Friday, March 20, 2015

Pigliucci on metaphysics


At Scientia Salon, philosopher Massimo Pigliucci admits to “always having had a troubled relationship with metaphysics.”  He summarizes the reasons that have, over the course of his career, made it difficult for him to take the subject seriously.  Surprisingly -- given that Pigliucci is, his eschewal of metaphysics notwithstanding, a professional philosopher -- none of these reasons is any good.  Or rather, this is not surprising at all, since there simply are no good reasons for dismissing metaphysics -- and could not be, given that all purported reasons for doing so themselves invariably embody unexamined metaphysical assumptions.  Thus, as Gilson famously observed, does metaphysics always bury its undertakers.

Pigliucci’s misgivings began, he tells us, when he first encountered the medieval Scholastics while in high school in Italy.  Though he admits that “medieval logicians actually did excellent work,” he says that “as a teenager prone to (intellectual) rebelliousness… I couldn’t but reject the Scholastics.”  He adds that “the Scholastics still have a bad reputation in philosophical circles.”  Now of course, neither adolescent rebelliousness nor appeal to contemporary intellectual fashion constitutes a serious argument.  So, does Pigliucci actually have any substantive grounds for rejecting Scholastic metaphysics, specifically?  He doesn’t tell us.  Does Pigliucci even understand Scholastic metaphysics?  For example, does he understand how it differs (profoundly!) from the kind of metaphysics one finds in rationalist philosophers like Leibniz and in the work of most contemporary metaphysicians?  From other things he says in his post, it seems not.

We’ll come back to that.  First, consider the other factors which, Pigliucci tells us, deepened his suspicion of metaphysics.  While in college, he says, he was impressed by the logical positivists’ famous verification principle, and their application of it to a critique of metaphysics.  The basic idea, as is well known, is that any meaningful statement must (the verification principle claims) be either analytically true (like “All bachelors are unmarried”) or empirically verifiable. Yet metaphysical statements are (the argument continues) neither.  Therefore they are strictly meaningless, not even rising to the level of falsehood.

There are various problems with the verification principle, the most notorious being that it is self-refuting, insofar as the principle itself is neither analytically true nor empirically verifiable.  It is thus no less “meaningless” and indeed “metaphysical” (as verificationists conceived of metaphysics) as the claims it was deployed against.  Alternative formulations of the principle have been attempted, but the trouble is that there is no way to formulate the principle in such a way that it both avoids self-refutation and still has the anti-metaphysical bite the positivists thought it had.  These are such well-known points that it is unlikely that Pigliucci still regards verificationism as a serious challenge to metaphysics.  So, even if it impressed Pigliucci as a student, what does that have to do with why he is still suspicious of metaphysics now, as a professional philosopher?

The third influence on his suspicions, he says, was “Hume’s Fork” -- David Hume’s famous doctrine that any proposition that concerns neither “relations of ideas” nor “matters of fact” can contain only “sophistry and illusion” and might as well be “commit[ed] to the flames.”  Naturally, the suspect propositions included, in Hume’s view, those of traditional metaphysics, and Pigliucci tells us that on first encountering it he found Hume’s position “a neat and no nonsense kind of view.”  The trouble, though, is that Hume’s Fork is an anticipation of the positivists’ verification principle, and has similar problems.  In particular, it appears to be no less self-refuting, for Hume’s Fork is not itself either true by virtue of the relations of the ideas that enter into its formulation, or true by virtue of empirically discernible matters of fact.  Hence it is no less “metaphysical” than the propositions it was used to criticize.  And as with the verification principle, while one can attempt to reformulate Hume’s Fork in such a way as to keep it from being self-undermining, doing so also strips it of its anti-metaphysical bite.  And again, Pigliucci presumably realizes this, since it is well-known.

So far, then, if Pigliucci intends to give us serious rational grounds for being suspicious of metaphysics, he’s 0 for 3.  But he cites a fourth influence on his skepticism: James Ladyman and Don Ross’s book Every Thing Must Go, which, while it advocates a “scientific” or “naturalized” metaphysics, is hostile to traditional metaphysics.  On what grounds?  In Ladyman and Ross’s view, the trouble with any metaphysics that isn’t essentially just the book-keeping department for empirical science is that it is going to amount to mere “conceptual analysis.”  And “conceptual analysis” is grounded in ordinary language, commonsense intuitions, and “folk” notions -- all of which often conflict with the picture of the world science gives us.  The concepts the metaphysician analyzes and the intuitions to which he appeals thus may well float free of objective reality.  Hence any metaphysics that isn’t essentially just the systematization of what the various sciences have to tell us lacks (so the argument goes) any solid foundation.

This might seem to be a more formidable challenge to metaphysics than either the Humean or the verificationist challenge.  After all, Ladyman and Ross do not eschew metaphysics entirely, since they allow that metaphysics is respectable if suitably “naturalized” or made “scientific.”  And many contemporary metaphysicians do indeed ground their arguments in “conceptual analysis,” “intuitions,” and the like.  Hence, Ladyman and Ross might seem more sober than the likes of Hume, A. J. Ayer, and Co., neither directing their attacks at a straw man nor advocating an unreasonably extreme alternative position.

In fact, though, the Ladyman/Ross position is not only not a better argument than the Humean and verificationist arguments, it is on closer inspection really just the same argument superficially repackaged.  For Hume’s “matters of fact” and the positivists’ “empirically verifiable propositions,” read “naturalized (or scientific) metaphysics.”  And for Hume’s “relations of ideas” and the positivists’ “analytic statements,” read “conceptual analysis.”  Hence the Ladyman/Ross thesis that if a proposition isn’t a claim of natural science/”naturalized” metaphysics, then the only other thing for it to be is “conceptual analysis,” is essentially just a riff on Hume’s Fork.  And it has the same problem.  For the Ladyman/Ross thesis is not itself either a claim of natural science/”naturalized” metaphysics, or knowable via “conceptual analysis.”

Of course, some “naturalized metaphysicians” might suggest that neuroscience or cognitive science supports the Ladyman/Ross thesis, but if so they are deluding themselves.  For the actual empirical results of neuroscience or cognitive science would support the thesis only if interpreted in light of a naturalistic metaphysics, but not if interpreted in light of (say) an Aristotelian metaphysics, or an idealist metaphysics, or a panpsychist metaphysics, or a Cartesian metaphysics, or a Whiteheadian process metaphysics, etc.  Hence any attempt to appeal to the results of neuroscience or cognitive science naturalistically interpreted, in order to support the Ladyman/Ross thesis, would be question-begging.

So, the fourth influence on Pigliucci’s skepticism about metaphysics really gives him no better a reason for his skepticism than the first three do.  Nor is the self-refutation problem the only problem with the critiques of traditional metaphysics in question.  Another problem is that the verificationist, Humean, and Ladyman/Ross objections all presuppose too narrow and parochial a conception of metaphysics.  In particular, they tend unreflectively to frame the issues within a rationalist/empiricist/Kantian dialectic inherited from the early moderns.  But the Aristotelian-Scholastic tradition -- against which these early modern positions reacted and defined themselves -- rejects the basic assumptions underlying them.   

Like the rationalists, Aristotelian-Scholastic philosophers hold that there are metaphysically necessary truths which can be known with certainty, but they reject the rationalist view that such truths are innate or that metaphysics is an essentially a priori discipline.  Like the empiricists, Aristotelian-Scholastic philosophers hold that our concepts and knowledge derive from experience, but they also reject both the empiricists’ desiccated conception of “experience” and the empiricist tendency to conflate the intellect and the imagination.  They regard the intellect as capable of “pulling out” from experience far more than either the rationalist or the empiricist supposes.  Hence they reject the assumption that if a proposition isn’t empirical in the thin empiricist (as opposed to thick Aristotelian) sense of “empirical,” then it must be a matter of “conceptual analysis,” with the only remaining question being whether “conceptual analysis” is to be understood in rationalist, Humean, Kantian, Wittgensteinian, Strawsonian, or Frank Jackson-style terms. 

Thus, when Ladyman and Ross -- with, it seems, Pigliucci’s approbation -- describe contemporary “conceptual analysis” and “intuition”-based metaphysics as “neo-Scholastic,” they demonstrate thereby only their own utter ignorance of (or, worse, perhaps indifference to) what Scholastics themselves actually believe.  For from an Aristotelian-Scholastic point of view, contemporary “conceptual analysis” and “intuition”-based metaphysics is essentially an anemic successor to early modern rationalist metaphysics -- a metaphysics which Scholastics would reject, and which defined itself in opposition to the Aristotelian-Scholastic tradition.

As an example of the sort of thing he regards with suspicion, Pigliucci cites the contemporary metaphysician’s appeal to “conceivability,” as in arguments to the effect that “if it is conceivable, say, that there could be a being that is made exactly like me, atom per atom, and who however doesn’t experience any phenomenal consciousness, then this is sufficient to show a lacuna in physicalism.”  Writes Pigliucci: “I reject the very idea that conceivability is a reliable guide to metaphysics at all.”

The example is ironic in two respects.  First, Aristotelian-Scholastic metaphysicians would agree that conceivability doesn’t have the significance for metaphysical inquiry that many contemporary analytic metaphysicians suppose it to have.  But second, it is quite comical for someone who thinks Hume a paradigm of “no nonsense” anti-metaphysical thinking to cite the appeal to conceivability, of all things, as an Exhibit A piece of metaphysical sleight of hand.  For the principle that “whatever we conceive is possible, at least in a metaphysical sense,” is, as is extremely well known, a key component of Hume’s own method.  (The quote is from the Abstract of Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature.)  For example, this conceivability principle is central to Hume’s critique of the principle of causality, a key thesis of traditional metaphysics.  To reject the conceivability principle is thus to reject precisely one of Hume’s key weapons against Scholastics and rationalists alike.

But it’s worse even than that.  Hume conflates intellect and imagination, so that to “conceive” something is, for him, essentially to form a mental image of it.  This “imagist” account of concepts has been widely regarded as a philosophical howler at least since Wittgenstein (though any Scholastic or rationalist could have told you what is wrong with it).  The Humean thesis that we can read off sweeping metaphysical conclusions from the mental images we form is a thesis far more preposterous than any of those held up by Pigliucci for ridicule.

A further irony: Pigliucci (no surprise) makes some dismissive remarks about theology, a subject about which he seems to know as much as he knows about Scholastic metaphysics, viz. not much at all.  In particular, he evidently knows nothing about the crucial role played historically by the theological voluntarism of Ockham and Nicholas of Autrecourt, the occasionalism of Malebranche, and the Cartesian and Newtonian replacement of substantial forms and causal powers with “laws of nature” understood as divine decrees, in setting the stage for the Humean conception of natural objects and events as “loose and separate.”  Understood in light of its historical background, Hume’s philosophy can be seen to owe largely to bad theology.

In fact, when Hume’s various philosophical errors are exposed -- the assumptions inherited from bad theology, the conflation of intellect and imagination, the self-undermining character of Hume’s Fork, and so forth -- little is left in the way of actual argumentation to support the anti-metaphysical and anti-theological conclusions for which he is famous.  His bloated reputation notwithstanding, Hume is exactly what Anscombe said he is: a “mere -- brilliant -- sophist.”

Why that reputation is as bloated as it is, everyone knows:  Skeptics simply like Hume’s conclusions, and don’t care to investigate too carefully how plausible, at the end of the day, are the arguments by which he arrived at them.  F. H. Bradley, though a metaphysician himself, famously characterized metaphysics as “the finding of bad reasons for what we believe on instinct.”  Never was it more obvious than in the case of Hume and his fans how true this can be of opponents of metaphysics.

As it needn’t be said, a lot more could be said.  Since I say a lot more in Scholastic Metaphysics -- about the difference between Scholastic metaphysics and what passes for metaphysics in much contemporary philosophy, about scientism, about Hume’s foibles and intellectual forebears, about laws of nature and much else -- I direct the interested reader to that.

121 comments:

Daniel said...

How much does this fellow know about contemporary philosophy, I mean really? The fact he appeals to vague Logical Positivst motifs (hasn't made it to Quine yet?) sort of places him in the level of 'random combox troll'.

One point of digression though. What, if anything, is this modern 'Rationalist' metaphysics (and epistemology) Scholasticism differs so greatly from? Nowadays that term just gets used for those who accept A Priori knowledge. I can't think of anyone, at least anyone metaphysically minded, who would endorse Nativism. Even self-confessed 'Rationalists' like Katz or Bonjour are really Platonists as, indeed, are most modern metaphysical in someway or other.

taylormweaver said...

@Daniel

One would suppose that he knows quite a bit about contemporary philosophy, holding a doctorate in philosophy of science.

Which makes this all the more sad. Is it that all public intellectuals (here I am using the term loosely) seem to be so hopelessly outdated/uninformed?

Matt Sheean said...

I wish Pigliuicci would have better explained why he thought that the question about a non-theological example of metaphysical necessity would be so damning to metaphysics in general should it prove difficult to answer in a Q&A. To quote a certain Alaskan official, that sounds like "gotcha" philosophizing to me.

