Thursday, September 11, 2014

Symington on Scholastic Metaphysics



Edward Feser demonstrates a facility with both Scholastic and contemporary analytical concepts, and does much to span the divide…

The final chapter [is]… a nice example of the service that Feser renders to the task of enhancing points of commonality between scholastic and analytic thinkers.  In this chapter, Feser defends a realist form of essentialism as well as argues for a real distinction between essence and existence.  As is characteristic of the book as a whole, Feser brings in contemporary views in way that makes good use of, and is charitable to, contemporary developments in metaphysics…

In all, Feser's new book is a welcome addition for those interested in bringing the concepts, terminology and presuppositions between scholastic and contemporary analytic philosophers to commensuration. In fact, I would contend that Feser's book will constitute an important piece in its own right for guiding the research program for contemporary Thomistic metaphysicians into the future.

Prof. Symington also raises a couple points of criticism.  Among the topics dealt with in chapter 3 of my book is a defense of the hylemorphist view that micro-level parts like quarks, elements of compounds like the oxygen and hydrogen in water, etc. are in the wholes of which they are parts virtually rather than actually.  (Readers unfamiliar with this thesis should read the chapter -- there’s no way I can summarize the arguments for it here.)  Now, as I indicate in the book (at pp. 183-84), hylemorphism as such does not strictly require such a view.  A hylemorphist could in principle hold that it is only at some micro-level that we have irreducible composites of substantial form and prime matter, and that what exists above those levels are merely composites of accidental forms and secondary matter.  Thus the hylemorphist could in theory allow that (say) everything is reducible to atoms in something like the sense affirmed by Democritus, but hold that the atoms themselves are compounds of substantial form and prime matter; or that oxygen and hydrogen do after all exist actually rather than virtually in water, with water being just an accidental form of the aggregate of oxygen and hydrogen (each considered as having a substantial form even while united in the water); and so forth.  However, hylemorphic analysis considered together with the actual empirical facts tells against such concessions to reductionism.  In fact (so some of us hylemorphists claim, anyway) regarding the parts in question as in the wholes only virtually rather than actually best makes sense of what we know from modern science when interpreted in hylemorphic terms.

Prof. Symington is not so sure.  He suggests:

Say someone accepted that basic material particles each in themselves have an intrinsic directedness to realize a certain range of ends -- like the attraction between an electron and a proton -- even if a given end is not actually being realized. Then, it would be these particles that would be substances in Feser's understanding of the term and would be actual and not virtual. I don't see why someone couldn't merely hold that there is no existing composite entity, only individual elemental particles that are complexes of actualized and unactualized potencies in themselves. That is, there are no unique actualities and potencies (causally or otherwise) that the composed entities have over and above the actualities and potencies of its parts. That water can extinguish a flame instead of combusting will not have to do with properties that the water has, but rather on the actualities and potentialities that the elements of the water each themselves have instead. To put it another way, instead of claiming that the unified subject of actualities and potentialities are the composite entities, it is the elements that are said to be the unified subjects of actualities and potentialities.

End quote.  In other words, Symington seems essentially to be saying that the kind of position I allow for as an abstract possibility -- namely, that hylemorphic analysis holds true at the level of basic particles, say, but not at the level of composites of these particles (which composites would be reducible to or eliminable in favor of basic particles, hylemorphically construed) -- is one that the hylemorphist has not given us a good reason to reject.  On this view, while the hylemorphist has shown that we need the distinctions between actuality and potentiality, and substantial form and prime matter, at the level of basic particles, he has not shown that we need them at higher levels, and thus has not shown that we need the doctrine that micro-parts are in the wholes only virtually rather than actually.

But it seems to me that this objection misses the force of some key points developed in the book, which I can only briefly summarize here.  First (and as David Oderberg has emphasized) since the properties (in the technical Scholastic sense of “properties”) of a kind of thing flow from and point to the presence of its essence, the complete absence of the properties indicates the absence of the essence, and thus the absence of the kind of thing in question.  For example, since we should be able to burn hydrogen if it were actually present in water, but this property of hydrogen is absent, it would follow by this reasoning that the essence of hydrogen is also absent, and thus that, strictly speaking, hydrogen itself is absent.  Thus, though there is of course a sense in which hydrogen is present in water, it can (hylemorphists like Oderberg and I argue) be present only virtually rather than actually given the absence of some of its properties.

Symington alludes to this argument, but it doesn’t seem to me that he answers it.  Perhaps he would say that the essence of hydrogen, and thus hydrogen itself, is actually present but that the “flow” of the properties is being blocked by the presence of oxygen, just as a human being’s properties of risibility and linguistic ability might be blocked by brain damage.  But this cannot be right.  The properties that naturally flow from an essence can be blocked, but such blockage is not the normal course of things.  Occasionally there are human beings completely incapable of laughter or language use, but of course this is not the case for the vast majority of human beings.  That indicates that the “flow” of the properties is merely being blocked in the aberrant cases, rather than that the essence is absent.  But it is not merely occasionally the case that the hydrogen that is purportedly actually present in water cannot be burned.  That indicates that the essence is not there at all, rather than that it is there and the properties are merely being blocked.

A second point is that the main higher-level divisions in nature traditionally posited by the hylemorphist are no closer now to a successful reductionist analysis than they ever were.  These are, first, the division between rational and sub-rational but sentient forms of life; second, that between sentient forms of life and non-sentient forms; and third, that between non-sentient forms and inorganic phenomena.  It is often casually asserted that modern science has “shown” that these divisions mark, contra the Aristotelian, mere differences in degree rather than kind, but (as I have argued many times and in many places) this is a complete illusion, and one that is in no way grounded in empirical science but is rather the expression of a dogmatic metaphysical naturalism.  The intractability within contemporary philosophy of the problem of providing a naturalistic account of the propositional attitudes shows how illusory is the suggestion that the division between rational and sub-rational but sentient forms of life has been dissolved; the intractability of the “qualia problem” shows how illusory is the suggestion that the division between sentient forms of life and non-sentient forms of life has been dissolved; and the intractability of the “origin of life” problem shows how illusory is the suggestion that the division between rudimentary forms of life and inorganic phenomena has been dissolved. 

A third point is that reductionist and eliminativist analyses even of inorganic phenomena face grave difficulties, such as Peter Unger’s “problem of the many,” and Crawford Elder’s objection that a reductive or eliminativist analysis of a stone (say) cannot provide a principled way of explaining why it is exactly this collection of particles (or whatever) -- no more and no fewer -- to which we are supposed to reduce the stone, or in favor of which we are to eliminate the stone.  (These issues are all discussed in the book, to which the interested reader is directed.)

Prof. Symington also raises a second potential criticism, this time of my claim that the predictive power and technological success of modern science give us no reason to accept scientism.  He agrees that certain defenses of scientism along these lines are too facile, but wonders whether a more sophisticated argument for scientism might be based on the technological and predictive successes of science.  In particular, and if I understand him correctly, he wonders whether a proponent of scientism might argue as follows:

1. The predictive power and technological applications of science are unparalleled by those of any other purported source of knowledge.

2. So science is a reliable source of knowledge.

3. Science has undermined beliefs derived from other purported sources of knowledge, such as common sense.

4. So science has shown that these other purported sources of knowledge are unreliable.

5. The range of subjects science investigates is vast.

6. So the number of purported sources of knowledge that science has shown to be unreliable is vast.

7. So what science reveals to us is probably all that is real.

Now, Prof. Symington does not endorse this argument; he’s just suggesting that it is an argument that a sophisticated proponent of scientism might endorse.  But it does not seem to me to be a good argument.  For one thing, the examples Prof. Symington cites of beliefs which have been undermined by science do not seem to me very convincing.  He writes:

For example, although common sense tells us that a biological organism acts in an autonomous way and is not reducible to its parts, the law of conservation of energy via science suggests that the exchange and direction of energy is fully accounted for at the basic level of material elements. In other words, what determines how the energy is exchanged is determined ultimately at the elemental level. There are other beliefs that we hold that also seem undermined by the claims of science, such as the dissonance between what we think is motivating us to do x and the "true" motivations for action x obtained from psychological, evolutionary or economic analyses.

The trouble with the first example is that it isn’t clear that common sense takes organisms to be autonomous and irreducible in the specific way that Symington says is undermined by the law of conservation of energy.  The trouble with the second example is that it is, to say the very least, by no means uncontroversial that science really has shown that the true motivations for our actions are (in general) other than what we think they are.  (In fact this sort of view tends, I would argue, toward incoherence, for “argument from reason”-style reasons.)  Hence, of Symington’s two examples, one is a claim undermined by science that wasn’t a commonsense belief in the first place, and the other is a commonsense belief that isn’t really undermined by science. 

But even given better examples, the proposed argument still doesn’t work.  For premise (3) simply doesn’t give us good reason to believe step (4).  To see why not, suppose we replace “science” with “visual experience” in these two steps of the argument.  Visual experience has of course very often undermined beliefs derived from other sources of knowledge.  For example, it often tells us that the person we thought we heard come in the room was really someone else, or that when we thought we were feeling a pillow next to us it was really a cat.  Does that mean that visual experience has shown that auditory experience and tactile experience are unreliable sources of knowledge?  Of course not.  To do that, it would have to have shown that auditory experience and tactical experience are not just often wrong but wrong on a massive scale and with respect to a very wide variety of subjects.  And it has done no such thing.  But neither has science shown any such thing with respect to common sense.  Hence (3) is not a good reason to conclude to (4).

(4) and (5) also don’t give us good reason to believe (6).  Suppose we label the range of subjects science covers with letters, from A, B, C, D, and so on all the way to Z.  Even if science really did show that other purported sources of knowledge were unreliable with respect to domains A and B (say), it obviously wouldn’t follow that there were no reliable sources of knowledge other than science with respect to domains C through Z.

In short, the argument Symington proposes that a defender of scientism might put forward seems to rest on a massive overgeneralization from a small number of examples, and examples that are dubious in any case.

