Monday, February 23, 2015

Braving the web


The 10th Annual Thomistic Seminar for graduate students in philosophy and related disciplines, sponsored by The Witherspoon Institute, will be held from August 2 - 8, 2015 in Princeton, NJ.  The theme is “Aquinas and Contemporary Ethics,” and faculty include John Haldane, Sarah Broadie, and Candace Vogler.  Applications are due March 16.  More details here.

Does academic freedom still exist at Marquette University?  The case of political science professor John McAdams, as reported by The Atlantic, Crisis magazine, and Slate

The late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus is the subject of a new biography by Randy Boyagoda.  Review at National Review, and podcast of an interview with Boyagoda at Ricochet.
 
At Aeon magazine, Philip Ball comments on physics, philosophy, and “half-baked” ideas like the “many worlds interpretation” of quantum mechanics.

If “Bush lied, people died,” then why didn’t the Bush administration play up the WMDs it did find, so as to make the “lie” more plausible?  Don’t ask Jon Stewart.

New books in philosophy of religion: Gaven Kerr’s Aquinas’s Way to God, Paul O’Grady’s Aquinas’s Philosophy of Religion, and Fiona Ellis’s God, Value, and Nature.

Christopher Blum on how Aristotle invented science.

Philosopher Tom V. Morris has written high powered academic philosophy books and many popular works.  He also has a blog.

Philosopher Dennis Bonnette asks: Does Richard Dawkins exist?

But the New Atheism is old hat.  Here’s philosopher Philip Kitcher’s “soft atheism.”

Thomas Ward’s new book John Duns Scotus on Parts, Wholes, and Hylomorphism is reviewed by Robert Pasnau at Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

Asimov’s Foundation is reviewed at Omni Reboot.  Better late than never.

183 comments:

Tom said...

Related to the "soft atheism" link, we find Catholic blogger and consummate Frenchman Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry's response (he's not in favor).

On the "likely to make the denizens of this blog put their collective head through a wall" front, we have philosopher Helen De Cruz saying some rather silly things about Christian philosophers of religion over at our old friend Chris Hallquist's place.

Gene Callahan said...

"The word ‘favourite’ speaks volumes. Isn’t science supposed to be decided by experiment and observation, free from personal preferences?"

Phillip Ball apparently has not read M. Polanyi's _Personal Knowledge_!

lukebarnes said...

If you want to understand the Everett Interpretation, read "The Everett Interpretation" by David Wallace. It simply isn't true that the idea is untestable.

http://users.ox.ac.uk/~mert0130/papers/handbook.pdf

Daniel said...

Kitcher reminds me of why, were I an atheist, I would by virtue of necessity be Nietzschean - either Secular Humanism is the enemy.

This paper on how the late period scholastics discovered Truthmakers might be of interest to people here.

https://www.academia.edu/9349012/_Truth_and_Truthmakers_in_Early_Modern_Scholasticism_Journal_of_the_American_Philosophical_Association_forthcoming

I wonder would it not be possible to argue for the Transcendentals based on Truthmaker theory - I had this impression very strongly when reading the first chapter of Armstrong on the subject. Good would be the more difficult one to factor in. I know Oderberg has touched on truthmaker theory when discussing the Privation view so perhaps he explore something like the above idea in his forthcoming book on the metaphysics of Good and Evil.

Daniel said...

*Should be 'either way Secular Humanism is the enemy'*

Miloš said...

@Tom

I have not see that Helen De Cruz wrote article about Christian philosophers? But whoever wrote it is is really garbage - it is probably well known among philosophers of religion that Plantinga hold that theistic belief can be properly basic which mean that it is not necessarily that there is propositional justification of it.

John West said...

At Aeon magazine, Philip Ball comments on physics, philosophy, and “half-baked” ideas like the “many worlds interpretation” of quantum mechanics.

I've been bombarbed with Bohmian literature lately, like this review, which was found here. For more about pilot waves, scroll down here, or use Wikipedia. There was another article “Why aren't we all Bohmians?” I wanted to link, but I can't seem to find it right now—so here.

On that note, has Dr. Feser ever written about superposition and the observer's paradox? I looked here , here, and briefly here but saw nothing specifically addressing it.

I would also be interested in any posts on Lewis-worlds, or Lewisian possibilia vis-à-vis Scholastic philosophy of modality.

Daniel said...

Scholastic understandings of modality interest me too. I know Ed is keen to stress the fundamentality of the Act/Potency distinction in these contexts but I'm not sure if this really get's to the bottom of things. For sure Thomism is an Actualism but in the end the ultimate question of possibility must relate back further than any change in material objects to God's capacity for creating ex nihilo as Scotus and Leibniz pointed out. So how Ed's approach will ultimately differ from Pruss and Leftow's account of the above mentioned view as the 'Divine Causal Powers' theory of Modality has me intrigued (I assumed it would be the same but he denied this in his Corrupting the Youth post against that Calvinist blogger).

A forthcoming reprint which may be of interest to people here (at least if, like me, their funds don’t run to the expensive hardcover):

http://www.amazon.com/God-Necessity-Brian-Leftow/dp/019873896X/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1424804327&sr=1-3&keywords=brian+leftow

@John West,

Having just read a bit about Perdurance I’m further struck by how Lewis’ may well have concocted a recipe for the most bloated ontology conceivable (just need to throw some Impossible Worlds into the mix).

Scott said...

Gaven Kerr's new book is quite good so far, although I haven't had time to get very far into it and therefore don't have any detailed comments. Basically, it's an exposition of the argument for God in De Esse et Essentia as a separate argument for God in its own right, distinguishable from and perhaps more basic than the Five Ways.

Tom said...

On the subject of Thomism and modality, I give you The Ontology of Many World and Thomstic Modal Realism: http://sententias.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/The-Ontology-of-Many-Worlds-and-Thomistic-Modal-Realism-Tyndale1.pdf

@Milos: I don't know the source of that quote, perhaps it's less irritating in context. By the way, this ties into a larger complaint of mine that theistic philosophers are often lead away from "folk theism" or to other odd conclusions: So what?
Metaphysical debates are full of people arriving at counterintuitive conclusions, like debates over personal identity, or whether ordinary objects exist, or whether you can combine a dog and a house to create a housedog, or whether when you pull your car out of a garage you're transforming it from an incar to an outcar. Reaching somewhat surprising conclusions to defend theism is hardly awful given all this.

Anyway. Helen De Cruz has done a bunch of surveys about philosophers of religion and their attitudes toward religious belief and religious disagreement and whatnot, I'd track them down regardless of this quote.

FM said...

Regarding "Abbate-gate" at Marquette, I think John McAdams di act somewhat inappropriately. He should have kept the problem behind closed doors or at least not mention explicitly Abbate's name in his blog.

Mind you I ma NOT on Abbate's side, I CRINGE at the idea that one day a person like her might teach philosophy as a professor...

... still the affair should have been handled with some more tact.

===

On Bonette's presentation:

Very interesting. I hace not checked it out fully yet, but look forward to it when I have a bit of time!

==

On Soft Atheism:

It's nice to see some effort that goes beyong just the bashing by Dawkins & Co.

I wonder if a more useful dialogue can be built upon that.

==

Finally: I love Asimov!

Tom said...

One final link, for now: The chaps at an und fur sich offer their thoughts on God and nature in Aquinas. I'm curious to see this community's take on it, seeing as it's a continental sort of critique rather than an analytic or (pseudo-) scientific one. The blog itself is at least somewhat interesting, even if it does fall into the usual continental traps (overly dense & involved names, gratuitous shots at capitalism and the "neoliberal" bogeyman).

John West said...

Here is that link to Why isn't every physicist a Bohmian?.

Daniel,

Having just read a bit about Perdurance I’m further struck by how Lewis’ may well have concocted a recipe for the most bloated ontology conceivable (just need to throw some Impossible Worlds into the mix).

I definitely abandoned Lewis's theory to avoid ontological bloat.

That said, Lewis's worlds are useful for trying to keep universals outside ontologies by arguing class nominalism. For example, consider the replies Lewis can give to the coextension problem and argument from classes' identity conditions. Concrete modal realism is expensive, but does have some benefits—especially for physicalists.

Miloš said...

@Tom

Sorry, I have not realize intention of your quote. In this era of eliminativists of all sorts it is very strange to say that theist propose some strange, or counter-intuitive, or incredible metaphysical theories.

I am not familiar with Helen De Cruz work and whole idea of experimental philosophy and sociological interpretations of philosopher's views is quite odd for me.

Let assume that in some survey majority of theistic philosophers (not just Christians) say that they believe in something because they find some argument compelling. Does that tell us anything about strength of argument, plausibility of premises or any other philosophical relevant topic. I don't think so.

In Clark volume you mentioned philosophers give outline of their spiritual and religious life, they don't examined their respective philosophical work and relevance of that work to their religious views. Everyone familiar with contemporary philosophy know that there are great differences between Christian philosophers among many topics.

Anonymous said...

The WMD claim was about smoking guns and mushroom clouds and they did lie, because they claimed to know much more than they really did. The mainstream press is also guilty, because contrary to popular belief they aren't ferocious watchdogs that keep the government honest, but little lapdogs that don't want to be labeled unpatriotic during a period of jingoistic excess. And yes, many prominent Democrats went along with the Bush Administration claims. One of them was named Clinton--actually, two of them were named Clinton. People on the left know this better than anyone, but maybe people on the right don't realize that the left isn't a monolith.

Even the Bush Administration was smart enough to realize it couldn't pass off some old chemical weapons as a justification for a war that nearly everyone could see was a disaster by 2005.

You want to talk about philosophy, Prof. Feser, I'll listen respectfully and try to follow along, knowing that I'm in over my head most of the time. But you should leave the Bush apologetics to people who for some reason want to defend that pack of lying war criminals.

Donald

Anonymous said...

Donald: Peddle it elsewhere. There are comboxes galore for such stuff. This isn't one of them. You miss Feser's point, entirely.

Joe said...

Gender theorists would have a field day with Scotus and substantial forms for parts. I had an argument yesterday with someone about "female brains".

Anonymous said...

I want to ask fellow theists, if this: has any significance in the philosophy of mind? Thank you very much.
Wenceslaus C.

Anonymous said...

I want to ask you about this:
www.pnas.org/content/early/2015/02/17/1410709112.abstract

Wenceslaus C.

Anonymous said...

I just read the abstract about arousal in the human subthalamic nucleus. The first problem I'm having is not being able to get around the question of whether my single neuron that was aroused by the word "Abstract" was actually aroused by it, or if the arousal of that single neuron was required in order for me to notice the word "Abstract". Mind = blown (to the point of abstraction)

Anonymous said...

"Soft atheism" has to be hated by "Rough atheism", because it seems to acknowledge "purpose" or "meaning". Atheism CANNOT acknowledge such concepts, because if God does not exist, then there is no such thing. There is only time, space, matter and energy and purposeless interactions. Even "survival of the fittest" can only be a purposeless process which just HAPPENS to increase the half-life of the purposeless chemical chain reaction we call human life.

Of course atheism (soft or rough) is nonsense, because if atheism is TRUE, then EVERYTHING is meaningless, purposeless NONSENSE. Atheism has no burden of proof, by the way, because the only evidence one can give for the non-existence of "x" is the lack of evidence FOR the existence of "x". Therefore, the only evidence of the lack of existence of "x" is no evidence AT ALL. When you hear an atheist arguing (almost always VERY PASSIONATELY) their position, the only thing you can POSSIBLY be hearing, therefore, is simply "I don't believe in God because you can't show me evidence OF God". That's all they CAN say (but of course, they usually say it with superfluous verbiage).

Anonymous said...

"If you want to understand the Everett Interpretation, read "The Everett Interpretation" by David Wallace. It simply isn't true that the idea is untestable.

http://users.ox.ac.uk/~mert0130/papers/handbook.pdf"

Admittedly, I just skimmed that article, so I had to have missed it. In spite of my laziness, please tell me which section of this (rather excellent, correct or not) paper explains what techniques can be used to falsify (or VERIFY, if that is the case) the multiverse. Proofs of physical claims that I have ever seen usually involve describing an experiment capable of demonstrating that the claim is wrong.

Daniel Joachim said...

@Tom

I'm really a fan of the blog "An und für sich".

But I think the description in the blog post (which I suddenly noticed is dated way back to 2010) you refer to, seems somewhat nonsensical. E.g. that an infinite God cannot create an infinite (or infinite numbers) of universes, because then there would be (at least) two 'infinites'. Now, that's really just an equivocation of the word "infinite", isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Ok, ok . . . so I'm impatient. I read the paper on multiverses and found nothing to suggest any experiments that can be done to verify or falsify the "interpretation". (Interpretations do not need testing, as they are NOT theories, btw). So I surfed and found this:

"Our contention, then, is that these observations of bulk flow can be construed as evidence for the birth of the universe from the landscape multiverse imprinted on the superhorizon sized nonlocal quantum entanglement between our horizon patch and others that began from the landscape. When we calculate the size of the induced dipole in our theory and convert it into a bulk velocity dispersion, we will see that for the constrained values of our parameters we arrive at a velocity dispersion of order 670 km/sec, remarkably close to the observed value of 700 km/sec."

And then this response from the Planck team on CMB:

"“The Planck team’s paper appears to rule out the claims of Kashlinsky and collaborators,” says David Spergel of Princeton University, who was not involved in the work. If there is no dark flow, there is no need for exotic explanations for it, such as other universes, says Planck team member Elena Pierpaoli at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. “You don’t have to think of alternatives.”

So at least for now, the "multiverse" is simply not there.

Fred said...

Anon @ 2:15,

I'm assuming you know more about quantum physics than I do (not that that's terribly difficult) so please tell me, is the first passage you quoted in your comment gibberish, or is it just scientific jargon I'm not familiar with?

Fred said...

Sorry, that's Anon @ 2:12

Daniel said...

@John,

I'm not sure it actually does help that much though. If a Property e.g. Rationality is just the Set of all rational particulars (or all entities with the Trope Rationality) falling across all Possible Worlds then one might ask why are all these particulars (or tropes) grouped together, to which the Nominalist to which the usual answer is some affirmation of resemblance and that we should just take this resemblance as a primitive. To the realist this looks uncannily like a sheer refusal to answer the question. Also, arguably the Physicalist has already let himself in for the same trouble he would if he admitted Universals merely by bringing in Sets.

Also: I’m curious to know how Modal Concretism excludes ‘World-hoping’ – if the Concretism wants to claim an entity’s traveling from one ‘World’ i.e. universe to another is impossible then he/she owes us an account of what ‘impossible’ means in this context. The underlying impression I have is that the 'Possibilism' could very easily tip over into an omni_Actualism.

Anonymous said...

FM: I don't see how McAdams mentioning Abbate's name poses a problem. She was the Professor of the course she was teaching. She was the one assigning grades and responsible for the class. McAdams didn't tell anyone to harass her. Absolutely staggering he was fired for this incident.

Anonymous said...

Fellow anonymous--I got his point just fine and I disagreed with part of it. If you think otherwise you neglected to say what you imagine the point was. Evidently in your view it had nothing to do with whether Bush's Administration lied (they did)--the fact that much of the DC establishment went along with this,including most prominent Democrats and much of the press, indicates that this shouldn't be a strictly partisan issue. people claiming to know that Saddam had a WMD program were claiming to know more than they did because it was politically expedient.


And it's up to Prof Feser whether he wants people here disagreeing with him. He generally seems fine with it as far as I can tell. Anyway, I,m done. I generally lurk here and rarely post ,as on the
philosophical issues I have a lot to learn and not much to contribute. Back to lurking.

Donald

Anonymous said...

Feel better, Donald? Wonderful. I hope you make good on your promise about being done.

John West said...

Daniel,

Also: I’m curious to know how Modal Concretism excludes ‘World-hoping’ – if the Concretism wants to claim an entity’s traveling from one ‘World’ i.e. universe to another is impossible then he/she owes us an account of what ‘impossible’ means in this context. The underlying impression I have is that the 'Possibilism' could very easily tip over into an omni_Actualism.