Another issue that strikes me as especially problematic about Humean metaphysical skepticism is that it seems to be limiting of topics of discussion rather than of beings, modes of being and such. For all the skeptic can know, the real distinction is real, the Platonic menagerie is real, etc, they just can't talk about it. Maybe they suppose that non-skeptics discuss metaphysics in the way Tolkien fans obsess over minutiae in the appendices to Lord of the Rings. There's no reason, though, to suppose that everything else is not swallowed up into this realm of fictions. Talk about science, what science does, and what science has shown us about the world would ultimately be just as much like arguing over the pronunciation of elvish words. That might be too broad, but it's a summary of a practical issue that bothers me in addition to the logical issues with positivism, etc that Feser discusses in the article.

Crude said...

I've got a simple question about this.

If Pigliucci dislikes metaphysics, does he therefore eschew naturalism? That IS a metaphysical view, yes? And if he doesn't, why not?

dover_beach said...

What a fine rollick to begin the weekend.

John West said...

Crude,

Possibly Massimo means he rejects first philosophy that is either not identical to second philosophy, or that precedes second philosophy. So, if I'm right, he'd be fine if his metaphysics either are natural sciences or are “read out of” natural sciences[1]. What he really rejects is this traditional notion of metaphysics as first philosophy.

I agree that this position is (to say the least) implausible, but you asked and this is what a lot of naturalists mean when they say they are naturalists or dislike metaphysics.

Though, Dr. Pigliucci also seems to have some odd, Humean empiricist sentiments. Not too sure about those.


[1]Massimo doesn't appear to have digested much (if any) Quine. But Quine had another, slightly different definition of naturalism: “the abandonment of the search for a first philosophy.” Maybe Massimo means something like that.

Anonymous said...

The main intuition that I often see among philosophers like Pigliucci who spend a lot of time around science is something like the following:

Modern science (quantum mechanics, special relativity, general relativity, etc.) explicitly shows not only that the natural world is very weird, but that our "everyday", commonsense concepts about the natural world can no longer be trusted (concepts about time, space, causation, etc.). These concepts form the basis of metaphysics, so therefore metaphysical reasoning is no longer trustworthy, at least insofar as it makes pronouncements about the structure of the natural world.

Crude said...

John West,

So, if I'm right, he'd be fine if his metaphysics either are natural sciences or are “read out of” natural sciences[1].

Sure, but then how are you defining what is or isn't science, or what is or isn't a legitimate reading? I don't think this position is coherent ultimately - it seems if someone really wants to take the position of rejecting metaphysics, even on those terms, then metaphysical naturalism can't swim to the surface.

John West said...

Crude,

Sure, but then how are you defining what is or isn't science, or what is or isn't a legitimate reading?

I think they take it that "first philosophy" refers to setting up Principles from which we can deduce reality (or there at least in principle existing such a scheme of metaphysical principles).

Naturalists tend to find especially offensive the idea that metaphysics or first philosophy can be used to rule on scientific discoveries, like a sort of extra-scientific tribunal, and strike them out.

For "natural science", I take it this means the inductive, scientific method, the set of tools needed to get it started, and whatever it can be used to discover.

But I don't see how you can get the scientific method started without (at least implicitly) making metaphysical presuppositions either.

I don't think this position is coherent ultimately

I mean, I agree completely. I don't see how to make naturalism or science work without presuming a bunch of metaphysical facts.

John West said...

As for "natural science"^

ccmnxc said...

Ed, don't know if you were planning on making an anouncement at some point soon, but Amazon has your forthcoming collection up: http://www.amazon.com/Neo-Scholastic-Essays-Edward-Feser/dp/1587315580/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1426893896&sr=1-1&keywords=Neo-Scholastic+Essays

ccmnxc said...

Maybe I can get a working link this time:

lAmazon Preview

Anonymous said...

I would argue that 'innate ideas' are no different than abstract forms or that Rationalist 'wholes' are no different than substantial forms. It seems to me that the early modern rationalists modified the metaphysical tradition in a primarily rhetorical manner. It even seems that manner of speech had effected the transition of diverse notions as they were transferred from Latin to the vernacular. The manner of speech in Latin is obviously more oriented towards grammar than speech and towards legal discourse whereas the early, polite vernacular was obviously marked by its 'conversational' quality amongst the writers of 'polite letters'. Perhaps the lack of enthusiasm regarding Latin discourse can even be grasped from the standpoint of an earlier conflict between the inherited institutional Latin and the Ciceronian rhetorical Latin amongst Renaissance men. And lastly there is the nationalistic sentiments to be considered.

Cultural, rhetorical and contingent matters aside, I don't see that large of a difference between early modern Rationalists and the great Schoolmen of note. Leibniz, for example, I take to be a better philosopher and even a better Thomist than Suarez.

On another note, I would even worry about today's internet-inspired 'quick discourse'. The common and absurd reduction of all discourse to 'facts' amounts to nothing more than a superstition of facts. I even googled some philosophical matter just a few moments ago and there was a post somewhere inquiring as to whether this matter was simply 'correct' as if it were a mere matter of fact and not of thought. At least the Roman jurists of old understood that 'quid juris' was the very basis for any meaning regarding those questions 'quid factis' which are meaningless in themselves. The ultimate questions are always ever of form and never of facts.

Scott said...

@ccmnxc:

"Amazon has your forthcoming collection up[.]"

Hahaa, fabulous. Pre-ordered it is, with a mere two months to wait until it's released. Thanks for the link.

I have to congratulate Ed that Amazon lists it as the #1 new release in the history of philosophy. That's quite an achievement.

Daniel said...

Dear Dr. Feser and Thomists:

My comment is off topic, but I would like to know if any of you are familiar with Spanish Catholic Philosopher Xavier Zubiri and his critique of Aristotelianism and Classical philosophy in general?

Christi pax

Edward Feser said...

Ed, don't know if you were planning on making an anouncement at some point soon,

Yes, I hereby announce that I will soon be making an announcement about it.

ccmnxc said...

Splendid :)

Curio said...

I used to follow Pigliucci's old blog, Rationally Speaking. I thought he had interesting things to say about evolutionary biology, and edited a halfway decent volume on philosophy of pseudoscience. He was a cut above the New Atheist pack.

Sadly, he hasn't improved with age. I hope he reads this response, as it may prompt Pigliucci to first study the material he rejects tout court. I used to wonder if Pigliucci would end up a scholastic, or something. Maybe an Antony Flew style deist? Alas, he seems too taken by Hume and present-day Humeans such as Ladyman and Ross.

What's *most* bizarre is that Pigliucci has sympathies for mathematical Platonism!

https://philosophynow.org/issues/84/Mathematical_Platonism

Daniel said...

@Daniel,

I know of Zubiri and have been planning to study his works in greater depth for a time now. For now all I feel up to saying is that his critique of Causation is irrelevant (the Molnar paraphrase in GSM may be appropriate here) and that he may be onto something with his criticism of 'Real' Genus/Species Definitions verses 'Nominal Definitions'. Having said that I don't know where modern Thomists stand on that last issue - certainly some Aristotelian philosophers like Kit Fine or E.J. Lowe understand 'Real Definition' in a much broader sense.

CrimsonCatholic, a fellow who used to post here, was interested in Zubiri and had some entries about that philosopher on his blog.

Crude said...

Sadly, he hasn't improved with age. I hope he reads this response, as it may prompt Pigliucci to first study the material he rejects tout court.

What I've noticed with Pigliucci is that, when it comes to God and religion, he wants to work from the vantage point that all questions are settled. So there's very little 'here's why this or that argument for God's existence fails', as opposed to 'all of the arguments for God's existence fail, therefore...'

John West said...

To be honest, I still find it very strange whenever I hear naturalism used to mean a standpoint in philosophy of religion. Quine's defines it (I slightly misquoted the first part from memory earlier, but now correct that):

naturalism: the abandonment of the goal for a first philosophy. It sees natural science as an inquiry into reality, fallible and corrigible but not answerable to any supra-scientific tribunal, and not in need of any justification beyond observation and the hypothetico-deductive method. (Quine, Five Milestones of Empiricism)

So long as the naturalist doesn't think metaphysical principles can be used to strike out scientific theories, I don't see why he ought to be bothered by his use of metaphysics. But I also don't see how naturalism necessarily conflicts with theism. Why couldn't a naturalist ultimately be in the same camp as the author of The Last Superstition?

Yet, whenever I hear “naturalist” relating to philosophy of religion, I hear whatever philosopher using it as polite code for “atheist”. I wonder why Pigliucci and his like use naturalist this way.

Daniel said...

@ Daniel

"I know of Zubiri and have been planning to study his works in greater depth for a time now. For now all I feel up to saying is that his critique of Causation is irrelevant (the Molnar paraphrase in GSM may be appropriate here) and that he may be onto something with his criticism of 'Real' Genus/Species Definitions verses 'Nominal Definitions'. Having said that I don't know where modern Thomists stand on that last issue - certainly some Aristotelian philosophers like Kit Fine or E.J. Lowe understand 'Real Definition' in a much broader sense."

Zubiri is not someone who's unaware of the history of philosophy before Descrates, and he's Catholic, so he's not the kind who dismisses Aristotle or St. Thomas on the grounds that their metaphysics justifies the existence of God, so it can't be correct. In other words, I find him to be a serious critic who should be taken seriously, especially more seriously than Dr. Dawkins and his ilk. Zubiri was also a polymath, so he's not like those overly-specialized scientists and philosophers, stuck in their "prison of one idea" as Chesterton calls it. He lived during the discoveries of relativity and quantum physics as well.

That said, he's definatly influenced by Continental philosophers. What I find fascinating is that he goes straight to the principles of Greek philosophy in his criticisms, and claims that Greek metaphysics creates the "entification of reality." He then makes a distinction between being and reality, although I have yet to understand what he means by it. He also doesn't seem to like the dualism regarding the senses and the intellect. Zubiri was influenced by the Spanish Mystics like St. John of the Cross, and St. John was definitely influenced by St. Thomas and realism, especially St. Thomas's realism regarding divinization.

Zubiri also used insight from Continental philosophers to expand Cardinal Newman's doctrine development.

"CrimsonCatholic, a fellow who used to post here, was interested in Zubiri and had some entries about that philosopher on his blog."

His blog came up in my studies of Zubiri. The biggest problem is that I don't read Spanish and Zubiri wrote much of his thought in Spanish.

Christi pax.

Daniel said...

Cool name, btw ;-)

Matt Sheean said...

"...he wants to work from the vantage point that all questions are settled."

This always seems to me like an attempt to recast a complete lack of interest as thoughtful disagreement. I don't meant to bash Pigliucci here, this is a behavior that I observe in other humans.

"To be honest, I still find it very strange whenever I hear naturalism used to mean a standpoint in philosophy of religion."

Agreed. It seems to me that the best one can hope to do as a naturalist is abide by some methodological stipulations, but those stipulations preclude proofs about metaphysical things. There's nothing really concrete preventing them from practicing a religion as a full-fledged member of it, other than a "foolish consistency."

John West said...

Matt,

Agreed. It seems to me that the best one can hope to do as a naturalist is abide by some methodological stipulations, but those stipulations preclude proofs about metaphysical things. There's nothing really concrete preventing them from practicing a religion as a full-fledged member of it, other than a "foolish consistency."

I guess it's just that I don't think there's any deep conflict between science and its method, and theism. So, at least in principle, I don't see why someone couldn't be a full-time Quinean naturalist, and a theist. But I suspect Dr. Pigliucci imagines some deep conflict between science and theism.

I think a lot of people use naturalism to mean a mechanistic, physicalist view of the world, but most naturalist authors I've read have some type of universal or abstract objects in their ontology. Heck, isn't Ladyman the guy who argues the universe is at bottom, really just a bunch of abstract, mathematical ersatz atoms, or something, and that strictly speaking there are no "things"?

Matt Sheean said...

"I think a lot of people use naturalism to mean a mechanistic, physicalist view of the world, but most naturalist authors I've read have some type of universal or abstract objects in their ontology."

Yea, naturalism never seems to be Naturalistic all the way down. I'm not really familiar with Ladyman, aside from one of the posts on this blog about him. I watched a talk of Searle's about realism a while ago, and he says in it that "we live in one world at most", and he takes that to be a denial of supernatural realms and such. Well, so what, I thought, if God is the primordial, sustaining cause of the world, Being itself, etc then what's the problem with saying both "we live in one world at most" and "God exists". To some extent, I am suspicious that naturalists might occasionally walk backwards into Classical Theism as they are retreating from the unsightliness of more modern theologies, but they simply apologize for bumping into old CT without turning around to see just who it was they bumped into.

Ismael said...

"Does Pigliucci even understand Scholastic metaphysics? "

NOPE

In more than one of his blogposts Pigliucci for exaple shows he does NOT understand the philosophical concept of "substance" (certainly not how the scholastics vewed it).

---

"For example, does he understand how it differs (profoundly!) from the kind of metaphysics one finds in rationalist philosophers like Leibniz and in the work of most contemporary metaphysicians? "

Nope.

Again, for a "professiona philosopher" he seems quite ignorant when he writes in his blog.

