Thursday, March 5, 2015

Nyāya arguments for a First Cause


As I noted in an earlier post, arguments for a divine First Cause can be found in Indian philosophy, particularly within the Nyāya-Vaiśeșika tradition.  They are defended by such thinkers as Jayanta Bhatta (9th century A.D.), Udayana (11th century A.D.), Gangesa (13th century A.D.), and Annambhatta (17th century A.D.).  Translations of the key original texts and some of the most important studies in English are not easy to find, but useful discussions are readily available in books like Kisor Kumar Chakrabarti’s Classical Indian Philosophy of Mind: The Nyāya Dualist Tradition, Ben-Ami Scharfstein, A Comparative History of World Philosophy, and Parimal G. Patil’s Against a Hindu God: Buddhist Philosophy of Religion in India.

As with Aristotelian and Leibinizian versions of the cosmological argument, the Nyāya arguments are not arguments for a temporal First Cause.  On the contrary, the material universe is regarded as having always existed.  To be sure, the world is thought of as being cyclically created, destroyed, and recreated, but the material substrate underlying it persists throughout.  This substrate is conceived of in atomist terms.  The objects we perceive are wholes composed of parts.  The smallest perceivable parts are called triads, each of which is composed of three dyads, which are imperceptible.  Dyads in turn are each composed of two atoms, which, naturally, are also imperceptible.  The atoms, unlike the composites made out of them, neither come into being nor pass away.  They are the basic furniture of the material universe, indivisible and indestructible.  For the Nyāya atomist, there must be some such level of parts because otherwise things would be infinitely divisible, and thus have an infinite number of parts.  And in that case we would not be able to account for the different sizes of things, since if everything had an infinite number of parts they should all be of the same size.  (Compare Zeno’s paradox of large and small, from which he draws a very different lesson!)  The Nyāya view is also that a material effect is always made out of preexisting matter, so that the fundamental, atomic level of matter is not a kind of effect.

So, what Nyāya arguments for a First Cause purport to explain is neither the beginning of the universe (for it had no beginning) nor the existence of the atoms (for they are regarded, not as a kind of material effect, but rather as the basic preconditions of there being any material effects).  What such arguments purport to explain is rather the most fundamental sort of material effect, the kind that underlies every other, viz. the existence of dyads.  The reasoning is not that if we trace effects backward in time we’ll get to a temporally first effect, such as the Big Bang, and have to ask what caused that.  It is rather that if we trace effects downward here and now we’ll get to a metaphysically most fundamental sort of effect, the existence of dyads, and need to explain that.

Nyāya arguments also deploy a distinctive version of the principle of causality, according to which any effect requires a causal agent that is aware of the material stuff out of which the effect is made, desires to bring that effect about, and wills to do so.  The stock example is that of a pot, whose maker is aware of the clay out of which it is made, desires to make that clay into a pot, specifically, and wills to do so.  Why suppose that every effect has such a cause?  The Nyāya answer is that artifacts (pots, etc.) provide many confirming instances of this general principle, and that atoms are not counterexamples because they are not effects in the first place.  Moreover, though the atheist would claim that composite material things that are not artifacts (stones, etc.) are counterexamples, this charge (so the argument goes) begs the question.  For whether or not such objects are at least in part the effect of a causal agent with awareness, desire, and will -- namely God, as cause of the dyads out of which the objects are composed -- is precisely what is at issue.

No doubt the atheist will balk at this move, but Chakrabarti not implausibly suggests that it is really no different from the sort of move materialists commonly make in response to objections raised by dualists.  To take just one example (mine rather than Chakrabarti’s), if a dualist claims that material phenomena are all directly knowable from the “third-person” point of view whereas mental states are directly knowable only from the “first-person” point of view, the materialist will typically respond that by itself this claim begs the question and is thus no refutation of materialism.  For the materialist might argue that whether mental states really can be directly known only from the “first-person” point of view is precisely part of what is in question.  If the materialist regards this as a legitimate way of disarming a seemingly obvious counterexample to his position, why can’t the Nyāya theist similarly disarm the purported counterexamples atheists would raise against his version of the principle of causality?