David Lewis defines a possible world as a maximal mereological sum of spatiotemporally interrelated things. Since (as I recall) Lewis writes past epochs can be part of one possible world due to their temporal link to it, I take this to truly mean “a maximal mereological sum of spat[ially or] temporally interrelated things.” So, I think Lewis could leave open the possibility that something like Everett-worlds are part of a single possible world, and that world-hopping is possible between Everett-worlds.

He would probably appeal to his recombination principle and physics to decide whether hopping between his worlds would be physically possible. But I think the fact that his possible worlds are totally spatiotemporally disconnected does give some reason why hopping between them would be impossible, especially in the context of Lewis's own metaphysic (which is not dualistic about minds).

You may find this article on Lewisian possibilism interesting.

Anonymous said...

Off topic, but chapter nine of Barry Miller's (rare) A Most Unlikely God is available here:
http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~ekremer/resources/Chapter%20Nine,%20A%20Most%20Unlikely%20God.pdf

Anonymous said...

Fred @ 3:44

I believe the answer to your question would be "both".

John West said...

Daniel,

if the Concretism wants to claim an entity’s traveling from one ‘World’ i.e. universe to another is impossible then he/she owes us an account of what ‘impossible’ means in this context.

"There is no possible world where either the technology or entities with the natural ability to travel to other possible worlds exist."

Tom said...

Yet another link! St Thomas Aquinas had a brother who was executed for attempting to kill the emperor!

Tim said...

Abbate is a walking, talking Social Justice Machine.

Have you seen some of the blogs she's involved with?
Yipes.


Now, imagine sending your child to a supposed Catholic institution and having her instruct your child.

Timocrates said...

Re: the academic freedom issue.

I wrote this post and think other readers of Professor Feser's blog might find it interesting:

1/2


A Disturbing Exchange at an American University between an Instructor (Abbate, Philosophy, Ethics) and a Student:

"Student: So, are you saying that not agreeing with gay marriage is homophobic?

Abbate: To argue that individuals should not have rights is going to be offensive to someone in this class.

Student: I'm not saying rights, I'm saying one single right. Ok? So is that what you're saying? Are you saying that if I don't agree with gays not being allowed to get married, that I am homophobic?

Abbate: I'm saying that it would come off as a homophobic comment in this class."

The exchange took place not in the classroom (where it is supposed to) but had to take place afterwards in the instructor's office. The reason is because the instructor had already forbidden debating in the classroom whether or not a certain principle (Rawl's Equal Liberty Principle) would mean that gay marriage would have to be accepted because it didn't deprive or restrict anyone's liberty. She argued that the principle meant gay marriage would have to be legalized and refused to allow any public dissent, citing the university's harassment policy as the reason.

Now the claim that imposing gay marriage on the population doesn't deprive or restrict anyone's liberty is certainly a gratuitous one. I can think of any number of ways forcing gay marriage on people restricts their freedom and liberty.

When the State imposes gay marriage it forces, e.g., every officer of the State to recognize gay marriage and to treat it as if it were real, forcing them to deny their conscience, which de facto results in people who conscientiously oppose gay marriage from becoming officers of the State, as they are bound to treat gay marriage as real and legitimate. People who are conscientiously opposed to gay marriage are thus restricted in their career opportunities and specifically deprived their normal freedom in becoming officers of the State, as the State has made it morally impossible for them to carry out its requirements.

The officers are *bound*, *forced* and have *no choice* but to accept and comply. These are hardly terms synonymous with freedom or liberty.

Timocrates said...

2/2

Again. All the wedding catering services being fined and sued to death for refusing to service gay weddings most definitely destroys the liberty of those individuals who do not want to participate in something they believe is untrue and even immoral. They are no longer free to cater to weddings unless they are willing to defile their consciences.

Moreover, this very event is itself an arbitrary restriction of people's freedom. Academic debate and freedom were denied to the whole class. Their freedom to debate or challenge claims and ideas was not only restricted, but outright deprived them, which contradicts the necessary condition for the proper application of Rawl's Equal Liberty Principle, which is that the measure in no way restrict or deprive anyone of their liberty.

But the instructor forbade bringing up those points because to make them might have caused a possible homosexual student to feel they had been harassed, according to the instructor. Indeed, to make those points for her would be "homophobic".

http://www.theatlantic.com/…/stripping-a-professor-…/385280/

A tenured professor (of Political Science), who has his PhD from Harvard and is tenured at the same university, came to the defense of the student, writing a post on his blog about how the precedent of stifling debate and forcing it to take place in private undermines academic freedom. The university fired him.

The consequence of all of this is that the Progressive ideology gains a privileged status making it immune from intellectual criticism. You can lose your job (as many already have) simply for disbelieving or not accepting, e.g., gay marriage.

So much for "tolerance" and "equality". Some animals are more equal than others.

Some defenders of the instructor have claimed that some great wrong was done her as the student had been taping their private conversation. But this admission gives away the store: the instructor forced what should have been an open, public debate into a private one and even invited her students to come and discuss the topic with her. But in private. Had she not freely made this decision, then the conversation and debate would have unfolded naturally in public anyways - as it should in an academic environment. This is perhaps why the instructor herself has not raised the issue but only quietly allowed her would-be defenders to bring it up.

Regardless, the instructor interpreted freely the university's harassment policy and applied it on her own initiative. The onus therefore was and is on her to justify this. Ultimately it is up to the university to decide if allowing debate about the consequences of imposing gay marriage would harass homosexuals.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Personally, I'm not sure it matters if Saddam had WMD. That doesn't seem a good enough reason for the West to intervene. Heck, I agree with Russell Kirk that the First Gulf War was a mistake as well. Conservatives really need to drop this neocon nonsense and revert to a realist foreign policy that intervenes cautiously and only when there is a pressing national interest.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jeremy Taylor:

Neocons are, on the whole, libertarians and progressives. They are not conservatives. Neither are the vast majority of GOPers. If you believe either Bush, Rumsfeld, et alia are conservatives, I have an alpine forest in Nebraska to sell you.

Reginald said...

Does anyone know and/or can provide a link to, if one exists, Professor Feser's thoughts on Heidegger? Any help here would be most appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Prof. Feser I was wondering if you've been exposed to more obscure, non-Romantic German idealists like Hermann Lotze and FA Trendelenburg?

Namely I mention them because of Trendelenburg's Aristotelianism and Lotze's profound arguments for teleology. In my opinion these men are unjustly ignored in favor of the intellectually less impressive but more charismatic appearances of Hegel and co.

Daniel said...

Incidentally I'm now finally reading Scholastic Metaphysics from the cover to cover (on page 43 atm). The concept of Logical Potency, which I always thought to be a Scotist innovation, goes some way to clearing up a dispute I had with Scott a time ago about whether it made sense to talk of Act and Potency with regards to the argument from On Being and Essence.

@Anon 9:21PM

Thanks very much for that.

I was just thinking of Miller and Perfect Being Theology yesterday. I don't think the account of he gives of the 'Anselmian' view is fair across the board though it certainly applies to some contemporary philosophers who'd accept that label e.g. Morris and Plantinga (but the issue there is not so much a question of Divine predication as it is their rejecting Divine Simplicity and having God as a being which exemplifies properties, a move which opens the door to all kinds of regresses and problems with necessary abstracta, Divine Bookstrapping et cetera).

(I suspect Anselm himself would have seen Perfect Being Theology as fully consistent with Negative Theology)

John West said...

Another link for anyone not checking the Prosblogion.

Dennis said...

Dr. Feser, I've been asked to read Roger Bacon, an acquaintance of mine proclaims that he is the best English Philosopher, now I have no idea of Roger Bacon at all, if you could give me your insight on him and your take, as well as what I should read and what you find most intriguing about him that would be much appreciated, please do tell me what you think of him as a philosopher if you have read any of his works, thank you.

Timocrates said...

@ Jeremy Taylor

One of the problems with Americanism and American political doctrine is that it makes America anti-social on the global stage. President Obama not long ago addressed graduates at West Point (keep in mind the context here) where he dropped terms such as America being

1) "exceptional" and
2) "indispensable".

Now he was speaking to America's future military leadership. What, pray tell, does fancying oneself being "exceptional" and "indispensable" mean? In effect, militarily, it means America can pick and choose what laws and conventions apply to her, one; and two, that without her permission military action is illegitimate. Iraq II most definitely is a rather brazen application of exceptionality. The open threats against the former President of Ukraine if he dared use force against the increasingly tumultuous and aggressive Maiden protesters was application of indispensability - you can't use force unless we say so.

This doctrine of course makes America a threat to the UN immediately, causing that institution to be rather pointless (while ironically increasingly many American conservatives bemoan the uselessness and ineffectiveness of the UN - even though the UN is a triumph of Americanism in many regards and has in all its primary and fundamental functions and doctrines preventing a resurgence of totalitarianism and especially fascist totalitarianism).

It also has religious consequences insofar as propagation of American political doctrine or beliefs and attitudes in keeping with it inevitably means the American political establishment feels it has to influence institutions that influence global or regional opinions but especially American opinions. From outside of the USA, one of the most obvious successes here on this front is the rather shocking acceptance of Muslim bashing and demonization in especially conservative American Catholics. Also curious are attempts to synthesize a radical hyper-capitalism with Catholic social doctrine.

Now one who knows his history should be surprised by a lot of this, as after World War II America enjoyed a stunning popularity in the Muslim world and among Muslim leaders and intellectuals. America was quite beloved in the Muslim world. America's anti-colonial policies were especially endearing. It took decades for this to degrade though it has hardly disappeared entirely - just chilled. In fact, after Iraq II especially, this chilling of American prestige has been universal, where a lot of anti-Americanism has increased even in countries typically very closely aligned with the USA, such as her core NATO partners. All of this, of course, is a consequence of anti-social political doctrines that are rather hard for any sensible person to stomach, as it basically requires people to believe Americans and America is a superior breed of human or something.

I want to stress though that it is all the "neo's" that need to go - not just the neocons. The neos radically adjusted traditional conservatism and liberalism in the USA but also abroad, enjoying perhaps the most success in the realm of economic theory. Contra Wall Street, greed is not good.

Timocrates said...

Another instance of why it is rather odd to see American Catholics sometimes bashing the UN is that they don't realize the UNDHR is a powerful aid to defending the family. But to show rather clearly what I mean when I say it is almost a form of self-hatred for Americans to bash the UN, let me share some quotes from the UN's core document:

"Article 1.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood."

Here you have positive affirmation for the existence of conscience. It also require respect for people's consciences, contra radical modern Progressivism which just throws opponents under the bus of its dogmas, for example. You can also hear Thomas Jefferson's voice rather clearly.

Again.

"Article 3.
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person."

How much more American can you get?

Again.

"Article 12.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks."

This is a conservative wet dream. How many conservatives bemoan, e.g., the liberal's rather liberal use of satire to discredit their opponents? How often do radical Progressives demonize their opponents?

Again.

"Article 13.
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country."

Canadians have this right. Americans do not. Ferguson was hilarious as I watched a Canadian journalist roaming the streets during the so-called "curfew" imposed by the police, where residents of Ferguson could be shot if they left their homes; however, simply because the journalist was not an American, she was at liberty to move about, as the laws didn't apply to her. One of the things the neos have been very successful at is imposing a kind of time-freeze on Americans' rights and liberties, not permitting the permeation of the logical extensions of those basic rights and liberties after the horror of fascist totalitarianism and how democracy was undermined then by fascist leaders. Freedom of movement is closely linked logically to freedom of association and just general liberty to boot. It also links to the idea of innocence until proven guilty.

Again.

"Article 16.
(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State."

Read that carefully. That's the death sentence to assaults on the family. And it's the UN.

Timocrates said...

Oh and one more gem for those who are sick of radical Progressivism and radical secularism trying to monopolize public space:

"Article 18.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance."

The absolute secularization of schools that deliberately removes the possibility of religious education or deliberately deprives students of the opportunity to keep and practice their faith is a violation of their human rights. By law public schools must also facilitate religious faith and belief of the students, not stifle it.

I want to stress that radical Progressives tend to imagine they are the intellectual heirs to the UN's native spirit and this, in turn, I think has in part contributed to a chilling of feeling toward the UN by religious people as they take such claims and appearances at face value. However, there is nothing more dangerous to radical Progressivism than the UN's core and founding documents.

"Article 25.

(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection."

Notice the honour placed on specifically motherhood here. This at first glance might seem almost feminist; however, feminism as we know it today did not exist in the 1940's. This actually reinforces the natural family and traditional understanding of the sexes. Feminism does not hold motherhood in honour and so-called gender equality theories are diametrically opposed to the underlying assumptions and understanding of this clause.

Again.

"Article 26.

(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children."

It is the state that has to facilitate for parents the kind of education they want their children to receive. This is the law.

Now how many Americans feel they simply do not enjoy these rights?

Timocrates said...

Okay, last gem, I promise.

"Article 29.

(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society."

Needs no comment for the modern context.

DNW said...

""Article 13.
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country."

Canadians have this right. Americans do not. "


Do Canadians have freedom of speech or the press in practice? Ask Mark Steyn for perspective on this.

By the way which core document were you referring to? Not the Charter?

Perhaps the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, instead?

Jacques Maritan and all?


Is this from the same document?


"Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his
personality is possible."

Fucking fascism, if you ask me. Or even if you don't.

John West said...

Daniel,

So how Ed's approach will ultimately differ from Pruss and Leftow's account of the above mentioned view as the 'Divine Causal Powers' theory of Modality has me intrigued

If you haven't already read it, I noticed this post on God and Possible Worlds while reading the past posts linked in Ed's latest article.

Anonymous said...

More Canadian "freedom."

http://news.yahoo.com/canada-regulator-bars-ex-media-mogul-conrad-black-162540306--finance.html

Daniel said...

@John West,

Thanks, yes I read that a while ago - I wish he (Ed) could be compelled to fufill his threat of that article on The Proof from Eternal Truths mentioned at the end.

The view of Possible Worlds (or more accurately the correct backdrop of Possible World semantics) he puts forward there though is just what I would expect though, the standard Classical Theistic Actualism
It's the view Plantinga himself really wants to endorse though can't due to gripes with Divine Simplicity.

But when talking of Pruss account of this view on 'Corrupting the Calvinist Youth' Ed appears to reject it saying:

And if I am critical of the Leibnizian approach to possible worlds, that must be because I couldn’t find it in the index to the Summa. It definitely isn’t because I think the Aristotelian conception of modality is actually superior on the philosophical merits (Scholastic Metaphysics, pp. 235-41).

I am curious about these though since, as I said, as a theist who endorses an understanding of God as creating Ex Nihilo he is obliged to trace Modality further back than the distinction of Act/Potency to the Divine Nature (though if he brings in Logical Potency he's off the hook but only by basically conceding the point).

Anonymous said...

rights are totally relative to duties. the individual human being derives his personhood from the corporate person of the family, which is the ultimate subsidiary of the community/nation. the general rights therein are life, property and religion; they are all subject to specifying conditions and privations.

a community is not a collection of individual human beings since it pre-exists every particular individual. the general collection of individuals does not come into existence within a singular moment, but every one of them is produced by the structure wherein they are conditioned. even a new community is an element of a prior community. law is the form of any possible structure; the point of synthesis.

whatever self-concept some nation may have, whatever popular rhetoric or speech patterns are utilized, there is but one fact; a nation is a corporate entity consisting of subsidiaries and their individual modes.

Jeremy Taylor said...

DNW,

Fucking fascism, if you ask me. Or even if you don't.

I suppose it depends what is meant by duty and community, but that passage seems to be perfectly consistent with traditional conservatism. As Burke said of our relationship to society:

Duties are not voluntary. Duty and will are even contradictory terms. Now though civil society might be at first a voluntary act (which in many cases it undoubtedly was) its continuance is under a permanent standing covenant, coexisting with the society; and it attaches upon every individual of that society, without any formal act of his own. This is[160] warranted by the general practice, arising out of the general sense of mankind. Men without their choice derive benefits from that association; without their choice they are subjected to duties in consequence of these benefits; and without their choice they enter into a virtual obligation as binding as any that is actual.

