonder whether Hume was especially fond of Everlasting God Stoppers.

My teacher didn't take kindly to me laughing out loud in class.

Scott said...

@ccmnxc:

"My teacher didn't take kindly to me laughing out loud in class."

Excellent. My work here is done.

Crude said...

Ismael,

Not that Pigliucci offers very smart arguments at all, but his god-worship (yes it's ironics) of Hume and Kant that often transpires in his works, is a sympton of a disease that plagues atheism in general I'd say...

Pigliucci reasons a lot more than the New Atheists. He's got a very relaxed approach and tone, and he likes to give arguments for what he believes in (or doesn't believe in), at least in my experience. But also in my experience is that his anti-religious/anti-theist arguments are weak, and I get the impression he operates largely from the position of taking it for granted that theism/religion is disproven, rather than arguing for it himself.

Jeremy Taylor said...

I love how these people always call themselves sceptics. Mostly they just seem sceptical of what contradicts scientistic naturalism, however.

Glenn said...

Which of the following two statements is a Scotticism:

a) "Look up that word in the dictionary"; or,

b) "Look out that word in the dictionary".

(Note: "I dunna know" is not an acceptable answer.)

bitvast said...

I like this quote by G.K.Chesterton:

Since the modern world began in the sixteenth century, nobody's system of philosophy has really corresponded to everybody's sense of reality; to what, if left to themselves, common men would call common sense. Each started with a paradox; a peculiar point of view demanding the sacrifice of what they would call a sane point of view. That is the one thing common to Hobbes and Hegel, to Kant and Bergson, to Berkeley and William James. A man had to believe something that no normal man would believe, if it were suddenly propounded to his simplicity; as that law is above right, or right is outside reason, or things are only as we think them, or everything is relative to a reality that is not there. The modern philosopher claims, like a sort of confidence man, that if we will grant him this, the rest will be easy; he will straighten out the world, if he is allowed to give this one twist to the mind...


Seems to me that you can add Hume to the list.

Anonymous said...

Great article Dr. Feser! Mortimer Adler, in his book Ten Philosophical Mistakes, says this particular mistake of Hume rests on a failure to understand the conceptual difference between THAT WHICH and THAT BY WHICH. It is the dog THAT we see - our sense of sight is THAT BY WHICH we see the dog. ~ Mark

Will Dunkirk said...

Love the comparison between Hume and Willy Wonka.

I still say -and I think Dr. Feser you pointed this out in TLS- that it was Hume's hatchet job on causality that really did the most damage and not only his scepticism in regards to the evidence of the senses.

But as regards the imagination, what bothers me about confusing the imagination with concepts or the operation of the intellect simply, is that it doesn't take much effort or reflection to realize that whenever I am actively employing my imagination and using it to the height of its powers (imagining an elaborate sci-fi world to rival that of anything seen in Star Trek or Star Wars, for example, which is much more easily imagined than given life in art) is that everything going into the construct is itself clearly based on something else.

This becomes obviously true when I reflect on triangles. Now almost immediately when I think about triangles a triangle is produced in my imagination; however, I know my imagination is itself subject to something less particular than the similitudes of things produced by it, because I can manipulate the triangle by changing certain accidents (color, e.g.) while still very much thinking of or reflecting on the nature of triangles. In other words, there's something more basic that is the foundation of what my imagination produces. It is not my imagination that manipulates the triangle, it is some underlying understanding or knowledge that is the blueprint for the visible structures (as it were) in my imagination.

Is that what you are also in effect saying Dr. Feser in your article but in different words?

(Of course I am only talking about our imagination here while we are awake and healthy and excluding it when we are sick, dreaming or under the influence of drugs).

Scott said...

This is of course even less realistic than Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory; dinosaurs were extinct before the first Humeans appeared.

monk68 said...

Excellent article. I have no wish to hijack this thread, but I thought someone here might help me with a Summa reference.

I am looking for a passage in the Summa which I came across a few years ago, but failed to note the reference at that time. The passage, as I recall, involved the response of St. Thomas to the question whether (or why) it was necessary that man or the universe proceed through a path of becoming or traveling (homo viator), rather than coming forth in perfection from inception. STA’s response was something along the lines that it was fitting for man to proceed as a wayfarer toward his final end, since in this way he is enabled to participate or act as a source of good for himself and others (which is more according to the likeness of God), rather than simply being the recipient of an already perfected state.