With this background in place, I suggest that we might summarize the basic thrust of Nyāya arguments for a First Cause as follows:

1. Dyads are the fundamental sort of effect.

2. Any effect is the product of a causal agent which has awareness, desire, and will.

3. So dyads are the product of a causal agent which has awareness, desire, and will.

But why suppose there is a unique causal agent of this sort, and why attribute the divine attributes to such an agent?  The Nyāya approach to answering such questions might (roughly following Chakrabarti) be summarized as follows.  For the reasons already given, the causal agent in question must have awareness, desire, and will.  But it nevertheless cannot be comparable to a human causal agent.  For one thing, since human beings are composed of dyads, their existence presupposes dyads and thus cannot be the explanation of dyads.  For another thing, being imperceptible, the atoms out of which dyads are composed are not the sort of thing of which human beings can be aware, and a causal agent of the sort the argument posits must be aware of the materials out of which it makes the dyads.  So, the causal agent in question must, unlike human beings, be incorporeal.  Since it exists before the fundamental effect does, it must be without beginning.  If it is without beginning it must also be simple or non-composite, otherwise it would itself have parts and would exist only after those parts are combined.  If it is simple and thus without parts to be broken down into, it must be everlasting.  And considerations of parsimony (what in Western philosophy is called the principle of Ockham’s razor) tell against there being more than one such causal agent. 

Naturally, the Thomist is bound to find the overall project of such arguments congenial.  But he is also bound to take issue with the details.  Even if we were to accept atomism or some variant on atomism -- in the traditional philosophical sense of “atomism,” that is (naturally I do not deny the existence of atoms in the modern sense in which the term is used in physics) -- atoms would, for the Thomist, still have a cause.  For they would be composites of substantial form and prime matter and of essence and existence, and (as the Nyāya argument itself emphasizes) what is composite requires a cause.  (See pp. 177-84 of Scholastic Metaphysics for exposition and defense of the Aristotelian-Thomistic critique of atomism.)  Thus, the Nyāya argument is, from a Thomistic point of view, not radical enough in its attempt to trace the world to a divine cause.  Still, we cannot be too hard on it on that account.  That what is composite has a cause is an absolutely crucial insight in natural theology, and it is key to the Nyāya approach.

So, the Thomist would disagree with the claim of premise 1 that dyads are the fundamental sort of effect, but he would certainly agree with the deeper point that whatever the most fundamental composites turn out to be would require an efficient cause.  There are also problems with premise 2.  Here I think the atheist would be right to complain that we can’t draw general conclusions about efficient causality from the example of artifacts, because artifacts are rarer (indeed much rarer) than effects where no cause having awareness, desire, and will is evident.  So, while we are certainly justified in holding that composites, including non-artifacts, must have an efficient cause, getting to a cause that has awareness, desire, and will would require much further argumentation. 

Still, there is something to what the Nyāya approach is saying.  For the Thomist, we must attribute to any causal agent active potency or power; potencies or powers are always directed toward the generation of a certain effect or range of effects; and what is in an effect is always first in its total efficient cause in some way, whether formally, virtually or eminently -- this last point being the Scholastic “principle of proportionate causality.”  (See chapters 1 and 2 of Scholastic Metaphysics for exposition and defense of the Aristotelian-Thomistic approach to efficient causality.)  These features are arguably analogous to those which the Nyāya premise 2 attributes to efficient causes.  In particular, active potency or power is analogous to “will,” the directedness of a cause toward its effects is analogous to “desire,” and a total efficient cause’s having what is in the effect before the effect is generated is analogous to “awareness.” 

But of course, non-human natural causes do not really have “will,” and non-animal natural causes do not really have “desire” or “awareness.”  For the Thomist, most of the efficient causes operative in the natural order are completely devoid of sentience, intellect and will (even if they ultimately derive their causal power, at every moment at which they operate, from a divine First Cause).  The Nyāya approach, tying efficient causality as it does directly to awareness and will, seems to threaten to lead to occasionalism.

26 comments:

Conrad DiDiodato said...