Sure he rises miles above the "common new atheist" and thus is capable of seing the glaring flaws of the materilist eliminativism of Dennett or Krauss, but when it comes to serious philosophy he is very shallow and unprepared.

---

To be fair I am glad at least among the atheists there are some people like Pigliucci who do not follow the dumbest ideas without examining their flaws, at the same time he has a LONG WAY to go before he can be considered a thinker worthy of any serious attention... at least when philosophy is concerned

E.Seigner said...

Ed: Now of course, neither adolescent rebelliousness nor appeal to contemporary intellectual fashion constitutes a serious argument. So, does Pigliucci actually have any substantive grounds for rejecting Scholastic metaphysics, specifically? He doesn’t tell us.

Actually, Pigliucci tells specific reasons. I recommend readers of this blog, before commenting on this post, to read what Pigliucci has to say. Sure enough, I don't think Pigliucci's reasons are any good, but they are specific and well laid out.

For example Pigliucci says, "The positivists, (in)famously, applied their verification principle to establish not just whether a given notion was true or false, but even to determine if it made sense or was rather incoherent. Metaphysical concepts (such as that of God) cannot be verified, so they are literally meaningless, not even wrong. I loved it!"

This means Pigliucci prefers empiricism to rationalism and logic. This is a clear and strong reason to hold what he holds. He even says this in the same, "[Pigliucci's preferred] idea is that metaphysics can not longer be conceived as a search for a priori truths about the world, because the only reliable sources of such truths is (a posteriori) empirical evidence (and therefore science), aided by mathematics and (to a lesser extent) logic." This is an explicitly stated case for empiricism (verificationism with the principle of falsifiability) over rationalism (logical and metaphysical necessities).

People with the empirical preference usually do not distinguish empiricism from rationalism very rigorously. They view logical necessities as an empirical principle and they label the result "the rational approach", and this is sufficient to convince them about the modern common atheistic naturalism.

Also, the fact that in Pigliucci's post Schaffer cannot give a proper answer to his question about metaphysical necessities gives solid confirmation to Pigliucci's empiricist-minded skepticism. Pigliucci's empiricism is juvenile, but it's not un-specific.

Crude: What I've noticed with Pigliucci is that, when it comes to God and religion, he wants to work from the vantage point that all questions are settled. So there's very little 'here's why this or that argument for God's existence fails', as opposed to 'all of the arguments for God's existence fail, therefore...'

In his mind, the only argument for God would be if someone showed him God. No logical argument would do. This is the ordinary way in which empiricists confuse their empiricism with rationalism. In his post, Pigliucci describes very well how he cannot see any reason for the concept of metaphysical grounding and he sees no distinction between grounding and causality - and he prefers causality.

His case is abundantly clear. It's not a good case for his own position, but it explains nicely why he would dismiss metaphysics and theology. He even says in his post that "grounding" is a "relatively modern concept that has gotten metaphysicians all excited", which is a baffling statement to me. Inasmuch as metaphysics is the work of grounding specific phenomena and concepts in generalities or fundamentalities, the idea of "grounding" precedes any metaphysical thinking and cannot be "relatively modern".

Timocrates said...

@ Anonymous (March 20, 2:49PM):

”Modern science (quantum mechanics, special relativity, general relativity, etc.) explicitly shows not only that the natural world is very weird, but that our "everyday", commonsense concepts about the natural world can no longer be trusted (concepts about time, space, causation, etc.). These concepts form the basis of metaphysics, so therefore metaphysical reasoning is no longer trustworthy, at least insofar as it makes pronouncements about the structure of the natural world.”

Well, I don’t think time or space form the basis of metaphysics except relative to us or from our human perspective, which is to say in the natural order of human discovery. Similarly all the various species of causes also seem to presuppose physical being and experience, certainly at least for us.

Regardless, I always found such arguments question begging. “Because such-and-such is so, we need to abandon our traditional understanding or notion of causes.” Is the cause in the because physical or not? It would certainly seem strange to say that we are only now being physically caused to abandon our traditional notions of space, time and causality. At the same time, however, it is still supposed to be physical facts that are causing the conclusions (otherwise the study and observation of time and space wouldn’t be included in physics at all, which would surely be shocking).

But for all the apparent contradiction, Metaphysical truths can still be made plain enough to people when those claims are associated with truths everyone is readily able to see as being necessary. Thus, for instance, the claim that a thing cannot give what it does not have to give can be shown to be a corollary of the truth that from nothing comes nothing and related also to the principle of sufficient reason; that is, that every being has the sufficient reason for its being either in itself or in some other. Thus, the existence of a man is explained by pointing, so to speak, to his Creator and his parents but also to his intrinsic nature. Thus the man received his nature from what already had or, as it were, contained it.
Indeed, even when we see something producing something different from itself, we seek out in the thing the causes that made this possible and are we are not satisfied until we have discovered it. Also our ethical understanding of what is and isn’t theft is related to the intuition that a thing cannot give what it does not have to give. Of course, strictly speaking, it is readily evident that someone cannot sell me, for example, what he doesn’t have at all to sell to me, in the sense of an exchange where the thing is, in the process, actually received; however, mere control of a thing does not, morally, make it truly had or owned; thus, should someone sell me something they stole, we would, notwithstanding, insist that it was not his to sell (i.e. not his to give). Thus both physical and moral possibility rest on the intuition that a thing cannot give what it does not have to give; hence, any man at any time in history could conceive of being and imagine being born aloft by some means into the air like a bird; however, he would have for much of history wondered at how he could actually accomplish this given his present nature, knowledge and resources. Thus, for instance, people debate about both the possibility of artificial intelligence and, if they accept its possibility, next move to wonder at how or even if man could achieve it; and if we define God as a being necessarily omnipotent, we do not doubt that if artificial intelligence is indeed something possible or realizable for man, that God could create it, just as He could, of course, produce a chair.

I think with metaphysical reasoning the trick (as it were) is finding something that the doubter or denier can relate to or appreciate. And while it is true, for example, that some physicists deny the principle that from nothing comes nothing, many do not and can very readily appreciate its value and importance for good science.

Dennis said...

I apologise for the off-topic request, but, Dr. Feser, I've been asked to read Roger Bacon, now I've never touched Roger Bacon in my life, whether he is an authentic Aristotelian or not, and so forth, in any case, if you could please say a few notable things about him, I'd highly appreciate it. Thanks.

Daniel Joachim said...

@John

To be honest, I still find it very strange whenever I hear naturalism used to mean a standpoint in philosophy of religion. Quine's defines it (I slightly misquoted the first part from memory earlier, but now correct that):

naturalism: the abandonment of the goal for a first philosophy. It sees natural science as an inquiry into reality, fallible and corrigible but not answerable to any supra-scientific tribunal, and not in need of any justification beyond observation and the hypothetico-deductive method. (Quine, Five Milestones of Empiricism)


Interesting indeed. Isn't this really just a riff of Scientism? Natural science not answerable to anything "extra-scientific". How would anyone establish the philosophical preconditions of natural science, or even make sense of the scientific results in that manner?

Repeating Searle, aren't all topics in a sense really philosophy, since they're only interesting in light of their larger implications, and that's what philosophy is all about?

I guess that's why I never trust someone who appeals to "science" without at the same time willing to identify with an -ism, that can provide a foundation for him to stand and work from.

Don Jindra said...

I guess I'm just too boring and practically-minded. I can't get excited by gee wiz metaphysics unless it shows practical consequences. From my POV, a metaphysics that talks of truths "in principle" rather than truths observable in nature is like a minor league team struggling for relevancy in a major league town. Even at its best, metaphysics is brought in after the fact in an attempt to explain why something that works actually does work. If metaphysics has the freedom to interpret empirical results with an "Aristotelian metaphysics, or an idealist metaphysics, or a panpsychist metaphysics, or a Cartesian metaphysics, or a Whiteheadian process metaphysics," then I have to ask if metaphysics is anything more than relativism by another name? Is it simply a matter of taste? Why would a practically-minded person be tempted to choose a vague foundation over a modest and working naturalistic metaphysics?

John West said...

Daniel Joachim,

Interesting indeed. Isn't this really just a riff of Scientism?

Well, Quine definitely had some silly scientismistic tendencies, so it wouldn't surprise me. But I don't think this definition is so bad. All it really says is that scientific conclusions aren't “in need of any justification beyond observation and the hypothetico-deductive method”. But, in most areas (maybe, for example, not cosmogony -- not sure), that's already how scientists work. It doesn't even occur to them to go checking the philosophy behind their discoveries. They have their own methods for justifying those.

Natural science not answerable to anything "extra-scientific". How would anyone establish the philosophical preconditions of natural science, or even make sense of the scientific results in that manner?

Sorry, I'm not sure I understand these questions (but I'm sick with a cold, so that's probably on my end). I think what he's saying is that anything built into the method is fine, but that the conclusions reached can't be struck out by rulings from a supra-scientific tribunal (ie. Throwing out the laws of gravity for philosophical reasons). Though I'm not sure how much this sort of thing even happens.

As for ontological preconditions, I think Putnam phrased Quine's thesis as (here comes massive scientism): “we should have ontological commitment to all and only the entities that are indispensable to our best scientific theories.” So, for Quine, metaphysics was a kind of bookkeeping device to keep science working.

I've already said I disagree with Quine here. But that said, I can see the sense in all this in many areas of science (it's pretty much how things already work) and I think philosophy probably should try to be contiguous with our best scientific theories though it logically precedes it, but I think this type of naturalism becomes sketchier when we get to (say) QM, or cosmogony, where scientists practically just are doing (bad) philosophy and should probably receive philosophical training.

Timocrates said...

@ Don Jindra,

"I guess I'm just too boring and practically-minded. I can't get excited by gee wiz metaphysics unless it shows practical consequences. From my POV, a metaphysics that talks of truths "in principle" rather than truths observable in nature is like a minor league team struggling for relevancy in a major league town. Even at its best, metaphysics is brought in after the fact in an attempt to explain why something that works actually does work."

In the history of the development of philosophy, logic was said and believed to have resulted and developed after the development of grammar. The story goes that once man achieved the science of grammar, he next wondered at how he was able to do this, and examining what he had done, discovered in the process the reality of logic and began to develop, in turn, its rules and science.

Now it would be mistaken to think that logic was "brought in after the fact in an attempt to explain why something works [i.e. grammar]". Firstly, it needs to be stressed that the mind saw that it did work and to wonder why it works. Similarly we wonder why or how science works. We can examine the underlying assumptions, such as the principles of non-contradiction, identity, excluded middle, sufficient reason and causality. These things are necessary for any science (or else incoherency results and science becomes meaningless or unintelligible). Metaphysics stands to science the way logic once stood to grammar. Today, we are inclined rather to place logic before grammar, because trying, e.g., to develop the rules of grammar absent logic would seem to us a dangerous, needlessly more difficult and haphazard. For all that, however, grammar did precede logic in human history; similarly, modern science's physical revolution in the natural sciences caused an apparent breach with classic metaphysics. For all that, however, we can still identify necessary points of contact.

John West said...

I should add: I think someone could hold Quine's naturalism without holding his various other theses. For example, if Ed posted tomorrow that he'd discovered some deep metaphysical principle that meant we have to throw out half our scientific theories, my naturalist would tell him he'd gone mad and probably either made a mistake or some other part of his philosophy is false.

We could have some different philosophical presuppositions, and have the same scientific discoveries (ie. laws of natures instead of laws nature). But, though some of our current theories may turn out to be false, I don't think there's some "other" conjunction of truths about the physical world discovered by science that could stand alongside the current one and be "also true".

Anyway, it's hard to see how there could be natural sciences without the CP, or PSR, and those constitute significant parts of proofs for God.

John West said...

I don't think there's some as of yet undiscovered "other" natural science, with its own theories contradicting whatever we have now, that could stand alongside the current ones as "also true". I'm not a relativist.^

Daniel said...

@John West,

Isn’t Peter van Inwagen pretty much a straight up Quenian theist?

@Daniel,

Cool name, btw ;-)

You too sir ;)

I would never consider Zubiri in the same group as Dawkins and co or even as a purely negative critic (in fact I'm very interested in his concept of 'Open Essences' as a more sane interpretation of various Existentialist ideas). I was first introduced to 'technical' philosophy through the essays of a Brazilian scholastic, Olavo de Carvalho, who thought Zubiri was one of the only Western philosophers equal to Aristotle in terms of philosophical scope.

That said, he's defiantly influenced by Continental philosophers.

Yes, I've got some reservations about his response to Heidegger's thought. I'm very sympathetic towards Phenomenology (Husserl's early work was probably the most important 'new' philosophical corpus since that of Leibniz) but the old saw about the misrepresentation or 'forgetfulness' of Being strikes me as a bit of a time-wasting red-herring.

Having said that his (Zubiri's) comparative study of the various ways in which Essence is understood in Western and Indian philosophy looks fascinating.

He lived during the discoveries of relativity and quantum physics as well.

Well he studied under and/or was in contact with a ridiculous array of the famous physicists and biologists of that mid-20th century. I don't know, this may be completely wrong, but I get the impression his interest in Quantum Mechanics may have led to his attributing that body of theories with more metaphysical important than it ought to have.