In any event, a theme that is developed at length throughout my book is that there are absolute limits in principle to the range of beliefs that science could undermine, and these are precisely the sorts of beliefs with which metaphysics is concerned.  The book aims in part to set out (some of) the notions that any possible empirical science must presuppose, and thus cannot coherently call into question. 

Anyway, I thank Prof. Symington for his kind review and for his politely and usefully critical comments. 

101 comments:

Shane Scott said...

Hi Dr Feser-
Please pardon the off-topic post, but since discovering your blog I have become interested in Scholastic philosophy, so much so I have been thinking about going back to grad school. In searching for online master's programs in philosophy, I came across this school - are you familiar with it? http://www.holyapostles.edu/academics/masters-of-arts/philosophy
Thanks so much for generously sharing your work on this blog.
Shane

E.Seigner said...

Symington seems essentially to be saying that the kind of position I allow for as an abstract possibility -- namely, that hylemorphic analysis holds true at the level of basic particles, say, but not at the level of composites of these particles (which composites would be reducible to or eliminable in favor of basic particles, hylemorphically construed) -- is one that the hylemorphist has not given us a good reason to reject.

I hold to a theory that I don't know what it's called in the West. I call it the continuum theory. According to this, the elementary particles are particles of something (namely of the continuum, like of the quantum field) and waves are waves of something. Similarly, I would say compounds are compounds of something (namely of smaller particles/waves), i.e. everything is analyzable in the same manner.

Is the same not also applicable to hylemorphism? I think it's intelligible enough and people would understand what's being meant, even if they disagree.

Mr. Green said...

I don’t see why being unable to burn hydrogen in water is particularly different from, say, being unable to burn wood when it’s soaked. In order to burn, wood needs the presence of oxygen and absence of water (roughly speaking), just as hydrogen (in this view) needs to be not hugged onto by oxygen. “Aberrant” cases are tricky things; we need some grounds for thinking that the normal case will be in the statistical majority. (All human beings are in an aberrant state because of the Fall….) Besides, being “trapped” in water is an anomaly since only a fraction of the massive amount of hydrogen in the universe makes up water.


>second, that between sentient forms of life and non-sentient forms; and third, that between non-sentient forms and inorganic phenomena.

Of course, if animals actually were just very sophisticated machines, then they wouldn’t really be sentient… I know that not everything is reducible to particles because I myself have an intellect and thus am a substance; other people are reasonably the same as I. Since I can’t experience what it’s like to be a bat, I can’t know that they have sentient experiences. I can suppose that being somewhat similar to man, dumb animals are at least a lower kind of substance, but I’m not sure there’s any definitive way around that other than adopting a sort of “common sense” approach.


>3. Science has undermined beliefs derived from other purported sources of knowledge, such as common sense.

Speaking of common sense, science has shown that at atomic or astronomical scales, physics behaves in ways that were unexpected. But common sense would tell you to expect extremely different situations to work in extremely different ways, which is not very undermining after all!

Daniel said...

I think the whole Scientism business is too absurd spend much time on for all sorts of reasons. In fact it does a great disservice to Naturalistic and Materialistic philosophers who actually engage with the issues even if only in a dismissive, half-hearted way. The absurd presupposition that the only facts are those accessible to the natural sciences is a living Straw-Man - the 'God is an old man with a beard living on a cloud' variant of Naturalism.

One thing which strikes me with increasing force is that Scientism i.e. the stance that 'science is the only source of knowledge' makes it impossible to rationally justify the validity of natural sciences against criticism. The only response the proponent of Scientism can give to the sceptic is that his concerns are not scientific and thus meaningless, a response which is merely a refusal to engage with issues outside of one's sphere of interest. We can already see the old Logical Positivist gamut of dismissing questions as 'unanswerable pseudo-problems' and possibly even the latter Wittgenstienian relegation of sciences into language games as truth becomes increasingly understood coherence within a given framework.. That last aside about Scientism and Truth is particularly relevant as the historical consequences of Scientism were not Materialism but Solipsism and Pragmatism.

The further ironic twist on all this is that the modern proponent of Scientism urges something akin to the Humean analysis of 'Ideas and Impressions', preferably without hard Analytical/Synthetic distinctions or questions of the ‘Given’ which prove troublesome, but then wants to deny the validity of subjective experience. After jubilantly announcing their agreement with the Scottish philosopher they then slam the door in his famous shouting ‘There are no Ideas or Impressions!’

Anonymous said...

I think a lot of this discussion hinges on what exactly is meant by virtually. It seems to give a lot of wiggle room to say it is there by not really there. I am still working my way through "Scholastic Metaphysics" and will probably have to do so again.

Cheers,
Daniel

Anonymous said...

Of course, the same could be said about reductionists. People and macro level things are there, but not really.

Cheers,
Daniel

Daniel said...

For another take on Hylemorphism and Mereology which is possibly closer to the Symington outlines Thomas Ward's recently released John Duns Scotus on Parts, Wholes, and Hylomorphism might be of interest:

http://www.brill.com/products/book/john-duns-scotus-parts-wholes-and-hylomorphism

lukebarnes said...

Kindle version!

Scott said...

Incidentally, if you preview Ed's book on Amazon, what you'll see is a preview of "the Kindle book." So it does appear that one may be in the works.

The Deuce said...

Srsly though. Kindle version.

Vince S said...

A second point is that the main higher-level divisions in nature traditionally posited by the hylemorphist are no closer now to a successful reductionist analysis than they ever were... It is often casually asserted that modern science has “shown” that these divisions mark, contra the Aristotelian, mere differences in degree rather than kind, but (as I have argued many times and in many places) this is a complete illusion, and one that is in no way grounded in empirical science but is rather the expression of a dogmatic metaphysical naturalism...

I don't think it is a complete illusion. While I'll agree on rational vs. sentient vs. non-sentient life, empirical facts show that, in fact, the function of rudimentary life forms is completely reducible to chemical processes. You don't provide a philosophical reason why the whole is not reducible to the sum of the parts (unlike rational vs. sentient vs. non-sentient life), and citing the "origin of life" problem proves nothing. It is also highly unlikely that natural processes would result in a Boeing 747, but that provides no reason to call the 747 anything other than an artifact.

Also, what about the other extreme of reductionism - that of a complete "holistic" framework in which the entire physical universe is the only real thing with a substantial form and the sub-elements exist only "virtually". Again, this doesn't challenge the basic framework of hylemorphism (it doesn't deny act and potency, matter and form, etc.) and it doesn't claim the whole is always reducible to the sum of the parts so it must be rejected on other grounds. What would those be?

Edward Feser said...

Hey Scott, thanks, even I didn't notice that. Let me check with the publisher to see if that's the case. (I had been under the impression that there was some difficulty getting a Kindle version out, though I don't know why that would be true.)

It does seem, by the way, that Barnes and Noble has an e-book version available for their Nook reader:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/scholastic-metaphysics-edward-feser/1117509559?ean=9783868385519

Kantian Naturalist said...

The intractability within contemporary philosophy of the problem of providing a naturalistic account of the propositional attitudes shows how illusory is the suggestion that the division between rational and sub-rational but sentient forms of life has been dissolved; the intractability of the “qualia problem” shows how illusory is the suggestion that the division between sentient forms of life and non-sentient forms of life has been dissolved; and the intractability of the “origin of life” problem shows how illusory is the suggestion that the division between rudimentary forms of life and inorganic phenomena has been dissolved.

One problem -- a rather serious one, I think -- is that just how "intractable" these explanatory gaps are depends on the specific conceptions of the terms on each side of the gap with which one is operating.

If one is conceptualizing propositional attitudes as kinds of representation, then the prospects for "naturalizing" them look rather dim.

But if one is conceptualizing propositional attitudes in terms of norm-governed inferential roles (as we see in Wittgenstein, Sellars, and Brandom), the explanatory gap does not disappear but it takes on a different and perhaps "tractable" shape.

(Tomasello's newest, A Natural History of Human Thinking, builds on his earlier The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition to show exactly how shared norms plausibly emerge from older kinds of ape thought. Okrent's Rational Animals tells a similar story, but Tomasello's has a lot of empirical work on captive apes and young humans to back it up.)

Likewise, if one thinks about living things as self-organizing systems, and brings that into conversation with the thermodynamics of open, far-from-equilibrium systems, the question of abiogenesis takes on a far different and perhaps "tractable" shape.

In short, just how "tractable" these problems are isn't obvious -- it depends on the conceptual frameworks being used to conceptualize what is on each side of the explanatory gap.

I don't think, of course, that the explanatory gaps can entirely disappear -- though that is more likely because of some underlying compartmentalization in our cognitive architecture than due to anything "metaphysical" in a strong sense. But the explanatory gaps do take on a different shape as the conceptual frameworks are revised, and that's not trivial.

Anonymous said...

But the explanatory gaps do take on a different shape as the conceptual frameworks are revised, and that's not trivial.

The ability to define away a problem, or define naturalism into whatever is necessary to provide a possible solution to a problem, isn't very encouraging.

We can just say some naturalists deny there are even explanatory gaps because there is no mind/consciousness/self/life/more after all.

Mike said...


Speaking of common sense, science has shown that at atomic or astronomical scales, physics behaves in ways that were unexpected. But common sense would tell you to expect extremely different situations to work in extremely different ways, which is not very undermining after all!


Exactly. How about this for a syllogism?

C = Common Sense.

S = a basic ability to perceive, understand, and judge things, which is shared by ("common to") nearly all people, and can be reasonably expected of nearly all people without any need for debate.

T = The ability, enabled by technology, which enables people to perceive at the atomic or astronomical scales.

All C is S
No T is S
Therefore, No T is C

Also, T is derived from C, so it hardly makes sense for T to be undermined by it.

Mike said...

Sorry, that last line should have been:

Also, T is derived from C, so it hardly makes sense for C to be undermined by it.

Kantian Naturalist said...

The ability to define away a problem, or define naturalism into whatever is necessary to provide a possible solution to a problem, isn't very encouraging.

I might say much the same -- "not very encouraging" -- about someone who doesn't see how what we learn about the world gives us good reasons to revise the conceptual frameworks that we bring to bear prior to experience. That attitude suggests that, at a certain level, one is uninterested in (or denies the possibility of?) learning.