Daniel said...

No offense meant to Jeremy, DNW or Timocrates but these sort of disputes reconfirm my suspicion that methodologically thinking the unbeing of the political/social is a necessary propaedeutic to grappling with the core problems of philosophy.

the individual human being derives his personhood from the corporate person of the family, which is the ultimate subsidiary of the community/nation. the general rights therein are life, property and religion; they are all subject to specifying conditions and privations.

Yo Hegel. Hear Napoleon's not doing so well in Russia.

Scott said...

"a community is not a collection of individual human beings since it pre-exists every particular individual."

Does it? In that case there must have been a time when there was a community that didn't yet have any individual members. Do you think there was?

I'd also expect it to continue to exist even if all individual human beings vanished from the face of the Earth. Do you think it would?

DNW said...

Scott said...

"a community is not a collection of individual human beings since it pre-exists every particular individual."

Does it? In that case there must have been a time when there was a community that didn't yet have any individual members. Do you think there was?

I'd also expect it to continue to exist even if all individual human beings vanished from the face of the Earth. Do you think it would?
February 28, 2015 at 8:56 AM "




Ladies and Gentlemen ... Elvis has left the building. And the audience. But the concert goes on. Or something.

DNW said...

Scott said...

"a community is not a collection of individual human beings since it pre-exists every particular individual."

Does it? In that case there must have been a time when there was a community that didn't yet have any individual members. Do you think there was?

I'd also expect it to continue to exist even if all individual human beings vanished from the face of the Earth. Do you think it would?

February 28, 2015 at 8:56 AM




Right. There are individuals of a certain biological pattern, and some give rise to others more or less like themselves, depending, and some of these influence the behavioral patterns and expectations of these offspring.

But what the hell a community is, as some apparently seem to mean it, I have virtually no idea.

Maybe they mean religious communities, which makes a kind of sense. I mean if you get up at 3 am every night to go into a chapel and sing songs in unison with a bunch of other like-minded folks in order to achieve some effect or purpose, that certainly seems as though it might qualify as something community-like; while it lasted, at least.

Now, that said, I must also admit that I did spend a great deal of time in Grosse Pointe for a pretty long while, and found it to be, and said it was, a very nice "community", without the least sense of irony.

The property taxes were high, but there were many amenities; the social atmosphere friendly and polite; the Village had a highly civilized charm of its own; and housing prices generally kept the nihilist eff-ups and their chaotic and disordered minds and behaviors at arm's length.

In a comparable neighborhood in Ann Arbor, your neighbor would be a flamboyantly obnoxious homosexual professor of Portuguese literature or something - and you would know all this within 6 minutes of encountering him - and bearded men in dresses would be marching up and down the sidewalk at all hours of the day and night.

Maybe when you get a collection of people like that together, and they like what they have done, you can call it a community, too.

But I have a suspicion that that is not what some philosophers have in mind when they speak of "community". They seem to think of it in terms of something almost organic, a kind of self-subsistent entity; if that were possible.

Reminds me of the debates about the ontological status of "culture", we used to have in historiography class.

Terms like "reification" come to mind.

Timocrates said...

@ DNW,

Please don't think that my stating of one specific Canadian right meant that in practice Canadians always enjoy more or greater rights than Americans.

Please remember that Canada has its present Constitution (the Charter of Rights and Freedoms) from 1982. It was formed partly in the light of the UNDHR - many concepts and rights are taken verbatim from the UNHDR.

Now making a new Constitution is a healthy process for a democracy as it sort of re-emphasizes and refocuses a democratic country around its fundamentals. Were America to review her Constitution broadly, I would expect a broad strengthening of core rights and freedoms and a renewed respect for them.

Now you say,

"'Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his
personality is possible.'

--- fascism, if you ask me. Or even if you don't."


Definitely not. Remember the UNDHR was written exactly to prevent a resurgence of totalitarian fascism. Aristotle, if you recall, in his ethics unites the happiness of man with the development and fulfillment of his nature and natural powers. This is why accomplishments bring us such satisfaction and joy. What the UNDHR is here affirming and defending is the right of individuals to develop within their natural social and civil context - remember again that man is a social animal. Depriving him of social development strictly speaking robs his of his happiness and is not only normally a painful experience, it can be destructive and - in extreme circumstances - outright lethal. There is a reason why, e.g., infant exposure or abandonment is considered infanticide or attempted infanticide pure and simple in almost every nation on earth. It is also why even those in prison are punished by prolonged isolation. It is also why most societies have a defensive and correctional procedure than involves social ostracism in hopes of defending the social body or correcting malefactors or behavior that is seen as dangerous or harmful. This, obviously, can be abused even to an extreme by governments to force conformity and even realize a virtual slavery by making social acceptance contingent on a number of practices that really destroys the individual's power to not only survive but thrive or develop. Orwell's 1984 is probably the most extreme example.

Timocrates said...

@ DNW,

Also recall that every citizen normally enjoys de facto eligibility for political office in a democratic country. This is in part to facilitate and guarantee as broad as possible an involvement of the citizens in their government and in policy debate and formation - the vote being the ultimate guarantee here, making each citizen potentially important to policy development via their vote, directly or indirectly (voting for/against a politician or directly on a question). But as it commonly known and taught in democracies, this power involves responsibility at least, as it were, objectively. With power comes responsibility - but responsibility for what? Not so much for what, but for whom: ultimately the criteria for responsibility are moral and social.

Hence,

"Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his
personality is possible."


And again for instance, I believe Professor Feser once pointed out why it was wrong to endanger individual's sexual reputation by, e.g., insinuating that they are gay as this has serious consequences for his social status via his eligibility for marriage. Similarly insinuating that a woman is promiscuous will almost necessarily have repercussions for her eligibility for marriage as the best suitors will likely avoid her for fear of infidelity. But marriage is of course a deeply social and community involved act that affects everyone. It also involves responsibility and duty; but to impose criteria arbitrarily, for example, by the State could be ruinous for individuals or again become a means of totalitarian social control. Hence in the UNDHR marriage is specially treated and protected as well as the natural family itself.

Timocrates said...

@ DNW,

The problems you bring up with the notion of community are quite real. And thinking about this philosophically, my first instinct and consideration is to - however difficult or problematic it seems - to lean towards the necessary existence or presupposition of community for man, because man is a social animal. I might also make an argument for the necessary pre-existence of community for man from the fact of tabula rasa.

Now the ontological status of community is certainly tricky and I can see your point about the danger of a reification; and to be sure, it is highly bizarre to think of a community absent any actual or existing individual members.

Still, the mark of orthodox philosophy is often the avoidance of absolute extremes and bringing a harmony or synthesis to the data, howbeit ever seemingly contradictory. A community does seem to exist in its own right and I do not think community is something ultimately fictitious. I mean to speak of a lack of community does seem perfectly reasonable.

DNW said...

Since this is the weekend and I plan on leaving the office [not doing anything important] momentarily, any potentially substantive reply may have to wait.

But a couple of observations in no particular order.

You say,
"Now the ontological status of community is certainly tricky and I can see your point about the danger of a reification; and to be sure, it is highly bizarre to think of a community absent any actual or existing individual members."

"A community of what?" we might ask. Of individual persons? Of their interests? If so, how defined? Voluntary? Involuntary?

I believe that most people would agree that mere or perfunctory "association" does not imply "society" as many would like to use that term; and that society does not imply "community", in the sense some would wish to give it.

Others would differ of course. Marx apparently thought anyone you had once had exchange relationships with constituted part of your society; like some tar baby you had once touched, and which then stuck to your hand forever more.

Perhaps the dictionary could be our friend here.


You also say,

" I might also make an argument for the necessary pre-existence of community for man from the fact of tabula rasa."

You take the "tabula rasa" to be a fact?

and,


"Please don't think that my stating of one specific Canadian right meant that in practice Canadians always enjoy more or greater rights than Americans.

Please remember that Canada has its present Constitution (the Charter of Rights and Freedoms) from 1982. It was formed partly in the light of the UNDHR - many concepts and rights are taken verbatim from the UNHDR. "



Yes, I was in college then, and I remember seeing Willard Estey remark on the effects of it on stare decisis in Canada

And, I take it that you do acknowledge then that the "core" document to which you referred, was in fact the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It seemed to be, given that I was able to reproduce a clause from just above the one you quoted.


In any event, where we are going with the "community" you seem to be referring to, is into the territory of "positive liberty".

Which of course, is merely a way of stipulating that some must be compelled to non-reciprocally self-sacrifice their interests for the interests of others: On some basis or another which must then be identified.

How does one pull of this trick?

When one tries to arbitrate the weight of liberty interests in relation to the legitimacy of compulsions, it never really gets you anywhere other than some schema - usually utilitarian - and always with question begging assumptions even if supposedly not utilitarian, as with Rawls.

Or, outright for the sake of the state per se rather than for the individuals who institute it; which is of course pretty much the definition of the dreaded F word.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Scott,

Does it? In that case there must have been a time when there was a community that didn't yet have any individual members. Do you think there was?

I'd also expect it to continue to exist even if all individual human beings vanished from the face of the Earth. Do you think it would?


What you imply is correct. There is no community without individuals. However, as Roger Scruton points out, there is a sense in which communities and social associations are more than the sum of the individuals that make them up. They help to constitute and regulate the identity of those who significantly engage with them.

DNW,

Whilst it is certainly true that the individual is the end of politics, and we must not loose sight of him in our respect for social associations, especially the more abstract and general forms most beloved of collectivists, you seem to be straying somewhat towards the other excess of liberal atomistic individualism. Surely, it has always been the concern of conservatism, at least traditional conservatism, to balance try and balance the rights and liberties of then individual with his undeniable social nature. In particular, the traditional conservative has always been alive to the importance of numerous intermediate social associations, like family, Churches, and local community in the life of the individual. As Robert Nisbet puts it:

Conservatives, from Burke on, have tended to see the population much in the manner medieval legists and philosophical realists (in contrast to nominalists) saw it: as composed of, not individuals directly, but the natural groups within which individuals invariably live: family, locality, church, region, social class, nation, and so on. Individuals exist, of course, but they cannot be seen or comprehended save in terms of social identities which are inseparable from groups and associations.

Moreover, this seems to have a lot in common with Aristotelian anthropology and sociology (which shouldn't be surprising, as Aristotle has been influential on traditional conservatism).

Jeremy Taylor said...

DNW,

In any event, where we are going with the "community" you seem to be referring to, is into the territory of "positive liberty".

Well, the dichotomy of positive and negative liberty is a liberal one. Surely, the conservative, like the Aristotelian, has tended to see liberty, not as an abstract nor as just being left alone, but as connected to man's human nature. Indeed, the conservative, or traditionalist, has cared less about liberty than about liberties, which are intertwined with the innumerable natural supports of social order and organisation. To quote Robert Nisbet again, who is perhaps premier recent conservative spokesman on the relationship of the individual to the community:

The conservative philosophy of liberty proceeds from the conservative philosophy of authority. It is the existence of authority in the social order that staves off encroachments of power from the political sphere. Conservatism, from Burke on, has perceived society as a plurality of authorities. There is the authority of parent over the small child, of the priest over the communicant, the teacher over the pupil, the master over the apprentice, and so on. Society as we actually observe it, is a network or tissue of such authorities; they are really numberless when we think of the kinds of authority which lie within even the smallest and human groups and relationships. Such authority may be loose, gentle, protective, and designed to produce individuality, but it is authority nevertheless. For the conservative, individual freedom lies in the interstices of social and moral authority. Only because of the restraining and guiding effects of such authority does it become possible for human beings to sustain so liberal a political government as that which the Founding Fathers designed in this country and which flourished in England from the late seventeenth century on. Remove the social bonds, as the more zealous and uncompromising of libertarian individualists have proposed ever since William Godwin, and you emerge with, not a free but a chaotic people, not with creative but impotent individuals. Human nature, Balzac correctly wrote, cannot endure a moral vacuum.

Daniel said...

~Jeremy,

. However, as Roger Scruton points out, there is a sense in which communities and social associations are more than the sum of the individuals that make them up. They help to constitute and regulate the identity of those who significantly engage with them.

But surely the latter point amounts to the whole question i.e. one must be able to judge whether or not a society should be significantly engaged with (in the case of 21st century Britain I err on the negative). This would only be 'liberal individualism' in the pejorative sense if that individualism was taken in an ultra-voluntarism sense in which the person could literally judge in any way they liked regardless of its truth.

Conservatives, from Burke on, have tended to see the population much in the manner medieval legists and philosophical realists (in contrast to nominalists) saw it: as composed of, not individuals directly, but the natural groups within which individuals invariably live: family, locality, church, region, social class, nation, and so on. Individuals exist, of course, but they cannot be seen or comprehended save in terms of social identities which are inseparable from groups and associations.

Moreover, this seems to have a lot in common with Aristotelian anthropology and sociology (which shouldn't be surprising, as Aristotle has been influential on traditional conservatism).


Hmm these might highlight the more detrimental side of Aristotelian ethics i.e. a tendency towards Biologism. Ultimately the person is destined to be 'alone with the Alone', to appear naked in their very soul before God as Kierkegaard put it, and I am sceptical as to what extent appeals to social institutions or groups would have any meaning in this ultimate context save perhaps as an appeal to ignorance as it were (not that one literally appeals to God of course only that a terrible action on a person's part might be in part down to cultural pressure and not overt evil intent - even then though a person should be able to realise the wrongness of an action by rational reflection).

(For what it’s worth I don’t disagree with Scruton about cultures and nations having axiological properties beyond the sum of their parts; I’m only stressing that the formation has to be bottom up as opposed to top down).

Scott said...

@Jeremy Taylor:

"[A]s Roger Scruton points out, there is a sense in which communities and social associations are more than the sum of the individuals that make them up."

I hardly need Roger Scruton to tell me that. All I denied was that communities pre-exist (or outlive) all of their individuals members.

We need community in order to actualize our potencies/manifest our essences as social animals, and certainly the communities to which we belong are of central importance in the formation of our characters, personalities, and so forth—including the development of our virtues (some of which are themselves irreducibly social). But a human being without any sort of community would still exist (albeit in an unimaginably impoverished state); a community with no members would not.

Or to put it Daniel's way: the formation of a community is bottom-up rather than top-down. No doubt there are final causes involved and these could be said to "pre-exist" the community in a way, but the formal causes that aim at them are within the individual humans, not hovering over them like a cloud.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Daniel,

As to voluntary nature of social associations, I'm don't believe all our duties to them are voluntary. I don't even think they have to be legally, rather than just morally, voluntary. For example, I don't think the Roman Paterfamilias held an intrinsically immoral or illegitimate power, and yet he wielded a legal as well as a moral authority over his family.

Scruton's and my own point was not just about nations, far from it. It is what Nisbet would call intermediate social asociations - like family, local community, churches, and so on - which are more important. It has been the mark of traditional conservatism to be concerned with these essential aspects of society and culture, whilst others have tended to neglect them in favour of individualism or collectivism.

I'm not sure what you mean when you refer to Aristotelian ethics. I was referring to his sociology more than his ethics. It is perfectly true that man transcends society in his spiritual core. But, so far as his mundane existence is concerned, Aristotle and the conservative, I think, are more accurate than much of the liberal tradition, beginning with Hobbes and Locke, as well as the various collectivists.

Also I'm not sure that man is supposed to be naked in his soul, if that implies that society is contrary to his spiritual ends. I agree, as Philip Sherrard has argued, that there is a temptation within the Aristotelian perspective to see man's spiritual life as contained within his social and political existence, as was sometimes seen in the classical world. Our spiritual ends are beyond society, beyond human social existence. But God made us social and cultural beings and I think the perfect man is social and cultural, though he is much more as well. Some of the great mystical and spiritual traditions of the world have emphasised this in their anti-ascetic attitude. The Sufis are an obvious example. They have tended to stress that even the mystic should live in society.