His blog came up in my studies of Zubiri.

Out of interest what other reference material did your search turn up? I’ve got all the published translations save The Fundamental Problems of Western Metaphysics, the essays and PHD theses up on the Zubiri foundation and the other translation on the catholicphilosophy.com website.

Anonymous said...

Przywara, in an essay titled "Man, World, God, Symbol," in his recently translated (by Betz and Hart) "Analogia Entis," lends perspective to this. Don't have my copy at hand, but he suggests something like, after WWI the foremost focus of philosophy, or perhaps he's referring to western culture in general, changed from an epistemological and rationalist orientation to one upon being, existence. Sounds about right and it would explain this widespread (pandemic?) phenomenon, even among professional philosophers.

(A quick comment, sorry I can't be more illuminating. His essay on Augustine's gnoseology in the same text is positively remarkable, deeply probative, even unsettling in the best sense. The entire volume is remarkable though.)

John West said...

Daniel,

Isn’t Peter van Inwagen pretty much a straight up Quenian theist?

I understand Peter van Inwagen is Quinean in meta-ontology. I'm not, however, very familiar with his work. I've only read Metaphysics and a few of his essays. I have a copy of his Material Beings on my desk, which I'm hoping to read soon but haven't yet.

I'm surprised his work doesn't get more attention.

Matt Sheean said...

"I'm surprised his work doesn't get more attention."

He's a main man when it comes to free will, yea?

When the PSR is talked about, his work is pretty important there, too, I think.

Daniel said...

To be completely gloves off I wish Ed would temporarily desist from the Ethical stuff and dedicate some time to taking Ingwarden and disciples ‘out to dry’. That man is probably the apotheosis of Theist Personalist mediocrity, beating even Swinburne for the title. The atheist Gale, in the collaborative articles he wrote with Pruss arguing for a more conservative but cautiously positive assessment of Cosmological and Design arguments, even turns out to be a better theist than the proclaimed theist Ingwarden. If I had to think of a phrase to sum PvI up it would be: 'With friends like this how needs enemies?'

A brief run-down of that gentleman’s achievements:

1. An uber-superficial argument against the PSR which gets repeated ad nausium.

2. A truly awful, maybe even incoherant criticism of the Cosmological Argument along the lines of that mentioned in Ed's 'Greene on Nozick on nothing' blog post. (Though I admit to only knowing this secondhand)

3. Another uninformative strawman attack on the Ontological Argument.

4. Quasi-materialist tendencies.

5. Mereological Nihilism

John West said...

Matt,

Yeah. He's also a mind-body physicalist, and has a pretty radical mereological nihilism. In fact, it doesn't seem to matter what subject I'm investigating, van Inwagen always has something interesting to say -- and usually non-standard for theism.

John West said...

Daniel,

In fact, I don't think I've heard of van Inwagen defending a typical theistic position. Usually, I hear about him because he's attacking one.

1. An uber-superficial argument against the PSR which gets repeated ad nausium.

Is it really that bad? I thought it was pretty clever back when I read it in Metaphysics. Pruss dispels any illusions of it going through, but I still thought it was clever.

John West said...

2. A truly awful, maybe even incoherant criticism of the Cosmological Argument along the lines of that mentioned in Ed's 'Greene on Nozick on nothing' blog post. (Though I admit to only knowing this secondhand)

When I read it last year, I didn't find van Inwagen's chapter in Metaphysics about PSR-cosmological arguments that bad, and certainly not incoherent. I actually liked his argument against Bede Rundle's response to the Leibnizian cosmological argument more than Pruss's.

I can't remember anything from van Inwagen's chapter on the ontological argument, but I think your 4 is actually way too lenient.

Anyway, I wish Dr. Pigliucci gave us more meat in his attack on metaphysics. But ruling it out due to empiricist concerns doesn't seem very substantial.

Scott said...

@Dennis:

"I apologise for the off-topic request, but, Dr. Feser, I've been asked to read Roger Bacon, now I've never touched Roger Bacon in my life, whether he is an authentic Aristotelian or not, and so forth, in any case, if you could please say a few notable things about him, I'd highly appreciate it. Thanks."

Here.

Tap said...

@scott

LOL!

Timocrates said...

@ Scott,

Oh Scott. Charity is a virtue, regardless of what the Christians do ;-P

Scott said...

@Timocrates:

"Oh Scott. Charity is a virtue, regardless of what the Christians do ;-P"

Oh, I meant it most charitably. ,-)

Glenn said...

Scott,

I too have a request (although mine is on topic).

Glenn said...

Dennis,

You asked the same basic question back in February. So, here's a few statements on Bacon from earlier posts by Dr. Feser:

o Philosophy for the ancients and medievals just is the “love of wisdom,” where wisdom is understood in these senses. How different from “philosophy” as understood by the moderns! With Bacon, Descartes, and their successors, final causes are thrust aside, and utility – knowledge as power, and in particular power to realize, not the ends nature sets for us, but whatever ends we happen to have – takes center stage.

o The history of the West over the last four or five centuries – revolution after revolution, one authority, institution, or standard collapsing after another – can be seen as the gradual unfolding of the implications of the mechanistic, anti-classical, anti-Scholastic philosophical (not scientific) revolution inaugurated by Bacon, Galileo, Hobbes, Descartes, Locke, et al.

o Bacon, Descartes, Hobbes, Moliere, Locke, and the other moderns who ridiculed crude caricatures of substantial forms, final causes, and the like before banishing them from the philosophical lexicon altogether, afford a parallel of sorts to Orwell’s Syme, who, working on the 11th edition of the Newspeak dictionary, chillingly assures us: “It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.”

Dylan said...

Glenn,

I believe the 'Bacon' being referred to in the quotes you've offered is Francis Bacon, not Roger Bacon.

Anonymous said...

Professor, what do you make of this?:

http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2015/03/will-david-harts-dog-go-to-heaven

Anonymous said...

Two questions (unrelated to this post, but see Q2) and two comments:

(To anyone)
Q1: Why does motion/change demand an explanation -- as per Aquinas' Second Way -- while permanence does not? I was recently presenting (no doubt layman's version of) it to a friend who replied by mumbling something about "process philosophy", "Alfred North Whitehead" and then asking, "But why does change need explained while permanence doesn't?" Once again I was reminded of the dangers of having only a superficial understanding of this stuff, because I had no answer for him. Indeed, to my amateur eyes, his question seems reasonable. How *is* the second premiss in the Second Way justified? Any of you Thomist heavyweights got an answer?

(pecifically to Ed)
Q2: Have you ever considered a "Suggestion" or "Dear Ed" box, with which your readers could ask questions like this, and maybe even suggest blog articles we'd like to read from you? At very least it would stop people like me cluttering up the combox with questions unrelated to you post.

C1: I love your blog, and you might be vaguely pleased to know that it forms part of the impetus I feel back to theism (and Catholicism in particular), after years of confusion and agnosticism. (OK, I'll admit that confusion still abounds, but I think I'm heading in a useful direction.) I just wish I had been exposed to Aquinas at (Catholic) school, instead of the kind of wishy-washy "Jesus In You" non-descript sentimentality that I and my schoolmates were subjected to in R.E.

C2: All that said, while your acerbic style and biting humour are certainly fun, and I do draw a high degree of satisfaction from seeing people like Dawkins getting slapped about, for me you would double your (already high level of) effectiveness if you didn't indulge in such polemics. They work only for the already-convinced but that liberal a use of insults makes it hard for those on the fence and still exploring this space of ideas, to accept your arguments no matter how incisive.

Scott said...

"Why does motion/change demand an explanation -- as per Aquinas' Second Way -- while permanence does not?"

Depending on precisely what you mean here, permanence does demand an explanation. Specifically, Thomism does not hold that, once something exists, it just continues in existence with no need for further explanation.

On the contrary, this sort of "existential inertia" is positively ruled out by the fact that (as the relevant scholastic principle has it) everything that has being has it from itself or from another. If (say) a dog had its being from its own nature, then it couldn't come into existence; it would just always have existed. But if it comes into existence, then it must receive its being from something other than its own nature. And in that case an explanation is required for its continued existence just as surely as for its coming into existence in the first place.

The usual Thomistic approach here is to distinguish between essence and existence (we can know what a phoenix is without knowing that any phoenix exists; Aquinas contends that this is based on a real distinction) and argue that essence is in potency to existence. On that approach, continuation in existence counts as a sort of motion or change, since it involves the actualization of a potency.

Glenn said...

To make explicit the point of my earlier (8:08 AM) response to Dylan, which response has since disappeared, the mistake I made was not in thinking that the Bacon referred to in those quotations was Roger Bacon, but in inexplicably responding to a query re Roger Bacon with quotations having to do with Francis Bacon. I knew Dennis' query had to do with Roger Bacon, and I knew it was Francis Bacon being referred to in those quotations.

- - - - -

(So, what the heck happened? I don't know. It's a weird mistake (I had referred to it as a 'boneheaded' mistake in my earlier response), but an interesting one.

(The reason why it is an interesting mistake, or why I find it to be an interesting mistake, is that I had made a mistake a few days ago which turns out to be similar in a curious way.

(Then I was using one program to check the results of another program. Both programs use different methods, but should produce like results, and if the results differed, then I'd know something was wrong with (at least) one of the programs. Since I was fairly confident both programs were correct (but still had to check to make sure), and the first program had produced 222 'hits', the expectation was that the second program likewise would produce 222 'hits'. But as I watched the count of 'hits' produced by the second program run up on the computer screen, the count flew right by 222. "Uh-oh. Something is wrong with one of the programs. Dagnabbit." I stopped the first program before it finished. "Why let it run to completion? It's already obvious that something is wrong." I went about checking both programs, but couldn't find anything wrong with either one. "But if they're both correct, why are the results different? Hm. Mystery." Long story short, it turned out that the results weren't different. The count of 'hits' being run up on the computer screen by the second program wasn't flying right by 222; it was flying right by 122. Egads.

(Both mistakes involved a similar pattern: a) splitting a 'token' in two; b) ignoring the first part; and, c) and paying attention only to the second part. To wit,

(A few days ago: (2)22 and (1)22

(Last night: (Roger)Bacon and (Francis)Bacon

(And the meaning of this is...? I don't know. Hopefully it's indicative of only a usual culprit, e.g., excess work, insufficient rest, or inordinate stress.)

Ismael said...

”Modern science (quantum mechanics, special relativity, general relativity, etc.) explicitly shows not only that the natural world is very weird, but that our "everyday", commonsense concepts about the natural world can no longer be trusted (concepts about time, space, causation, etc.). These concepts form the basis of metaphysics, so therefore metaphysical reasoning is no longer trustworthy, at least insofar as it makes pronouncements about the structure of the natural world.”

Yes AND No.

Modern science does show some unexpected things, but in my opinion it does NOT contraddict any true foundation of metaphysics.

For example "time": long beofore Einstein there were philosophers who debated what time was, if it was real, if it was absolute or subjective, etc...

Einstein's relativity shook the pants of "Newtonianism" not Metaphysics.

The same goes for quantum mechanics.

Those for example who claim that "quantum mechancis defies causation" simply do not understand QM or they do not understand causation (this is the case for most physicists) or do not understand neither.

Again QM shook the pants of "Newotnian absolute determinism", which was almost a physical dogma, not methaphysics itself.

===

Also as Timocrates said above, time, space and causality are not (necessarily) the foundations of metaphysics as metaphysics investigates these concepts as well.

Actually any introductory text on metaphysics dedicates a chapter on time and various views on it, for example, and often on causality and space as well.

===========


TO NOTE regarding causality:

if there is no "causality" (as some wrongly derive from QM) science would make no sense either.

Proper science has an hypotesis, then does an experiment, and from there builds a model and a theory.

This only works if there are causal relation presents. If there aren't any, then any theory and model would be meaningless, since experiments would not be predictive anymore.

I would say that even "humean regularities" require some sort of causality to be meaningful

Hence if science denies causality it denies itself.

Ismael said...

PS: I would add that methaphysics is not some doctrine or "paralyzed science" but indeed takes in account observations of the world.

So some "weird observation" does not "destroy metaphysics"... rather methaphysics would investigate such observation and try to both understand it and incorporate it into its conclusions.

Ismael said...

"hy that reputation is as bloated as it is, everyone knows: Skeptics simply like Hume’s conclusions, and don’t care to investigate too carefully how plausible, at the end of the day, are the arguments by which he arrived at them. "

Yes... and Pigliucci is really blind to any flaws in Hume (and Kant's) reasoning.

At least a couple of times in his blog he claimed that "the rationality of religion was debunked ny Hume and Kant" (paraphrasing), while never actually answering the many objections that plague Hume's (and Kant's) criticisms...

John West said...

To be fair, I did hear Pigliucci say in an interview that he often tells his students, that Hume's fork would mean Hume's own work would have to be committed to the flames.

Thomas said...

On a completely diffrent note, does anyone here know of any neo-scholastic critiques of Heidegger? Some Thomists (Gilson & Co.) are open to a Thomism in dialogue with Heidegger, and I was wondering if any of the Thomists "of the strick observance" had anything to say of him.

