Saturday, May 30, 2015

Aristotle watches Blade Runner


You can never watch Blade Runner too many times, and I’m due for another viewing.  In D. E. Wittkower’s anthology Philip K. Dick and Philosophy, there’s an article by Ross Barham which makes some remarks about the movie’s famous “replicants” and their relationship to human beings which are interesting though, in my view, mistaken.  Barham considers how we might understand the two kinds of creature in light of Aristotle’s four causes, and suggests that this is easier to do with replicants than with human beings.  This is, I think, the reverse of the truth.  But Barham’s reasons are not hard to understand given modern assumptions (which Aristotle would reject) about nature in general and human nature in particular.

Barham suggests that, where replicants are concerned, a four-cause analysis would look something like this: their efficient cause is the Tyrell Corporation and its engineers; their material cause is to be found in the biological and mechanical constituents out of which they are constructed; their formal cause is the human-like pattern on which the Tyrell Corporation designed them; and their final cause is to function as human-like slave laborers. 

With human beings, Barham says, things are different.  Here, he thinks, the analysis looks like this: their efficient cause is, proximately, their parents, and remotely, evolution; their material cause is the biochemical matter out of which they are constituted; and their formal cause is the “blueprint” to be found in their DNA.  But with human beings, Barham says, it’s not so clear what their final cause is.

Now, you might think that his reason for saying this has something to do with attributing our remote origin to evolution rather than divine creation.  You might think, in other words, that he is supposing that if God didn’t make us, then we must not have a purpose or final cause.  But that is not Barham’s reason -- and it’s a good thing, since that would not be a good reason for saying it.  For Aristotelians, at least where true substances are concerned -- water, lead, gold, copper, trees, birds, spiders, human beings, etc. -- you don’t need to know anything about their remote origins in order to know their teleological features or final causes, any more than you need to know their remote origins in order to know their formal or material or (immediate) efficient causes. 

For example, you don’t need to know whether God made acorns in order to know that they are “directed at” or “point toward” becoming oaks.  You don’t need to know whether God made trees in order to know that their roots are “for” taking in water and nutrients and giving the tree stability.  You don’t need to know whether God made spiders in order to know that their webs have the function of allowing them to catch prey.  You don’t need to know whether God made copper in order to know that copper has a tendency to conduct electricity.  Etc.  All you need to do is to observe how birds and spiders tend to act when in their mature and healthy state, what acorns and copper tend to do under various circumstances, etc.  The causal powers a thing exhibits are the key to understanding its finality or “directedness.”  (Recall that, contrary to the standard caricature, most finality or teleology in nature involves nothing as fancy as biological function.  It typically involves just a mere “directedness” or “pointing” toward a certain standard outcome or range of outcomes.) 

Barham is aware that for Aristotle, to know a natural object’s teleological features, one needs to observe how it characteristically behaves, and that this is as true of human beings as it is of anything else.  He is also aware that for Aristotle, what is characteristic of human beings is that they exhibit rational powers, so that living in accordance with reason is, for Aristotle, our final cause. 

So far so good.  But now comes Barham’s mistake.  He thinks Aristotle’s answer faces the following difficulties.  First, Barham thinks that there are alterative candidates for our final cause or natural end that are no less plausible than rationality.  His examples are agency, the capacity for morality, and love.  Second, he notes that we often act irrationally and suggests that replicants can be no less rational than human beings are -- in which case rationality is neither necessary nor sufficient for being a human being.  Third, he seems to think that a problem with any proposed characteristic (rationality, moral behavior, love, or whatever) is that there are instances of human beings who don’t exhibit it -- so that (Barham seems to conclude) none of them can be the final cause of human beings as such.  (In fairness to Barham, in some cases it’s not clear whether these are objections Barham himself endorses, or merely objections he thinks are implicit in Blade Runner.)

Longtime readers no doubt know already how I would respond to objections of this sort.  (They will also be familiar with the Aristotelian and Scholastic notions to be deployed below -- notions I’ve spelled out and defended in many places, and most systematically in Scholastic Metaphysics.) 

First, that we often act irrationally does not entail that we are not rational.  Indeed, you cannot act irrationally unless you are rational, in the relevant sense of “rational.”  To be irrational is not the same thing as to be non-rational.  Rather, to be irrational is to reason badly, or to let one’s emotion cloud one’s reason, or to be impaired somehow (by mental illness or brain damage, say) so that one is prevented from exercising one’s reason -- all of which presupposes that one does indeed have reason.  Contrast a spider, say, which is not irrational precisely because it does not even rise to the level of reasoning badly.  A spider is instead non-rational.

Second, agency, morality, and love are not really in competition with rationality as candidates for our characteristic activity, certainly not on the analysis an Aristotelian like Aquinas would put forward.  For these are all themselves just special cases of rationality.  Consider Aquinas’s view that will follows upon intellect. Will is “rational appetite,” the tendency to be drawn toward what the intellect sees to be good.  To be “rational,” then, is for Aquinas to have a will as well as an intellect.  Now, agency, in the sense here in question, is just the capacity to behave in light of reason -- that is to say, to have a will.  Morality is just a matter of an agent’s pursuing what the intellect perceives to be good for him and avoiding what it perceives to be bad.  Loving a thing is just willing what is good for it.  So, the Aristotelian can take Barham’s alleged alternatives not to be true alternatives to rationality at all, but indeed to be instances of rationality. 

Third, that some human being doesn’t actually exhibit one of the features in question -- for example, that there are sociopaths unmoved by moral considerations, or that severely brain damaged people cannot exercise reason -- doesn’t entail that these features are not part of the nature of all human beings after all.  To appeal to one of my stock examples, dogs are of their nature four-legged, even if there are occasional dogs which, due to injury or genetic defect, are missing a leg.  For to say that dogs are of their nature four-legged does not mean, on an Aristotelian understanding of the nature or essence of a thing, that every single dog will in fact have four-legs.  It means that any dog in its mature and undamaged state will have four legs.  Even three-legged dogs by nature have four legs -- that is to say, being four-legged is what they naturally tend toward.  It’s just that in a three-legged dog this tendency has been frustrated.

Similarly, a human being who is so severely brain damaged that he can no longer reason, or so psychologically aberrant that he is utterly unmoved by the demands of morality, is still someone who by nature tends toward rational activity and a sense of guilt at doing evil.   It’s just that, as with the damaged dog, the manifestation of the natural tendencies has been blocked.  (Note that this does not make them any less human, any more than a three-legged dog is any less a dog.  An imperfect or damaged dog is in no way a non-dog, and an imperfect or damaged human being is in no way non-human.  You have actually to be an X in the first place in order to count as an imperfect or damaged X.)

What about the suggestion that Blade Runner’s replicants, like humans, have rationality?  Here things are a little more complicated, but only because replicants are, of course, fictional.  There is no “fact of the matter” about what a replicant is; hence it’s not entirely clear what to say about them.  What we are told about them makes the situation highly ambiguous.  On the one hand, superficially they seem to be like robots or androids.  And in that case I would say that they are metaphysically on all fours with computers, clocks, toaster ovens, etc.  That is to say, they have mere accidental forms rather than substantial forms, and are thus not true substances.  On the other hand, on closer consideration they are far more human-like than the stereotypical android or robot is.  Not only are they at least partially made out of biological material, but they are so close to human beings in their appearance that it seems that a physical inspection (including an X-ray or the like) wouldn’t reveal something to be a replicant.  Hence Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) has to administer a complex psychological test to determine whether Rachael (Sean Young) is a replicant.  But then replicants seem to have an organic unity that indicates that they have substantial forms rather than merely accidental forms, and thus are true substances.  (I have discussed the difference between substantial and accidental form in many places, such as here, here, and here.  For the full story, see chapter 3 of Scholastic Metaphysics.) 