Scott,

But I presume Anonymous was simply referring to the fact that social associations are constitutive to those who make them up. I doubt he meant that the community or a social association can survive without individuals.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Daniel,

When it comes to Britain - or England (which Briton - except for recent immigrants - thought of his nation as Britain and not England, Scotland, Wales, Ulster, or even Cornwall) - I agree, by the way. In the contemporary West, not only are our nations of dubious morality to a traditional conservative and Christian, but our local communities and other intermediate social associations have been greatly run down. This is even the case for the family. But I think we have all suffered because of this.

DNW said...

" Jeremy Taylor said...

DNW,

'In any event, where we are going with the "community" you seem to be referring to, is into the territory of "positive liberty'.

Well, the dichotomy of positive and negative liberty is a liberal one. Surely, the conservative, like the Aristotelian, has tended to see liberty, not as an abstract nor as just being left alone, but as connected to man's human nature. Indeed, the conservative, or traditionalist, has cared less about liberty than about liberties, which are intertwined with the innumerable natural supports of social order and organisation. To quote Robert Nisbet again, who is perhaps premier recent conservative spokesman on the relationship of the individual to the community: ..."



I think I'll allow myself to ramble here a bit.

So, again, I suppose we have to investigate just what it is that constitutes a "community". And I must admit it's a word that generally causes me to emotionally recoil: here come the effen Pod People or something.

And I further suppose, that that is why many of us who sympathize with the moderate realist position, at least so far as believing that the alternatives are more or less logically incoherent or even outright ridiculous, still do not think of ourselves as thoroughgoing conservatives, even if our personal tastes and moral sensibilities are pretty traditional.

The great thing about a libertarian polity is that you can - or once could - let the insistently obnoxious do their thing, AND die in a ditch of their own choosing.

Of course that offends some people's sense of community. And not only modern liberal collectivists, obviously.

I would figure that among Christians who are convinced that the stakes are eternal for the apostate-reprobate as well as the faithful, they would see the other as a fellow in some sense much deeper than mere taxonomy - even if that taxonomy represented real categories or natural kinds to some significant degree.

[By the way, does anyone know why progressives so often place the term, "the other", in quotes as in a phrase such as, " ... your indifference to 'the other' is ..."

Do they not believe (as good little nominalists, and moral pluralists) that they do in fact qualify as "the other"?]


So at any rate ... (next comment)

DNW said...

So, at any rate, as I was saying, it is fairly easy to see how a monastic establishment, for example, could be well said to be "a community" in a sense which would seemingly meet all the criteria most of us would think of as defining a community.

It's an association not only for a common end, but for the purpose of realizing that end through shared effort. Those who wanted to engage in spiritual contemplation only, could live as solitaries in beehive cells on some rock in the Atlantic.

So no problem in seeing monks in an abbey as some kind of community.

And you could think of towns wherein most of the inhabitants had to make a conscious decision to move or remain there, and lived there because they liked both their neighbors and the amenities, and were willing to sacrifice something for their well-being, (and not just because they wanted to free ride off those more intelligent and generous than they) as a kind of community too.

However when it comes to federal level politics, I just don't see it. We don't share the same values, nor purposes. We don't view the same lifeways as equally estimable or even tolerable. And how to make a "community" out of both parasites and their unwilling hosts, seems to me to be a very difficult if not absurd proposition.

But actually, it is one that the progressive class is continually inching closer to admitting as the fundamental premise: workers, and their directors, and the dependent clients of the directors, and how to make that some kind of community of affect.

'How affecting', as they say.

DNW said...

I suppose the last remarks I'd like to make in my little ramble here, regard the fundamental premisses of properly grounded [premiss in the syllogistic sense] association.

Probably most of us would agree that the classically liberal yet natural law influenced view was that association was based on the principle of reciprocity. At least that's the impression I got from reading Fuller.

Now, that is a species of "mutual benefit" that probably looks like weak beer to more "community minded" types.

But in terms of constitutional politics it works pretty well. And that say rights recognized by the law as pertaining to members of the political class in the age of their majority are to be distributive, say in the case of the right to keep and bear arms, instead of figurative or vicarious, as some so-called republican/communitarian theorists would have it, seems in line with this kind of concrete reasoning.

On the other hand, conservatives seem to be operating off of a principle of complementarity: assessing some what others are not assessed, yet granting to those so assessed certain more or less direct compensations.


In the case of progressives, they have - except for rhetorical purposes - abandoned disinterested fairness, in favor of compensatory fairness. They don't actually intend to return value to each and every honest hardworking producer who has had it appropriated by the big bad capitalist, they intend to keep it for broad "social purposes" and impute to you a return of value in the form of a politically dominated social order which they find more pleasing and thus "just".

In line with this we can bear in mind once again that famous axiom of Marx' I and many others have so often pointed to when he was discussing so-called "equality": "From each according to his ability and to each according to his need"

"Need", that is, as determined by an expert class presumably. Until the state withers away completely and all alienation disappears for ever and ever till death us do part. In any case, the real and fundamental presumption is, as the old song goes, that "You belong to me".


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/From_each_according_to_his_ability,_to_each_according_to_his_need

Jeremy Taylor said...

DNW,

You say that the a moderate realist position is not a thoroughgoing conservative one and seem to link it to libertarianism or classical liberalism.

I find this a strange way of framing of it. I would say that the Aristotelian position is close to the one outlined by Nisbet (the medieval realist he is referring to are the realist Schoolmen). The Aristotelian has always seen man as a social animal, enmeshed within social associations, whose natural ends cannot be developed but within society and culture, in just the same way as the traditional conservative has. The classical conservatives- Burke, Bonald, Maistre - were clearly influenced by the Aristotelian tradition. I would say that in this the traditional conservative owes far more to Aristotle and the Schoolmen than to Plato (who Nisbet was suspicious of).

And Aristotelianism was one of the positions which the proto- and early liberals like Hobbes and Locke reacted to with their new and individualistic anthropology. The early liberals were heavily critiqued for not beginning with man as a social animal who existed healthily only in families, local communities, and polities - and Aristotelian position and Aristotle and the Schoolmen were often explicitly invoked, even by Protestants.

The (or one) with libertarianism, with classical liberalism, is that, just as the Marxist will often claim not to be a collectivist but will rarely be able to achieve it, liberalism rarely escapes atomistic individualism. Those classical liberals who have avoided an unrealistic and dangerous individualism - like Tocqueville and Lamennais - have tended to be heavily influenced by conservatism.

One of the great dangers of atomistic individualism is it tends to lead to collectivism, to a concern with a abstract and large collective above all. This is because it weakens those numerous intermediate associations that give men the ability to resist the encroachments of centralised collectivism, both in economic and material terms and in psychological terms. Indeed, men grave community. Take away the bonds of family and local and voluntary community and many will look to the centralised state as the only substitute. Indeed, a certain amount of permissive individualism is not necessarily opposed by a centralising state, because of its corrosive effects on the intermediate associations that such a state sees as its rivals.

Jeremy Taylor said...

- that should have been The (or one) problem of libertarians....

DNW said...

Jeremy Taylor said...

DNW,

You say that the a moderate realist position is not a thoroughgoing conservative one and seem to link it to libertarianism or classical liberalism."


Did I? Maybe.

But what I thought that I said, was this:

" ... I further suppose, that that is why many of us who sympathize with the moderate realist position, at least so far as believing that the alternatives are more or less logically incoherent or even outright ridiculous, still do not think of ourselves as thoroughgoing conservatives, even if our personal tastes and moral sensibilities are pretty traditional."

Maybe that repeat, will clarify.

I'll also reread what I wrote to make sure I didn't lose track myself.

Daniel said...

Gloves off: What if anything is 'Moderate Realism'? As far as I can see it's just an excuse for the Neoschlastics to get in some jibes against a strawman version of Platonism. The Neoscholastic will drive on about how moderate their theory is, how the universal is almost nothing, and then piously admit in an aside or footnote that universals exist pre-instantiation in the Divine Intellect, a statement which though not an admission of anything like modern 'Platonism' is a complete recantment of the 'ohh so moderate and earthy' bit.

If it allows transcendent, uninstantiated universals then Scholastic Realism can do all the things a Platonic theory can do in terms of predication et cetera whilst being far more parsimonious and not leaving us with any worries about free-floating Abstract Objects. In other words it's truly a third option and not just a middle ground.

DNW said...

Daniel said...

Gloves off: What if anything is 'Moderate Realism'? As far as I can see it's just an excuse for the Neoschlastics to get in some jibes against a strawman version of Platonism."


You didn't ask me. But since I have not contributed much in the way of light rather than heat I'll reveal that ...

As best I recall from class, it begins with the doctrine of abstraction, as the explanation for that which is predicable of the many.

And, as I also seem to recall, it was contrasted - as far as a theory of knowledge of essences or identities went - with the idea of illumination, or participation in a creative intellect.

Now, somewhere between Divine illumination concerning eternal and unchangeable forms on the one hand, and flatus vocis nominalism on the other hand - one so extreme that it aligns with the postmodern insanity that the application of the label is all that class members have in common - lies the doctrine that natural kinds likely exist, and that we can identify certain attributes which constitute the 'that without which', it is pointless to include something under X label.

On the far realist side, one has magic, or at least mystery, illumination. On the really radical nominalist side, one has a doctrine of more or less magic words, which somehow are supposed to impart socially useful identities to things radically not the same. (Though this latter description seems hyperbolic I have encountered it in progressives who were on the brink of becoming subjective idealists of the most lunatic kind, whether they quite realized it or not)

Well, that about covers my two semesters of Medieval Philosophy, and part of Scholastic Metaphysics - of the most generic Catholic handbook kind - as well.

Others can take up the challenge from here, and begin discussing Augustine, Roscelin, and Abelard.
I'll look in and see where it takes you.

John West said...

DNW,

On the far realist side, one has magic, or at least mystery, illumination.

Could you clarify what you mean by magic?

DNW said...

John West said...

DNW,

On the far realist side, one has magic, or at least mystery, illumination.

Could you clarify what you mean by magic?
March 2, 2015 at 6:07 PM "


Yes, it's a loose, casual, or even flippant term for a process with an apparent description or result, but no convincing procesual explanation that I can recall. Which is why I included the term "mystery".

I'll take a look at my copies of Copleston and Gilson and so forth and see if the review reveals just how exactly the process of illumination is supposed to unfold.

I recall the claims made for it. Not the mechanism. I had the impression that consistent with certain assumed principles,there may not have been one.

Happy to be shown otherwise ...

John West said...

Yes, it's a loose, casual, or even flippant term for a process with an apparent description or result, but no convincing procesual explanation that I can recall. Which is why I included the term "mystery".

I'm not so sure about illumination, so I may just lack some of the terms. If you mean instantiation, I think it's usually taken as a primitive relation.

In fact, one advantage of Scholastic Realism over Platonism is that it ties the Forms up with a causal entity.

That said, since I've never seen an analysis or explanation of how God causes anything, I'm not sure God-causation is all that much less foggy and ambiguous than Platonic instantiation. In fact, how God causes seems largely ignored. God's omnipotent. He just can[1], and does. But, as much as I loathe admitting it, that's not much clearer than descriptions of Platonic instantiation.


[1]If there is some attempt at analyzing or explaining how God causes, I would be genuinely interested. I've been looking. I just haven't been able to find anything.

Jeremy Taylor said...

DNW,

Sorry, I should have said you seem to say a moderate realist doesn't have to be a thoroughgoing conservatism and can be connected to libertarianism and classical liberalism. If by moderate realism one is referring to Aristotelianism, and if by conservatism we are focusing on its great respect for intermediate social associations, I just think this is wrong, at least unless one is referring to a conservative liberalism like that of Tocqueville.


On the far realist side, one has magic, or at least mystery, illumination.

I presume by illumination you are referring to illuminationism of those like Augustine, Al-Farabi, and Suhrawardi. I'm far from an expert, but I think these figures and others, or at least some of them, argued at length for their position.

Also, I don't think that the term magic is helpful in this instance, if it is meant to convey a distinction between rational philosophy and mystical-tinged thought. Indeed, I don't even think Daniel's use of the phrase free-floating abstract objects, though he also seems to share some of my sentiments in his comment about pretentions to be earthy and moderate. Maybe it is not what either of you mean, but I don't think as traditional Christians and like minded people we should necessarily be afraid of acknowledging the existence of mystical processes or angelic beings or a chain of being or creative imagination or intellect.

John West said...

He just can, and does.

... And, of course, we have good, demonstrative arguments for these facts.

Unknown said...

I generally use 'free floating' as a short hand for the modern view of Platonism as necessarily existing Abstract Objects existing independently of God/the One, if indeed the modern 'Platonist' affirms the existence of the Deity in the first place. Early Russell would be an example of a modern 'Platonist'. In general the standard Thomist reading of Plato is along these lines.

Of course Scholastic and indeed before that Neoplatonic view holds that the Forms are tied up with or grounded in the One (as did Plato himself I suspect). Thomas, in reading Aristotle as affirming Divine Exemplars, actually ceases to be a 'moderate realist' as the manulists like to term it, and ends up just a Platonic as Augustine albeit with a very different approach to epistemological questions.

@DNW,

The account you give of 'vague theories' of illumination is true in as much as it fits with views some of the early Scholastics held deriving from a certain (probably correct) reading of Augustine. The unsatisfactory aspect here is the epistemological account of how we perceive universals rather than the status of universals themselves though.

Modern Platonists like Husserl or, one assumes, early Russell, take a similar Empiricist line to that of the Scholastics and claim that most of the time we only become acquainted with the universal through perception of a particular instance of it or intellectual development from one e.g. horse to unicorn.

@Jeremy,

Maybe it is not what either of you mean, but I don't think as traditional Christians and like minded people we should necessarily be afraid of acknowledging the existence of mystical processes or angelic beings or a chain of being or creative imagination or intellect.

I presume by illumination you are referring to illuminationism of those like Augustine, Al-Farabi, and Suhrawardi. I'm far from an expert, but I think these figures and others, or at least some of them, argued at length for their position.

I agree though of course one has to be careful not to presuppose such entities and faculties if one is arguing against Naturalistic accounts.

Out of interest Mehdi Yazdi wrote a famous study elaborating and defending Suhrawardi’s theory of knowledge in reference to phenomenology and various Analytical accounts.

http://www.amazon.com/Principles-Epistemology-Islamic-Philosophy-Spirituality/dp/0791409481/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1425382312&sr=1-1

Daniel said...

Err that was me in case people didn't guess.

John West said...

Daniel,

Of course Scholastic and indeed before that Neoplatonic view holds that the Forms are tied up with or grounded in the One (as did Plato himself I suspect). Thomas, in reading Aristotle as affirming Divine Exemplars, actually ceases to be a 'moderate realist' as the manulists like to term it, and ends up just a Platonic as Augustine albeit with a very different approach to epistemological questions.

For the record, I included this Neoplatonic view in with Scholastic Realism. When someone writes about Platonism, I assume they mean the "free-floating Forms" view.

DNW said...

From various:


"I presume by illumination you are referring to illuminationism of those like Augustine, Al-Farabi, and Suhrawardi. "

Augustine, yes. Al-Farabi, I don't recall much more than the name; though our friend Wikipedia's passage on him titled epistemology and eschatology, seems to make him a moderate realist using Platonic illuminationist terms as a kind of overlay. On one reading of the paragraph on the agent intellect ... less the mumbo-jumbo about the Sun and Moon, he seems almost to be talking about gaining knowledge of essences through praxis driven abstraction.


"Suhrawardi"

Never heard of him.

"... I think ... least some of them, argued at length for their position. "

Maybe that guy I never heard of.


"The unsatisfactory aspect here is the epistemological account of how we perceive universals rather than the status of universals themselves though."

Granting for the moment that a realm of forms is unproblematic, that is right. How do you come to "know" them? As Copleston says in Volume II, in a passage I read last night: from one angle the problem of universals resolves into an epistemological question.