Not that I'm accusing anyone here of actually harboring such an attitude -- but frankly I'm surprised to be given the brush-off so quickly, since what I'm talking about here would seem to be directly relevant to what many folks here are interested in.

In any event, I wasn't talking about naturalists who deny explanatory gaps. (Alex Rosenberg, perhaps?) That kind of naturalism is of no interest to me, except as a convenient foil. I was talking about the transformation in what we take the gaps to be about, as we revise our concepts of mind, life, and being by reflecting on what we learn about reality.

Scott said...

@Kantian Naturalist:

"[J]ust how 'tractable' these problems are isn't obvious -- it depends on the conceptual frameworks being used to conceptualize what is on each side of the explanatory gap."

No, ultimately it depends on the natures of what is on each side of the explanatory gap.

Your way of characterizing the question makes it sound as though the entire problem lies in how we think of things, without taking into account that the way we think of things may be wrong.

Anonymous said...

KN,

What Scott said.

Specifically: Your way of characterizing the question makes it sound as though the entire problem lies in how we think of things, without taking into account that the way we think of things may be wrong.

To add: too many modern naturalists seem to think of these problems as an intellectual game of dogma, where the real goal is to get the dogma right, define what our answers and even our data must be before we start, then to find that (imagine that) we have a solution. There's a problem with that.

Scott said...

@Kantian Naturalist:

"[F]rankly I'm surprised to be given the brush-off so quickly, since what I'm talking about here would seem to be directly relevant to what many folks here are interested in."

I rather think Anon was responding to pretty much the same part of your post that I was—the part that seemed to suggest that we could make problems more "tractable" just by redefining things to make the solutions easier.

Scott said...

…If I may make so bold as to say so, your insistence on the central importance of "conceptual frameworks" seems to be a part of your Kantian past that you haven't quite shaken off. ;-)

Scott said...

For example:

"If one is conceptualizing propositional attitudes as kinds of representation…

But if one is conceptualizing propositional attitudes in terms of norm-governed inferential roles…"

…are those the only two ways in which you can conceive of "conceptualizing propositional attitudes"?

Kantian Naturalist said...

No, ultimately it depends on the natures of what is on each side of the explanatory gap.

Your way of characterizing the question makes it sound as though the entire problem lies in how we think of things, without taking into account that the way we think of things may be wrong.


Ok, but notice that that's a double-edged sword. All parties to these disputes incur the obligation to show that they are correctly conceiving of the relevant properties and entities.

Think of this way: someone who thinks about the mind-body problem in terms of the Cartesian dichotomy of res cogitans and res extensa. She might be extremely clever in her attempts to figure out how to close off the resulting "explanatory gap."

Now, suppose she consults a neo-Aristotelian colleague about how to solve the mind/body problem. Surely the neo-Aristotelian would say to her,

"Clever as your solution is, it can't work, because the framework within which you are operating has the explanatory gap built right into it. We neo-Aristotelians don't face that explanatory gap because our metaphysics acknowledges the ontological distinctiveness of life as distinct from both non-living matter and from rational subjectivity."

If the neo-Cartesian is unimpressed by this response, the neo-Aristotelian could show that the neo-Aristotelian framework should be preferred because (among other things) it explains why various attempts to reduce biology to physics have met with failure.

I honestly don't see why any defender of Scholastic metaphysics would take issue with the thought that, as we learn more about the three orders of matter, life, and mind, our understanding of the explanatory gaps between those orders will be revised in light of empirical knowledge.

Put otherwise, I'm not taking issue with Scholastic metaphysics as such. I'm taking issue with the appeal to the "intractability" of the explanatory gaps as reasons for preferring Scholastic metaphysics over Rosenberg-style gap-denialism.

Anonymous said...

I honestly don't see why any defender of Scholastic metaphysics would take issue with the thought that, as we learn more about the three orders of matter, life, and mind, our understanding of the explanatory gaps between those orders will be revised in light of empirical knowledge.

Because the problem isn't a lack of empirical knowledge. The 'gaps' aren't empirical gaps.

Kantian Naturalist said...

@ Scott:

…If I may make so bold as to say so, your insistence on the central importance of "conceptual frameworks" seems to be a part of your Kantian past that you haven't quite shaken off. ;-)

Indeed! And I won't shake it off any time soon, because I think that was one of the things Kant (actually, the neo-Kantians and post-Kantians like Cassirer, C. I. Lewis, Carnap, Sellars, and Putnam) were exactly right about. Where I take issue with them is where they construe the central importance of conceptual frameworks as incompatible with metaphysical realism.

are those the only two ways in which you can conceive of "conceptualizing propositional attitudes"?

Those are the two approaches I'm most familiar with. Well, those and a bit of Husserlian phenomenology. But I'm still mostly a newcomer to analytic philosophy. When people start talking to me about Russellian vs. Fregean theories of propositions, my eyes glaze over.

(By the way, I'm not sure if Feser meant to be talking about the problems of naturalizing propositional attitudes or the problems of naturalizing propositional content. I answered as if he were talking about propositional content, but now I'm not sure.)

Kantian Naturalist said...

Because the problem isn't a lack of empirical knowledge. The 'gaps' aren't empirical gaps.

And how do you know that?

Besides which, I'm not saying that the gaps are merely empirical -- as if we were simply missing some data. The gaps are indeed conceptual gaps -- my point here is that we can (and do, and should) revise our conceptual understanding of what is real as we learn more about it.

Surely our understanding of what distinguishes rational subjectivity from animal sentience is partly an empirical matter? And that as we learn more about how animals think, our understanding of the differences between us and them will undergo revision?

Or did Aristotle just get it completely right, even though he knew nothing at all about non-human primates?

Scott said...

@Kantian Naturalist:

"Ok, but notice that that's a double-edged sword. All parties to these disputes incur the obligation to show that they are correctly conceiving of the relevant properties and entities."

I think you've misconstrued the fundamental issue. My (and Anon's) point was that you seemed to be saying that the problems at issue could be rendered more tractable by reconceptualizing them, irrespective of whether those reconceptualizations were "correctly conceiving of the relevant properties and entities" or not.

"Well, those and a bit of Husserlian phenomenology."

Here's a good place to follow up on that. I particularly draw your attention to Sokolowski's view that, phenomenologically, when we experience an object, what we experience is the object, not a "representation" thereof.

Anonymous said...

Surely our understanding of what distinguishes rational subjectivity from animal sentience is partly an empirical matter? And that as we learn more about how animals think, our understanding of the differences between us and them will undergo revision?

"Partly" isn't sufficient to conclude what you'd like to conclude. Put another way: empirical understanding can shed light on some aspects of mind, but not necessarily the very ones you want to call into question.

Or did Aristotle just get it completely right, even though he knew nothing at all about non-human primates?

It could be that what Aristotle got right, if it is in fact right, is on its own enough to sink naturalism, and empirical study won't be changing that.

How seriously should we take someone who says that 2 + 2 = yellow possibly, we just need more empirical study to make any headway on this?

Kantian Naturalist said...

My (and Anon's) point was that you seemed to be saying that the problems at issue could be rendered more tractable by reconceptualizing them, irrespective of whether those reconceptualizations were "correctly conceiving of the relevant properties and entities" or not.

Oh, now I see the problem! Ok, good!

I wasn't suggesting that we should arbitrarily eliminate the gaps by simply choosing different concepts!

I was suggesting something quite different -- that as we learn more about what matter, life, and mind really are (by doing more and better physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, and phenomenology), we will have good reasons for revising our concepts, and that in turn revises our understanding of the explanatory gaps.

I particularly draw your attention to Sokolowski's view that, phenomenologically, when we experience an object, what we experience is the object, not a "representation" thereof.

Thank you for the suggestion. I've not read Sokolowski, but I know he's highly respected. (I just found out that he's still alive! Huh!)

I agree with your point about phenomenology -- it's a nice point of convergence with "direct realism" in 'analytic' philosophy of perception, e.g. John McDowell.

Though I never said we do experience our representations, did I? I share the view that the turn to "representationalism" was a disaster for modern epistemology and semantics. (Whether there are neural representations at the "subpersonal" level is a different question. I don't have an angle on that yet.)

Kantian Naturalist said...

"Partly" isn't sufficient to conclude what you'd like to conclude. Put another way: empirical understanding can shed light on some aspects of mind, but not necessarily the very ones you want to call into question.

I don't think I've been explicit enough about my own views for anyone here to know what it is that I do and don't want to call into question.

I do think that phenomenology is an indispensable tool for describing subjective conscious experience. I do think that phenomenology can be naturalized -- in fact, I think the prospects for "neurophenomenology" are very good! But if I came to the view that phenomenology can't be naturalized, then I would simply stop being a naturalist and not lose any sleep over it.

It could be that what Aristotle got right, if it is in fact right, is on its own enough to sink naturalism, and empirical study won't be changing that.

Since I tend to see Aristotle as a naturalist, I wonder whether we're using the term "naturalism" in the same sense.

I'm a naturalist in the tradition of Dewey's Experience and Nature and Jonas's The Phenomenon of Life -- both deeply neo-Aristotelian books. There's not much in the 'mechanistic' tradition that appeals to me, except of course for Spinoza's Ethics.

How seriously should we take someone who says that 2 + 2 = yellow possibly, we just need more empirical study to make any headway on this?

I don't think that anything I've suggested here amounts to a category mistake.

Daniel said...

@Kantian-Naturalist,

This may not be the best time to ask this question (I wanted to do so when you were talking with David since the Neo-Kantian pronouncement that there must be a partial coincidence between the Categories of Being and the Categories of Thought seemed pertinent) but how 'Naturalistic' would a Kantian philosophy have to be in your eyes? What would you say for instance about some Neo-Kantians' endorsement of a realism with regards at least some universals and mind/body pessimism or at best property-dualism/ non-reductive materialism alongside an epistemic as opposed to metaphysical Naturalism i.e. they did not think that philosophy could tell us anything of theological significance? I am thinking particularly of Nicolai Hartmann though he may not be the best case in point.