Now, either way we interpret them, replicants will not be true counterexamples to the Aristotelian claim that what is distinctive about human beings is that they are rational animals.  For suppose that replicants have only accidental forms, and thus are not true substances.  They are in this case merely mechanical systems, like computers running software or clocks which have been designed to display the time.  And in that case, for reasons I’ve stated many times (e.g., recently, here) they would from the Aristotelian point of view no more literally have rationality than a statue of a man literally has eyes.  They would merely behave as if they had it.  The rationality would all be observer-relative -- a projection of the human programmers of the replicant’s imitation brain, rather than something really in the replicant itself.

Suppose instead, though, that replicants have substantial forms and thus are true substances.  Then it is much more plausible to say that they have genuine rationality, as well as true sensation, appetite, locomotion, and the other functions we share with non-human animals.  But in that case they would be rational animals -- in which case they would be human beings.  True, they would be human beings with very exotic origins, but that is a question of where they came from, and that is a different question from the question of what they are.  On this scenario, they would be more like clones of human beings (even if not exactly like clones) than they would be like robots or androids, and clones of human beings would certainly be human beings.  But if replicants are just exotic human beings, then, once again, they are not counterexamples to the claim that being rational is what is distinctive of human beings.

Of course, all of this presupposes the Aristotelian metaphysics of substance, but the point is that, contrary to what Barham implies, that metaphysics has ample resources to deal with the purported counterexamples he thinks Blade Runner is offering us.

187 comments:

Scott said...

Another piece in the same volume, "Will You Survive a Trip to Rekall*, Inc.?" by G.C. Goddu, gives a bit of a nod to something that superficially resembles a Scholastic account of personal identity but never, to my mind, really engages with it. The problem seems to be that the author never really gets beyond a Cartesian account of body vs. mind and so never seriously considers that Locke's own brand of dualism might be mistaken.

----

* This spelling is presumably from the film adaptation. The company name in the original short story is REKAL.

Edward Feser said...

Hi Scott, I'll have to look at that. I guess a bit of a nod is better than nothing.

Scott said...

Well, I'm being a little generous. The basic question the piece addresses is whether (in Dick's work) the "person" that continues through time follows the psyche (continuity of consciousness/memory) or the body (physical continuity), but the distinction is couched mostly in Lockean terms and person-as-substance never quite makes an appearance.

Still, the bodily-continuity view does get a fair hearing, and if you squint, you can see something sorta Scholasticky lurking in the middle distance.

JD Walters said...

I think more Scholastic thinkers should be looking into the research on animal cognition: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/cognition-animal/#Con

Scott said...

I think more non-Scholastic thinkers should be looking into why research on animal cognition doesn't contradict Scholastic philosophy.

TheOFloinn said...

@Scott
My guess is the confusion between "cognition" and "intellection." After all, the simplest form of cognition is digestion, whereby a body knows a thing by ingesting its matter and discarding its form, making its matter a part of itself. Even a plant can do that.

Eric in Hiroshima said...

Please forgive a quick off-topic question...

Can anyone point me to a good review of Jerry Coyne's new book?

Thanks.

Bob said...

For Aristotelians, at least where true substances are concerned -- water, lead, gold, copper, trees, birds, spiders, human beings, etc. -- you don’t need to know anything about their remote origins in order to know their teleological features or final causes,

Great. So what is the final cause of water, for example?

Mr. Green said...

Bob, yes, it is great, isn't it! But surely you've seen water before, haven't you? You don't need me to tell you what it's like.

Anonymous said...

"My guess is the confusion between "cognition" and "intellection." After all, the simplest form of cognition is digestion, whereby a body knows a thing by ingesting its matter and discarding its form, making its matter a part of itself. Even a plant can do that."


Exactly. Another example - my cell phone can only be unlocked by scanning my right index finger across an optical reader. The cell phone "re-cognizes" my finger print pattern so thoroughly that I can't even use another digit to unlock the phone. But my cell phone is not rational or sentient. It just does what it's been programmed to do.

Scott said...

@Bob:

Great. So what is the final cause of water, for example?

Mr. Green is surely right that you don't need him—or the rest of us—to tell you what water is like, but (just in case) I'm entirely happy to remind you that it gets things wet, satisfies thirst, dissolves sodium chloride, and so forth.

Bob said...

Hi Scott,

If I understand your answer correctly, you are saying that there are a number of final causes for water - each having to do with what results from coming into contact with it (in this case - within a specific range of conditions).

Correct?

Scott said...

Correct in essence. I'm saying that the nature of water is such that it has natural ends toward which it "aims."

Brandon said...

there are a number of final causes for water

There are multiple final causes for most things, since regular causal operations are explained in terms of final causes, and most things naturally tend to have more than one regular causal operation.

machinephilosophy said...

"[Y]ou don’t need to know whether God made acorns in order to know that they are “directed at” or “point toward” becoming oaks. You don’t need to know whether God made trees in order to know that their roots are “for” taking in water and nutrients and giving the tree stability."

This is the whole problem---and the only remaining problem for me---with scholastic metaphysics, and the same problem I noticed from about page 15 onward in Wallace's great work, The Modeling of Nature.

It just seems like directedness, pointing, and purposiveness ("for") smuggle in mindfulness, when that is precisely what is in question in the first place.

machinephilosophy said...

Tendency is one thing, intelligence-directed is another.

TheOFloinn said...

No the finality is there regardless of any argument for mindfulness. A ponderable body will move toward the point of lowest gravitational potential whether someone puts it there or not. A chemical reaction will move toward completion (including Belusov reactions): sodium combined with chlorine will tend toward ordinary salt, not to assault with a deadly weapon. A tiger cub tends to become an adult tiger in the common course of nature, not a tiger lily. A bird gathers twigs not at random but in order to build a nest. Evolution tends toward greater adaptation to a given niche, not to random outcomes.

Basically, without finality no scientific laws would be possible. (Indeed, no efficient cause would effect!) Since scientific laws are obviously possible, the world is not without finality.

TheOFloinn said...

Tendency is one thing, intelligence-directed is another.

Of course. That's why Aquinas could take the former as obvious, but the latter as something that must be proved.

machinephilosophy said...

I'm open to the proof, but I just don't see it at this point. And I'm surprised that Thomists don't birddog this with a vengeance already. I do see that it's possible that this is the way things are, but it still needs a tricked-out demonstration.

If anyone knows where such a proof is to be found, I'd like to see it. I'm checking Ed's Scholastic Metaphysics for this right now.

And I think this is -the- major obstacle for Thomism's acceptability across the board. If it can be proved, then that will mark the beginning of a major shakeup in philosophy of science as well as philosophy generally. If it's true, it can be -made- persuasive. But first things first.

However, naturalists are generally going to balk at any kind of guiding-hand notions loaded into phrases such as "in order to"---when "always results in" will work just as well without any telic or purposive concepts involved at all.

[Alan Aversa: this is what I promised to discuss in that previous post/thread of our exchange on the same subject, but didn't. Thanks for your patience.]

TheOFloinn said...