Which made me happy to read, since it reassured me that I had said nothing exceptional myself in making the same natural implication yesterday: "as far as a theory of knowledge of essences or identities went"



" I agree though of course one has to be careful not to presuppose such entities and faculties if one is arguing against Naturalistic accounts. "


Yes, that seems to be the point, doesn't it.

John West said...

DNW,

Granting for the moment that a realm of forms is unproblematic, that is right. How do you come to "know" them? As Copleston says in Volume II, in a passage I read last night: from one angle the problem of universals resolves into an epistemological question.

I think the traditional Platonist would argue with Daniel that the burden of proof is on the naturalists. It's up to them to prove there isn't a mind's eye. But leaving that aside a moment:

At least in philosophy of mathematics, the epistemological objection sits on the back of a dubious causal theory of knowledge (CTK), so most realists in philosophy of mathematics would start by attacking the CTK.

After that, one answer comes from postulational epistemologies like Michael Resnik's. Another is to take this question as asking how you "know" in an explicitly externalist sense. On that front, if all possible consistent mathematical Forms exist, all you have to do is rigorously prove a mathematical statement is consistent. Then you know the corresponding mathematical entity exists.

The epistemological problem is probably worse for other areas of Platonism, like moral Platonism though. It would be interesting to hear how a moral Platonist responds to it.

John West said...

I wonder if Ed has seen Massimo Pigliucci's recent article yet. Pigliucci starts Metaphysics and (lack of) grounding:

I must admit to always having had a troubled relationship with metaphysics. My first exposure to it was during my three years of philosophy in high school (in Italy), where the bulk of our exposure to metaphysics came down to the medieval Scholastics (of course, we also studied Aristotle and Descartes, among others). The Scholastics still have a bad reputation in philosophical circles, where the very term “Scholasticism” is a polite synonym for mental masturbation, despite the fact that medieval logicians actually did excellent work (think William of Ockham and Buridan, to name just a couple) [1,2]. As a teenager prone to (intellectual) rebelliousness, though, I couldn’t but reject the Scholastics.

DNW said...

John West said...

"DNW,

'Granting for the moment that a realm of forms is unproblematic, that is right. How do you come to "know" them? As Copleston says in Volume II, in a passage I read last night: from one angle the problem of universals resolves into an epistemological question.'

I think the traditional Platonist would argue with Daniel that the burden of proof is on the naturalists. It's up to them to prove there isn't a mind's eye. But leaving that aside a moment ... "



Really? It is up to the naturalist to prove that a "mind's eye" whatever that may be supposed to mean, does not exist?


And this I think points to the problem with ultra-realism, or exaggerated realism or whatever you want to label it: whose realism, and what forms?

As Copleston says, while admitting the question might be seen as naive: where are they?

I took a few minutes last night and also and went to Schoedinger and the essay by Abelard on the question of universals, http://www.amazon.com/Readings-Medieval-Philosophy-Andrew-Schoedinger/dp/0195092937

... and the least you can say about it is that the case Abelard makes (in this amazingly idiomatic translation) is understandable as far as the mechanics of it goes.

We can all understand and appreciate what it is to focus on some particular aspect of a phenomenon, or thing such as a bowl, and consider to its general shape and function apart from its material of wood, or ceramic, or metal, and the contents or color or placement.

Now you might in fact be able to make a case that "bowlness" can be described in terms of mathematical objects instead of man-relative function and form, but how in the world that applies to every conceivable term predicable of the many, is beyond me, unless all reality is taken to be in the final reduction, not much more than an expression of some emanating proportions. Or something ...

But, how do you claim to know that? Geometry?

John West said...

DNW,

Yes, really. But I'll let Jeremy Taylor or someone defend the notion of a Nous and noetic knowledge.

Now you might in fact be able to make a case that "bowlness" can be described in terms of mathematical objects instead of man-relative function and form, but how in the world that applies to every conceivable term predicable of the many, is beyond me, unless all reality is taken to be in the final reduction, not much more than an expression of some emanating proportions. Or something ...

But, how do you claim to know that? Geometry?


I'm not really sure what you're getting at here. But I treat "Do mathematical objects exist?" and "How do you know about them?" as distinct questions. I don't feel obligated to answer the first question when asked the second.

As for the first question, I would probably open with an indispensability argument, grounding mathematical objects firmly in our best scientific theories, and run the perfectness objection against Aristotelian realism (and probably ask about the multiple locations problem Aristotelian realism has).

That leaves either Scholastic Realism or Platonism. I hold to the former, but I think both are equally open to "the incredulous stare". And, on that score, I agree with Jeremy Taylor's comment that it's odd for "Christians and like minded people" to find such non-spatiotemporal objects weird.* In fact, unless there's an argument for creatio ex nihilo, I find saying God couldn't create necessarily existing objects no more troublesome for a Deistic classical theist position like Daniel's than saying God can't create-a-rock-too-heavy-for-God-to-lift; necessary objects just aren't the sort of things that can be created.


*Though, I may be especially prone to this sort of reaction at "incredulity objections". I live in the center of Canada, not the Eastern US or Bible Belt. The incredulous stare is the response all my philosophy professors give to theism. In fact, when I mentioned Thomism to a metaphysics professor he just chuckled, ignored me, and went and sat at his desk. I know what it's like to be on the receiving end.

John West said...

If all your saying is that such could apply to mathematical Forms, but not necessarily Forms of properties, then I agree. Like I said, the epistemological problem may be more difficult for others, like Platonic property realists. It doesn't follow that just because not every Form exists, that one kind of Forms don't exist.

Though, I think we can provide mathematical descriptions of properties like colours. Maybe someone could argue the truthmakers for propositions like "red is closer to orange than blue." are mathematical entities corresponding to mathematical description of the colour spectrum.

I don't know. Like I wrote, I wasn't making claims for all types of Platonism. But I don't see why that's problematic; I don't find either Platonism or Scholastic Realism
especially more weird than the other.

John West said...

As Copleston says, while admitting the question might be seen as naive: where are they?

Well, Coplestone is right. That is extremely naieve. Like God, they would be non-spatiotemporal entities. “Where?” has nothing to do with it. It's a spatiotemporal term.

I suppose this goes into Daniel's "earthy" jibe.

And this I think points to the problem with ultra-realism, or exaggerated realism or whatever you want to label it: whose realism, and what forms?

Well, whichever ones you're arguing for. Philosophers may disagree on specifics, but philosophers disagree on everything. If their disagreement constitutes an argument, then it's an argument against everything.

DNW said...

So we have an ostensible explanatory system based on entities which exist nowhere and cannot be identified with certainty.

Entities which, just might be the result of some Creative intellect or force. On the other hand, they might not.

In addition, it is impossible to say just how they manage to constitute themselves in the reality we experience, or even how we come to know them; since knowledge of them (at least the variety we are talking about here) is apparently the result of some form of "illumination", rather than an explicable outgrowth of the usual ways of gaining experience with, and thus knowledge of "things".

Neither can we say, just how extensively or how broadly these forms, or "universals", to preserve the term, are manifest in our population of ontological references. Some things we have general names for and which we may predicate of a number of objects, may have forms; others, may not.

And just how many forms for say, the universal term "man" there are and just how individual men are linked - I almost said "instantiated" here - to the non spatio-temporal universal or form of man, if there is one, is unresolved. Maybe there is just one man, like a colony of aspens or mushrooms or something.

This linkage problem is of course forthrightly acknowledged. But then no one ever pesters God as to just how he pulls his activities off, so maybe that issue should not be considered a problem here either.

Perhaps the forms are not even God dependent, since under some forms of Platonism, there is no God.

That certainly solves the question of how God does it - He doesn't - since under that schema he doesn't exist and can therefore do nothing. But then, if the Godless forms exist on their own, so to speak, they somehow get from the non spatio-temporal "realm" we have stipulated as their home, to the spatio-temporal we usually experience. But we don't know how this would work either.

In any event, we should never discount the influence of angelic beings as having a role in all of this.

And of course when it comes to doctrines related to the Platonic realm - whatever and however it might be, if it is - it is wise to be aware of the special temptation, and especially when it comes to this topic, of assuming your Platonic conclusion on the basis of a religious commitment, and then arguing in circles for it.

We should not do that by any means. And if we do choose to do it, we should at least bear it in mind.

But, other than those few quibbles ... I would say that on balance Platonism is much less crazy than radical nominalism. Substantially less so. Yes, quite a bit less, definitely and noticeably less, if you look at it just right.

John West said...

DNW,

So we have an ostensible explanatory system based on entities which exist nowhere and cannot be identified with certainty.

But we have demonstrative arguments for the non-spatiotemporal entities. Moreover, it is hypocritical to have ontological commitment to one non-spatiotemporal entity – God – and then poor scorn on others who hold to the existence of other non-spatiotemporal entities. If non-spatiotemporal entities can exist, they can exist, and we should poor scorn on no one for ontological commitment to non-spatiotemporal entities[1].

Neither can we say, just how extensively or how broadly these forms, or "universals", to preserve the term, are manifest in our population of ontological references. Some things we have general names for and which we may predicate of a number of objects, may have forms; others, may not.

Clearly, there is no reason to believe either that every predicate refers to an entity, or Form, or even that every predicate is meaningful. Quine puts it well, but so does D. M. Armstrong.

And just how many forms for say, the universal term "man" there are and just how individual men are linked - I almost said "instantiated" here - to the non spatio-temporal universal or form of man, if there is one, is unresolved. Maybe there is just one man, like a colony of aspens or mushrooms or something.

See my previous comment. I've never argued for the Form of Man, I've only defended the plausibility of Platonism about mathematical entities. I'm not sure why this is brought up.

This linkage problem is of course forthrightly acknowledged. But then no one ever pesters God as to just how he pulls his activities off, so maybe that issue should not be considered a problem here either.

Comparisons are always between more than one thing. In this case the comparison is between more than one ontology. For mathematical realism, the only viable alternative to Platonism is Scholastic Realism, and instantiation is not much more mysterious than God-causation. Unless there is some other option that avoids such a problem, the point is relevant.


[1] I just realized that I'm not actually sure you're a theist. I've been assuming you are. If not, I apologize.

John West said...

That certainly solves the question of how God does it - He doesn't - since under that schema he doesn't exist and can therefore do nothing. But then, if the Godless forms exist on their own, so to speak, they somehow get from the non spatio-temporal "realm" we have stipulated as their home, to the spatio-temporal we usually experience. But we don't know how this would work either.

See my previous reply “Comparisons [...] causation” and my reply to your first paragraph “But we [...] entities[1]”.

And of course when it comes to doctrines related to the Platonic realm - whatever and however it might be, if it is - it is wise to be aware of the special temptation, and especially when it comes to this topic, of assuming your Platonic conclusion on the basis of a religious commitment, and then arguing in circles for it.

Well, theism doesn't need to be religious. But my complaint is when people sometimes run strident “weirdness objections” against Platonic entities, but have ontological commitment to other non-spatiotemporal entities like angels, and demons (?), and God. Those of us who have ontological commitment to non-spatiotemporal entities oughtn't to be pouring strident scorn on other entities' lack of being spatiotemporal in the shape of "weirdness objections".

I don't, of course, assume Platonism on the basis of religious commitment – and, as I've written, wouldn't were I a Platonist; and so, on the point about religious commitment, I agree.

But, other than those few quibbles ... I would say that on balance Platonism is much less crazy than radical nominalism. Substantially less so. Yes, quite a bit less, definitely and noticeably less, if you look at it just right.

The advantages of Scholastic Realism over Platonism are that it's more parsimonious while accounting the same facts, Scholastic Realism ties the Forms up with a causal entity, and we can prove God's omnipotence and leverage that into a plenitudinous view of His Ideas, which gives strong justification for the Balaguer-like, externalist epistemology I mentioned earlier in response to epistemological objections (like Benacerraf's).

I agree about radical nominalisms.

John West said...

... and then poor scorn on others who hold to the existence of other non-spatiotemporal entities. If non-spatiotemporal entities can exist, they can exist, and we should poor scorn on no one for ontological commitment to non-spatiotemporal entities[1].

And in case it wasn't obvious, I mean we shouldn't be pouring scorn on them because of the non-spatiotemporality I keep mentioning.

I thought this worth reiterating to avoid confusion about, "Well what if it's a non-spatiotemporal spaghetti monster!" or whatever.

Jeremy Taylor said...

DNW,

I'm not really sure how you came to your conclusions about Al-Farabi, or even quite what you understand moderate or extreme realism to be.


Really? It is up to the naturalist to prove that a "mind's eye" whatever that may be supposed to mean, does not exist?

Well, part of the concept of noetic knowledge is that it is spiritual or mystical knowledge, and generally it is seen as being capable of being cultivated through theurgic, religious, and mystical rites. Most who accept noetic knowledge accept this as evidence for it, though a personal kind of evidence. In Sufism there is a split between those who most emphasis philosophy and those who most emphasis mystical experience.

However, some Platonists certainly argue for noetic knowledge. For example, C.S. Lewis notes:

Intellectus is the higher, so that if we call it 'understanding', the Coleridgean distinction which puts 'reason' above 'understanding' inverts the traditional order. Boethius, it will be remembered, distinguishes intelligentia from ratio; the former being enjoyed in its perfection by angels. Intellectus is that in man which approximates most nearly to angelic intelligentia; it is in fact obumbrata intelligentia, clouded intelligence, or a shadow of intelligence. Its relation to reason is thus described by Aquinas: 'intellect (intelligere) is the simple (i.e. indivisible, uncompounded) grasp of an intelligible truth, whereas reasoning (ratiocinari) is the progression towards an intelligible truth by going from one understood (intellecto) point to another. The difference between them is thus like the difference between rest and motion or between possession and acquisition (Ia, LXXIX, art. 8). We are enjoying intellectus when we 'just see' a self-evident truth; we are exercising ratio when we proceed step by step to prove a truth which is not self-evident. A cognitive life in which all truth can be simply 'seen would be the life of an intelligentia, an angel. A life of unmitigated ratio where nothing was simply 'seen' and all had to be proved, would presumably be impossible; for nothing can be proved if nothing is self-evident. Man's mental life is spent in laboriously connecting those frequent, but momentary, flashes of intelligentia which constitute intellectus.

But even so, even these figures will point out there is much about noetic knowledge that is only properly grasped by cultivating that knowledge. After all, a proof is by definition relative. If it were not it would be the thing one were trying to prove. So, a proof has limits.

As the quote from Lewis hints at, I don't think the Angelic Doctor repudiated noetic knowledge. He couldn't really. The Scriptures attest to direct spiritual knowledge, as did the teaching of the Church. And, indeed, Aquinas himself had a mystical experience that caused him to refer to his philosophical work as straw.

Jeremy Taylor said...

- sorry, meant to point out Lewis, in that quote, is implying the point that noetic knowledge is knowledge of things in themselves, which required to ground ratio, which is indirect knowledge by its nature.

Daniel said...

In addition, it is impossible to say just how they manage to constitute themselves in the reality we experience, or even how we come to know them; since knowledge of them (at least the variety we are talking about here) is apparently the result of some form of "illumination", rather than an explicable outgrowth of the usual ways of gaining experience with, and thus knowledge of "things".

See my point about Russell and Husserl. If you have access to Michael Loux Introduction to Metaphysics page 43 has a nice discussion of how it is at least plausible to argue that Platonic universals require no further epistemological commitment than Aristotelian ones.

Even if a special faculty of noetic Intuition is posited the precise reason for doing so is, as its proponent argues, because we A. know from various logical considerations that only a Platonic explanation is viable and B. that our ordinary perceptual knowledge cannot account for knowledge of Platonic entities. In other words we have no choice but to posit such a faculty. Of course one might well argue that we can account for said logical considerations without resort to Platonism or even that we can accept Platonism without resort to a special faculty.

And just how many forms for say, the universal term "man" there are and just how individual men are linked - I almost said "instantiated" here - to the non spatio-temporal universal or form of man, if there is one, is unresolved. Maybe there is just one man, like a colony of aspens or mushrooms or something.