From the scholastic standpoint individuals like these and more recent explicit Naturalists like D.M. Armstrong (a realist about Universals) or C.B. Martin (a realist about Dispositional properties) seem far more admirable as tackle certain problems head-on as opposed to engaging in mop-up operations

‘Surely our understanding of what distinguishes rational subjectivity from animal sentience is partly an empirical matter? And that as we learn more about how animals think, our understanding of the differences between us and them will undergo revision?

Or did Aristotle just get it completely right, even though he knew nothing at all about non-human primates?’

Well we would argue that Aristotle got it right in fundamental areas albeit ones are capable of and require a great deal of elaboration. It's worth bearing in mind that Aristotelians have historically been more interested in the exploring what a sentient an animal without an Intellectual Soul is incapable of doing rather than what it is. Put it this way: we know what they are not but still have work to uncover what else they are. Empirical investigation will of course help clarify certain issues though I think it is at the far end of the scale where the need for revisions is more likely to lie e.g. the traditional Aristotelian base concept of the Nutritive Soul might in fact have to be divided into two depending on how we analyse micro-organisms and account for the organic status of entitles like viruses.

"Well, those and a bit of Husserlian phenomenology."

You should definitely study Husserl (as should everyone else!). I don’t know if it’s of interest to you – I say it mainly because you mention the latter individual quite frequently – but Dallas Willard wrote a very interesting book called Logic and the Objectivity of Knowledge which is ostensibly a study of Husserl’s work on Logic and intentionality but really amounts to a comparison of the German philosopher’s thought with that of Wilfrid Sellars.

Daniel said...

Edit: apologies if that doesn't take your latest post into consideration. Was still typing and didn't see it.

Anonymous said...

I do think that phenomenology can be naturalized -- in fact, I think the prospects for "neurophenomenology" are very good!

Despite the complete lack of empirical advancement on the hard problem or even intentionality, it would seem. But I bet they're just super at denying there's any hard problem to begin with.

I don't think that anything I've suggested here amounts to a category mistake.

Maybe continued empirical research will show that you have, in fact, made a category mistake.

Since I tend to see Aristotle as a naturalist, I wonder whether we're using the term "naturalism" in the same sense.

I'm a naturalist in the tradition of Dewey's Experience and Nature and Jonas's The Phenomenon of Life -- both deeply neo-Aristotelian books.


We're not two posts away from you having said you gave up naturalism a while ago and also you eschew such labels.

I have to ask. Are you just full of shit? I mean, do you just say what sounds good in a given conversation, so long as you think you can advance a given view more favorably to those particular onlookers, or at the very least gain rhetorical ground against anything that isn't naturalism, or is theism?

Kantian Naturalist said...

I don't know anything about Hartmann, though I feel bad about it.

On my view, the post-Kantian tradition was right to emphasize the sui generis character of normativity, and hence of rationality and morality. But it has erred in thinking that the plurality and historicity of conceptual frameworks prevents us from saying anything at all about reality-in-itself.

If there were a good motto for 'Kantian naturalism', it would be this: "transcendental structures must be reflected in causal structures". That is, it's not enough to specify, through reflection, our most basic, generic, and pervasive conceptual and perceptual capacities and incapacities -- it's also necessary to show how those transcendental structures are causally realized in empirically detectable structures.

There's another side to this, and it also touches on the question of realism. If transcendental idealism asks, "what must the mind be like for science to be possible?", then transcendental realism asks, "what must the world be like for science to be possible?"

I used to be firmly convinced that nominalism allows for science, but lately I've realized that that's mistaken; the possibility of science requires that the world have objective modal properties that exceed what nominalism can allow for. But I don't have a positive story about what kind of realism I'd endorse.

On human and non-human animals: I do think it's basically right that a normal mature human is a rational animal. I think that as we learn more about what apes cannot do, we'll be in a better position to understand what rationality is and isn't.

For example, Tomasello argues that apes lack what he calls "shared intentionality" -- they don't have "we-intentions" and therefore can't reason (even implicitly) as "we are those who intend P, and I am one of the We, therefore I should intend P". And yet that's a pervasive feature of human reasoning!

Thank you for recommending Willard! I actually do a fair amount of work on Sellars, and Sellars's relation to Husserl is fascinating to me. I'll look into it right away!

Scott said...

@KN:

If you ever have a chance to look into the elder Sellars, do please take it; Roy Wood Sellars (a then-prominent exponent of evolutionary naturalism) was something like the D.M. Armstrong of his day and to my mind is still a force to be reckoned with.

Kantian Naturalist said...

I have to ask. Are you just full of shit? I mean, do you just say what sounds good in a given conversation, so long as you think you can advance a given view more favorably to those particular onlookers, or at the very least gain rhetorical ground against anything that isn't naturalism, or is theism?

Any particular reason why you feel it's acceptable to be belligerent to complete strangers on the Internet?

The fact is that I am a naturalist in some respects and not in others. "Naturalism" is what Sellars called an 'accordion word,' the meaning of which stretches and compresses dependent on context. (I tend to think that almost all "-isms" are like this.)

I sometimes eschew "naturalism" in contexts where the interlocutors assume that "naturalism" means "reductive naturalism," "reductive materialism," "eliminative materialism," or a commitment to a 'mechanistic' conception of nature.

When those conceptions are the dominant ones, I find it easier to establish a common ground by abandoning the term "naturalism" rather than reclaiming it for a different set of purposes. For that matter, one might argue that Dewey and Jonas are really not naturalists at all, since they also eschew a mechanistic or reductive conception of nature.

There's a lively debate about whether "non-reductive naturalism" is a coherent concept. I tend to think that it is, but there are some powerful criticisms that I haven't figured out how to respond to.

A further question here is whether we should allow the natural sciences to have final say over what counts as nature, or if we have any grasp of the concept of "nature" that's independent of the sciences. I can frankly see both sides of this question and haven't resolved it to my own satisfaction.

I find it easier to say what I reject than to say what I endorse. Perhaps I'm unusual in that regard? I don't know.

Kantian Naturalist said...

If you ever have a chance to look into the elder Sellars, do please take it; Roy Wood Sellars (a then-prominent exponent of evolutionary naturalism) was something like the D.M. Armstrong of his day and to my mind is still a force to be reckoned with.

I have read a few of his essays and parts of The Philosophy of Physical Realism. In fact I wrote about Roy Wood Sellars's decades-long debate with C. I. Lewis in my book, and use that debate to situate W. Sellars. (The book isn't published yet -- in fact I'm commenting here because I'm too tired from teaching to do any copy-editing.)

Scott said...

@KN:

I see you're way ahead of me on the redoubtable RWS. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Any particular reason why you feel it's acceptable to be belligerent to complete strangers on the Internet?

Because I don't like very blatant dishonesty? And what makes you think I'm a complete stranger? Anonymous doesn't mean "new".

That's some minor belligerence in the face of what seems to be a pretty bald-faced bit of intentional dishonesty.

When you're saying in one thread you gave up on your naturalism and you eschew labels, and then in another thread you're a naturalist of this particular label, and now you're a naturalist here and not a naturalist there..? Yeah, something smells foul. Especially given your blog of choice, where "two-faced" is the order of the day.

Kantian Naturalist said...

I hadn't realized that inconsistency in the labels I use to describe myself counted as intentional dishonesty. I'll bear that in mind.

Anonymous said...

I hadn't realized that inconsistency in the labels I use to describe myself counted as intentional dishonesty.

Saying "I'm no longer a naturalist" in one thread, then "I'm a naturalist" in another thread, days apart? Saying "I eschew labels" and then labeling yourself and others left and right? (You're a naturalist, and Aristotle is another naturalist according to you, and...)

If I told you I was an atheist one day, and the next day you saw my preaching about my belief in God the next day, would "intellectual dishonesty" be a live possibility?

Kantian Naturalist said...

If I told you I was an atheist one day, and the next day you saw my preaching about my belief in God the next day, would "intellectual dishonesty" be a live possibility?

I'd want to have a conversation with you about where you're coming from before drawing any conclusions.

Anonymous said...

I'd want to have a conversation with you about where you're coming from before drawing any conclusions.

Here, or at AtBC?

Kantian Naturalist said...

Here, or at AtBC?

The fact is, yes, I don't have any intellectual respect for people who hold that intelligent design is a well-confirmed scientific theory and who are reasonably well-informed enough to know better. And there are specific personalities at Uncommon Descent who rub me the wrong way. (No doubt the feeling is mutual, which is why I chose to stop posting there.)

(Note: one might distinguish between (1) "is it possible that intelligent design is true?", (2) "is intelligent design actually true?", (3) "is intelligent design a scientific theory at all?" and (4) "is intelligent design a good scientific theory - specifically, is it better than neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory?" I think it is epistemically foolish to answer that last question in the affirmative.)

But what of it? I see that as distinct from debates about metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of science, and the distinction between science and metaphysics.

For one thing, I think that there is (and ought to be) much more room for healthy intellectual disagreement in metaphysics than in science, because there is an ineliminable speculative moment in metaphysics wherein it transcends the constraints of what can be empirically discovered.

The very best we can do, in metaphysics, is hold each other accountable for our speculations according to shared norms of rational discourse, and that will mean that pluralism about metaphysical doctrines is the human condition. Whereas in empirical science, there are decisive methods for determining whether or not a specific theory is empirically adequate for a specific domain of inquiry. There is no analogous method in metaphysics or in philosophy generally.

On these grounds, I think that atheism and really strong metaphysical naturalism -- Rosenberg-style naturalism -- go much too far in claiming that a simple appeal to science can decisively settle any interesting metaphysical question.

One of the things about Ladyman and Ross's Every Thing Must Go that deeply impressed me was that it wasn't a pseudo-scientific metaphysics -- metaphysics dressed up in scientific garb -- but an attempt to answer the question, "what can we say in metaphysics if we take only science seriously and nothing else?" I don't share that project but it was a fascinating attempt!

One thing that ETMG makes extremely clear that if we restrict metaphysics to what science alone can tell us, scientific metaphysics will not be able to tell us much of anything decisive about questions that are of vital human concern!