However, naturalists are generally going to balk at any kind of guiding-hand notions loaded into phrases such as "in order to"---when "always results in" will work just as well without any telic or purposive concepts involved at all.

Where is the "guiding hand" in the tendency of sodium and chlorine to end in salt? IIRC, Thomas regarded natural telos as obvious as motion, efficient causation, and other starting points, but the reasoning back to a "guiding hand" as being difficult and subtle. Aristotle, who accepted the former, did not so far as I know conclude to the latter.

It doesn't work as well without a towardness, because without towardness the efficient cause has nowhere to go. Go ahead, give an example of an efficient cause that is not an efficient cause of something.

machinephilosophy said...

I'll go even farther.

If it can be proved that, as Ed says on page 25 of Scholastic Metaphysics, there is no way to coherently deny the existence of teleology in things generally (or as a pervasive aspect of the essence of contingent objects or whatever), then that would actually avoid any question-begging that a purely positive demonstration might contain, as Joseph Boyle pointed out about the defense and justification of both the law of noncontradiction and self-referential inconsistency refutation.

machinephilosophy said...

Well, we don't ordinarily speak of a rock rolling down a hill "in order to" do anything, such as getting to the bottom. It just rolls down the hill.

TheOFloinn said...

But why does the rock roll downhill? Why not uphill? Or fly into the air? There is no efficient cause that is not an efficient cause of something. (Maybe this was why Hume tried to trash even efficient causes?) However, naturalists are generally going to balk at any kind of guiding-hand notions loaded into phrases such as "in order to"---when "always results in" will work just as well without any telic or purposive concepts involved at all. In physics, one speaks of the system changing dynamically in order to minimize a potential function, the which defines equilibrium states on a manifold over parameter space. This is just a fancy way of saying telos. So the challenge to the Late Modern mind is to discuss such things as "equilibrium manifolds" or "completion" or "adaptation" without admitting even to oneself that one is talking telos.

Edward Feser said...

Hello machinephilosophy,

I'm not sure what your difficulty is. What does proving "intelligence-directedness" have to do with anything in philosophy of science? Where exactly is this gap in argumentation you think exists?

There are two issues here:

1. Is there such a thing as "directedness," teleology, finality, "physical intentionality," etc. immanent in nature?

2. Is immanent teleology ultimately dependent on a divine ordering intelligence?

These are independent questions. One could in principle say "Yes" to 1 and "No" to 2, as many have (Aristotle, Nagel, Molnar, et al.). Only question 1 is relevant to philosophy of science. Question 2 is a topic for natural theology. In particular, it is the topic with which Aquinas's Fifth Way is concerned.

As you know, I answer "Yes" to both questions, and have defended both answers at length. I defend a "Yes" answer to 1 in, among other places, pp. 92-105 of Scholastic Metaphysics. I defend a "Yes" answer to 2 in, among other places, my article "Between Aristotle and William Paley: Aquinas's Fifth Way."

You seem to be running 1 and 2 together, but that the questions are independent is something I've emphasized and argued for for years now. So, again, I'm not at all clear what you think the difficulty is.

machinephilosophy said...

But again, that is what is in question. From a naturalistic/atheistic perspective, which I had for over a quarter of a century, I would just dismiss "in order to minimize" as a mere manner of speaking, which strictly speaking merely means a set of conditions will produce a certain result or type of result.

That down instead of up eventuates in the movement of a physical object does not assume or imply teleology, but is merely observed sequence.

To say that any B merely occurring after A is telic seems an effortless but question-begging victory that cheapens the notion of purpose.

Remember, I'm someone who actually wants this to be true, I just don't see it, at least not yet anyway.

Anonymous said...

I'm not seeing what final causes outside biology and made made objects tell you that isn't already contained in the other three. I've always understood final causes to be purposes, and there is something special about that concept and it gives the strict materialists problems. But rocks fall because they have gravitational "charge", otherwise known as mass, and gravity acts on mass. I would have thought we are talking about the properties of rocks and what acts on them, which in my apparently mistaken understanding would fall under the categories of formal and efficient causes.

But I admit I'm pretty ignorant here, so take this as a statement from one of the confused masses.

Alan L. said...

Absent the ability to procreate, the replicants would not be ‘animals’ in any conventional sense anyway.

Edward Feser said...

Hello machinephilosophy,

Sorry, still very puzzled. I understand why the newbies here (such as Anon above) aren't clear on the subject. But I know you've been a sympathetic reader of this blog since close to the beginning, and it's a subject I've addressed about a million times, give or take. So when you say things like:

To say that any B merely occurring after A is telic seems an effortless but question-begging victory that cheapens the notion of purpose.

well, I'm at a loss, since you surely know that I've put forward detailed argumentation for the Aristotelian-Thomistic claim that any efficient causal regularity presupposes finality. Again, see e.g. pp. 92-105 of Scholastic Metaphysics. That's 13 pages of argumentation. If you think the arguments are problematic or unconvincing, that's fine, but to pretend that this is some "effortless" assertion or that there's anything "question-begging" about it (about what, exactly? You haven't even addressed the actual arguments for the claim, much less shown how they beg the question) -- to pretend, in short, that the arguments don't even exist -- well, again, I just don't get it.

TheOFloinn said...

which ... means a set of conditions will produce a certain result or type of result.

A nice summary of finality in nature.

merely observed sequence

If it is merely observed sequence, as Hume claimed, then there are no efficient causes, either, which knocks naturalism, too. If it's all nothing but correlation or long-standing coincidence, we're back to al-Ghazaili and the philosophy that strangled natural science in the House of Submission.

cheapens the notion of purpose.

What purpose? There are cases in which intention may produce a final cause, but it does not exhaust the idea of finality.
a) Termination: a thing simply comes to an end. E.g., chemical reactions proceed to completion; ponderable matter falls to the point of lowest potention. The equilibrium point may be repetitive: Belusov reactions, planetary orbits, etc.
b) Perfection: a thing changes until further change no longer perfects it. An acorn grows into an oak tree; a tiger cub into a tiger; sodium into this compound or that. Any further change makes it less what it is.
c) Intention: the lion chases a gazelle in order to secure a meal; a bird gathers detritus in order to build a nest. Evolution depends on intention because what makes a trait "beneficial" or not depends on what a critter is trying to do. If in the "struggle for existence" it tries something else then what is beneficial changes.
Intention may be instinctual or intellectual, depending.

machinephilosophy said...

Thanks Ed

I think 2 is provably affirmative if 1 can be proved, although that's a side point here.

The implication for the philosophy of science is that if there is immanent teleology, then scientific analysis per se is already bummin cigs off teleology while denying it's doing so, and then claiming that denial of teleology as a point of honor for the whole scientific enterprise (which has a cig-bummin cancer that few understand).

But "rather than" does not seem to be preferential in the sense of being "directed" toward or "pointing to" one thing rather than another by some other object or set of objects or intelligence or conditions or intelligence. (page 92)

That every agent or efficient cause acts "for" an end is precisely what I'm trying to find a proof for. (page 92)

I will, however, check out Bittle and the others, and especially Hoffman, for their defenses of finality.

I also don't see how regularity or order necessarily precludes chance, or how chance and tendency are in conflict. There's evolution within a larger context of entropy, and so it seems plausible that there can be regularities, orders, and tendencies within a chance environment.

I just don't see the need for explanation, for a why, for efficient causes necessitating their effects, although we do need do need to know exactly what that means, as you point out. Causes necessarily produce their effects, but I don't see the need for knowing why simply because those caused effects occur, even if they, as I too believe, necessarily occur due to the respective natures involved.