I wonder if Nyāya arguments can't be even regarded as analogous to Thomistic ones.Don't the differing religious underpinnings of both make a look for similarities/differences a waste of time? It's sort of like saying that Dawkins and a Jesuit priest both share in similar understandings of 'altruism' which make them allies of a sort. The presuppositions of both make them mortal combatants from the first.

Curio said...

A question for Dr. Feser and other Thomists, perhaps slightly tangential to the main thrust of the post

are atoms substances?

seanrobsville said...

"For the Nyāya atomist, there must be some such level of parts because otherwise things would be infinitely divisible, and thus have an infinite number of parts. And in that case we would not be able to account for the different sizes of things, since if everything had an infinite number of parts they should all be of the same size. "

Well yes and no. In a probabilistic sense a particle is infinitely divisible because its wave function extends to the limits of the universe.

seanrobsville said...

There are also conceptual problems with a truly indivisible particle. If a particle were indivisible into parts, then it would have no top and bottom parts, side parts, or back and front parts (think of them as hemispheres of a spherical particle). In other words, it would be an infinitely small mathematical point, and an infinite number of them could fit into an infinitely small space.

The way out of this paradox is to claim that all fundamental particles consist of an indivisible point surrounded by some kind of force field, but then of course the particle is no longer truly indivisible, having two components, one of which extends in three dimensions to an arbitrary distance from the source.

Daniel said...

There are also conceptual problems with a truly indivisible particle. If a particle were indivisible into parts, then it would have no top and bottom parts, side parts, or back and front parts (think of them as hemispheres of a spherical particle). In other words, it would be an infinitely small mathematical point, and an infinite number of them could fit into an infinitely small space.

I believe Leibniz drew this conclusion with regards to his concept of monads, an admission he saw leading to the further conclusion that all extension is phenomenal.

Also: A gentle plea to all Buddhist:

Please please, stop quoting Hume on the nature of the self a la Robert Pirsig - it makes me wonder if Galen Strawson wasn't right when he claimed that most people who quote such from the Treatise don't appear to have been able to finish it.

Anonymous said...

many thanks.
another question for all A-T's here (i was asked it by a student): Does final-causality has a final cause? and if so - isn't it an infinite regress?

E.Seigner said...

seanrobsville Well yes and no. In a probabilistic sense a particle is infinitely divisible because its wave function extends to the limits of the universe.

Because the current physicists say so?

Physics has nothing to teach to logic. It works the other way round: The facts of physics have to be interpreted in accordance with logic. When the physicist's conclusion is illogical, it's a sure sign that he interprets the facts the wrong way.

Johannes Roehl said...

Elementary particles, like electrons are not divisible in the sense atoms are divisible. They are actually treated mathematically as "point particles without extension but they have "de facto" extension because they are surrounded by a field (but this de facto electron radius is not fixed but depending on the interactions).
In any case even a true point particle would have "matter" and form as components and even an electron that does not "naturally" decay can react with /be absorbed by other particles and is not an eternally existing thing.
(There are other problems with postulating "true point particles" because then there would be an infinite concentration of electrical charge at this point, this is dealt with by a mathematical procedure called renormalization).

The problem of many physicists, even philosophically inclined ones, is that they often oscillate between a kind of pythagoraeanism where they have trouble distinguishing between mathematical structures and the world described by them (or exhibiting that structure) and tend to think that everything is completely explained as long there is some formula, and a more pragmatic stance where they wave hands about problems with infinities, "unphysical solutions" etc. without being explicit about what other considerations (except pragmatic ones) influence what counts e.g. as unphysical.



E.Seigner said...

Curio, another question for all A-T's here (i was asked it by a student): Does final-causality has a final cause? and if so - isn't it an infinite regress?

The question is illogical. It can be reformulated, "Is final causality an effect?"

Can you ask the same about causality as such? e.g. "What is the cause of the concepts of cause and effect? We know that effects are caused by causes, but what caused the causes? Infinite regress!"

Daniel said...

(i was asked it by a student): Does final-causality has a final cause? and if so - isn't it an infinite regress?

Strictly speaking Final Causality is a way in which beings act not a being in itself so the answer is no. In a more lose sense we can say Final Causality derives from Formal Causality which is just a being's identity.

Tony said...