It can be read (though perhaps contrary to the authors' intentions) as a quite decisive refutation of Rosenberg, who thinks that science does offer quite decisive answers to questions of vital human concern -- just not the answers that we want.

(By the way, my last post at AtBC I was able to find was from August 8th. I'm not one of the regulars and don't care to be.)

Anonymous said...

As another anonymous commenter, albeit one with Platonist leanings, I am probably more sympathetic to Feser's enterprise than KN. But KN's contributions often voice the devil's advocate in my own head. Unlike Alan Fox, KN seems to dialogue in good faith and with a genuine interest in the subject matter here. These exchanges are valuable for some of us lurkers. I know there's probably a lot of troll fatigue around these parts, but try not to throw out the good with the bad.

Anonymous said...

The fact is, yes, I don't have any intellectual respect for people who hold that intelligent design is a well-confirmed scientific theory and who are reasonably well-informed enough to know better.

And I don't have much intellectual respect for people who contradict themselves left and right, always jockeying for the best rhetorical position while trying to seem friendly and nice and "look at us, we're on the same side here" in a transparent attempt at cheap proselytization.

I don't have much intellectual respect for people who put on one face where they smile and act buddy-buddy and cordial, then slither off to another forum where they take part in the act of, or quietly watch others engage in the act of, sliming those same people, mocking them in the foulest terms, debasing their RL pictures, and doxxing them.

But what of it? I see that as distinct from debates about metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of science, and the distinction between science and metaphysics.

And I don't. I don't subscribe to the view that amounts to "So I'm inconsistent, I switch between branding myself as a naturalist and a non-naturalist on a whim, I change the definition of naturalist and reductionist and materialist and supernatural to whatever I think will be maximally persuasive at the time... but I'm talking about *metaphysics*, what does all that have to do with *metaphysics*?"

Whereas in empirical science, there are decisive methods for determining whether or not a specific theory is empirically adequate for a specific domain of inquiry.

No: in specific subsets of empirical science, often very narrow and limited ones, there are good methods for judging one theory or set of theories over another. Not all "sciences" are created equal.

It can be read (though perhaps contrary to the authors' intentions) as a quite decisive refutation of Rosenberg, who thinks that science does offer quite decisive answers to questions of vital human concern -- just not the answers that we want.

Please. It's Rosenberg redux from a different angle: instead of "science shows us that THIS naturalistic view has to be right", it's "science shows us that THAT naturalistic view has to be right". The very idea that naturalistic views are wrong is just too scary to maintain, and as usual, it abuses science in the process and essentially pretends that science can determine our metaphysics, when there is no science without metaphysics to begin with.

(By the way, my last post at AtBC I was able to find was from August 8th. I'm not one of the regulars and don't care to be.)

I'm sure your posts were objections to that very, very longstanding behavior, and not at all displays of chumminess with the people engaging in it, yes?

Jason Zarri said...

Hi KN,

The very best we can do, in metaphysics, is hold each other accountable for our speculations according to shared norms of rational discourse, and that will mean that pluralism about metaphysical doctrines is the human condition. Whereas in empirical science, there are decisive methods for determining whether or not a specific theory is empirically adequate for a specific domain of inquiry. There is no analogous method in metaphysics or in philosophy generally.

Well said. I agree that this holds very true of metaphysics and philosophy generally, but I'm interested to know why you wouldn't extend it empirical science. Sure, science has a much better track record of achieving consensus than philosophy, but a lot of scientific progress consists, not merely of building on previous knowledge, but of drastically revising its basic categories, principles and hypotheses in the process of extending it--as you would seem to acknowledge. I think this implies that no test or set of tests *decisively* establishes a theory, and hence I think the difference between science and metaphysics is not as great as you think it is.

Also, couldn't science, to the extent that its results are secure, help to resolve at least some metaphysical / philosophical disputes? Consider, e.g., the case of presentism and the relativity of simultaneity.

Alan Fox said...

Tomasello's newest [book], A Natural History of Human Thinking, builds on his earlier The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition to show exactly how shared norms plausibly emerge from older kinds of ape thought. Okrent's Rational Animals tells a similar story, but Tomasello's has a lot of empirical work on captive apes and young humans to back it up.

Frans de Waal has Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved and his latest The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism Among the Primates

Alan Fox said...

Unlike Alan Fox, KN seems to dialogue in good faith and with a genuine interest in the subject matter here.

I'm interested in aspects of what is discussed here. Hylomorphism (if one is talking about Aristotle's ideas on form and substance - I wonder if "hylemorphism" as Feser spells it is a concept that has evolved beyond Aristotle's original version) is a little antiquated and it surprises me to see the concept apparently taken as a given by Ed Feser and others.

Kantian Naturalist said...

I agree that this holds very true of metaphysics and philosophy generally, but I'm interested to know why you wouldn't extend it empirical science. Sure, science has a much better track record of achieving consensus than philosophy, but a lot of scientific progress consists, not merely of building on previous knowledge, but of drastically revising its basic categories, principles and hypotheses in the process of extending it--as you would seem to acknowledge. I think this implies that no test or set of tests *decisively* establishes a theory, and hence I think the difference between science and metaphysics is not as great as you think it is.

This is a good point and I'm not entirely sure what to say in response. I think that the more 'discontinuous' one takes the history of science to be, the more it looks like the history of metaphysics. Certainly whole-scale abandonment of certain concepts is important to the history of science (phlogiston, the ether, elan vital).

I agree that the discontinuity and incommensurability of scientific theories makes science more like metaphysics in this particular respect, but the science/metaphysics distinction remains intact in other regards.

For one thing, though we cannot smoothly translate Newtonian mechanics into Einsteinian mechanics (due to different fundamental assumptions about what counts as a measurement of motion, etc.), we can still generate testable predictions from each and see how they work out in experiment. Incommensurable doesn't mean incomparable -- it just means that comparison of theories doesn't work the way that logical positivists thought it had to work.

Comparing metaphysical systems is going to be much harder, because there's less shared agreement on what counts as success or failure in metaphysics. One is free to bite all sorts of bullets, so to speak.

Also, couldn't science, to the extent that its results are secure, help to resolve at least some metaphysical / philosophical disputes? Consider, e.g., the case of presentism and the relativity of simultaneity.

That's a nice point, and I agree almost entirely. I would add only that some theoretical work has to go into lining up the metaphysics and the science so that they bear on each other. I mean, one would want to avoid the kind of useless back-and-forth represented by Lawrence Krauss's nasty response to David Albert's review of A Universe From Nothing.

Briefly: Krauss claims that he's answered a deep metaphysical question using contemporary cosmology --how something came from nothing - because of how matter can spontaneously emerges from quantum field. Albert points out that he hasn't done any such thing, because a quantum vacuum has quite definite properties and so isn't "nothing" at all. Krauss then says, "well, if I haven't answered a metaphysical question, then so much the worse for metaphysics!". He also said some unkind and false things about Albert -- e.g. that Albert has no scientific training. (If it's not obvious, I'm on Albert's side of that debate!)

My point is, both scientists and philosophers would have to meet each other half-way in order to figure out how to operationalize the relevant metaphysical concepts. It can't be a one-sided conversation.

Kantian Naturalist said...

@ "Anonymous"

I don't have much intellectual respect for people who put on one face where they smile and act buddy-buddy and cordial, then slither off to another forum where they take part in the act of, or quietly watch others engage in the act of, sliming those same people, mocking them in the foulest terms, debasing their RL pictures, and doxxing them.

Let me get this straight: you're coming after me here, on Feser's blog, about what people other than me have said about people who aren't part of this blog at all? How does it make sense for you to hold me accountable for what people other than me say?

This is a level of pettiness I refuse to engage in. Feel free to say whatever you want to or about me; I no longer care.

Anonymous said...

Let me get this straight: you're coming after me here, on Feser's blog, about what people other than me have said about people who aren't part of this blog at all? How does it make sense for you to hold me accountable for what people other than me say?

No, I hold you accountable for inconsistency and putting up a false image, of which your happy AtBC association is one example of. Not to mention having invited people over to the associated blog without telling them, "Oh, by the way, if you're a theist, keep in mind the place is frequented and in part founded by people who will slander you, hunt for your real-life pictures to share and mock and deface, and share information about you for kicks."

But that shouldn't reflect poorly on you, because you've associated with them and consider them your compatriots, you even advertise for their blog, you mute your criticism of them for these things (look the other way now...) but you (unless you have on an alt) haven't been caught doing this yourself.

I've already pointed out how you become a naturalist or a non-naturalist in the space of days depending on how you want to appear in a conversation. I've pointed out how you talk about eschewing labels one day, then immediately apply labels to yourself and others shortly after. I've pointed out how you try to put up an appearance of being nice and friendly to theists, but how the company you keep and your behavior in that company tells a different story. I'm offering information to people so they realize just what they're dealing with, intellectually and socially.

But if you need a compliment, I will pay one.

Ladies and gentlemen, if KN's friends at AtBC take umbrage at what you say, calling you a "cocksucker", post your RL pictures talking about how inbred you and your family look, you can count on this: he will remain quiet as that goes on, treat the people doing it as his pals otherwise, and put on a smiling, nice face to you when he talks to you. Especially if you don't point out when he says one thing one day, then contradicts himself a couple days later for the purposes of rhetoric.

How encouraging.

Kantian Naturalist said...

Ladies and gentlemen, if KN's friends at AtBC take umbrage at what you say, calling you a "cocksucker", post your RL pictures talking about how inbred you and your family look, you can count on this: he will remain quiet as that goes on, treat the people doing it as his pals otherwise, and put on a smiling, nice face to you when he talks to you. Especially if you don't point out when he says one thing one day, then contradicts himself a couple days later for the purposes of rhetoric.

I'll leave it to the others here to decide for themselves whether or not the participants at AtBC are my friends or allies, or how much overlap there is between AtBC and TSZ.

Unless guilt by association is the only guilt there is, in which case . . .

Anonymous said...

I'll leave it to the others here to decide for themselves whether or not the participants at AtBC are my friends or allies, or how much overlap there is between AtBC and TSZ.