Whether we know the why, if there is purpose per se in nature, who cares? Subsequent implications of that would get to either God or a universal operating-system like intelligence principle proceeding toward goals, without knowing the specific justification of either for any specific event or object. (page 95)

I also don't see why causal necessity being either intrinsic or extrinsic (a disjunction I agree with) implies that the necessity of efficient causation cannot adequately account for regularity or order. (page 95) [I'll have to bone up on the occasionalism issue referred to.]

And even though I agree with the higher-order pushback point, why does regularity need explanation in the first place? (page 96)

And the laws of nature being merely descriptions of thing behavior being due to intrinsic factors in the nature of those things still doesn't get me to some kind of unconscious intelligence or telic agency. (page 96)

Also, even though I agree that "since an effect B doesn't even exist until generated by its efficient cause A, the necessitation will have to be grounded in something intrinsic to A", calling this an "inclination" to an end or goal or purpose still seems to be smuggling in some kind of purposive agency ("pointing to") in A, when it's really just dictated by what A is in the first place. Why is it impossible for that to be the end of the story? (page 97)

Somehow this all seems to anthropomorphize or teleologize mere thingness and sheer eventuation of states of affairs, although I agree that appeal to further instances of efficient causal necessitation internal to A are vicious. ("Poirot does not occupy himself with mere 'thingness', Hastings!")

I mean, it may in fact be a chess of disjunctions and conditionals and I'm just not connecting all the inferences between them. I just still don't see it.

I'll study this more, including 97-102 and your references to the defense of finality.

Brandon said...

I'm not seeing what final causes outside biology and made made objects tell you that isn't already contained in the other three.

Since the other three presuppose final causes (otherwise they could not stably explain anything), a genuinely adequate account of the other three would already identify the final causes. Final causes are not purposes -- although purposes, when they explain anything, do so as final causes.

machinephilosophy said...

TOF, I agree with teleology in animals. It's the universality of the principle of finality down to inanimate rocks, trees, and cosmic dust that is the only problem for me here.

Alan L. said...

Machinephilosophy: Six of one, half-dozen of another. Consider A-T as a coherent alternate description of reality. It is not being presented as the only right way to view the world, but an alternative perspective that brings with it the potential for additional insights.

John West said...

It is not being presented as the only right way to view the world, but an alternative perspective that brings with it the potential for additional insights.

Well, better say the people here are open to being proven wrong (which is what I assume you mean). None of them are relativists. There is, ultimately, only one correct metaphysic.

Mr. Green said...

MachinePhilosophy: ...which strictly speaking merely means a set of conditions will produce a certain result or type of result.

But "teleology" is just Greek for "certain conditions produce certain results". It's not smuggling anything else in because there isn't anything else. Philosophers have to call it something, after all (and "stuff doing stuff" doesn't sound intellectual enough). Anything else is either an example of more advanced teleology (i.e. an example that brings in more stuff to talk about) or is the result of importing additional concepts from everyday use that aren't strictly present in the technical use of the words.

machinephilosophy said...

It all still goes to cultural viability of thomism.

If that's all it means, then why use teleological language in a sense that is foreign to most people and sure to raise obstacles that otherwise would not arise? I don't get it.

I can start using linguistically deviant or strangely nuanced vocabulary too, to the point where if anyone disagrees with me, I can just say well the onus is on you, you're not giving my system a chance, etc., but few will even consider my perspective in that case, much less be persuaded of anything I say, because I've guaranteed in advance that they won't understand it.

Nonstandard terms is a major part of what has already poised the public to just get rid of academic philosophy altogether, and this has actually started happening. I don't want to see it happen to thomistic philosophy.

And if a strong sympathizer with thomistic philosophy has problems with this, ....

machinephilosophy said...

Alan, if thomism is correct about these issues, then it is in fact, not just the only correct metaphysic, but the only possible correct metaphysic.

machinephilosophy said...

Which is part of why it's important to attack thomism. Fairly, granted, but at every inferential and terminological juncture. If I didn't think thomism was worth it, I wouldn't bother to question it in the first place.

TheOFloinn said...

"You can’t hold a conversation hostage because of your inability to understand a term."
-- James Chastek

Jeremy Taylor said...

I too am confused. Machine Philosophy, are you saying we don't need to ask why there appears to be regular and orderly causation?

Michael CP said...

Would be interesting to see a sort of competition as to how best to communicate final causes to non-philosophy folks, probably using lots of analogies and examples.

machinephilosophy said...

I don't ask why the socially stupid make enemies for themselves and thomism for no reason when people simply ask honest questions in good faith. Maybe I should generate some new definitions that will enable me to put all the blame on others if I'm not understood. Beats the hell out of actually having to engage in detailed logical analysis, and so is a great labor-saving device.

No Jeremy, I'm not claiming we don't need to ask why, but I just personally don't see that need myself. Reason is already used as a Mind-God anyway, and that's enough of a problem in itself, for both atheism and theism. Reason is a telic instrument, but has no purpose in itself except that which we give it due to its necessity for making our way in the world.

But I don't see that "the rock always rolls down the hill" implies "the rock is directed to always roll down the hill" or "the rock has the end of always rolling down the hill".

Ends are something only minds seem to have, although I think animals have at least a perceptual mind that has non-reflective ends programmed in. In fact, dogs seem to agonize over competing alternatives in certain situations. But I don't see how a completely non-mind entity can have an end at all. Just seems anthropomorphic in a way that is sort of the obverse to how many view God in an anthropomorphic way, which I reject as well.

Causation, regularity, order, and many other concepts are irreducibly basic primitives that cannot be denied without assuming them in the process, and since concepts are our only way to make sense of the world, they are necessarily imbued with the authority to determine what's real and what's true, even concerning themselves, all on pain of the consequences of denying them. Try defining order, and you get to a group of words that are equally cross-dependent definitionally, with no way to be defined other than mainly through each other.

I do believe in the universality of causal law, but ends I see only in humans or similar types of beings and possibly in a more rudimentary and primitive way in animals.

Jereemy Taylor said...

Then what is your answer to the question of why the rock will, all things being equal, tend to roll down the hill when pushed, and not start soaring towards the sky or disappear?

Dennis said...

@machinephilosophy

"Then what is your answer to the question of why the rock will, all things being equal, tend to roll down the hill when pushed, and not start soaring towards the sky or disappear?" - Jeremy Taylor

If you say it just happens, you're positing Brute Fact in a very real sense, then you have to look at the PSR.

"Ends are something only minds seem to have, although I think animals have at least a perceptual mind that has non-reflective ends programmed in. In fact, dogs seem to agonize over competing alternatives in certain situations. But I don't see how a completely non-mind entity can have an end at all. Just seems anthropomorphic in a way that is sort of the obverse to how many view God in an anthropomorphic way, which I reject as well."

You've been here for a really really long time, and Dr. Feser has written on this so concisely in such great detail left, right and center.

Let's start the analysis, the form of a thing is that which determines the certain/specific actualities that things in nature possess. Everything in this universe is made up of fundamenta, however, if everything in this universe is made up of the fundamenta why is there so much a difference in individuation when we observe matter? i.e. Why do they function differently? Why does dough, when effected by heat, rise, in comparison to a piece of paper that potentially burns given the same causal effect, given that they both share the same fundamenta? The answer is: The Formal Cause.