Dr. Feser:

The atoms, unlike the composites made out of them, neither come into being nor pass away. They are the basic furniture of the material universe, indivisible and indestructible. For the Nyāya atomist, there must be some such level of parts because otherwise things would be infinitely divisible, and thus have an infinite number of parts.

Seanrobsville:

There are also conceptual problems with a truly indivisible particle. If a particle were indivisible into parts, then it would have no top and bottom parts, side parts, or back and front parts (think of them as hemispheres of a spherical particle). In other words, it would be an infinitely small mathematical point, and an infinite number of them could fit into an infinitely small space.

Sean, I believe you are misunderstanding Ed's meaning on "atom". The point to the atom being "indivisible" is that it has no actual parts. The human body has parts not just because it has a top and bottom - dimensionality with "in-between" stuff. It has parts in a more formal sense - it has a liver and a leg and an eye. The eye is distinct from the liver really, not just potentially.

The idea of the atom is that it has no parts in THAT sense. Yes, it can have dimension, size a top and bottom. It has, though, no internal structure that makes any portion of its interior distinct from any other portion of its interior other than purely notional or potential distinctions. If I NOTIONALLY divide the atom in half, I can THEN discuss the top and the bottom, but there is nothing IN the top that distinguishes it from the bottom. The width of the atom can notionally be divided up into 7 parts, but the partition is all in my mind, not in the thing itself.

It is the "pudding" notion of basic matter. Molecules have parts that consist of things really distinguishable, they have e.g. a carbon part and an oxygen part. (Even if the reality is the incomplete reality of virtual parts, that's enough for my point). An atom (in Ed's sense, not Bohr's sense) is through and through all just the same in every way - it is just pudding no matter how closely, how finely, how experimentally extreme you get, you cannot find one part that acts distinctly from any other part.

Nyāya (if I understand the theory) is not saying the atom is point-like. It has an actual positive size. It is supposed as indivisible with respect to both that (a) there is no process (and metaphysically there cannot be any process) which can rend it to a more fine level, and (b) there is nothing within it that "composes" it of parts put together. It is still mathematically divisible in the notional sense - it is extended.

Timocrates said...

Modern atoms are composed. They are made of electrons, protons (themselves composed of quarks) and neutrons.

Timocrates said...

@ curio

"are atoms substances?"

They definitely are for the atomist; and if not the atoms then at least their necessary parts (electrons, protons/quarks, neutrons).

The concept of substance in philosophy is meant to be the ground of being or reality, the ultimate subject of reality. Substance is that which most is or is that which just is. Substances are thus the causes of everything else.

For common sense, substance answers a the question of what or What is? when this question seems necessary for intelligibility.

For example, if someone were to just say to you "five feet tall", your natural inclination is to ask, What is five feet tall? The mind does not endow five feet tallness, as it were, with independent being or consider it a thing that can exist in and of itself independent of anything else; whereas, other things in similar cases cause the mind not to search for a subject but on the contrary seeks rather predication.

Again, for example, if someone were just to say to you "Man", then your natural inquiry is, "What about man?" With the reply being a proper statement or proposition, e.g., "Man is interesting" or "Man is bodily." Of course, if you never heard of "man" linguistically before, you then might ask what man is or what is man; however, in this process, you are also going to decide or judge whether or not man is that kind of thing which is a proper subject in its own right or that kind of thing that can only exist insofar as it attaches to such a thing. We do not ask, therefore, "What is man?" in the same way we would ask "What is five feet tall?" The former seeks a definition whereas the latter seeks a subject. Notice too though that individuals are identified as substances. Hence, Joe is a man. This seems to be the reason for Aristotle's distinction between primary (individuals) and secondary substance (species or kinds).

Hope that helps; however, it should be noted that each philosopher has to wrestle himself with the notion of substance and any philosopher could be classified based on his objective or necessary judgments or assumptions about the notion of substance.

Finally, the strongest and most readily accessible or intuitive arguments I know of for the existence of substance or its necessity involves problems of infinite regress, both in the order of causation and also epistemologically. If the mind had to keep asking "what is..?" ad infinitum we could never really know anything, in the latter case; and in the order of causation, nature, generation and products would become impossible, as no infinite process can be accomplished: this effect is caused by this, which in turn is caused by this, ad infinitum.