Regards,

Thomas

Anonymous said...

@Scott, thanks. I think I get what you mean by existential inertia, but I doubt I get it enough to be able to explain it to my friend. Ah well.

Dennis said...

@Anonymous at 9:18 PM

Take a look at Avicenna's argument from contingency to better understand, although that is a different argument. I think it'll give you a clearer picture.

Permanence in being implies physical intentionality in some senses of the term, or in other words, subsistence in being despite undergoing change, retaining an identity is what 'permanence,' in towards the context implies. This does demand an explanation,

Take for instance a matchstick, when struck, it 'tends' to ignite. This feature of matchsticks 'tending' towards ignition given a certain causal interaction is what Aristotelians would call the Final Cause. Now note, given that there are tons of individuations of matter that which differ from each other, the matchstick could not have ignited, if there was no permanence in it's being(I say this loosely). However, when we strike the match, it does retain it's identity, and persists through change, simultaneously generating a new being, namely, fire.

Suppose that there was no permanence of being, suppose the matchstick's identity had no permanence, then it would not have a causal disposition towards ignition when struck, or rather, it's causal disposition would be totally different and would tend towards something other than ignition. Such is the kind of permanence that is being talked of, and requires or demands an accounting for, for these things do not change their dispositions, but remain true to their essence. Both change(generation of flames) & the permanence of the matchstick(retaining of its identity, and existing as well) is to be accounted for, unless you're postulating brute fact, then I suggest you'd have to take a look at the PSR.

Anonymous said...

(I hope this doesn't get posted twice - sorry if it does) I'm just now reading "The Last Superstition" and I have to say this . . . I'm SHOCKED at how straightforward it is so far. And indisputable (at least in any sensible manner). That's NOT kissing up to Dr. Feser, it's just fact. I admit, being Christian, I'm predisposed to agreeing, but honestly, had no idea of the power of these arguments - in fact, Dr. Feser has set me just as straight as he has set the "New Atheists"!

I have a Master of Science degree and am shocked that philosophy is not required - or even SUGGESTED - as a prerequisite for many science majors, after getting into this book. Mind you, I'm not suggesting that everyone should get into philosophy for a major - probably not a lot of money in that - but in order to perform a scientific experiment, I would require an introductory philosophy class to be taken PRIOR to statistical analysis!

It's absolutely no wonder society is in the fix we are in, and that science is so heavily populated (relatively speaking) with atheists. Most scientist, I ASSURE you - have NO IDEA what the philosophy of science even IS. The "Ph." should be removed from MOST "Ph.D"s.

When I was in grad school, btw, we had a cute little saying that had a lot of truth in it . . . "Everyone knows what B.S. is - M.S. is more of it, and Ph.D. is just Piled Higher and Deeper. :D

(Off topic - thanks anyway.)

Scott said...

"I think I get what you mean by existential inertia, but I doubt I get it enough to be able to explain it to my friend."

Well, the short explanation is just that according to Thomism, "permanence" (in the sense of "continued existence over time") does require an explanation. That's sufficient to address the misconception in your friend's original question, though of course it will raise other questions in turn.

For the longer term, I think this paper of Ed's is included in his forthcoming book.

(Incidentally, not that it matters much, but the argument from motion/change is Aquinas's First Way, not the Second.)

Mr. Green said...

Anonymous: Q1: Why does motion/change demand an explanation -- as per Aquinas' Second Way -- while permanence does not?

As Scott and Dennis noted, if we're referring to a thing that continues to exist, that does require an explanation. (The subsequent frames of a film can't pop themselves into existence any more than the first frame could.) But if the question is about God, then it doesn't need an explanation because really there isn't anything to explain: God exists outside of time — He isn't busy doing this thing called "enduring" or "persisting" — He's not doing something (namely being in time... though of course we cannot imagine that, so we think of God's existence as though it were successive frames of film that happened to be identical).


Q2: Have you ever considered a "Suggestion" or "Dear Ed" box

I think the Profeser's to-do list is already booked through next decade or two, so it would just be a tease….


I just wish I had been exposed to Aquinas at (Catholic) school

It's a real shame. We can but wonder how different western society might be if schools — even just Catholic ones — had been teaching solid philosophical fundamentals for the past century.


for me you would double your (already high level of) effectiveness if you didn't indulge in such polemics.

Ed's infamous Feser Tone™ is arguably too mild, if anything. (What's the nice way to say, "This guy hasn't even read the argument he's claiming to have rebutted"?) His jabs are indisputably factual, or impersonal amusing quips, and anyone who can't take a dig like that is likely too far gone to be convinced anyway.

Timocrates said...

"I just wish I had been exposed to Aquinas at (Catholic) school"

People feeling this need to read the book, available online and for free, The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America : http://deliberatedumbingdown.com/.

You may be shocked to learn that Presidential administrations in the '50's deliberately worked to remove logic from school curricula as a bulwark against (believe it or not) Communism. It was noted that merely studying logic was sufficient to prompt most people to start asking highly philosophical questions and that in this regard the Communists seemed to have the upper hand. Ergo eliminate logic to keep people from asking questions and becoming too philosophically minded, as such people seemed more susceptible to Communist propaganda and apologetics. I think most people here can at least probably appreciate how evading philosophical questioning could serve as a prop to consumerism. Indeed, the since the 1950's, it has been standard U.S doctrine to encourage inoculating populations against higher order thinking. In lieu of the Academy one needs a Coliseum.

Timocrates said...

Actually, I should not say "doctrine" as this gives the impression of something thought out. Rather I should say a standard agreeable practice.

Neoliberalism in the latter half of the 1990's was especially destructive in eduction. Educators began talking about life long learning for the sake of work and making money, combined with an acceptance of the economy as a law of the jungle - survival of the fittest. Either update or die. Educators didn't realize how in accepting this they totally betrayed not only their own vocation, but practically denied the reality of vocation. Man was for work. I personally remember coming back to school after summer break and seeing all the teachers talking and thinking like this. What was the source or cause I do not know; I doubt it was inculcated formally, as that no doubt would have put most teachers are on their guards and caused them to be more critical. I guess that it was rather done via cultural avenues - literature and media directed to teachers or that teachers like, no doubt superficially academic or scientific. But of course it had a terrible disheartening effect on students: education wasn't a source of liberty or independence facilitating self-realization; rather, it was workforce training.

Daniel said...

In lieu of the Academy one needs a Coliseum.

Cool aphorism. People these days might benefit from remembering what a 'Liberal Education' originally meant and what the alternative was.

Anonymous said...

@Scott, @Mr Green, etc

Thanks. Your explanations raise another question for me.

As I understand it, natural theology gets a lot of its power from observing that many states of affairs that we take for granted actually demand an explanation. Movement and other change is an obvious example. Continued existence is another. and I presume "number" is another. Overall, any kind of contingency -- it being possible that the given state of affairs could have been otherwise (i.e. it is not necessarily the case) -- demands an explanation. If that's roughly correct, then my question is:

What kind of state of affairs would *not* demand an explanation?

I imagine that the existence of God (the scholastic view, not the "old dude with white beard sitting up in the clouds" version) is one example. As a necessary being, it presumably doesn't even make sense to ask for an explanation for God's existence. I other words the putative alternate state of affairs -- no God -- isn't even coherent.

But what else? For example, the question "Why is there something rather than nothing?" seems (Lawrence Krauss aside) a reasonable one to me. But suppose there was no universe, would it be reasonable to ask "Why is there nothing rather than something?" (ignoring the small fact that if there was nothing, then there would be no one about to ask questions).

Anonymous said...

I just responded to a comment on my philosophy course's blog. The guy basically said

" But as a physicist, I am only convinced by evidence. In my view, if there is no evidence for something, or it is not experimentally testable, it is not wrong or right, it is pointless. "

I pointed out that this is logical positivism and self-refuting. I have nothing against intellectual atheism (Mackie, Sobel, etc.). But I ask, is this really how most "New" atheists see things?

Scott said...

"What kind of state of affairs would *not* demand an explanation?"

Strictly speaking, according to the usual formulation of the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR), anything that has being requires (and has) an explanation. Here's the "Full formula" version of the PSR as given in Bernard Wuellner's Summary of Scholastic Principles:

Every being must have either in itself or in another being a sufficient reason for its possibility, actualities, origin, existence and mode of existence, its essence (nature or constitution), its subjective potentialities, powers, habits, operations, changes, unity, intelligibility, goodness, beauty, end, relationships, and any other attributes or predicates that may belong to it.

That formulation leaves open whether there must be an explanation for non-being, but of course in many such cases we can find explanations as well (e.g. why Sherlock Holmes doesn't exist as a real-world human being).

As for God, what you say about His necessity is His explanation (or at least part of it). It's better to say that God has His explanation or sufficient reason in Himself rather than in something else; i.e., He's self-explanatory rather than just lacking an explanation altogether.

What He isn't is "self-caused," at least according to the Thomistic understanding of causation. According to that account, it would be merely contradictory for anything to be the cause of itself, for then it would have to precede itself (at least logically or ontologically, if not temporally). So it's fine to say that God is uncaused, but since not all explanations are causal, that doesn't mean He's inexplicable. (And since God is eternal, the issue here is not "continued existence"; God doesn't need a cause in order to "remain" in existence either.)

Since God's self-explanatoriness is itself the explanation of why there is something rather than nothing, then yes, that question would still make sense (it must, for it has an answer!) even if the created universe didn't exist (although, as you say, in that case there would be no one to ask it). God Himself would still exist and would be just as self-explanatory as He is now; there just wouldn't be anybody who needed the explanation.

Scott said...

(Of course the claim that every being has a sufficient reason is not at all the same as the claim that every being's explanation can be found and understood by us. It's just the claim that everything is intelligible in principle, not that we ourselves have the wherewithal to understand it.)

Scott said...

"I pointed out that this is logical positivism and self-refuting."

It certainly is, unless he takes "evidence" broadly enough to include reasoned argumentation (even subject to the limitation that such argument has to start from empirical evidence). And if he took it that broadly, there'd be no point in his contrasting his view with that of Scholastic metaphysics, which argues even for the existence of God by beginning with empirical evidence (the observed occurrence of change, etc.).

Scott said...

I wrote:

"(And since God is eternal, the issue here is not 'continued existence'; God doesn't need a cause in order to 'remain' in existence either.)"

I intended this parenthetical remark as essentially a repetition of Mr. Green's perfectly correct earlier point (that because God is eternal, there's no need to explain His "continued existence"), in order to distinguish it from the point I myself was making and make clear that the two were not in conflict. But I forgot to credit Mr. Green explicitly, so I'm doing so now.

God does have His explanation or sufficient reason in Himself, but it isn't an explanation of His (as Mr. Green puts it) "enduring" or "persisting"; no such explanation is needed, because God doesn't exist at successive times and is not subject to change.

Peter Jones said...

I can mostly agree with the article and find Pigliucci's view of metaphysics unfortunate and unnecessary. Still, I would rather blame philosophers for failing to make sense of metaphysics than blame scientists for noticing.

Anonymous said...

I once admired Pigliucci somewhat for taking the "New Atheists" to task in their scientism. But I don't like his ignorance of metaphysics.

Daniel said...

Scientism: The belief that if you accept "science" on faith, it will explain everything.

Sola Scriptura: The belief that if you accept the Bible on faith, it will explain everything.

As you can see here, scientism is just historical continuity.

Another eerie connection:

Luther: sola fide: Faith alone saves.

The Enlightenment: sola ratio: Reason alone saves.

When you accept reductionist methods (as opposed to "Catholic" methods), whatever the "alone" is is up to your arbitrary opinion. We are then, as Chesterton puts it, trapped in the prison of one idea, or, as Dr. Feser puts it, we are "Concretizing the Abstract."

Christi pax.

John West said...

Daniel2,

Scientism: The belief that if you accept "science" on faith, it will explain everything.

Sola Scriptura: The belief that if you accept the Bible on faith, it will explain everything.


Hah. Very funny.

Though, tangentally, there is more than one (so far) seemingly internally coherent metaphysics. We can even concoct internally coherent metaphysics that are probably false (ie. a Cartesian demon scenario). For this reason, people like Quine wanted to use our best theories of observable, testable physical reality as our guide to having a correct, internally coherent metaphysic. Again, I know it's not really to the point of your comment, but just to show that not every person called scientismist is utterly without reason for their view, or without sophistication -- even though a vast many are.

Daniel said...

Dear Mr. John West:

In the way "scientism" is used on this blog, it is an insult.

I think the best approach to metaphysics would be not internal coherency, but rather the view that best accounts for ALL aspects of human experience. There are too many logical coherent views that can be justified that are just insane. For examples, read G. K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy, specifically the chapter titled "The Maniac."

Let's look at the prison of one idea in action, take Paramedies's views, for example. His views is coherent and possible. I would say they are even quite rational. However, the problem is that it "subjectivises" the experience of motion (he doesn't deny change, he just argues it exists only in the mind). Aristotle, on the other hand, was bigger: his metaphysics included Paramedies's view AND the experience of change. In a sense, Aristotle was more "catholic."