I have spent several hours trying to find the passage in all the sections of the ST where it would seem most obvious to look, but to no avail. Any thoughts?

Pax

Glenn said...

Which of the following two statements is a Scotticism:

a) "Look up that word in the dictionary"; or,

b) "Look out that word in the dictionary".


I came across, "Look up that word in the dictionary" while reading a chapter on Scotticism's in the 1811 edition of The Edinburgh Annual Register.

"Look up that word in the dictionary" is listed as a Scotticism, and is said to be properly rendered in English as, "Look out that word in the dictionary."

Hmm [1].

So I look up "look out that word" on the internet, and what do I find? This (from Robert Littell's The Living Agent):

"Did you look out that word, Jones?"

"No, sir; please, sir, I thought ----"

"Never think till you are in the sixth form -- till then, look out
every word."

I am, apparently, more Scottish than English, for I do look up words in dictionaries, locations on maps, and Scotticisms in antiquated registers.

When I look up 'lookup table' on the internet (via google), I discover that it is the computer science / programming thingamajig I have I have always thought it was [2].

And when I look up 'lookout tables' on the internet (via google again), many of the first results returned have to do with tide tables for Cape Lookout or point Lookout.

So which phrasing is correct -- "look up that word"? or "look out that word"?

Well, the tide has turned.

Whereas during an earlier time the latter was in vogue, 'tis the former that seems to be currently correct.

- - - - -

[1] Imagine the following conversation:

Scotsman: "Look out that word in the dictionary."

Englishman: "My dear fellow, I think it likely you mean to say, 'Be watchful of that word in the dictionary'."

Scotsman: "No, sir, it's 'transformable' I mean."

[2] Naturally, if one is going to have a lookup table, then one needs to be able to use a table lookup instruction; see, e.g., XLAT.

Scott said...

@monk68:

I've failed to find the passage myself, but here's a search suggestion.

Google allows you to search specific sites. To search the ST, for example, you can run a Google search and, after your search terms, add site:http://www.newadvent.org/summa/.

You may be aware of this and perhaps it's how you've already been searching. If not, though, it's something new to try, and you're more likely than I am to recall an exact phrase or significant/unique word from the passage you're looking for. I've tried nearly everything I can think of based on your post, without success.

Scott said...

@Glenn:

There's also this, from one of Charles Hamilton's ("Frank Richards'") Greyfriars novels: 'Better look out that word in the "C"s, not in the "K"s, Bunter!' said Harry Wharton, laughing.

Brandon said...

Glenn,

It's interesting, although not surprising, that it was still going on in 1811. Usually the convergence of Scots and English is seen as English taking over Scots, but the list of Scotticisms you link to does a good job of showing that the English also started allowing expressions that were Scottish in origin. (Although Americans have to be careful, because in some cases it is American English that took up the Scotticism.)


A fact that's not often known: David Hume was born David Home. He deliberately changed the spelling of his name so that the English would pronounce it correctly. There are some amusing letters between him and his favorite cousin, John Home, in which the latter rejects something David says, saying that David doesn't even know how to spell his own name.

Glenn said...

Monk68,

I also poked around a bit, before posting above (on the premise that dinner precedes dessert). I came across many instances of the term 'wayfarer', two of which are:

1. From "Whether the beatified angels advance in beatitude?""

On the contrary, Merit and progress belong to this present condition of life. But angels are not wayfarers travelling towards beatitude, they are already in possession of beatitude. Consequently the beatified angels can neither merit nor advance in beatitude.

2. And from "Whether angels are appointed to the guardianship of all men?":

I answer that, Man while in this state of life, is, as it were, on a road by which he should journey towards heaven. On this road man is threatened by many dangers both from within and from without, according to Ps. 159:4: "In this way wherein I walked, they have hidden a snare for me." And therefore as guardians are appointed for men who have to pass by an unsafe road, so an angel guardian is assigned to each man as long as he is a wayfarer. When, however, he arrives at the and of life he no longer has a guardian angel; but in the kingdom he will have an angel to reign with him, in hell a demon to punish him.