Timocrates said...

Sorry in my above post in the last paragraph:

"If the mind had to keep asking "what is..?" ad infinitum we could never really know anything, in the latter case; and in the order of causation, "

"latter" should be "former".

Timocrates said...

Lol whoops. Second guessed myself! I was right the first time. Fatigue is taking its toll I think.

Timotheos said...

@ Tony

I think you might have missed the point of Seanrobsville’s argument. It doesn't seem that he is so much concerned with proving that there cannot be an indivisible atom, taken in the sense that one cannot physically divide an atom into smaller parts, but that there cannot be such an atom that is metaphysically indivisible, i.e. that is non-composite.

You yourself have already admitted that a molecule is composite in the sense of having the virtual parts of a carbon part and an oxygen part; I see no reason to suppose that Seanrobsville needs anything stronger than the claim that, say, the left half of a cube and the right half of a cube are virtual parts of the whole thing, even if there cannot in actuality be a “left half of a cube” and a “right half of a cube” (this is all analogous to the composition of form and prime matter; even though prime matter cannot actually exist divided from form, it still is in some sense a “part” of the thing).

And this is enough to show that anything extended would admit of some sort of metaphysical composition, and thus, that there cannot be any “indivisible atoms” that are not the effect of some cause, since they admit of a sort of composition, and all composites require a cause. And thus we refute Nyāya.

Of course, none of this shows that everything extended can be dissolved into physical parts, i.e. that one can chop an thing in half, getting two halves each half the width of the whole, ad infinitum. And if that is the sense that you took Seanrobsville’s argument, then I agree he’s got more work to do, but I don’t see a good reason to think he did, and certainly he doesn't need any claim that strong to show that Nyāya-style atoms are impossible.

Anonymous said...

Conrad,

Natural theology has no limits. Likewise, God's providence is held to be NATURAL and supernatural, so it is NOT a question of historico-cultural conditions when dealing with diverse metaphysical perspectives via natural reason.

Also, the difference between some Jesuit's understanding of 'altruism' and that of M. Dawkins is, from the highest perspective, only a question of reason and requires no consideration of superficial conditions.

Your mode of thinking ultimately leads to historicism and certain late modern/postmodern trends in understanding subjects. 'Cultural context' and such similar notions are of second order importance when considering the projects of natural theology/metaphysics and the reality of natural providence (including all of its implications). This is of course the common argument against metaphysics as well; that it is 'ahistorical'. But, I suggest thinking on the matter and disregarding the more popular modes of chatter.

Anonymous said...

The importance of atoms for scientists is not the question of their 'materiality', but conceptual. Ultimately, the 'atoms' of science (physical units of any kind) are just points of force.

So, lets not waste our time too much on what the 'science-guys' say if their intellectual standpoint just amounts to sheer conventionalism. Philosophy first!

Anonymous said...

So...I am curious...does Nyaya philosophy draw the link between this philosophy and their conceptions of Deity? Does it have affiliations to either monist Hinduism or monotheistic Hinduism?

Thank you.

Tony said...

Timotheos, I wish you would let Sean answer for himself. For, I don't think your answer deals with his point, not the way he was making it.

And this is enough to show that anything extended would admit of some sort of metaphysical composition, and thus, that there cannot be any “indivisible atoms”

As an Aristotelian, I of course accept that any physical being that is extended admits of metaphysical composition. This could be the essence and existence composition (which material things share with angels), or the form and matter composition, which all material things have.

However, it does not follow that all things composed of form and matter are dividable in the sense _Sean_ was indicating.

then it would have no top and bottom parts, side parts, or back and front parts (think of them as hemispheres of a spherical particle). In other words, it would be an infinitely small mathematical point, and an infinite number of them could fit into an infinitely small space.

He is getting at a particular problem: the kinds of atoms he thinks are implied are objects that would THEREFORE HAVE NO SIZE. It does not resolve this concern with a form-and-matter object that, because it has form and matter is metaphysically decomposable into its constituent form and its matter, if it has no size, such as a point-source material object. (Yes, I realize there are potential problems with such an object. The fact that there may be arguments to show that such an object is also metaphysically impossible is SEPARATE from whether it is from the first seen to resolve the problem he is pointing to, its smallness.)