Maybe we won't need to. I see Alan Fox has decided to join the conversation. Perhaps he'll start talking about Feser and others the same way people are talked about on AtBC, if only a little? Then we can see your attitude towards your compatriot afterwards.

It may be enlightening.

Jason Zarri said...

@ Kantian Naturalist

Thanks for the response; I think your replies are good ones and that we're in substantial agreement.

Alan Fox said...

I see Alan Fox has decided to join the conversation. Perhaps he'll start talking about Feser and others the same way people are talked about on AtBC, if only a little?

I usually manage to remain civil in Internet conversations, though each to his own. Referring to a fellow commenter as "full of s..." would get a comment moved to guano at TSZ.

Kantian Naturalist said...

I can happily accept that the point of the act/potency distinction (energeia and dunamis, respectively) is to characterize how the world must be in order for there to be modally robust empirical generalizations.

(I do not read Greek, but I read Joe Sachs's translations of Aristotle. Very helpful in peeling past the Latin vocabulary in which Aristotelian has come down to us.)

As a piece of metaphysics — indeed, a fundamental position in what might be called “transcendental realism” — it strikes as perfectly right that we should ask “how must the world be in order for science to be possible?” as well as the Kantian question, “how must the mind be in order for science to be possible?”

And in answering the former question, it seems perfectly right to say that the world must have modal structure, otherwise there is nothing to make our counterfactuals correct or incorrect. (This is different from the epistemological question of how to explain our conceptual grasp of modality.)

Where I’m less enthusiastic about the Aristotelian story is whether the act/potency distinction is the right way to characterize that modal structure. I do think that the act/potency distinction captures our “folk physics” cognitive grasp of objects. But that seems to assume that our folk physics is not merely the epistemological but also the ontological bedrock on which scientific physics is built, and that seems surely mistaken.

It is one thing to say, with the realist and against the skeptic, that our cognitive abilities are reliably tracking what is really there anyway. It is quite another to say that what is really there anyway is correctly characterized by our pre-scientific, phenomenologically described cognitive abilities.

And that is what I was trying to get at in my comments above about the extent to which the ‘explanatory gaps’ between matter, life, and mind rely on our conceptual frameworks for conceiving of matter, life, and mind.

In other words, if one wants to deny that the explanatory gaps are in any dependent on our conceptual frameworks, then one needs to show that our pre-scientific, phenomenologically described cognitive abilities are not just reliably tracking what is there anyway, but also correctly characterizing it.

grodrigues said...

@Alan Fox:

"Hylomorphism [...] is a little antiquated and it surprises me to see the concept apparently taken as a given by Ed Feser and others."

Ed Feser does not take Hylomorphism "as a given" but rather argues for it, which is immeasurably more than your tiresome, asinine comments.

"I usually manage to remain civil in Internet conversations, though each to his own. Referring to a fellow commenter as "full of s..." would get a comment moved to guano at TSZ."

Let's see. Other examples could be given, but in this thread of yours, we see hotshoe commenting thusly (August 6, 2014 at 8:09):

"Since Torley and Feser are both catholic, last I heard, it’s pointless to look at their “first cause” arguments, because whether either, both, or neither have succeeded in proving the necessity of some character we might agree to call god, they “have all their work still ahead of them ” [as Hitchens said in a slightly different context] to justify the filth of their current cult.

Makes me want to vomit that men who actively support the woman-murdering Church can be admired as “deep thinkers” even by themselves, much less by anyone not already a member of their sick cult. You’d think that anyone with power of self-reflection would think it through and – in shame – abandon that wretched hive forever."

Not content, he / she goes on then to quote P. Z. Myers' hate screed, which I will spare the readers. Let me guess: there were no Catholics in sight to be offended, so it is all good? Your response? None directly to these comments. On the other hand you did say this to him / her:

"Seconded. I enjoy and appreciate your contributions here. Don’t neglect the day job, though!"

Quite obviously, you are free to run your blog as you wish and rate the "contributions" there however you see fit, but would you be so kind as to have a modicum of intellectual decency and spare us your bullshit? Or is it asking too much?

Anonymous said...

I usually manage to remain civil in Internet conversations, though each to his own. Referring to a fellow commenter as "full of s..." would get a comment moved to guano at TSZ.

It depends on the commenter. And how would it get you treated at AtBC, Alan?

Hold on now, don't answer. KN, for his faults, is capable of seeing a simple point. You? If you did, you'd not be in the position you're in.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, grodrigues, for sharing that gem. One of many to be found, and it helps illustrate exactly what I'm talking about.

Anonymous said...

KN,

To do science, even the most cutting edge science, is to rely on "our pre-scientific, phenomenologically described cognitive abilities [PSPDCA] . . . not just reliably tracking what is there anyway, but also correctly characterizing it." The advances in science simply give us a greater realm of empirical data to explore with our PSPDCA.

Without our PSPDCA having the ability to correctly characterize what is happening, we have no hope to construct a better "conceptual framework." Indeed, any "conceptual framework" posed as an alternative to Aristotle's act/potency distinction must prove itself at the level of folk physics, because all physics is folk physics.

DJ Jazzy Cornelius said...

By the way, I am the last Anonymous, as well as the Anonymous of September 12, 2014 at 7:41 PM, and no other posts on this thread. The string of anonymous comments was getting confusing, so sorry.

Alan Fox said...

grodrigues wrote:

[quoting the commenter "hotshoe" at TSZ] "Since Torley and Feser are both catholic, last I heard, it’s pointless to look at their “first cause” arguments, because whether either, both, or neither have succeeded in proving the necessity of some character we might agree to call god, they “have all their work still ahead of them ” [as Hitchens said in a slightly different context] to justify the filth of their current cult.

Makes me want to vomit that men who actively support the woman-murdering Church can be admired as “deep thinkers” even by themselves, much less by anyone not already a member of their sick cult. You’d think that anyone with power of self-reflection would think it through and – in shame – abandon that wretched hive forever."


An intemperate rant against the Catholic church an its policy. Not the same as a personal insult directed to a fellow commenter. As a matter of interest, I happen to agree with hotshoe on the malign influence of the Catholic church, especially in Ireland, Central America and parts of Africa, though I might not express it as emotionally as she does.

grodrigues said...

@Alan Fox:

"An intemperate rant against the Catholic church an its policy. Not the same as a personal insult directed to a fellow commenter."

Huh uh.

I guess that settles the point about your intellectual honesty.

By the way, your post about the First Way is a real treat. I will make a not-so tiny comment about the following passage:

"He also talks of a coffee cup being “held up” by a desk seemingly having no idea of current theories on how matter that has mass has a curving effect on space-time, explaining why the “force” of gravity is always attractive and proportional to the mass of objects."

First, whether mass has a "curving effect on space-time" or not is completely irrelevant to the unobjectionable, perfectly correct point that the cup is "held up" by the desk; a fact that is readily empirically verifiable by removing the desk and watching the cup fall down to the ground. How from stating this seemingly mundane fact you go to saying that Prof. Feser has "no idea of current theories on how matter", as if what he said contradicted it or something (how exactly does it contradict? Mysteries, mysteries), is a deep mystery.

Second, the force is definitely not "proportional to the mass of objects". The equations of GR are (in geometric units)

G = 8 pi T

where G is the Ricci-Einstein tensor and T the tensor describing the distribution of mass-energy. It is an overdetermined *non linear* system of partial differential equations, so no, the force is not proportional, not in any reasonable sense. Non-linear entails non-proportional. If it were proportional, there would be no black holes, or gravitational waves, or singularity theorems or other fascinating phenomena typical of GR.

It is not even true in Newtonian mechanics (which is probably what you had in mind): maybe you missed it when thumbing the old books and drooling over them, but there is a term 1/r^2 in there somewhere.

Here is a suggestion: if you cannot even get a few elementary, pedestrian, basic facts about physics right, how about not posturing and pretend that you are qualified to teach anyone about anything on the subject? Just a suggestion.

Science dorks indeed.

Kantian Naturalist said...

@ DJ Jazzy Cornelius:

To do science, even the most cutting edge science, is to rely on "our pre-scientific, phenomenologically described cognitive abilities [PSPDCA] . . . not just reliably tracking what is there anyway, but also correctly characterizing it." The advances in science simply give us a greater realm of empirical data to explore with our PSPDCA.

Without our PSPDCA having the ability to correctly characterize what is happening, we have no hope to construct a better "conceptual framework." Indeed, any "conceptual framework" posed as an alternative to Aristotle's act/potency distinction must prove itself at the level of folk physics, because all physics is folk physics.


That's a very interesting response, and it definitely calls for some thinking on my part.

As I do so, I'd appreciate some clarification of whether JC's point here (hope "JC" is ok with you!) fairly articulates the A-T point of view.

Anonymous said...

I guess that settles the point about your intellectual honesty.

See, it's entirely acceptable in their view to bash, attack and mock people in foul ways, so long as they aren't there to defend themselves. They'll act quite nice to your face.

As you said, so very intellectually honest.

Scott said...

@Kantian Naturalist:

"It is one thing to say, with the realist and against the skeptic, that our cognitive abilities are reliably tracking what is really there anyway. It is quite another to say that what is really there anyway is correctly characterized by our pre-scientific, phenomenologically described cognitive abilities."

Is it quite another thing, though? How might our cognitive abilities reliably track what is really there anyway without in any way correctly characterizing it?

Kantian Naturalist said...

Is it quite another thing, though? How might our cognitive abilities reliably track what is really there anyway without in any way correctly characterizing it?

I was thinking of "correctly" here as standing in for "mostly correct" or something like that. "Slightly correct" seems a bit odd, shall we say?

More to the point, however, you're right to point out that I'm committed to teasing apart the two notions of "reliably tracking" and "correctly characterizing", and you're entitled to that commitment.

Firstly, notice that an cognitive agent can reliably track patterns in its environment without being able to use concepts in characterizing those patterns.

A bacterium can reliably track glucose gradients, after all -- and if you're unwilling to consider bacteria as cognitive agents, then consider fairly simple animals. There's little doubt that worms or flies, at least, can reliably detect and track patterns in their environments, at least with regard to motivationally salient stimuli, and which stimuli are motivationally salient will depend on the needs and goals of the kind of organism it is.