This linkage problem is of course forthrightly acknowledged. But then no one ever pesters God as to just how he pulls his activities off, so maybe that issue should not be considered a problem here either.


If the question is how universals relate to particulars then the answer is of course that said relation is sui generis. Given that universals/particulars form some of the most basic ontological categories this shouldn't surprise us. If one were to take it as a problem however it would apply equally to the Intrinsic Relation between universals and particulars posited by Aristotelians as to the Platonist's External Relation

To speak of a 'realm', understood as analogues to a spatial plane, is to commit another fallacy beloved of critics of Platonism and to implicitly treat Forms/Uninstantiated Universals as concrete substances. Of course they can justly say that then it was Plato’s fault to begin for introducing that metaphor.

Perhaps the forms are not even God dependent, since under some forms of Platonism, there is no God.

Indeed. Which is why Scholastic Realism isn't the same as 'free floating' Abstract Object Platonism or Aristotelianism.

But then, if the Godless forms exist on their own, so to speak, they somehow get from the non spatio-temporal "realm" we have stipulated as their home, to the spatio-temporal we usually experience. But we don't know how this would work either.

This amounts to the question of why are there any contingent beings in the first place, a question which applies to virtually any form of atheism, be it Platonic or not, with equal force.

DNW said...

Well, before reading further and confirming or disconfirming my initial impression, it appears that I might have stirred up something of a hornet's nest here, and only made it worse with a jokey recapitulation.

I promise - no one in particular - that as penance I will read through all of the responses, and carefully consider any actual arguments I find there for the existence of the Platonic forms, or essences or ideas and their supposed status. Which insofar as my reading has taken me was and remains an unresolved issue even among the advocates of this "theory".

Now, obviously, what some saw as scorn, I thought of as amiable comic relief, a way of pointing out that no one seems to be able to say exactly what the hell they are referring to, or where they are pointing.

But you never know what reaction will be provoked when you don't take a belief in which another has an apparent emotional investment as seriously as he thinks it deserves to be taken.

So, I suppose the first thing for me to do is to see if anyone here has an actual - single - theory as to what these forms are.


It's nice to point to some book or another, but a quote or recapitulation would be even nicer.

That said, I'll begin my slog ...

DNW said...



Blogger John West said...

...it is hypocritical to have ontological commitment to one non-spatiotemporal entity – God – "


Well, I can provisionally accede to that. It very well might be for someone who has that commitment. Or inconsistent at least.

Things are looking up already.

DNW said...



"Clearly, there is no reason to believe either that every predicate refers to an entity, or Form, or even that every predicate is meaningful. Quine puts it well, but so does D. M. Armstrong"


I don't believe I was staking that claim, though some idealist types apparently have. I'm just wondering how your sort, presuming you are of that sort, sorts it out.

Daniel said...

I promise - no one in particular - that as penance I will read through all of the responses, and carefully consider any actual arguments I find there for the existence of the Platonic forms, or essences or ideas and their supposed status. Which insofar as my reading has taken me was and remains an unresolved issue even among the advocates of this "theory".

Clarification: we were discussing the differences between so called 'Moderate Realism', Scholastic Realism and Platonic Realism. One is quite free to reject any and all of these only we should have a good idea of what's actually being discussed (and I as I've been driving at most of the scholastic and neoscholastic critics of 'exaggerated Realism' attacked crude strawmen).

So, I suppose the first thing for me to do is to see if anyone here has an actual - single - theory as to what these forms are.

Okay in order to avoid confusions let's drop the word 'Forms' and stick to universals. We can point you to loads of books/ articles on the nature and problem of universals - the Loux Metaphysics book I mentioned is good, there's also D.M. Armstrong's two volume set and condensed intro and J.P. Moreland's Universals to name a few. Of course there's also readable discussions on Stanford and the Internet Encylopedias of Philosophy.

If you're asking rhetorically 'what is a universal' in the sense of what sort of being is it then we answer that it's in a category of its own and this should not surprise us.

But you never know what reaction will be provoked when you don't take a belief in which another has an apparent emotional investment as seriously as he thinks it deserves to be taken.

As far as I can see no-one here has done that, though some have mentioned in passing that a separate faculty of intellectual intuition would be difficult to square with Naturalism, and that to a priori deny such a faculty is to beg the question against the Platonist who posits it.

DNW said...

"See my previous comment. I've never argued for the Form of Man, I've only defended the plausibility of Platonism about mathematical entities. I'm not sure why this is brought up."


I brought it up because Champeaux brought it up, and Abelard brought it up, and Copleston brought it up, and apparently, the founder of the formal feast Plato, did, and because I am not only responding to you, but to what appears to be a cluster of Platonists.

By the way, someone here mentioned that they saw difficulties with the doctrine of forms when it came to ethics. I would agree. But then in reviewing the matter, it seems that the one undisputed point regarding the Socratic dialogs when it comes to forms, is that they preeminently refer to what may be called values.

DNW said...

Jeremy Taylor said...

DNW,

I'm not really sure how you came to your conclusions about Al-Farabi, or even quite what you understand moderate or extreme realism to be.


Really? It is up to the naturalist to prove that a "mind's eye" whatever that may be supposed to mean, does not exist?

Well, part of the concept of noetic knowledge is that it is spiritual or mystical knowledge, and generally it is seen as being capable of being cultivated through theurgic, religious, and mystical rites ..."


Ok, Jeremy. I'm going to stop talking to you about this: not because you are a bad guy, or annoying or anything like that; but, because I have nothing whatsoever to contribute, or good to say, about mysticism, or theosophy, or the Rosicrucians or anything like that.

In fact, I cannot even work up any interest in it at all. I'd rather file a block of steel into a square or listen to a spoiled and narcissistic political progressive complain about society.

Well, maybe not the latter.

DNW said...

Ok that was not fair. I know that Jeremy is not talking theosophy or shit like that.

But the mysticism remark stands.

DNW said...

Daniel said...

" 'In addition, it is impossible to say just how they manage to constitute themselves in the reality we experience, or even how we come to know them; since knowledge of them (at least the variety we are talking about here) is apparently the result of some form of "illumination", rather than an explicable outgrowth of the usual ways of gaining experience with, and thus knowledge of "things".'

See my point about Russell and Husserl. If you have access to Michael Loux Introduction to Metaphysics page 43 has a nice discussion of how it is at least plausible to argue that Platonic universals require no further epistemological commitment than Aristotelian ones.

Even if a special faculty of noetic Intuition is posited the precise reason for doing so is, as its proponent argues, because we A. know from various logical considerations that only a Platonic explanation is viable and B. that our ordinary perceptual knowledge cannot account for knowledge of Platonic entities. In other words we have no choice but to posit such a faculty. Of course one might well argue that we can account for said logical considerations without resort to Platonism or even that we can accept Platonism without resort to a special faculty. "


Ok, two things:

1. I now see that what I took as expressions of pique, were less than that; and that there is some good humor and balance on the side of realists as well.


2. I'll take a look at the arguments mentioned, if I am able.
One would expect however that, for example in the case of point "A" above, something of them could be reproduced, rather than just descriptively outlined.

Finally though, one would think that there might be something more readily available online which would present the substance of these arguments.

Someone mentioned Lewis, CS and not CI, I think it was.

Possibly the idealists he referred to as reigning in his undergrad days might have something to say that has not been discredited.

Their writings may be online. In fact, I might have already downloaded a few of them.

Well, at least we have settled one issue: You fellows do have a sense of emotional equilibrium, after all.

John West said...

DNW,

I wrote part of this before the recent string of replies, so I apologize if it seems slightly non-current in some places.

Now, obviously, what some saw as scorn, I thought of as amiable comic relief, a way of pointing out that no one seems to be able to say exactly what the hell they are referring to, or where they are pointing.

But you never know what reaction will be provoked when you don't take a belief in which another has an apparent emotional investment as seriously as he thinks it deserves to be taken.


Since I'm not myself a Platonist, I'm not sure what you're getting at. But I'll not take this as some left-handed smear. Debate ettiquette starts with construing opponents' words in the most charitable manner accounting for facts at hand.

The weirdness objection -- which you seemed to be making with your jokes -- is an actual objection. I just think it's a bogus objection, for reasons I mentioned and to which you agreed and other, additional reasons mentioned by people like David Lewis that I didn't.

I promise - no one in particular - that as penance I will read through all of the responses, and carefully consider any actual arguments I find there for the existence of the Platonic forms, or essences or ideas and their supposed status.
One thing I probably should have written more explicitly is that, were

I don't believe I was staking that claim, though some idealist types apparently have. I'm just wondering how your sort, presuming you are of that sort, sorts it out.

One argument in philosophy of mathematics, which I mentioned earlier, is the indispensability argument*: people ought to have ontological commitment to all the entities that are indispensable to our best scientific theories. Mathematical entities are indispensable to our best scientific theories. Hence, people ought to have ontological commitment to mathematical entities. Resnik's variation of the argument also provides the justification you seek.

I brought up a couple objections to Aristotelian realism to block off using Aristotelian mathematical entities as replies. But I also don't think Aristotelian realism accounts for important facts, such as that necessary truths like 1+1=2 would remain true even if the physical world and all its possibly-Aristotelian instantiations disappeared tomorrow.

That leaves Scholastic Realism and Platonism. As I've written, I'm actually not of the Platonic sort. But to be a Platonist, I would have to either have arguments ruling Scholastic Realism out, or think that Platonism describes reality better than Scholastic Realism (ie. Lately I worry classical theism may bugger modal intuitions, which gives cause for skepticism about it). But I consider mathematical Platonism a respectable position; my reasons for preferring Scholastic Realism are mere quibbles I think make it the superior postulation.
I a Platonist, I would see no problem with there possibly being other, non-mathematical Forms – and I would have to admit that it's at least prima facie plausible there could be. It would not, however, affect my case for mathematical Forms if I thought Platonism were true and there weren't other Forms. But I haven't studied the arguments for non-mathematical types of realism, so I don't know enough to rule either way about whether those are respectable positions.

John West said...

Okay in order to avoid confusions let's drop the word 'Forms' and stick to universals. We can point you to loads of books/ articles on the nature and problem of universals - the Loux Metaphysics book I mentioned is good, there's also D.M. Armstrong's two volume set and condensed intro and J.P. Moreland's Universals to name a few. Of course there's also readable discussions on Stanford and the Internet Encylopedias of Philosophy. 

The Quine paper I linked, On What There Is, is a start; Moreland's Universals can be found cheaply online with some web-searching; and Armstrong's a beast (but I had to pay for his two-part work). Here is a copy of Michael Loux's Metaphysics.


*The section on confirmational holism should probably be closer to the front of the Stanford article I linked

John West said...

It appears the final paragraph in the first half of my most previous reply got mangled. Here it is again:

One thing I probably should have written more explicitly is that, were I a Platonist, I would see no problem with there possibly being other, non-mathematical Forms – and I would have to admit that it's at least prima facie plausible there could be. It would not, however, affect my case for mathematical Forms if I thought Platonism were true and there weren't other Forms. But I haven't studied the arguments for non-mathematical types of realism, so I don't know enough to rule either way about whether those are respectable positions.

DNW said...

John West said...

DNW,


Since I'm not myself a Platonist, I'm not sure what you're getting at. ...


But I consider mathematical Platonism a respectable position; my reasons for preferring Scholastic Realism are mere quibbles I think make it the superior postulation.

I a Platonist, I would see no problem with there possibly being other, non-mathematical Forms – and I would have to admit that it's at least prima facie plausible there could be. "


"I a Platonist, ..."


Did you mean "I[f] [I were] a Platonist, ..." ?

Rather than, "I[,] a Platonist, ... would see no problem with there possibly being other, non-mathematical Form ..."


You must have, because you just previously said twice, that you were not. Right?


John West said...

DNW,

See my post directly above yours.

DNW said...



The more I think about my having flung the term "theosophical" around in Jeremy's presence, the worse I feel about it.

The obvious solution then, is for me to ... stop thinking about it.

Sorry Jeremy. It was uncalled for given anything that you actually said or implied.

And until I am put on notice that you are an official member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, my regrets stand.

Timocrates said...

Well, if I recall Aristotle rightly pointed out that should a man be left to his own devices in the wilderness he would have to be either a beast or a god; in the sense that absent someone else to care for him he would die in infancy. Again, of course, a human being cannot even come into existence without someone else brining them into existence, most obviously ordinarily their parents but for most theists God too, as creating the first and creating each human soul.

But to go even further. When we engage in thinking and reflection, we are in a way engaging ourselves, even sometimes almost interrogating ourselves. We put questions to ourselves; and this, of course, is hardly crazy. It's even difficult to imagine how thinking or learning could happen without this interior process that is like to growing. It is almost as if we step outside of ourselves in order to question ourselves and find answers.

When I ask, for instance, "What is it I am trying to say or get at here?" What is happening? Is the thought or question crazy? I surely hope not, for if I routinely fail to ask it then I typically end up way off course and ramble, which is hardly ideal or useful. But then to whom am I addressing the question? Sure, one might say God - but that would, of course, presuppose at least the possibility of community. But normally in this process we are really interrogating ourselves, sometimes as it were scouring ourselves, as when we try to remember something.

So one might argue that even within the depths of the solitary individual there is something there pointing to community, especially when we question or interrogate ourselves and attempt to do so as objectively as possible - as when we stand, again, almost as it were outside of ourselves to consider ourselves. Arguably this is quite a remarkable feature of man not only that he can do this but does do this and can even profit greatly from it when we are questioning ourselves especially from the point of view of moral perfection. But we do this even practically when we step outside ourselves to consider whether or not our present course, habits, methods or plans will really yield the end we actually desire or, in the process of realizing it we wonder whether or not this is what we really want after all.

So yes even the activity of the individual in the, so to speak, core of his individuality seems to point to community. The very act of self-awareness seems inseparable from a kind of community, especially when we seek to grow or improve or be better (however subjectively) by becoming almost a stranger or other to ourselves. In this way we almost invent a community environment - but we do this to facilitate our growth, improvement or happiness (again however subjectively).

DNW said...

John West said

"Here is a copy of Michael Loux's Metaphysics.


*The section on confirmational holism should probably be closer to the front of the Stanford article I linked "



Thank you for the copy; thank you for the link. I have read carefully through the Stanford indispensability link, and I am sure that having recommended it, you are well aware of the many difficulties it admits even for mathematical realism: not only insofar as the notion of indispensability, but with "P1" as well. Which latter of course, is not only a problematical requirement insofar as a justification for an ontological (almost ideological) commitment goes, but also insofar that the premiss itself is definitely not theist friendly.

I'll reserve any further comment for the present.

Thanks again.

John West said...

DNW,


Thank you for the copy; thank you for the link. I have read carefully through the Stanford indispensability link, and I am sure that having recommended it, you are well aware of the many difficulties it admits even for mathematical realism: not only insofar as the notion of indispensability, but with "P1" as well. Which latter of course, is not only a problematical requirement insofar as a justification for an ontological (almost ideological) commitment goes, but also insofar that the premiss itself is definitely not theist friendly.


You'll notice I drop the "and only" part of P1, which I think actually weakens the argument.

I actually didn't read the article before sending it. I just figured it would be good, because Stanford articles usually are pretty good.

But I'm well aware of the objections raised against the indispensability argument; I'm thoroughly read in the debate over mathematical realism. I think all these objections have been dealt with in various works (basically every book on mathematical realism spends a significant number of chapters talking about this argument; plus, people like Mark Colyvan
devote whole books to it). Most of them decisively, and the majority of philosophers of mathematics are mathematical realists.

In fact, I agree with the nominalist Hartry Field -- if mathematics can be shown to be dispensable to science as per Field's Science Without Numbers project, the indispensability argument fails; if this cannot shown, the argument succeeds -- and I feel about appeals to ignorance roughly the way we all felt about Scott Bakker's appeals to ignorance re: Ed's incoherence argument and material eliminativism. I don't think even Field believes he has succeeded yet.