Cartesian machine metaphysics, similarly, subjectivises aspects of the human experience. In its case, Descrates renames Galileo's "primary" and "secondary" quality distinction as "objective" and "subjective" qualities, explaining that secondary qualities were not in the object, but only in the mind. However, primary qualities only enter the mind through secondary qualities (Thomists would say that common sensibles are deduced from proper sensibles), so, in other words, Descrates and Locke are just arbitrarily defining as objective whatever they want (since they were trying to justify the new science, they claimed only what science can measure was objective, and tossed the rest into the subject).

The problems with this method of reductionism is that it is arbitrary: every thinker can define whatever he wants as objective, and either dismisses everything else as subjective or declares that another aspect of a thing can really be reduced to the objective (as it is defined). Marx reduced everything to class struggle, explaining that all human interactions were reducible to power hierarchies, ignoring, you know, actual humans in the process. Freud reduced everything to lust and aggression. They had a 1/100 fraction of the truth, but they left out or explained away the other 99/100. Reductionism is tempting because it is not really wrong: it is better to say that it is incomplete: it is far too simplistic, and is actually parasitical to reality and common experience (how can you dismiss common experience as false if all you know comes from it?). To understand the best metaphysics, one must combine all of the truth behind the reductionists' truths and more together coherently.

To be continued...

Daniel said...

The problem with using physics as a standard for judging metaphysics (as many users will tell you) is that science is something that only makes sense by being interpreted by metaphysical ideas. Since scientists have a Mechanicaist and materialist bent, instead of having "science judge metaphysics" what really happens is Cartesianism and the like are smuggled in through the back door, giving the appearence that such metaphysic are somehow justified by science, when, in reality, they are simply read into the facts. Science proceeds from First Philosophy, not the other way around.

The connection with sola Scriptura is not just a joke. The Protestants do this with Scripture. Scripture does not interpret itself, since many different interpretations could be justified from it, just as scientific facts do not interpret themselves (facts need theories, and theories are based on metaphysical assumptions). A higher level is need to understand it, that being the context the writer wrote in, which is passed on to the present in this cool thing we called Tradition. When Luther and his ilk say that their claims comes from Scripture, often they are actually reading their theories into the text, just as the materialists read their philosophy into the facts. It is basically denying a formal cause (metaphysics, scriptural interpretation) you don't like by claiming that the material cause (facts, Scripture) is sufficient, which you then proceed to bring your formal cause in undercover. What a scam.

It gets worse for the scientismist and the protestant, though, because:

Science actually only exists and is justified because of the correct metaphysical views of Christian Aristotelianism (although Muslim Aristotelianism almost succeeded). You might say that "science proceeds from Christianity and Aristotle." Dr. Feser's whole argument for God's existence is that science and common experience are only explained completely without subjectivising anything through Aristotelianism, which in turn justified the existence of God. It's no coincidence that science developed in a Christian culture, as opposed to a culture which believes reality is inherently deceptive (Buddhism).

Scripture actually only exist and is justified because of the Bishops and Tradition. You might say that "Scripture proceeds from the Bishops and Tradition." Some Catholics view Scripture as a chunk of Tradition even.

The views, IMO, are two aspects of the same intellectual movement throughout the modern era (I consider Protestantism as modernism injected into Christianity).

I pray I explained myself clearly. This is what I think is the Thomistic approach to these problems. Please do ask if you have any questions, and I hope more informed Thomists and members of other schools of thinking might be able to correct me if I have committed an error in my thinking.

Christi pax.

John West said...

Daniel2,

My view is actually a little different from my understanding of Quine's (and my metaphysic, vastly different). That said, I'll continue with the Quinean line (which, to clarify, isn't some strictly anti-metaphysical view like verificationism and doesn't try to make verificationist-like claims).

I think the Quinean would reply that he's fine with the scientific method presupposing metaphysics. If a metaphysical fact is indispensable to our best scientific theories (or even the method itself), then we ought to be committed to them. If more than one contradictory metaphysical fact (say there's some set of six such facts) can play a role in said scientific theory, then we ought to have commitment to one of those. Mechanism, for example, is dispensable to our best scientific theories (we can run those theories just fine with other, non-mechanist metaphysical suppositions), so we have no obligation to be mechanists.

It's certainly true that, historically, science rises out of metaphysics and natural philosophy, but I don't see how this historical fact causes a problem for a Quinean methodology[1]. The question for him isn't, “Did the scientific method rise out of Christianity?” It's, “Is Christianity indispensable to the scientific method?” While certain Aristotelian presuppositions like natural kinds (though Platonists also have something like this I think, if organized differently) and innocuous facts like objective truth, the existence of entities and oneself may be indispensable to the scientific method and our best theories about testable, observable physical reality, I think Christianity probably isn't.


[1] It's worth mentioning that especially medieval, but also Ancient and even Chinese, people were making technological advances by a sort of tinkering, a crude induction, long before Bacon; these were not philosophers. Rather, Aristotle was the people's philosopher for a reason.
[2] Though, I'm of the mind that (for example) the PSR, a key part of cosmological arguments probably is, and that orthodox Christianity is compatible.

John West said...

[2] is supposed to be tagged onto the end of "... Christianity probably isn't".^

John West said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John West said...

That should read: "If a metaphysical fact is indispensable to our best scientific theories (or even the method itself), then we ought to be committed to [it]."

Sorry about the typos.

John West said...

Actually, I have a question (for Daniel, or anyone really).

I haven't read a lot about epistemology (Scholastic or otherwise). But one thing I actually, genuinely like about Quine's method is that I think it leaves more room for non-externalist epistemologies. One of the problems that concern many authors are precisely scenarios where we don't know if we can trust our senses for our basic experiences. If we start by saying we can trust those, does that beg the question in favour of externalist epistemologies, or views of perception built around concerns like Descartes's demon?

John West said...

... or [against] views of perception built around ...

Anonymous said...

I am still awaiting Massimo's reply. Usually when a New Atheist brings up his name he is mighty quick on the reply. For some reason I don't think that will be the case here.

John West said...

Anonymous,

I know for a fact Massimo's seen it. He didn't seem too interested in replying.

Daniel said...

Mr. John West:

Regarding the history of science, I agree that Christianity per se is not essential to science. However, it was because of Christianity's influence in Western culture that threw out the old views of the Greek and Romans. Despite what we learn in school, the Greeks were not so rationalistic as we think. Some were, like Plato and Aristotle, but most were not. Since the Medieval monks were more interested in the Greeks' rational and scientific works than with their other works, they decide only to copy their philosophic treaties. Thus this gives an appearance of an advanced, scientific culture. But, the majority of Greeks believed that the world was ruled by petty nature gods fighting against each other, and wouldn't expect the world to follow rational laws.

In the later Christian culture, though, God was referred to as the Logos, and since all things were created and end in Him ("I am the Alpha and the Omega"), the Christian would expect the world to follow rational laws, contra the Greeks who did not. The Romans believed in a strict distinction between nature and artifacts to the point that they did not think one could really study nature at all. Most cultures have gathered facts, but only Western culture was able to develop a strict metaphysics based in sensory experience (the problem with Plato's transcendental realism is that the forms (the intelligible aspect of the universe) were above the world, so mysticism and "armchair philosophy" was considered the true way to knowledge. Knowledge of the forms did not come from the sense, so the emphasis was more on mathematics and the like. Aristotle, however, taught immanent realism, with the forms in the things themselves, and abstracted from sense data. Thus, going out and observing the material world was the way to gather knowledge of the forms). The Chinese did not have a method taught like the West did. Technology in China developed in isolated cases: they were more often than not treated like toys (just like Hero's steam engine was). India's religions equated the self with the outside world, so, instead of studying the external world, they studied the internal one.

Islamic culture almost got to the goal, but they butchered Aristotle, turning him into a pantheist with occasionalism (denial of secondary causes), and tried to syncretize the religion with Aristotle on Aristotle's terms, gaining the wrath of the Imans (St Thomas syncretized on Christian terms). Judaism was too small to have such an impact, and the Byzantines, although they were close as well, we're too busy fighting the Jihad to develop science.

Science actually has a Christian bias to it, but since scientists tend to be fideists, they haven't figured it out. Dr. Feser has articles about how the term "Laws of Physics" is clearly a reference to Moses's Laws, and that, because, unlike humans, material things do not have free will, and thus can't go against the laws of their nature. The Laws of nature are even imagined as existing beyond the material which they conform to their rule, and are unchanging.

Now, this is a very rough sketch, but it is the basic outline of the history of science, IMO.

Christi pax.

Daniel said...

On the other hand, essential ideas from Christianity are essential to science. And if we go even deeper, Christianity gives us a reason to study the natural world: God called it good, and became incarnated into it: it has become a sacrament.

Christi pax.

Daniel said...

Mr John West:

From my understanding, the way of the ancient started with metaphysics (Aristotle calls it first philosophy), while modern philosophy started with epistemology (modern philosophy started with Descrates's cogito).

Ancient philosophy started by pitting the intellect against the senses and via versa. Paramedies claimed that the intelligible, static aspects of the world were objective, and the changing, dynamic aspects were subjective. Heraclides, on the other hand, claimed (this is a generalization) that the changing, dynamic aspects were objective, and permanence was subjective. Heraclides was wrong because the intellect by its very nature contains static concepts, so he is basically destroying the intellect. Paramedies was wrong because all of our knowledge makes its way through our senses. Aristotle came and combined these two views. He claimed that the intellect and the senses were not against one another, but complementary (he and Plato were thus called "realists").

The problem with using the intellect to deny sense experience is that sense experience is the only stuff the intellect has to work with. How does the intellect know what is fake and what is real? On the other hand, sometimes sense data seems corrupted (hallucinations, for example). I think that a metaphysics based on comprehending the basic, common experiences of men as objective is the correct approach, since, again, it's impossible to know whether what you are calling subjective is really subjective, making the distinction between objective and subjective arbitrary, with the only coherent distinction by making everything objective, or subjective (continental philosophy seems to reached idealism's logical end by making everything subjective). I would go farther and say that Aristotle and St. Thomas do this par excellence out of every other philosopher.

What I find fascinating is that they create a philosophy of things (this is what introduced me to Thomism). They see trees, rabbits, and the stars and say that these are things (substances). They do not mix up the abstract with the concrete. They may be made of other things (rabbits are made of water), but the things that make up the whole thing (the rabbit) do not come together accidentally, like in atomism, rather, they become substantial connected. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Everything is not just ideas, not just different collections of atoms in the void, but are things made from lesser things working together for the whole. There's another philosophy that sees the world as things, and that is Christian philosophy.

Christi pax.

John West said...

Daniel2,

To your reply on April 2, 2015 at 11:20 AM, I'm not totally unfamiliar with the history of science, or the history of technology (which are linked but distinct), but I suppose I should cite some sources (mostly secondary, which source sources) for my history of technology claims. I'm not at home right now, but some I've mentioned on here before are Jean Gimpel Medieval Machine , R. J. Forbes's Man the Maker: A History Technology and Engineering., and the Gies's Cathedral, Forge, and Waterwheel. The first two authors listed are proper historians; I'm not sure about the third listed, but they source their claims fairly well.

You're certainly right that the majority weren't rationalist -- my understanding is that theoretical science and technological invention were often largely decoupled in the Middle Ages -- but that was part of my point in footnote [1]. They are, of course, closely coupled nowadays.

John West said...

Mr. Daniel (on April 2, 2015 at 11:20 AM),

In the later Christian culture, though, God was referred to as the Logos, and since all things were created and end in Him ("I am the Alpha and the Omega"), the Christian would expect the world to follow rational laws, contra the Greeks who did not. The Romans believed in a strict distinction between nature and artifacts to the point that they did not think one could really study nature at all. Most cultures have gathered facts, but only Western culture was able to develop a strict metaphysics based in sensory experience (the problem with Plato's transcendental realism is that the forms (the intelligible aspect of the universe) were above the world, so mysticism and "armchair philosophy" was considered the true way to knowledge. Knowledge of the forms did not come from the sense, so the emphasis was more on mathematics and the like. Aristotle, however, taught immanent realism, with the forms in the things themselves, and abstracted from sense data.

I don't want to pursue this too far off-topic.

But without meaning to write curtly, have you considered that maybe most people invented stuff because it was useful for accomplishing (or making easier) some task they needed accomplished, and was beneficial to them? Because I would be surprised if the person who invented the horse collar cared one bit about Aristotelian universals, or if the person who adapted the water wheel to pounding grain, or helping in the process of smithing metal did, for that matter.

Hero's steam engine

The Greeks didn't need steam engines. They had vast hosts of slaves for every task they cared see performed.

Though, that said, I do think Christian introduction of the concept of progress may have helped spur the medieval industrial revolution. For example, it's possible the Chinese (who thought they were the center of the world) had less impetus to invent and that's why Europe overtook them by the around 1500; the technology transfer was almost all one way.

John West said...

impetus to invent [and adapt] and that's^

Dennis said...