When we say, 'Things begin to exist,' what exactly are we saying? Matter is not created, nor destroyed, pre-existing matter enters a new form of existence. Few questions to step back and ask here, (i)Where is the form descending from? (ii)Where is the form descending from in such manner, that it always descends upon a certain specific causal interaction? (iii)Why is the paper in potency to burning, given a certain temperature to burning? The answer is in the Formal Cause, it is what determines the certain actualities a 'thing' that which is distinguishable from other things, that which we label, have. And this potency to burning = Final Cause. The paper does not have a potency to become an elephant, even though ultimately they are made up of the same matter, for the matter(of the paper) to become an elephant, a substantial change(end of a form), has to happen, prior to it even getting the potency to be an Elephant. How much more clearer do we have to be on what it means by final cause???

Dennis said...

(cont...)

"If that's all it means, then why use teleological language in a sense that is foreign to most people and sure to raise obstacles that otherwise would not arise? I don't get it."

Really, I have very little patience for people who refuse to learn terminology(i.e. doing their homework) prior to getting worked up about stuff. This is what we call Telos, that's it, you should have no complaints as to what we call it. Dr. Feser(in many many places), Scott, Mr. Green and TOF have adequately addressed people in towards what it means by Final Cause in this thread. My chipping into this I suppose shouldn't add much. But the final cause of a thing is necessarily dependent on its formal cause, which is the determining principle of the kind of actuality a 'thing' is in, and there is a causal priority of the form in Aristotelian metaphysics. If you read Parmenides and then think of Plato's theory of Forms, you'll begin to see as to why this thing needs to have an existential causal priority. "Things" are subject to change, however, 'things' are not subject to FREE-FOR-ALL change, anything that which is a composite of matter and form always exists in a manner of Act/Potency, and 'tend towards...' certain kinds of change given certain causal interactions, necessarily means that it is maleable to certain 'things,' or that although it is open to the reality of change, it is only open in a restricted manner. What are those restricted changes a thing can go through yet still subsist its identity? That is telos is, and that is determined by the kind of Form they posses.

"You can’t hold a conversation hostage because of your inability to understand a term."
-- James Chastek

Bob said...

Map meet territory.

machinephilosophy said...

You can run rhetorical interference all you want, but the "you just can't understand my technical terms" mantra is just going to make Thomism look more and more like some bizarre theistic version of Scientology whose inbred orthodoxy cannot be questioned without the questioners being slighted as somehow deficient or hostile as punishment for the horrific act of scrutinizing the sequence of inference.

Plus I'm just a better writer than most all my detractors. An even greater intellectual sin.

Dennis said...

@machinephilosophy

"You can run rhetorical interference all you want, but the "you just can't understand my technical terms" mantra is just going to make Thomism look more and more like some bizarre theistic version of Scientology whose inbred orthodoxy cannot be questioned without the questioners being slighted as somehow deficient or hostile as punishment for the horrific act of scrutinizing the sequence of inference."

The inference that....which ... means a set of conditions will produce a certain result or type of result. equals to what we call Telos or finality in nature? This reminds me of something, here.

Dennis said...

Okay, let's just drop my attempt to hyperlinking properly - Here; http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/09/teleology-revisited.html -

Edward Feser said...

Whoa there, machinephilosophy, old buddy, no one's objecting to your asking questions. Certainly I'm not.

Indeed, part of the point those who disagree with you here are making is that one particular question needs to be asked which you seem not to agree needs to be asked, viz. If there's a regular efficient causal relation between A and B, why is that? Why not instead some different regularity or none at all? That, of course, is the question that the Thomist thinks we need to bring in finality in order to answer.

Now, I think the reason some folks are exasperated is that they don't understand why you seem to be dismissing the question. And it's especially odd since more hostile critics of the Thomist view generally don't themselves dismiss the question. Rather, they agree that the question is a fair one but propose an alternative answer, e.g. by saying that efficient causal necessitation can do the job. And then the Thomist responds to that by saying that it won't work for various reasons e.g. it just pushes the problem back a stage.

Saying "I'm not claiming we don't need to ask why, but I just personally don't see that need myself" just isn't a satisfying response. And saying that "ends are something only minds seem to have" just begs the question.

I will say, though, that:

scientific analysis per se is already bummin cigs off teleology

is my new favorite metaphysical metaphor. Love it!

Timocrates said...

I think final causality is most readily apprehended today when we look at how scientists desperately seek regularities and consistency.

The scientist wants to know how X and Y will behave in every situation Z or what the outcome will be. Denying final causes would mean that X and Y in situation Z will never have a consistent outcome, something that is obviously the death of even the possibility of science. That would mean an anarchistic universe. Complex artificial products like cars and planes would be virtually impossible and most definitely could never be made reasonably safe (it would be impossible to know whether or not they would even perform their design function let alone function safely).

Final causes are also especially undeniable in human activity (goal seeking) and in human products. Everyone knows what utensils, various craft tools and machines are for and they also know that the whole product is the way it is in light of its ultimate purpose. It is with the purpose in mind that the sing is wholly explained right down to each individual part. The scientist who denies final causality is left in the position of denying there being any reason he even pursues science in the first place - indeed, that he is pursuing anything definite at all.

Every plant species consistently directs its growth in predictable and standard directions and - even when there is an exception - we can easily determine why the plant did what it did given its circumstances in light of its intrinsic goals or needs.

Daniel D. D. said...

@TOF and all:

I know that cognition is analogical to eating, but is cognition related to sexual intercourse in any way in Aristotelian thought? The Hebrews seem to have believed so, as they often used the term often translated in English as "knowing" to describe sex.

St. Jerome even translates the Hebrew with the Latin word which would eventually became the English word "cognition:"

"Adam vero cognovit uxorem suam Hevam, quæ concepit et peperit Cain, dicens: Possedi hominem per Deum (Genesis 4:1)."

Christi pax.

Daniel D. D. said...

@TOF and all:

I know that cognition is analogical to eating, but Is cognition related to sexual intercourse in Aristotelian thought? The Hebrews seem to have believed this, as the Bible often uses the term translated in English as "knowing" to describe sex.

St. Jerome even translates the Hebrew using the Latin word that would eventually became the English word "cognition:"

"Adam vero cognovit uxorem suam Hevam, quæ concepit et peperit Cain, dicens: Possedi hominem per Deum (Genesis 4:1)."

Chrisi pax.

Timocrates said...

@ machinephilosophy,

I would also add that the human mind does desire to know why things do what they do. Certainly for human beings purposelessness is basically just death - man does not live without hope. Experience with depressed or suicidal individuals will show you that this is very real for us especially. Actually deprive people of hope and they tend to whither and die, often becoming increasingly destructive, whether of others or themselves or both.

Modern physics acknowledges that every physical thing in a sense or way tends to preserve its own being and resist to a degree changing. It also acknowledges that material being especially as matter never really changes nor does it every exist without some structure, stability or symmetry - right down to the mathematical level of description. Too much symmetry and change goes away and what you have is perfect stasis - too little symmetry and all you have left is a boundless, indescribable dynamism. Of course, the Big Bang today is just the start of this middle-course between the two extremes. Interestingly, the impossibility or at least least reasonable assumption is that the pre-Bing Bang universe was boundless; rather, scientists tend to think rather it was in a perfect state of symmetry. But why is that? Because the material world qua matter already has and naturally tends to symmetry - that preservation of its being or structure.