While as an Aristotelian I doubt the ultimate success of a theory of atoms that have positive size and that are indivisible physically or metaphysically, that too is not the point. The question is whether within Nyāya's thesis, is it sufficient to represent the "atom" as being a "pudding all the way through" unit with size that cannot even theoretically have virtual parts and cannot be physically divided? And the answer seems to be yes. If that theory presents problems with Nyāya's ultimate correctness, I'm fine with that, too. I was not suggesting Nyāya is right, only that it isn't wrong for the specific problem Sean was indicating.

I see no reason to suppose that Seanrobsville needs anything stronger than the claim that, say, the left half of a cube and the right half of a cube are virtual parts of the whole thing,

Well, the words could be said, but that doesn't make them intelligible. The so-called "parts" you thus identify are "left and "right" to you, but to me they are "right" and "left". That is, the partition is solely in the mind of the beholder, not in the thing. If it is a strictly notional partition, without reflecting any real distinction in the thing itself, then then there is indeed a question whether this represents "divisible" in the necessary sense to bring down the Nyāya argument as posed. I don't think so. Ed's points about metaphysical composition do the job, but that's a different sense of divisible.

Timocrates said...

@ Tony,

" That is, the partition is solely in the mind of the beholder, not in the thing."

Sounds like a slippery slope to me. What the mind is picking out of the cube is definitely really there and present. And I can't think of any actual cube that wouldn't have such parts, though to be sure the perspective would probably just have to be stated.

But why, for instance, is the left or right half of the cube any less real than, say, its angles? I mean in geometry you might ask what the angles on the left side of a square will necessarily be.

Also, is the perspective also unreal? That would also seem problematic. It is meaningful when somebody, e.g., tells me to look or move to my left? Indeed, I would simply be wrong were I rather to look or move to my right.

Is the mind making a division? Yes. Is that division totally unreal? I don't believe so. I think what seems to be the trouble is a kind of potential reification where in the case of beholding the cube the division in the mind is made as if physically being divided, such that you no longer have or are considering a part of the cube but something besides.

Again. For video game lovers it would certainly not be clear how you would otherwise describe a division on the television screen to facilitate two users playing on the same console and television, usually between the upper and lower halves of the screen. And one hardly needs to qualify perspective in that case.

Again. If you were to ask me to paint the left half of a given, actual cube red and the right half blue, does not that necessarily imply the reality of the parts?

seanrobsville said...

Another way of looking at the question of the divisibility of fundamental particles is to consider what happens when the particle undergoes a transformation by interaction with another particle.

At some point in time two particles become one, or one particle becomes two, or two particles become many, as when an electron and positron annihilate to give up to three photons. So nature itself is enforcing a division.

Is it possible to conceive of any kind of transformation that does not imply divisibility?

Tony said...

Whatever theory of atom you are working with, if it is one where "one particle becomes two", that's not Nyāya's concept of "atom". (Even if Nyāya's concept is wrong). And if there is a physical, eternally unchangeable "atom" with size, when it undergoes composition with other such atoms to become part of something larger, the atom itself isn't undergoing the kind of transformation as when an electron and positron annihilate to give up three photons, where the electron itself is (obviously) no longer its immutable eternal self.

Sounds like a slippery slope to me. What the mind is picking out of the cube is definitely really there and present.

You are failing to come to grips with the actual sense of rational (or notional) distinction vs real distinction. Here's an example of a distinction of the mind rather than of the thing itself: I can look at a chocolate bar and mentally divide it into 3 parts. My wife can mentally divide it into 4 parts. My parts not only are not the same size as her parts, but my parts cannot ACTUALLY BE real thirds while hers are actual fourths and be ACTUAL partitions of the bar - the two divisions cannot be actually real in the chocolate bar at the same time. Either one could be realized, so there is a potential, and THAT POTENTIAL rests on a reality - the real extendedness of the bar. The mind sees the reality, and apprehends its potential, to impose a way of looking at the bar _as if_ it were in thirds. But if I were to actually impose on the bar an actual separation of it into thirds, that would preclude an actual division of it into fourths. (Yes, one could go about dividing each of the actual third-pieces into fourths so that a NEW aggregation of the parts could represent or be equal in weight to fourths of the original bar, but they would no longer be fourths of the ORIGINAL bar, they would be actual fourths of the pieces.) The notional relation "thirds" is certainly BASED on the reality that is the original bar, (you could not discern the relation "thirds" about the concept "funny") but it is a notional position that exists not in the bar but in the mind.