@John West

"I haven't read a lot about epistemology (Scholastic or otherwise). But one thing I actually, genuinely like about Quine's method is that I think it leaves more room for non-externalist epistemologies. One of the problems that concern many authors are precisely scenarios where we don't know if we can trust our senses for our basic experiences. If we start by saying we can trust those, does that beg the question in favour of externalist epistemologies, or views of perception built around concerns like Descartes's demon?"

Your phraseology has thrown me off quite a bit, could you please reiterate?

John West said...

Dennis,

[C]ould you please reiterate?

Well, it seems to me that many contemporary authors are concerned about, on the lighter side, issues like the Gettier problem and, on the more extreme side, issues like Cartesian demon and brain-in-a-vat scenarios, that all give cause for doubt about whether we can easily trust our knowledge (more correctly, that some beliefs are, in fact, “knowledge”). The externalist solves this by lowering the standard of justification quite a lot. But this doesn't really solve the problems so much as cave to them, and then declare them non-problems. In contrast, epistemologies that lean on the scientific method and vigorous testing ease concerns over at least Gettier type problems.

I guess when I saw “but rather the view that best accounts for ALL aspects of human experience”. I thought (perhaps misunderstanding what was really meant despite capitalized “ALL”, which is why I put it as a question to the floor), “Well, we have people saying that they have a direct experience of... all sorts of different things. Sometimes even large numbers of people saying so in each different case.” But beyond a handful of innocuous facts, why think we can trust most of that when it's not rigorously verified?

My concern is that such a view seems to start off with an externalist acceptance of knowledge of ontological facts besides the innocuous ones needed to get started (ie. I exist, I'm an entity that can think, maybe the reality of change etc.), and in doing so effectively begs the question against concerns that lead us to think we ought to have a higher standard of justification for knowledge.*

I hesitated to ask, though, because I haven't studied a lot of epistemology (I took Ed's advice, and started with metaphysics). I don't like asking questions about areas of study until I've studied a sufficient amount of their material. I just don't have time right now, and I was interested in possible answers.


*Ontology first, sure. But surely there's a point, fairly early on, at which epistemology asserts itself and we have to start dealing with those types of concerns.

John West said...

I did, of course, see Daniel's reply on April 2, 2015 at 12:06 PM, and thank him for it.

Dennis said...

@John West

Thanks for clearing that up, this reply will only be a supplement to what Daniel has previously said and Peter Coffey.

"One of the problems that concern many authors are precisely scenarios where we don't know if we can trust our senses for our basic experiences. If we start by saying we can trust those, does that beg the question in favour of externalist epistemologies, or views of perception built around concerns like Descartes's demon?"

---

The problem with using the intellect to deny sense experience is that sense experience is the only stuff the intellect has to work with. How does the intellect know what is fake and what is real? On the other hand, sometimes sense data seems corrupted (hallucinations, for example). I think that a metaphysics based on comprehending the basic, common experiences of men as objective is the correct approach, since, again, it's impossible to know whether what you are calling subjective is really subjective, making the distinction between objective and subjective arbitrary, with the only coherent distinction by making everything objective, or subjective (continental philosophy seems to reached idealism's logical end by making everything subjective).

Philosophy concerns itself with propositions, their validity, intelligibility, truth, so forth, when it comes down to sense-perception questions as such you are implying, it is always a matter of investigation as to what the claim is, and how strong or weak the claim is.

Whether we can even coherently form the propositions that is needed in order to even get to the point that one can postulate the evil demon scenario.

Take Kant for example,

Experience or phenomena(appearance of the thing in itself), is always about noumena('the thing in itself', or 'reality itself’). We can know something of 'reality itself', because experience confirms its necessity, for it doesn't make sense, nor is it conceivable to posit that the 'appearance', or, experience is there, but of nothing. For 'nothing' is the absence of things/anything.

Kant well understands this, however, it seems that his critique lies hidden in his own understanding.

That being said, if we understand that there are specific experiences following an event, let's grant that this is in the phenomena, there is no reason to assume that the noumena is different.

Suppose we were to make a fresh batch of bread, we can see that the bread rises from the dough. Let's assume that this is the phenomena, and not noumena. If this is the case, then the rising of the dough applies to the noumena as well, not just the phenomena, so as to say that change has happened in the phenomena and the noumena. This is where the critique of Kant lies, Kant questions the validity of the senses, but the proposition that advances such doubt, doesn't seem to be coherent under investigation. What I mean to say is that the rising of the dough, or the making of bread via the heat could all be terms for the phenomena, but they have to have actual grounding in the noumena first. For it makes no sense to say, that the experience of the phenomena known as 'dough' has readily undergone change, though we still can't know if anything has actually changed in the noumena. For if nothing had actually changed in the noumena, the doughs reaction to the heat is either happening, or not happening. To say that it is not happening is postulating pure illusion, if you posit this, then I know not how you can even posit the existence of the dough itself(phenomena). If you concede that the change is happening....then we arrive at the proposition, that, 'We cannot know what it really is,' but that again is an unintelligible position, for even if we grant them the distinction, let's call the dough, heat and bread, 'x, y, z' respectively in the phenomena.

Dennis said...

(cont..)

It makes absolutely no sense to say that we experience 'x,' and then given the a certain causal interaction that we call 'y,' it turns to 'z,' however, there's nothing really happening in the noumena, or that we can still remain skeptical about it. For regardless of what we are labeling them as, our abstraction is reflective of the noumena. Even if we do not know what it 'actually is in the noumena,' it seems of no use to be bothered with such a distinction(proposition) since the terms x, y and z, would be reflective of the same thing even in the noumena. X would inherit Y, and a generation of Z would come about. X, Y, and Z would be representatives of the *unverifiable* events in the noumena. However, the *unverifiable* events in the noumena, will always have a causal dispositions, and our experiences of the phenomena will accordingly proceed.

The only question here that is worth looking into somewhat, is the proposition of the senses being wildly deceived, e.g. experiencing the ball as though it's an incredibly sharp object, and vice versa. Then again, how would you even conceive of such a scenario? The field of epistemology that wishes to take down metaphysics(traditional) seems to run with tons of problems and incredible number of inconsistencies as well as unintelligible propositions, provided they are thoroughly investigated. As Daniel has already stated, what sense does it even make to ask whether or not we can 'trust' our senses?

The only way I can make sense of this proposition is to understand that the qualia of a certain substance is wholly different from the collective. In that case, the qualia could not be erratic(touch replaces scent?), in the sense that the qualia would depend upon the disposition of the substance that is being experienced. And, as I've said prior to this, so call this experience 'a,' or call it 'b,' whatever the 'reality' of the substance is(so to say it's common causal disposition to the collective), it will still retain its identity, and that even though filtered by the senses, whether proper or corrupted, will not change the fact that we are experiencing 'a, or b.'

Pick up Peter Coffeys Epistemology I & II and get ready for some fierce work, I think that will answer your questions in full.

Scott said...

I second Dennis's recommendation to anyone who may be interested:

"Pick up Peter Coffeys Epistemology I & II…"

…which you can do for free here and here if you don't mind etexts, and here and here if you want inexpensive hardcopy reprints.

Daniel said...

Mr. John West:

"But without meaning to write curtly, have you considered that maybe most people invented stuff because it was useful for accomplishing (or making easier) some task they needed accomplished, and was beneficial to them? Because I would be surprised if the person who invented the horse collar cared one bit about Aristotelian universals, or if the person who adapted the water wheel to pounding grain, or helping in the process of smithing metal did, for that matter."

I wouldn't think of it as a conscious thing, but rather an unconscious one. It's more like a habit that develops due to a certain worldview, which is passed on, being picked up by each generation, even if the new generation doesn't understand why such a habit developed in the first place.

Think about, for example, Mr. David Hume's philosophy. He literally believes that we cannot know causality, and if a culture unconsciously developed such a worldview, passing it on to its children, science would not have developed. If the "habit of Aristotelianism" was not so imbedded in Western culture by his time, such an idea as science would not make much sense to the members of the culture. Hume's philosophy developed when science was already very developed, so David Hume, seeing that it actually seemed to work, decided to accept it on "animal faith" despite the fact that his skeptical metaphysics turns science into a irrational miracle (and yet somehow he uses his philosophy to deny miracles :rolling eyes:).

Actually, this explains why moderns were able to deny Aristotelianism while keeping its fruits. Because they unconsciously picked up its "habits" without understanding how it's philosophy allowed and justified them (like the early Aristotelianism did, like St. Albert), they tried to abandon it for novel ideas.

If you mediate on the difference between Indian and Western culture, you will see that Indian culture tends to search for truth internally, while Western culture searches for it externally. Science, by its very method, search for truth externally.

Modern science, which glued both science and technology together, came to be also due to the humanist worldview: let's learn about nature, so that we can use the power that comes from it to better the human existence. Western humanism is inherently Christian (there are a few eastern humanistic philosophy, Confucianism, for example, which I believe, as do many Jesuits, to be almost entirely comparable with Christianity). St. Irenaeus taught that by becoming Man, God sanctified human life: he not only revealed who God is, but he also revealed what Man is. Because God was an infant, infancy became sacred, and so on. St. Thomas writes about Angels (he is called the Angelic Doctor) not so much because he enjoyed to (he actually warned that focusing too much on Angels can lead to idolatry), but because he wanted to better understand that spiritual facilities on Man which he has in common with Angels.

Our postmodern world can be thought of as people taking the fruits of Christianity and Aristotle while denying them. Because they do this, they have yet to develop a philosophy that actually justifies the existence of these fruits, and thus accept them unreasonably, irrationally, and without explanation. The modern is a fideist, while the priest is a rationalist: the priest has develop an explanation for everything or at least a method for finding it, while the modern accepts it only without any reason of then because he was taught to. Aristotle defines motion, and tries to find an reason for it, while Newton accepts motion as a given, on an faith. The "Traditionalists" are more questioning of their traditions then the modern "skeptic" is!

Christi pax.

Daniel said...

"While denying them" should read "while denying the philosophy that produced the fruit."

Christi pax.

John West said...

A quick comment for now (I despise touch screen keyboards). I wonder if you could clarify this comment:

Aristotle defines motion, and tries to find an reason for it, while Newton accepts motion as a given, on an faith.

It's either okay to accept our basic, common experience as axiomatically real and factual and work from there, or it's not. Clearly, we can provide more than one explanation to account for the workings behind these experiences, but you still accept that the experiences themselves (rather than any particular descriptions of how it works) are matters of fact that line up with reality axiomatically, as a starting point, right?

Daniel said...

Dear Mr. John West:

I'm not saying that we shouldn't accept experience on face value (actually I think we should do the opposite). However, what I'm trying to explain is that Newton doesn't define motion; he doesn't tell what motion is in itself. Newton tells us that an object in motion stays in motion, etc., and he eventually creates a mathematical model which he can use to predict the quantitative aspects of motion, but he doesn't explain what motion is.

When Aristotle tried to integrate the intellect with the senses, he translated the senses' information into the intellects terms. We see by the senses' dynamic motion, but we also see by the intellect's static abstractions. Aristotle just took motion and explained it in terms of concepts/abstractions. Do you understand? He integrated the senses' framework with the intellect's framework, by way of the act/ potency explanation.

Newton and the rest of the modern philosophers forgot that the way of the senses and the way of the intellect are only complementary because their culture's education for very long took it for granted. Once they abandoned it, they started to separate them, emphasizing the intellect's dominance over the senses, even to the point of collapsing the senses into the intellect (idealism, subjectivism, etc... think Kant and Berkeley) or emphasizing the sense's dominance over the intellect, to the point of of collapsing the intellect into the senses (empiricism, materialism, etc... think Locke and Hume). In a way the whole mind-body problem is based on this, which is why idealism and materialism developed: to solve the problem.

Christi pax.

Daniel said...

This is a generalization though: the senses ultimately prefigure the pure determinism of the intellect: the imagination/perception builds on the external senses, and the intellect builds on the imagination, with each level becoming more understanding of the static aspects of the world, until the intellect, where the permanent is understood in itself (concepts are static, while mental images are not; the 10 different triangles I'm imagining right now are indefinite: they have different angles, lengths, colors, etc. However, "triangle" as an universal is determined: my drawings of a triangle are imperfect (especially when you get a magnifying glass) yet my conception of triangle is perfect).

That's why animals with higher developed brains (which are the organs of receiving the senses' data and the imagination/perception), can seem like they have something like concepts, because as their brains become better, they recognize the staticity in the world more fully. However, they don't have static concepts, but something close (like if I imagine a very, very, general image of a triangle). This actual makes the difference between a banana eating, tree swinging chimpanzee, and a banana eating, tree swinging man. The man, unlike the chimp, also builds treehouses with a particular architecture, talks about his philosophy on the world, tells stories of their ancestors, develops a deep, intellectual and emotional attachment with is mate (instead of mindlessly procreating and raising the children), and celebrates the banana festival with his family dedicated to the 8 arm monkey gods. This is a difference in kind; the imagination can get more and more determinate, but it doesnt actually cross into the intellect after a certain level of complexity or develop. Otherwise, I would like to discuss Aristotle with a chimp (sounds like an interesting experience ;-) ).

This is also why Thomists say that the intellect is impaired when the brains are damaged or destroyed.