I'll reserve any further comment for the present.

Yeah. I mean, obviously I'm prepared and willing to defend the argument. But as I said, whole shelves of literature have been devoted to it over the last 20 or so years. I don't want to derail the thread arguing at length about something probably almost no one else here is interested in. So, I won't pursue it unless you would like me to; needless to say and for what little nose counts of professionals are worth in philosophy, I think the majority view in philosophy of mathematics right now is that the argument does hold.

John West said...

You'll notice I drop the "and only" part of P1, which I think actually weakens the argument.

Sorry. That is, I think the "and only" part in P1 weakens the indispensable argument, and is just pointless scientism.

John West said...

... indispensability^ Oh, typos.

Jeremy Taylor said...

DNW,

I'm not sure what you mean by theosophy. If you the theosophy of Madame Blavatsky et al, then I don't know much about it. It could well believe in what I mentioned, but then so did many, in different ways, from the antique Platonists to Sufis to Hesychasts to the Rosicrucians and Cambridge Platonists.

I am certainly no theosophist in the sense of Blavatsky, but I have been influenced by Hermeticism, not to mention other kinds of mysticism and theurgy. My own preferences are for expressions closer those tightly bound to orthodox religious tradition, like the Hesychasts or Sufis or the Karbala, but I do not despise the alchemists and later Hermeticists. I don't see why I should.

Theurgy and the like are just a recognition that noetic knowledge isn't awaked merely by discursive reasoning and philosophy, but just as importantly by efficacious rites, sacraments, and symbolism. They recognise that the deepest knowledge is immersive, existential, and transformational - it transforms the whole being. Certainly, I have no shame in admitting my mystical, Platonic bent and, indeed, find it far more sensible than a Christianity that goes out of its way to be reasonable in a highly worldly and modern sense.

I think it is also worth mentioning that it is a shame the word theosophy is equated with Madame Blavatsky. It used to be used also to admirable Jacob Boehme and his followers. And as a word it would be quite a useful term for certain Platonic and mystical currents.

Jeremy Taylor said...

DNW writes,

Which insofar as my reading has taken me was and remains an unresolved issue even among the advocates of this "theory".

Who have you been reading? And it is in the nature of modern philosophy to throw almost any position up in the air - there is always someone who will argue against a position. I highly doubt other forms or realism or nominalism are considered any more settled in modern thought. But I'm not even sure that is the best way to settle the issue.

Jeremy Taylor said...

DNW writes,

Well, I can provisionally accede to that. It very well might be for someone who has that commitment. Or inconsistent at least.

Are you not a theist then? I always thought you were a Catholic?

I suppose that would answer way you think the existence of non-spatiotemporal entities or anything remotely mystical or spiritual is suspect on the face or it.

Glenn said...

1. I will not claim to know where they might reside when not being thought of, but I will claim that argument forms qualify, or at least ought to qualify, as 'non-spatiotemporal entities'.

2. With apologies to Steve Martin and the Estate of King Tut:

I recognize 'em when I see 'em
But maybe I'm a-dreamin'
(Mod Tol)

Contemplatin' is as pleasin'
as Gogh-in' to a moo-seum
(Mod Pol)

Fiii-gments of imagination?
Cauuu-se for consternation?
(Who knows
)

3. Is it not true from a CT perspective that while God is Being, and is one in His Being, He is neither one spatiotemporal being nor one non-spatiotemporal being, i.e., God is neither a spatiotemporal entity nor a non-spatiotemporal entity?

If so, then when we have:

a) "[I]t is hypocritical to have ontological commitment to one non-spatiotemporal entity – God – and then poor scorn on others who hold to the existence of other non-spatiotemporal entities";

b) "I can provisionally accede to that. It very well might be for someone who has that commitment. Or inconsistent at least"; and,

c) "Are you not a theist then? I always thought you were a Catholic? I suppose that would answer way you think the existence of non-spatiotemporal entities or anything remotely mystical or spiritual is suspect on the face or it"...

...we also have -- upon the nuance involved receiving due consideration -- what appears to be fresh meat sandwiched by what appears to be moldy bread.

John West said...

Glenn,

3. Is it not true from a CT perspective that while God is Being, and is one in His Being, He is neither one spatiotemporal being nor one non-spatiotemporal being, i.e., God is neither a spatiotemporal entity nor a non-spatiotemporal entity?

Speaking only of the matter of spatiotemporality, how can God both not be spatiotemporal and not not be spatiotemporal, without breaching the Law of the Excluded Middle?

DNW said...

Jeremy Taylor said...

DNW writes,

'Well, I can provisionally accede to that. It very well might be for someone who has that commitment. Or inconsistent at least.'

Are you not a theist then? I always thought you were a Catholic?

I suppose that would answer way you think the existence of non-spatiotemporal entities or anything remotely mystical or spiritual is suspect on the face or it.
March 4, 2015 at 2:57 PM "



Since two have now more or less asked.

I'm kind of surprised that I have come off as a Catholic, although maybe I should not be, having been raised up - or having been subjected to a parent's attempt to raise me up - as a Catholic.

That more or less ended when I became too large as a pre-teen or teen to coerce.

However, some years later I did go to a Jesuit university, and used the opportunity to take a number of courses from older professors in order to see what it is all about.

A natural nominalist myself in some respects, I eventually came to the conclusion that the doctrine was - depending on how it was developed - incoherent. And to refer to a drum I am constantly beating, this becomes especially obvious in the political realm wherein the "we" based "social justice" claims of the progressive class, are rendered absurd on the basis of their own prevailing metaphysics.

I probably sound Catholic because my interest in the principles of constitutionalism - and in my own liberty most preeminently - inevitably forces one to seek a resolution to the question as to: a, whether natural kinds and "natures" exist in any meaningful way; and b, and what if anything can be said to follow from those conclusions.

Well, "forces one" if you value intellectual coherence yourself, want to know how your own moral sensibilities are or should be grounded, and suspect that killing an annoying man with no marginal utility to you, for political advantage, may be more cosmically significant than swatting an annoying fly.

Eventually, I had to choose between embracing a fashionable metaphysical doctrine which had a certain abrasive attraction, but a multitude of obnoxious and obvious public coherence problems on the one hand; and my own lying eyes and Aristotle, on the other.

When I saw that Feser had used the same term, "congeries" (albeit in a slightly different context) that I had used while debating what kinds of alternative entities we must postulate anthropologically if we reject natural law and the rights that flow from "natures", I was really impressed, and began to figure that he might know something after all.

To my dismay, I found he knew quite a bit.

In an RKBA related debate, I had myself referred to the deconstructed version of man embraced by the postmodernist (and this is a question of universals in some sense) as not much more than a "congeries of appetites"; and asked what, if they rejected "natures" and rights, were they staking their claims to interpersonal" respect to? I never got an answer by the way. Geez. Talk about progressives as contented Gadarene swineherds ...

Feser had used a different, less rhetorical, and more precise formulation in his chapter on the "Descent of the Modernists", I think it was. But well-grounded perspectives like that, have been enough to keep me coming back to read more.

So that is what I think, and that is why I come here.

It's funny how things work. When I was a kid, I was the only one I knew who thought that most of the "entities" my teachers constantly referred to were not obviously real entities and that they were just blathering on about "society" and "community" and crap like that.

Now, nominalism of the most radical kind seems to be the socially accepted default position; with man himself nominalized. But those who do it, still can't live with it.

Funny how that works too.

DNW said...



I just put up a comment I probably should not have; for several reasons.

If there is a moderator, feel free to remove it.

Regards,

DNW

Scott said...

Glenn writes:

"I will claim that argument forms qualify, or at least ought to qualify, as 'non-spatiotemporal entities'."

And if so, that puts paid to the notion that such abstract entities can't participate in causal processes.

To borrow an example from Brand Blanshard (who borrowed it from Thackeray): The priest went to visit a country manor, and entertained the ladies in the parlor while they waited for the lord of the manor. "Ladies," he said, "did you know that my first penitent was a murderer?"

Shortly thereafter, the lord of the manor arrived. "Ladies," he said, "did you know that I was the father's first penitent?"

The obvious conclusion is nowhere explicitly stated, and yet of course every one of the ladies drew it at once (just as every reader of this post will). So the situation is not that anyone was entertaining that proposition already and saw that it followed from the two premises; it's that the proposition itself appears on the scene in the first place in part because it's entailed by the premises.

Of course such entailment isn't a sufficient condition, else our minds would be flooded with implications every time we entertained a proposition. But if it's not a necessary condition, then there's no such thing as reasoning.

Now reasoning, I take it, is a causal process—not necessarily deterministic, but not just random either. If so, then it seems that argument forms can participate in at least some causal processes, namely processes of reasoning.

John West said...

DNW,

I just put up a comment I probably should not have; for several reasons.

You were asked a question and you responded to it. What's wrong with that? Surely, if the moderator willingly left alone three threads of Santi slush, he will have no problem with your response to a directly asked question.

Scott said...

(I don't, of course, mean to suggest that all "non-spatiotemporal entities" are "abstract entities." But I think that implication holds for "argument forms"; if they're the former, then they're the latter.)

Glenn said...

John West,

>> 3. Is it not true from a CT perspective that while God is Being, and is one in His Being, He is neither one spatiotemporal being nor one non-spatiotemporal being, i.e., God is neither a spatiotemporal entity nor a non-spatiotemporal entity?

> Speaking only of the matter of spatiotemporality, how can God both not be spatiotemporal and not not be spatiotemporal, without breaching the Law of the Excluded Middle?

The LEM applies to propositions, and, last I heard, God is not a proposition.

John West said...

So if I'm a land animal, I can be both a giraffe and not-a-giraffe?

John West said...

It is not the case that God is spatiotemporal (your statement). It is not not the case that God is spatiotemporal (your statement). Hence, it is the case that God is spatiotemporal (from 2, double negation). Hence, It is not the case that God is spatiotemporal and it is the case that God is spatiotemporal (contradiction).

Glenn said...

John West,

So if I'm a land animal, I can be both a giraffe and not-a-giraffe?

If you're a land animal, then it is likely that you're not God. And, presuming that you are a land animal, as a land animal you belong to a genus. According to CT 101, however, God, who isn't a land animal, neither is in a genus nor is a genus.

Glenn said...

John West,

It is not the case that God is spatiotemporal (your statement). It is not not the case that God is spatiotemporal (your statement). Hence, it is the case that God is spatiotemporal (from 2, double negation). Hence, It is not the case that God is spatiotemporal and it is the case that God is spatiotemporal (contradiction).

a) You're misquoting (misparaphrasing?) what I wrote.

b) The referent (in one sense) is the not the referent (in another sense); i.e., statements about God and God are not one and the same.

John West said...

b) The referent (in one sense) is the not the referent (in another sense); i.e., statements about God and God are not one and the same.

So the laws of logic, like the law of non-contradiction, don't apply to God?

Daniel said...

Speaking only of the matter of spatiotemporality, how can God both not be spatiotemporal and not not be spatiotemporal, without breaching the Law of the Excluded Middle?

I admit I'm finding this odd too. Unless we are bringing in questions of the Incarnation we can say categorically that God is not a spatial entity (I'll not go into the temporal since running the two together in re seems dubious to say the least).

@John West,

So the laws of logic, like the law of non-contradiction, don't apply to God?

They do apply to God (I'm suprised anyone on here is claiming otherwise)

John West said...

Glenn,

Sorry, but between:

**The LEM applies to propositions, and, last I heard, God is not a proposition.

and

*b) The referent (in one sense) is the not the referent (in another sense); i.e., statements about God and God are not one and the same.

That seems to be what you're claiming.

Glenn said...

John West,

Sorry, but between:

**The LEM applies to propositions, and, last I heard, God is not a proposition.

and

*b) The referent (in one sense) is the not the referent (in another sense); i.e., statements about God and God are not one and the same.

That seems to be what you're claiming.


Well, I did say that you misquoted me, but you don't yet seem to have changed your understanding of what I wrote. And if you continue to think in terms of your inaccurate understanding of what I wrote, then you'll probably continue to inaccurately think that that is what I was claiming.

John West said...

3. Is it not true from a CT perspective that while God is Being, and is one in His Being, He is neither one spatiotemporal being nor one non-spatiotemporal being, i.e., God is neither a spatiotemporal entity nor a non-spatiotemporal entity?

I asked: Speaking only of the matter of spatiotemporality, how can God both not be spatiotemporal and not not be spatiotemporal, without breaching the Law of the Excluded Middle?

In other words, speaking only of spatiotemporality to avoid issues with words like entity and the like.

You replied: The LEM applies to propositions, and, last I heard, God is not a proposition.

Since Daniel also found this odd, perhaps you could clarify what you meant; and then, perhaps, answer the question.

Glenn said...

Daniel,

>> Speaking only of the matter of spatiotemporality, how can God both not be spatiotemporal and not not be spatiotemporal, without breaching the Law of the Excluded Middle?

> I admit I'm finding this odd too.

That sounds odd to me too. But as I have indicated twice already, and as anyone may see for themselves by checking what I actually wrote, I did not write that God is neither spatiotemporal nor non-spatiotemporal.

@John West,

So the laws of logic, like the law of non-contradiction, don't apply to God?

They do apply to God (I'm suprised anyone on here is claiming otherwise)


Who here has claimed otherwise?

And since when do the laws of logic entail that God either is or belongs to a genus?

Or is it the case that St. Thomas somehow managed to not abide by laws of logic when he reasoned to the conclusion that God neither is or belongs to a genus?

John West said...

Glenn,

Then how does this relate to my objection that people who believe in a non-spatiotemporal God should have no problem with non-spatiotemporality (which was the reason I compared the two for)?

John West said...

(Since, apparently, I am moldy bread, that is.)

John West said...

And, could you clarify, does the Law of the Excluded Middle apply to God despite the fact he neither is nor belongs to a genus, or does it not?

John West said...

(Alternatively, can He or can He not breach the LEM? As per your "proposition" reply to my earlier question)

Scott said...

Actually the LEM does have an ontological formulation, according to which a thing must either be or not be at any given time and in any given respect or relation.

But that doesn't matter much. What Glenn actually wrote is that God "is neither one spatiotemporal being nor one non-spatiotemporal being, i.e., God is neither a spatiotemporal entity nor a non-spatiotemporal entity" [emphases mine].

This was in reply primarily to John West's remark that "it is hypocritical to have ontological commitment to one non-spatiotemporal entity – God – and then [pour] scorn on others who hold to the existence of other non-spatiotemporal entities" [emphasis mine].

John West said...

Which is why when I asked about the LEM, I wrote, I specified:

Speaking only of the matter of spatiotemporality, how can God both not be spatiotemporal and not not be spatiotemporal, without breaching the Law of the Excluded Middle?

I don't think DNW was weirded out by either the number of Forms, or the Forms's entity-ness. He was weirded out by their non-spatiotemporality -- or at least, that's why I made the comparison to God.

Scott said...

Sure, and I take the main point of Glenn's reply to be that since God isn't an "entity"—one being among others, belonging to a genus—the comparison isn't apt. There's nothing obviously hypocritical in believing in God but not in nonspatiotemporal entities. (Notice that I didn't say "other nonspatiotemporal entities." Much of Glenn's point, as I understand it, is that characterizing God as one such "entity" would be to place Him within a genus.)

John West said...

Okay. But it would be weird to raise the objection that non-spatiotemporality is especially weird, no?

John West said...

To rule entities out for their non-spatiotemporality a priori due to incredulity about it non-spatiotemporality?

John West said...

... Notice, I'm now also not saying "other entities." Unless the claim is that entities, period, just aren't the sort of things that can be non-spatiotemporal, and that it would be especially weird were they. I'm not sure why it would be especially weird, but yeah.

Scott said...

@John West:

"But it would be weird to raise the objection that non-spatiotemporality is especially weird, no?"