Timotheos said...

@ Tony

"My parts not only are not the same size as her parts, but my parts cannot ACTUALLY BE real thirds while hers are actual fourths and be ACTUAL partitions of the bar - the two divisions cannot be actually real in the chocolate bar at the same time."

And I see no reason why either me or Timocrates need disagree with that, certainly I accept it. That is why in my original post I was very careful to suggest that the sense of the word “parts” I was getting at was analogous to the sense of the word “parts” that one uses in the case of virtual parts, which you had alluded to in your original post.

And given the fact that you would admit that, say, hydrogen atoms and oxygen atoms are virtual parts of a water molecule, I cannot see a way for you to use the argument against extension implying compositeness without also proving the same about virtual parts. For the two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom are not ACTUALLY in the water molecule, they are only POTENTIALLY there, and so only exist notionally in the mind, as ACTUAL hydrogen and water atoms.

So it seems that you’re expressing the division between real and notional reality a little bit too strongly, or at least making a bit too much of the consequences of this distinction; you yourself say that the notional reality of the division is at least BASED in the reality of the extension. While “the right side” and “the left side” of a cube may not, and don’t, exist in reality full-stop, they at least seem to be parts in a similar sense to the way that virtual parts are parts of their wholes, and would not that be enough to show that these parts would entail a similar sort of composition? And thus, would not extension imply some sort of composition, even if this composition were not as strong as say, the composition of a house or a piece of wood?

Tony said...

For the two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom are not ACTUALLY in the water molecule, they are only POTENTIALLY there, and so only exist notionally in the mind, as ACTUAL hydrogen and water atoms.

The oxygen and hydrogen do not exist "only potentially". "Virtually" is a greater reality than potency. For example, mastery of geometry, in the mathematician while he is thinking of something other than geometry, is a reality that is greater than mere potency. The first-year student has potency to the knowledge, but he has not anything like the knowledge in act. The mathematician ACTUALLY thinking geometry is more in act than the mathematician sleeping - he is fully in act as regards geometry. But the mathematician sleeping is much more "in act" regards the knowing of geometry than the first-year student. Thus, even while sleeping, his knowledge is virtual, and this is a more complete reality than that of mere potential. He has the power to reduce the possible to the actual readily, easily, at any moment. He has the virtue of knowing geometry in act even when he is not thinking of geometry. Thus "virtual" knowledge - it sits as a power to the full act, which is in media res, between mere potency and full act.

In the water molecule, the hydrogen and the oxygen are not merely potential. There is a kind of reality to them. Not the full reality that is true of the water, no, (there is not the substantial reality of hydrogen), but they much more than the mere potency "to be hydrogen". The water is ACTUALLY water due to the "virtue" of the hydrogen and oxygen operating - under the mode of parts - in making the chemical bonds do the things that are typical of water. Thus they are REAL PARTS of water, and they are not present merely as potential but virtually. Their presence is not merely in the mind, it is not merely attributed from the outside, it is there in the water making the water to be water. (If their presence were of the mind, then it would be possible to mentally assign 3 hydrogen and 1 oxygen "parts" to the water - like I can assign a partition of the chocolate bar into thirds or fourths. The fact that trying this with water is a MISTAKE shows that the parts are really in the water, not notional parts).

Tony said...

And here's another example of mistaking a rational distinction for a real one. I can understand God under the attribute "just". I can also understand him under the attribute "merciful". That these are understood in my mind distinctly does not allow me to conclude that IN GOD they are really distinct aspects of God. That would be a mistake. Understanding them distinctly is what happens in MY mind, not what is present in God.