So if you want help without final causes or finding terminology that doesn't sound superfluous, you can find it. But I'm not sure if physical symmetry is the best or easiest way, e.g., of getting into or understanding forms - and I'm not sure at all how talking about natural conservation or resistance will make final causality more readily intelligible to the average person.

TheOFloinn said...

Ends are something only minds seem to have

This seems to be the basic misconception. Most movies conclude with "The End."

machinephilosophy said...

Thanks for that link, Dennis. It's quintessential Feser: fascinating and provocative.

And it clarifies my issues with final causality. Keep in mind I'm not denying final causality, or even questioning its existence. But go down to I'm just wondering where the proof is for statements such as the following:

Physical objects have dispositions which in turn have and evince some kind of proto-intentiality. (And yes, true believers, this is on Armstrong, not Ed.)

The causal powers of material objects evince some kind of physical intentionality. (George Molnar)

Without some sense of teleology, efficient causation is unintelligible. (St. Thomas Aquinas)

The abandonment of final causality is the source of all the puzzles about causation that have plagued modern philosophy since Hume. (Edward Feser. But this is simply fascinating, and I could not resist including it as something I'd like to understand the proof for.)

The existence of teleology entails the existence of God. (Edward Feser. "Entails" here is key, but I'm still indulging myself and will keep this claim in mind in rereading the relevant material in Ed's writings to find a demonstration of it.)

The coldness that ice will produce, and the oak that an acorn will grow into, have not yet come about but are initially merely “pointed” to by the ice or the acorn. (Edward Feser). Here is where I have a problem. Ice and acorns, from both experience of them and from that experience combined with their natures correlated with that experience, make coldness and oaks probable. But coldness and oaks are not some kind of grand finale, except as declared by minds who recognize a point of approximation to notions of coldness and oakness.

(Again, for the insecure whose final cause is exercising the lust to scold, I don't disagree with any of this so far, I just don't see the proof. Everyone ought to understand everything about Thomism, and if anyone asks questions that tax the system, then just shoot the questioner. For true believers, it's all---always---someone ELSE's fault. Just give me my cognitive welfare check, and on with the blamestorming!)

So as Ed says, the only way for this not-yet-existing coldness and acorn to exist, is in a mind. I agree. What I do not see a proof for is the claim that this intellect must exist outside the natural order.

I also agree with Ed that "all the intelligence that does exist within the material world – in us, for example – presupposes the operation of these unintelligent causal processes". But I don't see that this implies that "there is no place left for the intellect in question to be than outside the natural order", that "all the causal relations that exist in the natural order exist at all only because there is an intellect outside the natural order which “directs” causes to their effects."

That could very well be, but again, I don't see that assuming the operation unintelligent causal processes implies that intellect must exist outside the natural order. I think it does, but because of the necessary transcendence of supervisory universals and on pain of the necessary elimination of truth value itself if those causal processes are denied, not because of the mere assumption of universally-operative causality.

I also don't see a proof for the claim that the mere fact that A causes B "is all by itself a manifestation of teleology".

(continued)

machinephilosophy said...

As Schopenhauer noted, we don't add anything to the universe by calling it God. And I don't see that we add anything to A causing B by calling it teleology. It could very well be---and I of all people am completely open to such things---that there is teleology in the deep recesses of what causality per se must mean to any possible mind, but I don't know how that would be argued at this point.

"A tends to cause B; therefore, causing B must be inherent or natural to A." I agree. But why must that be seen as telic in any even minimal sense beyond mere causal eventuation due to, among other causal factors, the respective natures of the objects involved?

And even though I agree with the argument that ""A tends to cause B; therefore, causing B must be inherent or natural to A", I do not see that this "cannot be explained unless there is a divine intelligence directing causes to their effects". It's possible of course that I'm just not understanding the full ramifications of Ed's developed 2nd Way.

I also don't see that a causal connection between A and B, implies that "(efficient) causal connection presupposes final causality". (But this may be the case ipso facto where A is something that contains, carries, or conveys information about B (as in Ed's example). I'll have to read up on the theory and philosophy of information to have a considered opinion about that, and it's fascinating---with possibly great potential--nonetheless.)

And Ed's point about philosophically-loaded terminology in information-theoretic talk is correct and well-taken.

Next, while I think it can be demonstrated that inorganic components are telic in relation to biological systems which necessarily support the only consciously telic beings we know of prima facie---humans---I don't see that this can be attributed to inorganic systems per se apart from their causal connections to us. That's why, as Hans Jonas said, inorganic systems proceed toward ends but depend on humans to do this---even for their status as systems, and cannot themselves actually have ends like humans can.

And I don't mind technical vocabulary except in the sense that vagueness---especially in relation to common language that already rules the possibility of any communication at all---at some point starts giving cover to intellectual sociopathy. Ed makes the point: "fast-and-loose computer science and information-theoretic talk pervades contemporary intellectual life, and has afforded materialistic explanations (e.g. of the mind) a specious plausibility they would not have if the relevant terminology was used more precisely."

And finally, here's another interesting statement I would like to see argumentation for, but it's only put out there and not developed in that post:

"[T]hat these patterns [in nature] seem to require an intentional or semantic description is evidence of even richer levels of teleology than the sort I’ve been describing in this post."

And of course the minimal level of teleology constitutes the only basis there is, and the only basis needed, for St. Thomas Aquinas's 5th Way.

machinephilosophy said...


Sorry, that should have been the 5th Way, not the 2nd way, all the way through both of my previous comments.

TheOFloinn said...

"you just can't understand my technical terms" mantra

It's a matter of using precise terminology rather that the vague handwaving workarounds that Late Modernity employs in order to reap the benefits of natural teleology without acknowledging that they are using it.

I think a lot of folks think of finality as a peculiar kind of efficient cause somehow in competition with other efficient causes. But it's not; it's complementary. A possible physical basis is here:
http://www.npl.washington.edu/AV/altvw16.html

As Schopenhauer noted, we don't add anything to the universe by calling it God.

Good thing we don't, then.

Elostirion said...

It's not entirely in the same vein but I have a question anyway.

How does one speak of an object with multiple seeming teleologies, meaning where more than one end can be fulfilled or moved towards?

Perhaps I'm thinking too much in terms of potencies, but it seems like, say, a hydrogen atom has multiple ends it can move towards (becoming H2 or becoming Water and the like). In such a case, is it better to refer to the end as "being incorporated into some more complex structure" or am I misunderstanding final causes completely (or perhaps, just what hydrogen's end is)?

If the former, then can that end be reached and can a new end (say, getting out of that compound) become the new end? Or would no longer being a member in the compound be a frustration of the fulfilled end?

Apologies for the amateur's question, especially if it makes no sense.

Dennis said...

@machinephilosophy

First and foremost you're welcome, let's continue.

But coldness and oaks are not some kind of grand finale, except as declared by minds who recognize a point of approximation to notions of coldness and oakness.

Do you deny that there is necessarily supposed to be an existential causal priority, where the Oak is causally prior to the oak in potency in the physical world?

"So as Ed says, the only way for this not-yet-existing coldness and acorn to exist, is in a mind. I agree. What I do not see a proof for is the claim that this intellect must exist outside the natural order."

For the meantime let's simply say that our minds aren't causative of setting these ends(I really hope you read my full posts prior to this), this is where people like Rupert Sheldrake pose the 'memory of matter,' hopefully, one day, but we've grounded teleology or natural ends/potency in the mind of God, since he is already known as the effector of motion.

"That could very well be, but again, I don't see that assuming the operation unintelligent causal processes implies that intellect must exist outside the natural order."