Christi pax.

John West said...

Mr. Daniel,

I'm not saying that we shouldn't accept experience on face value (actually I think we should do the opposite). However, what I'm trying to explain is that Newton doesn't define motion; he doesn't tell what motion is in itself. Newton tells us that an object in motion stays in motion, etc., and he eventually creates a mathematical model which he can use to predict the quantitative aspects of motion, but he doesn't explain what motion is.

As I wrote, given this starting point, both you and Newton accept the explanandum of motion on what you previously termed “faith”. Unlike Newton, the metaphysician analyzes it to provide an explanans. But, out of curiosity, if your analysis led to the conclusion that change is an illusion, would you accept that conclusion?

When Aristotle tried to integrate the intellect with the senses, he translated the senses' information into the intellects terms. We see by the senses' dynamic motion, but we also see by the intellect's static abstractions. Aristotle just took motion and explained it in terms of concepts/abstractions. Do you understand? He integrated the senses' framework with the intellect's framework, by way of the act/ potency explanation.

I wasn't to going to point this out, because I saw no reason to do so and don't like correcting possible misconceptions people have simply for the sake of correcting them. But I've studied Aristotle, both in class and out of class, read Feser's books more than once, and have been a regular commenter – chasing down near-endless link regresses in all Dr. Feser's posts – on this forum full of Aristotelians for the better part of a year now. You don't need to worry so much about my familiarity with Aristotle when you write. I'm able to grasp what you write.

That aside, another question. When you write, “Our postmodern world can be thought of as people taking the fruits of Christianity and Aristotle while denying them. Because they do this, they have yet to develop a philosophy that actually justifies the existence of these fruits, and thus accept them unreasonably, irrationally, and without explanation.” and your final paragraph, are you including contemporary philosophers in this statement? If you mean Descartes, Hume, Kant, then I have no comment on that.

But if you mean contemporary naturalists like Quine, David Lewis, and David Armstrong, then such statements are false. For example, as I recall, David Lewis defended an analysis of change based on temporal parts theory. Temporal theory is the view that, in the same way we have spatial parts for three dimensions, we live in a four-dimensional world and also have temporal parts. You may disagree with David Lewis's analysis of change (I do), but he doesn't accept it without explanation or analysis. As another example, David Armstrong probably actually defended an Aristotelian analysis of causation. His metaphysic is extremely Aristotelian. So, if you mean to say that people like Descartes, Hume, or whoever don't try to explain change, then I really have nothing to say about that. But if you mean that contemporary, Quinean and post-Quinean naturalists don't present analyses of concepts like change, then that suggests to me you're simply not familiar with their work.

The main reason I made my initial comment is that I worry it's too easy for theists like you and I (not Feser) to pick easy targets. I'd like to see for more theists to seriously interact with the work of the most prominent recent and current naturalists and atheists, instead of always going after the boneheads and blowhards (and the more rank, ignorant scientismists) of the New Atheist movement.

John West said...

But if you [also] mean ...^

Daniel said...

Dear Mr. John West:

I like to write with a little bit more detail because we are on a thread: I know I learned a lot from just reading the comments when I found Dr. Feser's website, so I try to make it so lurkers not so educated as you might be understand what we are talking about, and how it applies to other topics. It may also motivate them to learn more. I know it did for me ;-)

Christi pax.

Daniel said...

I also have a bad memory and a "global" thinking pattern. My thoughts flow in almost explosively, so I'm used to writing them down as they go so that I can grasp them, remember them, categorize and order them, and pull out all of their implications. To not do so can be overwhelming and frustrating for me. I actually write, rewrite, add in, and read over my posts several times before I post.

Sorry if I insulted your intelligence :-)

Christi pax.

John West said...

"Temporal [parts] theory ..." I really ought to proofread more.

------

Daniel,

like to write with a little bit more detail because we are on a thread: I know I learned a lot from just reading the comments when I found Dr. Feser's website, so I try to make it so lurkers not so educated as you might be understand what we are talking about, and how it applies to other topics. It may also motivate them to learn more. I know it did for me.

Oh, okay. On second thought, good idea.

Sorry if I insulted your intelligence :-)

NNot at all. I'm sorry if my reply implied it did.

I actually write, rewrite, add in, and read over my posts several times before I post.

I really ought to do more of that.

John West said...

NNot at all.

See what I mean?

Daniel said...

Regarding modern analytical philosophers, yes many have started to reanalyze many assumptions taken for granted in modern philosophy (isn't Dr. Feser's book "Scholastic Metaphysics" about how this rethinking relates to Scholasticism? I have the book, but haven't gotten to it yet: it's down in the stack ;-) ). I'm specifically interested in Mr. Armstrong (not to be rude: has he passed away? Also, where exactly do you think it would be best to start with him? Do you (or anyone else) have any suggestions?).

Anyway, I don't think anyone can really explain motion as subjective, as the method I meantioned would basically be wrong: since change is, like, probably one of the most fundamental aspects of experience, to do away with it destroys much. I'm still trying to think out completely all the logical ends and specifics of what I have written above.

But as I see it, St. Thomas starts with being before he gets to becoming in his thinking. So it is possible to just stop at being like Paramedies.

Christi pax.

Daniel said...

I guess the question would be: should we start with being (as Plato and Aristotle) or with knowing (as Descrates and early moderns) ?

Xavier Zubruri, who has very recently come under my radar, thinks that both ancient and modern philosophy went wrong, and instead we should start with "reality" (that's a technical term: I haven't quite grasped what he means by it from scanning his works. He thinks that the ancients defined being with "reality").

Christi pax.

John West said...

Daniel,

Partly. Partly Ed's manual also lays out and argues for Scholastic metaphysics, in the process interacting with various contemporary philosophers.

I have the book, but haven't gotten to it yet: it's down in the stack ;-) ). I'm specifically interested in Mr. Armstrong (not to be rude: has he passed away? Also, where exactly do you think it would be best to start with him? Do you (or anyone else) have any suggestions?).

Unfortunately, Armstrong died a little less than a year ago.

As for recommendations, apparently Armstrong sets out his metaphysic in Sketch a Systematic Metaphysics, so it may be a good place to start, but I haven't read it. Of his works I've read, if you're unfamiliar with the problem of universals, I would start with Universals: An Opinionated Introduction (actual ebook copy). If you're familiar with the problem of universals, his two volume work on universals: Nominalism and Realism: Universals and Scientific Realism, Volume I and A Theory of Universals: Universals and Scientific Realism, Volume II. I also liked his A World of States of Affairs. But aside from that, the only other of Armstrong's works I've read is his A Combinatorial Theory of Possibility. Others may have other suggestions.

If you haven't read them yet, other recent neo-Aristotelians are E. J. Lowe and Kit Fine. I've only read Lowe's A Survey of Metaphysics, which isn't really Lowe's own work. I think Lowe introduces more of his own metaphysic in The Four-Category Ontology. I've only read one of Kit Fine's papers on metaphysical grounding, and Modality and Tense. Some of Lowe's and Fine's papers can be found behind the links on the right side bar of this website.

I guess the question would be: should we start with being (as Plato and Aristotle) or with knowing (as Descrates and early moderns) ?

Strictly speaking, we start with ontology (I at least have to exist to ask questions, or think at all), but I don't think one need completely finish one's ontology before moving to epistemology. That said, I don't think it has to be all of one area first, and then the other. I suspect that at some point in doing ontology, one has to start to dealing with at least some epistemological issues, or risk taking God's eye-view in doing ontology – but we don't have God's eye-view.

John West said...

... Omit "That said"^

John West said...

It's just been pointed out to me that Kit Fine may not have been a neo-Aristotelian. If not, I'll eat my shirt.

Daniel said...

Mr. John West:

Thank you for the information!

I think that maybe the best route is to approach ontological and epistemology at the same time, side by side, instead of one temporality before the other. It makes little sense to talk of the being of a mind without the thought of the mind. Being is prior to knowing, but it seems impossible to talk about being without talking about knowing. This is reflected in the Trinity.

You have to remember, the Trinity is is the eternal, simple, Personal "I Am." Since God is simple, and Personal, that means all three aspects that make a Person: being, intellect, and will, are all the same. (in us, the three are not essentially together, but in God, who is simple, they are). Thus, God Being (the Father, God Knowing and God Willing), God Known (the Son or Logos), and God Willed (the Spirit, the Breath) are all completely God, but are distinguished only between their relationships with each other.

God Being contemplates Himself as a person, and that perfect mental image or Logos (God knows perfectly: he is omniscient) is God Known, while God Being is God Knowing (notice the relational terms). Since the three aspects of a person are the same in the simple God, God Knowing is God Known, but God Knowing is still prior to God Known, and is distinguishable through their relationship. Since God is essentially personal, unlike us: Harry Potter has intellect and will in a sense, but not being (he has an essence but not an existence). We have all three, but our essence is not our existence. God's essence is His existence, and His existence is Personal. So, God Known, since Personhood is an essential quality of God, Personhood is in both God Knowing and God Known: God Known is a Person separate from God Knowing. The same works with God Willing and God Willed: all persons will themselves, and God Being wills Himself, thus "spiriting" God Willed. God Willing is God Willed, as God is simple, and since Personhood is an essential aspect of God ("I Am"), God Willed is also a separate Person.

Because you cannot will what you don't know, God Known is prior to God Willed. Thus God Being knows God Known, and through God Known, God Being wills God Willed ("the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son," or, "the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son").

You can't separate God the Father from God the Son, since they are relational, and only are known when in context with each other. The Father, though, is prior to the Son, as the Son is eternally begotten by the Father (God begetting and God begotten). It is also important to point out that only through the Son can one get to the Father. In the same way, the being of Mind is only known through the thoughts of Mind. The existence of the mind is prior to the thoughts, but they only make sense in regard with each other. It is only through thoughts that we know being.

So, being is prior to knowing, but knowing can't be separated from being, and being is only known through knowing. Ontology is prior to epistemology, but they can't be ultimately separated; and only through epistemology can we study ontology.

There might be some loose ends here....

Christi pax.

Daniel said...

For Lowe I would also recommend his which argues for the primacy of Metaphysics, or at least Ontology, over epistemic concerns in a similar way to Daniel himself. He (Lowe) was a theist though not a naturalist.

Unfortunately, Armstrong died a little less than a year ago.

Huh? This was the first I heard of that? Strangely I was thinking that this must be on the cards soon the other day. It's sad news - he should definitely have got a memorandum on here.

Looking back through his bibliography just reminds of just how much series metaphysical work those first generation Andersonians, Martin, Armstrong, Molnar, Campbell et cetera really. They all started with (rather spurious Naturalist commitments but the thoroughness and attention they gave to certain metaphysical issues is unrivalled in post-Leibnizian philosophy.

Anyone interested in modern scholastic metaphysics should definitely read Armstrong's work. Along with the volumes on the problem of Universals I would also highly recommend his Truth and Truthmakers, there first chapter of which is available online here:

http://ebooks.cambridge.org/chapter.jsf?bid=CBO9780511487552&cid=CBO9780511487552A006

Sorry, very tired at the time of this post. I meant to say something about Australian metaphysics having lead to the New Essentialism.

(The other Daniel who, for the record, only just noticed this conversation)

Daniel said...

Erk that should read I recommend his The Possibility of Metaphysics

http://www.amazon.com/Possibility-Metaphysics-Substance-Identity-Time/dp/0199244995/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1428671970&sr=1-1&keywords=lowe+possibility

machinephilosophy said...

"Anyway, I wish Dr. Pigliucci gave us more meat in his attack on metaphysics. But ruling it out due to empiricist concerns doesn't seem very substantial."

That's two elephants in the room. There are more. Don't hold your breath for any of these things to ever be addressed by these pontificating frauds.

Public-institution philosophy departments keep the cognitively poor from logically murdering the intellectually pseudo-rich.

The Pigliucci's are running a bluff, carefully protecting themselves from wide-open scrutiny. It's a club of unstated mutual protectionism/onanism. Grade tyranny in the schools keeps the students from unleashing harsh questioning.

And the media is there to do the same thing as a lapdog of philosophy to make sure they're considered cool, keeping their darling atheist philosophers from being questioned while bragging about how questioning and open-minded they all are.

But verificationism's legacy is really nothing more than decade after decade of a combination of unfounded glorification of logical empiricism as if somehow it's legitimacy is a fait accompli and that no substantial criticisms have really been leveled at it, and a merely political resentment toward anyone who would criticize it at its logical core.

We're going to see over the next few years just how well-protected these people can keep themselves.

Me, I'm ready to close down another pubicly-funded philosophy department. Math can teach logic and sociology can teach an ethics course. I'd say put a nice TV where the philosophy department office was, and just play Oprah reruns as an everlasting tribute to hiding the problems of undefended reductionisms.

These people really are just lightweight posers within an academic and media hipster milieu that shares their vested interest of keeping the logical tensions of their views out of the public eye forever.

minstrel said...

Hi!
What do you thing about this post that "seem" a Piglicci's reply?

http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.fi/2012/08/surprise-naturalistic-metaphysics_20.html

Thanks Dr. Feser for your work!