While neither goes to "whether (or why) it was necessary that man or the universe proceed through a path of becoming or traveling", I offer them in case they should help to jog your memory in some unexpected way.

Also, PDF versions of the Summa are available on the internet; makes searching and poking around that much easier. I think it was from here that I downloaded the copy I have.

monk68 said...

Scott & Glenn,

Thanks for the references. I'll do some more digging.

Pax

Glenn said...

Scott,

Yes, well. Hmm. I'm not so sure that that counts as a legitimate usage of the locution. In fact, I think it more likely that the author was just putting words into the character's mouth. ;)

Brandon said...

Walter Bagehot on Hume's English style, as late as 1876:

Hume is always idiomatic, but his idioms are constantly wrong; many of his best passages are on that account curiously grating and puzzling; you feel that they are very like what an Englishman would say, but yet that, after all, somehow or other they are what he never would say;—there is a minute seasoning of imperceptible difference which distracts your attention, and which you are for ever stopping to analyse.

Glenn said...

Brandon,

Thanks for the additional comment regarding Hume. Your earlier comment about him was also welcomed; amongst other things, it made clear to me that I have underappreciated him.

Glenn said...

(s/b "comments")

Glenn said...

I decided to look for the definitions of 'look out' and 'look up' over at Collins Dictionary.

One can choose either "British English" or "American English":

1. British English

a) 'look out' has four entries under "Verb", one of which is: "8. (transitive) to search for and find ⇒ I'll look out some curtains for your new house".

(There are five prior entries under "Noun"; thus '8.' is found amongst the four subsequent entries under "Verb".)

Another legitimate example might be: "⇒ I'll look out that word in the dictionary".

b) 'look up' also has four entries under "Verb", one of which is: "1. (transitive) to discover (something required to be known) by resorting to a work of reference, such as a dictionary".

Though no examples are provided, one example might be: "⇒ I'll look up that word in the dictionary".

2. American English

a) 'look out' has a single entry: "to be on the watch; be careful".

Though no examples are provided, it is not hard to imagine that one might be: "⇒ Be careful, Americans don't look out words in the dictionary".

b) 'look up' has three entries, one of which is: "1. to search for in a book of reference, etc."

No examples are provided, and no imagination is needed in order to fashion one (such as "⇒ Look up that word in the dictionary").

It now seems clear that, although the British do kindly acknowledge it, it is the Americans who have taken up -- i.e., who have been taken in by -- the Scotticism.


I also looked for the definitions of said terms in The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English, 1919 (7th impression), and found the following:

1. 'look out' (p 484, slightly below midpoint of left column):

l.-out, watch, looking out, (keep a good l.-o.; on the l.-o., for or to do), post of observation, man or party or boat stationed to l. out, view over landscape, prospect of luck (it's a bad l.o. for him), he must see to that himself).

2. 'look up' (p 484, top of right column):

l. up, (esp. commerc.) improve in price or prosperity, search for (esp. word in dictionary or facts in book of reference), call on (person), raise eyes (l. up to, respect, venerate), l. one up & down, scrutinize him keenly or contemptuously.

And now it seems clear that as late as 1919 the British had yet to realize that they had been taken in.

Jonathan Lewis said...

The popularity of Hume is not just because of his writing ability. He appeals to modern people because he is an iconoclast, which literally means a "destroyer of idols." Most philosophers would build some kind of system, but Hume preferred to tear systems apart and then leave them in ruins. Many twentieth century philosophers are destructive in this way. Contemporary secular people love to be revolutionary. They have that "everything we've ever believed is wrong" attitude. Hume is a sort of intellectual demolitionist - attacking every theory and then telling us that the whole quest for knowledge is hopeless. This goes beyond scepticism and into nihilism. No wonder so many modern people like it.

Glenn said...

IOW, The popularity of [say, Feser] is not just because of his writing ability. He appeals to modern people because he is an iconoclast, which literally means a "destroyer of idols[", such as those of, say, Hume's materialism].

Glenn said...

I misspoke; sorry. That s/b "Hume's centuries-old materialism."

But it should be acknowledge that, yes, it is true -- contemporary secular people do love to revert to centuries-old hokum.