Since we're metaphysicians and not magicians, let's simply say that the telos of a thing rests with the one that which causes motion(change of any kind, or raises potencies to act) to begin with. For it doesn't make sense to say that the effector of motion raises the potencies to act, however, that act is not pre-designated by the effector.

I also don't see a proof for the claim that the mere fact that A causes B "is all by itself a manifestation of teleology". As Schopenhauer noted, we don't add anything to the universe by calling it God. And I don't see that we add anything to A causing B by calling it teleology. It could very well be---and I of all people am completely open to such things---that there is teleology in the deep recesses of what causality per se must mean to any possible mind, but I don't know how that would be argued at this point.

This is what puzzles me, machinephilosophy. We have simply labeled it teleology for easier, proper, and efficient reference! We are adding nothing to it! It just is that simple a claim. From what I gather: You observe finality in nature, you only refuse to give it a technical terminology...that does irritate me.

And even though I agree with the argument that ""A tends to cause B; therefore, causing B must be inherent or natural to A", I do not see that this "cannot be explained unless there is a divine intelligence directing causes to their effects".

We have said this before, you can easily accept the former to see finality in nature, which is what you have done, however, deny that this entails that there is a God that which directs them. This is why argumentation is needed, and umm, if someone can direct me as to where I can read Dr. Feser's "Between Aristotle and William Paley: Aquinas's Fifth Way." I'd be happy. Just an fyi: if it requires me to pay $160 just to read it, I'll bow out.

Next, while I think it can be demonstrated that inorganic components are telic in relation to biological systems which necessarily support the only consciously telic beings we know of prima facie---humans---I don't see that this can be attributed to inorganic systems per se apart from their causal connections to us.

At this point I'm siding with TOF, you observe finality in nature, just like how we've given the term 'causality' to most relationships between objects, so too we've given this term 'telos,' for finality. That is it. Nothing more to it.

Dennis said...

@Elostirion

It's not entirely in the same vein but I have a question anyway.

How does one speak of an object with multiple seeming teleologies, meaning where more than one end can be fulfilled or moved towards?



All your questions make sense, the problem is not that they misunderstand teleology, but rather that they echo an incomplete understanding of it distant from act/potency. Objects can have multiple ends, that's the whole point, if I throw a ball at a glass vase, it would probably tend to break, is that the only end it can have? No. The ends of an object is determined by their formal cause, and the form is the determining principle of the various/specific kinds of actualities an object possesses.

If the former, then can that end be reached and can a new end (say, getting out of that compound) become the new end? Or would no longer being a member in the compound be a frustration of the fulfilled end?

When I have a hot coffee, it is actually hot and potentially cold. When it is actually cold, it is potentially hot. See how this works?

The first of the 24 Thomistic Theses -

"Potency and Act so divide being that whatsoever exists either is a Pure Act, or is necessarily composed of Potency and Act, as to its primordial and intrinsic principles."

Anything that which is composed of form and matter, necessarily exists in a state of act/potency.

Dennis said...

"For the meantime let's simply say that our minds aren't causative of setting these ends(I really hope you read my full posts prior to this), this is where people like Rupert Sheldrake pose the 'memory of matter,' hopefully, one day, but we've grounded teleology or natural ends/potency in the mind of God, since he is already known as the effector of motion."

I wanted to make a correction here, hopefully, one day,.... Dr. Feser could have the time to write something on it, if he considers it worth his time to write something on Morphic Resonance.

machinephilosophy said...

"Then what is your answer to the question of why the rock will, all things being equal, tend to roll down the hill when pushed, and not start soaring towards the sky or disappear?" - Jeremy Taylor

If you say it just happens, you're positing Brute Fact in a very real sense, then you have to look at the PSR.

I'm not claiming a reductionism in saying that it "just" (here meaning merely) happens. I'm saying that it happens. But its happening does not raise any why questions to me. To say that there must be a reason simply begs the question. If we can prove that there must be a reason, say in defending in this case the causal disjunct of the principle that everything must have a reason (in the sense of logically prior justification) *or* cause (in the sense of temporally or even simultaneously physically causal priority {or immediate and less and less immediate efficient causes that contain causal power necessarily conveyed to the object or phenomenon in question, as Ed might say} as in the case of St. Thomas Aquinas's 2nd Way). (See Ed's The Last Superstition, pages 66 and following, and Aquinas, pages 21 and following for really rich and highly-digested development of these issues and concepts, which I myself need to study more as well.)

There does not have to be a logically prior reason for reason itself because we've already defined it as uniquely logically basic to the universals that constitute it, in which case it is non-contradictorily exempt from the standard logically prior justification requirements for all else. So there can be no *logically* prior reasons for reason or logic because we have already exceptioned them in how we define them in relation to the otherwise-normally-universal domain they necessarily supervise.

And probably because I hate acronyms so much, I've just not examined the principle that everything must have a cause, but will start looking at it now.

But the defense of the whole cognitive system at its logical base requires existential reasons in the sense of basic motivations to maintain some kind of fulfillment of satisfactions or desires. Yet this kind of justification---to proceed at all---must still proceed according to reason and logic (reason here includes applied logic and wider pragmatic relations to values, experiential insights or wisdom, and so on, in addition to formal logic, although it nevertheless is existentially based on things like the value of inquiry itself, preferential hierarchies of what's worth thinking about, stochastics of comparative advantage in the use of one's time, and on and on.)

machinephilosophy said...

Sorry about the long incomplete sentence. It should read:

To say that there must be a reason for the rock always or tending to roll down the hill, simply begs the question. If we can prove that there must be a reason, say in defending in this case the causal disjunct of the principle that everything must have a reason (in the sense of logically prior justification) *or* cause (in the sense of temporally or even simultaneously physically causal priority {or immediate and less and less immediate efficient causes that contain causal power necessarily conveyed to the object or phenomenon in question, as Ed might say} as in the case of St. Thomas Aquinas's 2nd Way), what would that reason be?

Why there must be a reason for the rock rolling down the hill could only be because from the standpoint of any possible knower there must be necessary and sufficient causal reasons for that to occur, in light of the necessarily assumed universal causal relations.

But why in the sense of final cause? That seems to just flatly require an argument that, maximum theoretic generality in a totality that contains mind and consists of universal causal relations presiding consistently and orderly over all objects, requires both an overarching goal of cosmic processes, and subsidiary goals even to the most minute objects and events.

That's a lot to say, and it's easy to say, but would probably take a dissertation to prove. I think it's provable, but given my philosophical schedule, will for now just have to wait its turn.

In relation to this issue, I'd like to just throw out a question I have not seen addressed in philosophy:

What if anything does a state of affairs imply about it's context of conditions or causal source that both brought it about and now sustain it?

That's sort of the obverse or reverse of standard design argumentation but without the ID loopyness. It's inspired partly by Ed's development of the 2nd Way, and partly by the abstract universe-wide controversies raised about the Kalam argument. I consider it an important issue for the second aspect of both arguments for God where they must further justify the exact nature of that cause: God.

Jeremy Taylor said...

I do not know how it can be denied that asking why there appears to be regular, orderly cause and effect is a valid question. This does not mean there must actually be a reason, but we are quite entitled to wonder if there is, it seems to me. Certainly, brute fact and Humean observed regularity are attempts at answering the question (or dealing with it, at least). Whether they are the best answer, though, is what the Thomist questions.