Secondly, a concept-using agent can reliably track patterns in its environment even when its concepts for describing its activity don't correctly characterize the patterns being tracked. Think, for example, about myths and stories by means of which a tribe reliably tracks the geography, annual changes in seasons, migration patterns of local fauna, planting and sowing times, and so on.

This should at least work on your philosophical imaginations a bit, to get us to see that there's a difference between (i) how the cognitive capacities are reliably tracking patterns or processes in the environment and (ii) how a concept-using, esp. discourse-using, animal characterizes what it is tracking.



E.Seigner said...

KN

Secondly, a concept-using agent can reliably track patterns in its environment even when its concepts for describing its activity don't correctly characterize the patterns being tracked. Think, for example, about myths and stories by means of which a tribe reliably tracks the geography, annual changes in seasons, migration patterns of local fauna, planting and sowing times, and so on.

If the stories "reliably track" then what permits you to say they don't correctly characterize? What would be the way to correctly characterize? What makes the difference between correct and wrong characterization when both "reliably track"?

Scott said...

@Kantian Naturalist:

"Firstly, notice that an cognitive agent can reliably track patterns in its environment without being able to use concepts in characterizing those patterns."

Sure, but we're not entitled to assume that all characterization must be conceptual (rather than, say, perceptual or even sensational). If a dog recognizes an object tomorrow that it played with yesterday, isn't it "tracking" the object through its character?

"Secondly, a concept-using agent can reliably track patterns in its environment even when its concepts for describing its activity don't correctly characterize the patterns being tracked. Think, for example, about myths and stories by means of which a tribe reliably tracks the geography, annual changes in seasons, migration patterns of local fauna, planting and sowing times, and so on."

But then surely those myths and stories do correctly characterize the geography, changes of season, and so forth. Whether they correctly describe/explain their causes is another question—but it is another question, isn't it?

It seems to me that on the one hand, you're trying to fold into your account of "conceptual frameworks" quite a lot of what we ordinarily call understanding (and for that matter articulation), and on the other, that you're also trying to fold in quite a lot of what we ordinarily call sensory perception.

Kantian Naturalist said...

I've been thinking a bit about the point raised by "Anonymous" in regard to my inconsistent attitude towards "naturalism." Here's a quick note about where I've gotten so far.

Two books I've read recently -- Beyond Reduction: Philosophy of Mind and Post-Reductionist Philosophy of Science (Horst, 2007) and How Scientific Practices Matter: Reclaiming Philosophical Naturalism (Rouse, 2002) -- point out that "naturalism" has two different uses in contemporary philosophy. (Rouse and Horst are both at Wesleyan and seem to have developed this together).

Firstly, "naturalism" is sometimes meant as a metaphilosophical position: that philosophers should eschew a priori, from-the-armchair theorizing and instead develop their views in close relation with the relevant empirical sciences. (Rouse calls this "Quinean naturalism," which isn't my favorite term for it but which captures the spirit of Quine's "no first philosophy" attitude.)

Secondly, "naturalism" is sometimes meant as a metaphysical position: that the natural sciences have authority over ontology such that putatively non-natural concepts, such as "intentionality", "normativity," "consciousness", etc. need to be 'naturalized' in order to be ontologically respectable. (Rouse calls this "Nietzschean naturalism," which also is not my favorite term.)

Interestingly, Rouse and Horst take different positions here: Rouse's book attempts to fully reconcile metaphilosophical and metaphysical naturalism, whereas Horst's book attempts to refute metaphysical naturalism on the basis of metaphilosophical naturalism.

Much as I love Rouse's project, I am ultimately more sympathetic to Horst's.

I am a metaphilosophical naturalist, because I think that a priori theorizing is not going to yield substantive truths about thought or reality. As Horst nicely puts it, "what is a truth of reason except a way we are constrained to think by our cognitive architecture or the models we happen to employ?"

But I am not a metaphysical naturalist, because metaphysical naturalism acquires content only by presuming a specific conception of what counts as natural -- e.g. nature-as-mechanism. It is only because we first assume a mechanistic conception of nature that we then think of intentionality or consciousness as "non-natural."

I do not think that there's any hope for "naturalizing intentionality" without interrogating the concept of "nature" as much as the concept of "intentionality".

Thus, while Thompson's Mind in Life is an excellent exercise in metaphilosophical naturalism by bringing phenomenology into conversation with neuroscience, it ends up "naturalizing intentionality" only by virtue of reviving teleological realism about living organisms.

Thompson's "neurophenomenology" is a radically non-mechanistic and non-reductive metaphysical naturalism -- and certainly one that Rosenberg (and Ladyman and Ross) would have no patience with! But he is quite appreciative of Aristotle's insights into biology. I can readily imagine that a Scholastic philosopher might enjoy (and perhaps even agree with parts of) both Mind in Life and Okrent's Rational Animals: The Teleological Roots of Intentionality (2007).

Scott said...

@Kantian Naturalist:

"Where I’m less enthusiastic about the Aristotelian story is whether the act/potency distinction is the right way to characterize that modal structure."

I would be very interested in seeing an account of change that doesn't invoke anything functionally equivalent to act and potency and doesn't in effect deny that real change occurs.

"I do think that the act/potency distinction captures our 'folk physics' cognitive grasp of objects. But that seems to assume that our folk physics is not merely the epistemological but also the ontological bedrock on which scientific physics is built, and that seems surely mistaken."

I think you must have meant something other than what you wrote here. That the act/potency distinction captures folk physics does not in any way assume that folk physics is ontological bedrock. (Similarly, that Bloggs has correctly captured Aristotle's meaning doesn't assume that Aristotle is right.)

Kantian Naturalist said...

@ Scott:

I think you must have meant something other than what you wrote here. That the act/potency distinction captures folk physics does not in any way assume that folk physics is ontological bedrock. (Similarly, that Bloggs has correctly captured Aristotle's meaning doesn't assume that Aristotle is right.)

I did mean something slightly other than what I wrote, but not much different.

What I meant to say was that the act/potency distinction does not strike me as anything more than the explication of the folk physical concept of an object.

Hence turning this distinction into ontological bedrock would be a mistake. Doing so relies on the assumption that our pre-scientific, phenomenologically described cognitive capacities are correctly characterizing the patterns that they reliably track. That assumption, stipulated in advance of any empirical science of the mind, seems like a serious mistake to me.



Kantian Naturalist said...

It seems to me that on the one hand, you're trying to fold into your account of "conceptual frameworks" quite a lot of what we ordinarily call understanding (and for that matter articulation), and on the other, that you're also trying to fold in quite a lot of what we ordinarily call sensory perception.

I'll need to think about this some more, but briefly: yes. I think that concepts play an essential role in mediating perception and action in sentient animals, and I have no objection to saying that some non-sapient animals have concepts, make proto-inferences, and so on. What they cannot do is be aware that they have concepts, reflect on their concepts, test their concepts, revise them, and so on.



Scott said...

@KN:

"I think that concepts play an essential role in mediating perception and action in sentient animals, and I have no objection to saying that some non-sapient animals have concepts, make proto-inferences, and so on. What they cannot do is be aware that they have concepts, reflect on their concepts, test their concepts, revise them, and so on."

And it's only the latter that you seem to include in "characterization"—which, I take it, is why you say there's an important difference between reliably tracking and correctly characterizing.

Kantian Naturalist said...

And it's only the latter that you seem to include in "characterization"—which, I take it, is why you say there's an important difference between reliably tracking and correctly characterizing.

I'm not sure I'd carve the distinction at precisely those joints. That would suggest that a chimpanzee, since it cannot explicate and reflect on its conceptual framework, cannot be said to characterize a stick as a candidate-tool. That seems wrong to me -- I would say that it does!

I do think that reliably tracking patterns is, in some sense, the function of cognition -- and even flies and worms do that! (I just don't know what to say about plants -- is heliotropism a cognitive process?)

But I hesitate to say that flies or worms have concepts, and so I would hesitate to say that they are characterizing anything in any fashion -- neither correctly nor incorrectly.

Scott said...

@KN:

"I hesitate to say that flies or worms have concepts, and so I would hesitate to say that they are characterizing anything in any fashion[.]"

Right, so you're thinking of "characterization" as something actively done, and done only, by those cognitive agents that operate at what might be called the conceptual level. You wouldn't say, for example, that a bacterium that tracks glucose gradients is "characterizing" any part of its environment merely because it relies on the character or nature of elements of that environment to guide its motion.

That answers some of my earlier questions, then. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Read the book. Simply, thank you.

Kantian Naturalist said...

Read the book. Simply, thank you.

You're right. This is Feser's blog, he wrote a book that's getting much-deserved attention, and his work deserves to be the focus. I'll cease and desist thread-jacking, and come back after I've read his book. Thank you all for the excellent conversations!

Scott said...

Heh. KN, I don't think Anon was telling you to read the book. I parsed the post like this:

"[Prof. Feser, I've r]ead the book. Simply, thank you [for writing it]."

It is an excellent book, though, so by all means please do read it. The chapter on act and potency is especially relevant to some of the questions you've raised in this thread.

Kantian Naturalist said...

Perhaps I misinterpreted that post.

Still, the general point stands -- Feser has put in a massive effort in an intellectual labor of love, and his work is receiving the attention it deserves. If I were to get a positive review in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, I'd over the moon with joy.

In light of that, it really doesn't matter what I happen to think about scholastic metaphysics -- Feser has done a service to the profession, and that counts for a great deal.

Scott said...

@KN:

"Still, the general point stands[.]

Indeed it does. Agreed on all the rest as well.

Kantian Naturalist said...

On a separate note, I've started reading Chalmers's The Conscious Mind. I finally understand why many of you were less than impressed (to put it mildly) with my contention earlier that nonlinear dynamics resolves the explanatory gap between mind and matter. I certainly won't make that mistake again!

Glenn said...

KN's Honeymoon with a Dialatheia Comes to an End

KN -- Ralph Kramden's friend Ed Norton -- discovers that, in addition to being tenable, a dialatheia is untenable, i.e., that a dialatheia is tenable as long as there's no day of reckoning (or night of reckoning, as the case may be), and untenable if there is.