You mean for a theist? Sure, if the objection was that "not being spatiotemporal" was weird across the board and not just as applied to that which is not God. But I wouldn't see anything hypocritical about e.g. a theist objecting that "omnipotent" was weird as applied to finite creatures. (And I wouldn't see anything hypocritical about a nontheist objecting that either term was weird even as applied to God.)

Scott said...

"To rule entities out for their non-spatiotemporality a priori due to incredulity about it non-spatiotemporality?"

Well, now, that's another question. Your original remark was about the possible inconsistency of accepting the nonspatiotemporality of God but finding it weird that anything else might be nonspatiotemporal. But yes, I agree that nonspatiotemporality shouldn't be ruled out a priori even by a nontheist.

John West said...

Well, okay. At the very least it undercuts and partly discredits the comparison. Like I said, I don't see why it would be weird; but, at least, it's no longer hypocritical (my word). So, I concede the point.

My apologies to Glenn for unintentional misunderstanding the main thrust of his first comment I quoted[1]: "Is it not true from a CT [...] entity?". Do either of you have any specific reading recommendations on this system of classification and the matter of how God fits into (or fails to fit into) it? I seem to recall reading there was some contention between Scotists and Thomists on this.

John West said...

Scott wrote: Actually the LEM does have an ontological formulation, according to which a thing must either be or not be at any given time and in any given respect or relation.

By the way, thank you for the answer concerning the applicability of the LEM.

Daniel said...

I don't see that we should be forbidden to call God an entity since in doing this we do not mean to imply that God is the same type of entity as others. Indeed if we're going by Analogy of Proportionality then we use the term entity in an analogues fashion anyway when talking other perfectly normal 'entities'.

@John West,

Do either of you have any specific reading recommendations on this system of classification and the matter of how God fits into (or fails to fit into) it? I seem to recall reading there was some contention between Scotists and Thomists on this.

The third part of this essay by Marilyn McCord Adams goes into this in some detail. For one thing it makes the point that both Thomas and Scotus agree that there is no problem with grouping God under a certain logical concept - Scotus as much as his predecessor denies that God as metaphysical constituents of the Genus/Species type.

http://journalofanalytictheology.com/jat/index.php/jat/article/view/jat.2014-1.120013000318a/222

Daniel said...

@Scott and Glen (and anyone else),

Might we do better to distinguish a Broad and a Narrow use of the term Being? There is an obvious sense in which propositions like 'There is at least one being that is omniscient' or 'There is a being which is pure act' are true on Classical theist terms, and if the Thomist doctrine of Analogy leads to our having to deny this then it just seems like madness. I was under the impression that for the Thomist many of our cross categorical uses of the term being were analogues.

(There's also the confusion of whether we are taking the term 'Being' to mean 'Existence' or 'Entity)

Let us take Being to refer to Existence: If when we say an accident has being and a substance has being we are using the term being in an analogues sense I see no problem in saying God is being.

if instead we are using to Being/entity to refer to identity, or 'essence' taken in the rough sense, then there would also seem to be no problem. For instance take these three examples: Socrates, an instance of Whiteness in Socrates and Wittgenstein's-brandishing-the-poker-at-Karl Popper. We can say each is a being but we are here to surely using 'being' in analogues sense since they are each different types of being i.e. one is a substance, the second an accident and the third an event.

If I summarise the Third Way as our reasoning from the existence of contingent beings to that of a necessary being am I making a mistake in calling the later a being? Surely not because not only do explicitly state that they are different kinds of being - the former contingent and the latter necessary - I even imply that they 'exist' differently too since again the former contingent and the latter necessary.

Scott said...

@Daniel:
"There is an obvious sense in which propositions like 'There is at least one being that is omniscient' or 'There is a being which is pure act' are true on Classical theist terms, and if the Thomist doctrine of Analogy leads to our having to deny this then it just seems like madness."

Don't get too carried away here. The point wasn't that we can never use that language at all; the point was that there's something wrong with saying, "God is an omnipotent being, so if you believe in God, it's hypocritical to rule out the existence of other omnipotent beings, since, after all, God might just be one member among others of the genus 'omnipotent beings.'"

Of course the term originally at issue was "nonspatiotemporal," but the point is clearer with "omnipotent."

Daniel said...

@Scott,

Okay thank you,

Is not there a difference between falling under a Logical class and a Genus/Species definition as an encapsulation of essence? For instance one could admit the hypothetical challenge you outline and argue that a further omnipotent being was impossible (because in order to be omnipotent said being would have be without passive potency et cetera and thus simple ergo impossible for there to be multiple instances). So they can have the class but if they understand it correctly they should see multiple members are ruled out of necessity.

Even if we set that aside: on Analogues Simplicity it's the same 'property' which makes the proposition 'God is Omnipotent' true as it is any of other Divine Attribute. Non-spatial is a purely negative predicate though, there needs be nothing 'in' God to make it true other than the absence of spatial properties, so I don't see why it's wrong to class God amongst that which is non-spatial. Alone that statement is pure negative theology.

Daniel said...

P.S. What I was driving at in that first post:

On Thomist lines aren't we as much using analogy when we say 'an Angel is an immaterial being' and 'a mental event is an immaterial being' as we are if were to say the same about the angel and God?

John West said...

Are angels spatial?

John West said...

That was just a general question, not directed to the post directly above me, or anything like that.

Daniel said...

@John,

No, angels are just the stock Thomist example for immaterial intellectual being.

John West said...

So Christians do hold to the existence of non-spatial beings in the form of angels then?

Daniel said...

Yes (aside from the obvious immaterial souls). Needless to say both of these are concreta though.

For what it's worth I think weirdness objections have very little going for them beyond rhetorical appeal. A Classical Theist might argue that there is a strong intuition that God should be ontologically 'ultimate', this is a motivation for me at least, but on its own that serves as no actual objection to abstracta in and of itself.

John West said...

Daniel,

Yes (aside from the obvious immaterial souls). Needless to say both of these are concreta though.

Fascinating. You know, Michael Resnik (I think it was him) attacks the concrete/abstract distinction, calling it merely epistemological.

For what it's worth I think weirdness objections have very little going for them beyond rhetorical appeal.

Well (speaking in general now), if weirdness objections do have force, then I think we would be able to raise them against quite a lot of the entities posited by theoretical physics. Personally, I've never found them very convincing.

John West said...

Daniel,

A Classical Theist might argue that there is a strong intuition that God should be ontologically 'ultimate'

But I confess that, while I know a lot of classical theists have this intuition, I never have. I've never shared this intuition.

John West said...

Not just classical theists, I think, for that matter.

Daniel said...

Bad 'weirdness' type arguments professional philosophers of Religion have given:

1. Richard Swinburne once objected to Divine Necessity on the groups that he knew of no other purported necessary concrete being.

2. J.H. Sobel argued that if God is necessary i.e. exists in all possible worlds then God must be an abstract object because the only beings we know of that are necessary i.e. exist in all possible worlds are abstract objects.

@Random question: does anyone here know if Frege was an 'explicit' naturalist or just a Kantian type agnostic? I remember Dallas Willard mentioning somewhere that he (Frege) was a dualist about mind too.

Glenn said...

John West,

1. Adam likes Betty.
2. Betty has lime green hair.
3. Cathy, it is said, also has lime green hair.
4. Ergo, Adam should also like Cathy.

5. Denise believes in God.
6. God is non-spatiotemporal.
7. Objects in Plato's world, it is said, also are non-spatiotemporal.
8. Ergo, Denise should also believe in objects in Plato's world.

9. Elmer believes in objects in Plato's world.
10. Objects in Plato's world are non-spatiotemporal.
11. God, it is said, also is non-spatiotemporal.
12. Ergo, Elmer should believe in God.

13. Felicia finds grilled cheese sandwiches to be palatable.
14. Grilled cheese sandwiches have cheese.
15. Cheese cake, it is said, also has cheese.
16. Ergo, Felicia should also find cheese cake to be palatable.

However,

17. Adam doesn't like Cathy;
18. Denise doesn't believe in objects in Plato's world;
19. Elmer goesn't believe in God; and,
20. Felicia doesn't find cheese cake to be palatable.

Ergo,

21. Each one of Adam, Denise, Elmer and Felicia is:
21a. either weird or illogical;
21b. both weird and illogical;
21c. weirdly illogical; or,
21d. illogically weird.

But,

22. Why is "lime green hair" necessarily transitive?
23. Why is "non-spatialtemporality" necessarily transitive? and,
24. Why is "has cheese" necessarily transitive?

John West said...

Glenn,

Ergo, Denise should also believe in objects in Plato's world.

I've never made a claim like this. I would Denise shouldn't consider the objects weird.

John West said...

Not on the basis of their non-spatiotemporality^

Glenn said...

Daniel,

I agree with Scott that one needn't get carried away.

Indeed, St. Thomas himself sometimes referred to God as "a being", both implicitly (e.g., here, here and here) and explicity (e.g., here).

But the point, specifically, was as Scott has stated above.

(Although the point could be extended and generalize, so that it might said that the point is not that ought to be a prohibition against speaking of God in certain ways, but that care should be taken not to lose sight of or muddle the distinction between that which is its own being and that which has its being from something else.)

Glenn said...

(s/b "...could be extended and generalized, so that it might said that the point is not that there ought to be...")

John West said...

Frank believes in that which is non-spatiotemporal (angels, demons, God). Objects in Plato's world are non-spatiotemporal. Hence, Frank shouldn't consider -- in fact, not only consider, but reject for being weird -- objects in Plato's world weird on the basis of those objects' non-spatiotemporality.

Glenn said...

Scott,

Thanks for the helpful clarifications.

- - - - -

(One of these days I'm going to get to Blanshard.)

John West said...

Of course, initially I called it hypocritical. That was too greedy. I shouldn't have said it.

Rather, I think it is odd to reject that which is non-spatiotemporal for being non-spatiotemporal, when one already has other non-spatiotemporal ontological commitments.

John West said...

If Frank wants to consider them weird because they're abstracta rather than concreta, or due to some other fine point, that's fine or at least another issue. But doing so on the basis of their non-spatiotemporality while not being bothered by non-spatiotemporality in all these other cases, was why I complained.

Glenn said...

John West,

Frank believes in that which is non-spatiotemporal (angels, demons, God). Objects in Plato's world are non-spatiotemporal. Hence, Frank shouldn't consider -- in fact, not only consider, but reject for being weird -- objects in Plato's world weird on the basis of those objects' non-spatiotemporality.

I can, at least on general principle, agree with that.

Still,

Where here has anyone tried to assault you with "strident 'weirdness objections' against Platonic entities"?

And if someone is acclimated and/or habituated to viewing non-spatiotemporal forms inhering and residing in spatiotemporal things rather than separately from those spatiotemporal things, mightn't it at least be possible that a claim of "weirdness" might stem less from some inconsistency on the part of the one making that claim, and more from what, for that person, is unusual relative to what s/he is acclimated and/or habituated to?

John West said...

Glenn,

Where here has anyone tried to assault you with "strident 'weirdness objections' against Platonic entities"?

Well, like I said, I wasn't even sure DNW was a theist. In fact, I'm still not.

And if someone is acclimated and/or habituated to viewing non-spatiotemporal forms inhering and residing in spatiotemporal things rather than separately from those spatiotemporal things, mightn't it at least be possible that a claim of "weirdness" might stem less from some inconsistency on the part of the one making that claim, and more from what, for that person, is unusual relative to what s/he is acclimated and/or habituated to?

Absolutely.

John West said...

But what made me think of it was the March 3, 2015 post: Really? It's up to the naturalist [...] type stuff, and where are they? etc.

Incidentally, for the record, I run into this type of objection all the time, especially with theists of the rather numerous, personalistic, nominalistic, "Craigian" variety. Everything he disagrees with is wooeffffullly misguided (stress hyperbole) with that guy.

Glenn said...

DNW subsequently stated that his tone was meant to be one of 'amiable comic relief'. Maybe it didn't come off well in some eyes at the time. Oh well. But he did later clarify, and that should be that.

As for whether he is or is not a theist, what difference does it make? The truth of what a person says is not a function of that person's status as a theist or non-theist.

John West said...

DNW subsequently stated that his tone was meant to be one of 'amiable comic relief'. Maybe it didn't come off well in some eyes at the time. Oh well. But he did later clarify, and that should be that.


Right. And you'll notice my strident comments were all before that clarification.

As for whether he is or is not a theist, what difference does it make? The truth of what a person says is not a function of that person's status as a theist or non-theist.

Well, yeah -- of course*. And frankly, I sometimes think we need more atheists around here to keep the dialogue fresh; but I would totally get naturalists running weirdness objections against Platonic objects is all.


*you'll recall that I never actually asked, just noted I didn't know.

DNW said...

John West said...

'DNW subsequently stated that his tone was meant to be one of 'amiable comic relief'. Maybe it didn't come off well in some eyes at the time. Oh well. But he did later clarify, and that should be that.'

Right. And you'll notice my strident comments were all before that clarification.

'As for whether he is or is not a theist, what difference does it make? The truth of what a person says is not a function of that person's status as a theist or non-theist.'

Well, yeah -- of course*. And frankly, I sometimes think we need more atheists around here to keep the dialogue fresh; but I would totally get naturalists running weirdness objections against Platonic objects is all.

... *you'll recall that I never actually asked, just noted I didn't know.
March 6, 2015 at 2:18 PM "


Guys, I visit this site on my own volition. If I had tender feelings or thought some criticism was unreasonable, I'd say so.

Puzzling a bit over whether I am a theist or not hardly compares to what het up leftists pretended to have store for me if they got a street address. I've been there. And this is nothing but polite.

On theism: Though not intellectually persuaded in the way I am persuaded 2 plus 2 equals four, you would certainly see me crowding the pews if a comet were to hit earth. I'd throw metaphysics to the wind, and burrow into the historical.

However, when merely considering the more global intellectual positions typically taken by non-theists or anti-theists, I have found it more useful personally to grant for the sake of argument, and in brackets, their own metaphysical principles when analyzing the "logic" of their sociopolitical stances.

The sense of this first occurred to me back during my classroom study of the "early Marx"; when I eventually realized that his sneering attack on - ruling out of court - metaphysical speculation, and natural freedom, constituted a default metaphysics of its own.

Although, Feser has explicitly noted and quoted science historians and philosophers pointing this out decades prior to my arrival on the college scene, at the time it struck me, I thought it was some clever insight all my own.

Anyway, enough people make that move, and highlight the implications, or lack thereof, and what one sees as a result of the atheist-progressive being confronted with the implications of their own doctrines, are such comical developments as " Atheism + ":

' Yeah sure we know atheism doesn't imply "humanism", we're Brights after all. But we should all be "nice" and self-sacrificing anyway because ... something ... and might ... and if you too were ... although you are not ... and just imagine ... and flourishing too, in general that is, and not you specifically ..."

So, that is where I'm coming from on the general approach issue.

I think we all agree that realism need not necessarily be theistic; and certainly not religious in the usual sense. I also obviously think that it need not even be "Platonic".

Feser of course, links the argument for the immateriality of the intellect to the grasping of the immateriality of the formal cause - if I understand him right.

If so, that might be a logical entailment derived from the existence of any recognizable universals. But I also think it is obvious to all that that is a step further than one need to go just to establish the functional, extra-mental reality, or existence, of natural kinds.

However, I admit that that kind of wan realism, though recognizing natural kinds, may not go quite far enough to satisfy all when considering anthropological questions, and meeting all the psychosocial commitments which are entailed by Catholicism.

There, you [speaking generally] carry an extra burden, both rhetorically and conceptually: i.e., the unity of mankind; and not just the real existence of anthropological kinds.

Anyway, that roughs it out.

DNW said...

I also recognize that my last comment does not really address the issue of my apparent theism; since I had assumed, based on what I thought was a consistent intellectual tack, that it would not be apparent.

Somewhat clearer to me now, why in other venues thoroughgoing and militant atheists when frustrated or angered have spat out some retort to me along the lines of "You [this or that] Christians!", based on some simple natural law entailment I had posited.

I guess realism of any kind is the big bugbear among progressive anti-theists.