Characters: Ralph and Alice Kramden, Ed and Trixie Norton.

Backstory: A telegram is received at the Kramden household. "My dear children. Father is going to be away for a few days, so I'm coming for a short visit. Will arrive Wednesday. Love Mother."

As Ralph and Alice's mother are about as chummy as a mongoose and a boa constrictor, a quarrel ensues between Ralph and Alice, and ends with Ralph saying: "Okay, Alice. You've made your decision... you're welcome to your mother. But you can't have her and me at the same time. So when I come home from the Raccoon Lodge tonight, I'm movin' in [upstairs] with Norton. And I am stayin' there until your mother leaves this house. Good bye."

Later, after having attended the Raccoon Lodge, Norton and Ralph enter Norton's apartment. Norton leaves the room, and then returns wheeling in a portable bed for Ralph to sleep in. The racket wakes Norton's wife, Trixie.

(cont)

Glenn said...

Trixie enters room

Trixie: Hey, hey, hey. What is going on out... Ralph, what're you doing up here?

Norton: Oh, uh, Ralph's gonna spend a coupla days with us.

Trixie: What?

Ralph: I had a little argument with Alice. Her mother-in-law is coming. That is, my mother-in-law.

Trixie: Do you mean to tell me that you left Alice because her mother's coming? Oh, that's ridiculous. I've met Alice's mother, and she's a sweet old lady.

Ralph: Look, Trix, if you don't want me to stay here, I can go to a hotel and get a room. But I will not stay under the same roof with that woman.

Trixie: Oh well, Ralph, I'm not gonna force you to go to a hotel. But I still think you're wrong... Well, if you gonna sleep here, you're gonna have to have some bedding and a pillow. You can get them out of the closet in there.

Norton: Here, I'll get 'em.

Trixie: Ed, let Ralph get them.

Norton: What?

Trixie: Let Ralph get them.

Norton: Oh.

Ralph leaves room.

Trixie: I want to talk to you. Look, we gotta get Ralph to go back downstairs with Alice. We gotta convince him that his place is with his wife no matter what.

Norton: But Trix...

Trixie: Ed, if you let Ralph sleep here tonight you'll be helping to break up their marriage.

Norton: But Trixie...

Trixie: Ed, you're duty is get him back with his wife.

Norton: Well, alright, alright. I guess you're right. This ain't gonna exactly get me in good with the boys down there [at the Raccoon Lodge] you know. They're not in favor of happy marriages. It spoils attendance.

Ralph enters room.

Norton: Ralph, don't you think you're place is with your wife?

Ralph: What?

Norton: I mean, can you give me one good reason why you don't go back with Alice?

Ralph: Yes. My mother-in-law is coming.

Norton: Trixie, I gotta admit it, he's got a good reason there.

Trixie elbows Norton, then leaves room.

(cont)

Glenn said...

Norton: I mean, why don't you go downstairs with Alice?

Ralph: Why should I? Do you want to get rid of me?

Norton: No, no, it ain't that, Ralph. A man's place is with his wife. You're place is with Alice.

Ralph: A man's place is with his wife, hah? Well then why isn't Alice's mother home with Alice's father?

Norton: Look, your mother-in-law coming ain't gonna be the worst thing in the world happening, you know.

Ralph: No? Well, name one thing that could possibly be worse than my mother-in-law coming.

Norton: My mother-in-law coming. Boy, compared to her coming, the invasion of locusts was boon to mankind.

Ralph: Don't start, Norton. Don't try to compare your mother-in-law with my mother-in-law, 'cause you gotta lose. It's no match.

Norton: Yeah? Well, you gotta be careful. In Ring Magazine, my mother-in-law is number two contender for the Marciano Title... Boy, if she ever got on the $64,000 Question, her category would be 'nasty'.

Ralph: Yeah? Well, if she ever go to the last question, she'd have to bring my mother-in-law along as an expert.

Norton: Let me tell ya something, mine's got her beat. Got her beat by a mile. I can't even afford to feed her. Boy, can she eat. When she comes for dinner, she clears that table like a hurdler. Sheesh. And is she fat. From the front, she looks like you from the back. I'm tellin' ya, they're just not a couple of living dolls, I'll admit that, but we gotta get along with them, and that's [all]. When Trixie's mother-in-law comes to visit, I don't leave her. If anybody's got a reason to leave, I do.

Ralph: Maybe you're right, Norton. If you can get along with your mother-in-law, I guess I can get along with mine. I'm going back down.

Norton: That's the spirit, Ralph, go back to your wife.

Ralph: Okay, pal.

Trixie enters room.

Ralph: Oh, Trix. I'm going back down with Alice.

Trixie: Oh, Ralph, Ralph, that's wonderful. And believe me, you're doing the right thing. Why I just think it's wonderful. You know, Ed gets along with my mother so beautifully. You just try to get along with Alice's mother. It'd just be wonderful. He thinks my mother is the greatest thing that ever happened. The sun rises and sets on her, according to Ed.

(cont)

Glenn said...

Ralph: Sooo. If you wanted to get rid of me, Norton, all you had to do was say so. You didn't have to lie.

Norton: Ralph, I wasn't lyin' to ya. Believe me, I wasn't lyin'.

Ralph: Whadda ya mean you weren't lyin'? She says you're crazy about her mother. And you said she was the meanest woman on earth.

Trixie: What? You said what?

Norton: No, Trix, I didn't say that. Really, I didn't say that.

Ralph: Oh, then you were lyin'. You did want to get rid of me.

Norton: No, I wasn't lyin'.

Ralph: Well, then whadda mean by saying she's the most impossible woman around?

Norton: I didn't. Did I?

Trixie: Then you meant it.

Norton: No, I didn't mean it.

Ralph: Then you were lyin'.

Norton: No.

Trixie: Ed Norton, just what do you think of my mother.

Norton (looking at his friend Ralph): I think her mother is the meanest, most miserable... (now looking at his wife Trixie) sweetest, little old lady that ever lived.

(cont)

Glenn said...

Trixie: Ed Norton, I wouldn't stay another minute in this house with you. I'm going downstairs and spend the night with Alice.

- - - - -

The transcript above is from the "Hello Mom" episode of the Honeymooners (starting at about 12:38).

Irish Thomist said...

@Ed...

I am commenting here as it is very much related to the topic of the book - not the OP.

There are quite a few typo/spelling mistakes throughout as I've read (we all do it). I really wish I had underlined them in pencil to give you a list. :( Your publisher really needs to have it proofread before it gets reprinted again en masses. Hopefully this info is of benefit.

Please don't take this as negative feedback. I really wouldn't expect an author to see all their mistakes. I think a lot of people will agree with my point that have been paying close attention that the publisher maybe hasn't noticed.

P.S. I would be worse when trying to convey ideas - there would be spelling mistakes everywhere in the first three drafts!

I really do like your work.

Adam Zur said...

i saw on your blog once an argument against libertarianism. Something to do with a desert island?

Alan Fox said...

Off-topic:

@ grodruiges.

Reply to your comment on gravitation.

On-topic:

I'm still waiting for my copy of Thomistic Metaphysics to arrive!

Anonymous said...

Anyone here seeing mark Shea going off the deep on facebook?

Greg said...

Adam Zur, you may be looking for this post, although Feser may have made similar comments in other blog posts.

Alan Fox said...

My copy of Scholastic Metaphysics arrived today!

grodrigues said...

@Alan Fox:

"I did not say directly proportional. I meant that adding mass to a massive body increases local space-time curvature and increases gravity, while less mass means less gravity."

So you have this private language, where "proportional" does not mean what it means to everyone else, but rather means "a function of mass". Your ignorance is even more vast than you let on: it extends to the basic command of elementary jargon.

"The situation from minimal mass to super-massive black hole is a continuous change proportional to the mass (and only the mass) present."

The T^00-component of the stress-energy tensor T is the energy density, the components T^0i represent energy flux, T^i0 momentum density, and T^ij (for i, j != 0) the momentum flux across (constant) surfaces or stress, so once again, and your bullshitting about "proportional" not withstanding, you are wrong, and no, "gravity" is not a function of "only the mass".

"Feser’s the one teaching outdated ideas about objects falling down to Earth."

Not only you are too stupid to even grasp the point of what is otherwise a completely unobjectionable example, but, when all is said and done, you are also a shameless liar.

Alan Fox said...

So you have this private language, where "proportional" does not mean what it means to everyone else, but rather means "a function of mass". Your ignorance is even more vast than you let on: it extends to the basic command of elementary jargon.

*chuckles*

Ironic to be castigated for using words in non-standard ways on this blog.

Tell me that gravity does not vary in accordance with the mass of objects (and only their mass - whether they are desks, coffee cups or earths matters not)

John West said...

I ordered a copy. Hopefully I'll be able to grasp enough of it, despite having only an introductory, first year metaphysics course under my belt at this point.

grodrigues said...

@Alan Fox:

"Tell me that gravity does not vary in accordance with the mass of objects (and only their mass - whether they are desks, coffee cups or earths matters not)"

I did. But since you do not know physics from a hole in your head you missed it.

Alan Fox said...

grodruiges claims:

[In response to my question]

Tell me that gravity does not vary in accordance with the mass of objects (and only their mass - whether they are desks, coffee cups or earths matters not)

I did.

Really!

So you mean to say mass is not a factor with regard to the phenomenon of gravity?

grodrigues said...

@Alan Fox:

"So you mean to say mass is not a factor with regard to the phenomenon of gravity?"

We already know that you are stupid, intellectualy dishonest, that you bullshit, that you lie; now, we also know that you are incapable of reading the English.

Greg said...

@ Alan

*chuckles*

Ironic to be castigated for using words in non-standard ways on this blog.


If you're referring to Aristotelian-Thomistic jargon, then this blog does not use those terms in non-standard ways; it uses them in accordance with a very extensive, properly promulgated metaphysical tradition.

On the other hand, "proportional" has a very specific meaning in mathematics, and that's the only one I've ever seen used in physics.