On the question of final causes and regularity, I don't think it is just a case of renaming regularity as a final cause. Rather, the invocation of final causes is an attempt to explain the regularity: in simplistic terms, that cause and effect is regularly and orderly beause it involves a causal process aimed at an end.

Jeremy Taylor said...

I should perhaps add that I don't think anyone is simply saying there must be a reason for the rock tending to roll down the hill. What they are saying is it is quite legitimate to ask if there is. From there the Thomist goes on to attempt to show why in fact there is a reason and that reason is best explained from the Thomist perspective.

Dennis said...

@machinephilosophy

My internet is acting weirdly, so I'll answer you in a few hours, or tomorrow...or whenever my internet is back to normal.

I'm not claiming a reductionism in saying that it "just" (here meaning merely) happens. I'm saying that it happens.

"it happens," is not an explanan. The question is whether there are explanans for the events.

To say that there must be a reason simply begs the question. If we can prove that there must be a reason, say in defending in this case the causal disjunct of the principle that everything must have a reason (in the sense of logically prior justification) or cause (in the sense of temporally or even simultaneously physically causal priority {or immediate and less and less immediate efficient causes that contain causal power necessarily conveyed to the object or phenomenon in question, as Ed might say} as in the case of St. Thomas Aquinas's 2nd Way).

Sire, I will raise this one last time: it's happening, it's VERY specific causal interaction, A leading to B, tells us something about the substratum of the kind of matter we're looking it. So when you say, "it happens," it does not exhaust explanan, why doesn't it exhaust explanan? Because the formal cause is an actual feature of the world that determines the various actualities with which a specific object, namely, the rock functions given certain conditions or causal interactions, this is what we call telos! You saying, "it happens," obviously does not exhaust explanan, and that is the whole point. So to summarize the charge against you, you are wrong in saying that explanans have been exhausted, when it evidently hasn't. If you don't see this, we are indeed at an impasse and someone else should take my place.

Your following two paragraphs give me a scare, the second one, "everything has a cause" scares me white. The first one, I cannot make sense of...

There does not have to be a logically prior reason for reason itself because we've already defined it as uniquely logically basic to the universals that constitute it, in which case it is non-contradictorily exempt from the standard logically prior justification requirements for all else.

You need to look at Thomistic Formulations of the PSR, Scott has previously mentioned Bernard Wuellner's formulation and I'm perfectly fine with the sophistication of the formulation. The whole paragraph really doesn't make sense to me. It really doesn't. Given Parmenides's argument, there is a reason for 'x' to be causally prior to that which instantiates or exemplifies x. It seems to me that you are denying something much more fundamental, that is the Thomistic distinction between essence and existence. But then again here,

But why in the sense of final cause? That seems to just flatly require an argument that, maximum theoretic generality in a totality that contains mind and consists of universal causal relations presiding consistently and orderly over all objects, requires both an overarching goal of cosmic processes, and subsidiary goals even to the most minute objects and events.

You are completely right in saying, that even the most minute of objects and events must possess this, however, we do not impose this necessity, we rather see that this is the case. A produces B, is there a reason that A produces B given certain causal interactions/conditions? And then we start our investigations, and we see that it is interlinked with the formal cause.

I should perhaps add that I don't think anyone is simply saying there must be a reason for the rock tending to roll down the hill. What they are saying is it is quite legitimate to ask if there is. - Jeremy Taylor

That's how we're doing this. The whole goal is to exhaust explanan. And you saying, "it happens," certainly doesn't exhaust it.

Bob said...

The problem with teleology - for me - is that, for instance, we know why a rock will generally tend to roll down a hill - the answer to which has really nothing to do with the rock.

One tends to find the same type of problem, at some point or other, when examining pretty much anything through teleological lenses.

Dennis said...

@Bob

"The problem with teleology - for me - is that, for instance, we know why a rock will generally tend to roll down a hill - the answer to which has really nothing to do with the rock."

So the reason why the paper will float, has nothing to do with the substratum of paper? How, just, how, is this a tenable position?

Bob said...

@Dennis

Think carefully about this Dennis.

When you say that the paper will float, this is a generalization that assumes some specific conditions having nothing to do with (are extrinsic to) the paper.

In and of itself, the paper really doesn't "do" anything.

Dennis said...

@Bob

"When you say that the paper will float, this is a generalization that assumes some specific conditions having nothing to do with (are extrinsic to) the paper."

In and of itself the paper in order to float has to subsist an identity - That too depends on certain specific conditions, for it to float, this subsisting and retaining of identity is being talked of, full stop. When you say it isn't doing anything, that is how any cause & effect works. But, Bob, even in your own analysis the mere reference to paper is referring to its substratum. So the question stands, and I really don't get your odd remark, sure there are things that are extrinsic to the paper, but the following effect depends, necessarily on the substratum of the paper. Does it hace nothing to do with the substratum of paper? Why are you ignoring this completely?

Bob said...

@Dennis

"In and of itself the paper in order to float has to subsist an identity"

This is false.

If you don't believe me, take a sheet of paper, crumple it up into a ball and drop it.



Mr. Green said...

MachinePhilosophy: And I think this is -the- major obstacle for Thomism's acceptability across the board.

I think the major obstacle is that most people have little to no idea what Thomas/Scholasticism is all about (and when it comes to philosophers, no small number are opposed to some of its conclusions beforehand). As for cultural viability, sure, demanding that other people learn a secret language of your own devising would be rather arrogant, but it’s conversely arrogant to refuse to learn the existing terminology that has been around for centuries. Every discipline has its jargon, and a culture that is not, overall, put off physics by “invisible light” or “flavoured quarks” or “transverse longitudinal propagation” can surely handle “final causality”. Besides, ordinary folks tend to be more open to natural concepts than those who have had their common sense educated out of them. And ordinary language tends to get an awful lot of (latinate) vocabulary from the technical terminology of religion, philosophy, and law. But there’s no silver bullet: if you somehow get everyone to agree to some new terminology, it still wouldn’t be self-evident, and it would make all the pre-existing works unintelligible. The only practical approach is exactly what Feser does — use some traditional terms, use new some terms, and where appropriate add explanations and examples.


Well, we don't ordinarily speak of a rock rolling down a hill "in order to" do anything, such as getting to the bottom. It just rolls down the hill.

I’m not entirely sure I grasp what the problem is. As TOF pointed out, physicists do sometimes talk that way. And we shouldn’t read too much into phrases even if they are commonly used in certain leading contexts. Of course rocks are directed to falling down: they don’t fall up or shoot randomly out to the sides, right? And “down” is a direction, right? Seriously, it’s the same word. Directum from diregere, related to regulum, rule. Regularities don’t preclude chance, but they do preclude not being regularities. Calling a “regularity” a “directedness” is just to vary the etymological route to our destination (or “end”). The phrase “in order” just means there is some order going on, not (necessarily) that a mind is doing the ordering. In order for a hoodoo to form, a harder layer of rock must lie upon softer, more easily erodible rock. But hoodoos form by chance; indeed, they do not even have final causes, since they are not substances. (Of course, the resulting order does come about because hard rocks tend to eroding less and other rocks to eroding more.)

I don't see the need for knowing why simply because those caused effects occur, even if they, as I too believe, necessarily occur due to the respective natures involved.

But saying “necessarily occurs owing to the respective natures involved” is too long to say every time, so we just call it telos or finality. A final cause is not the reason why a regularity happens. It just is the regularity or tendency or directedness or behaviour. (That’s a bit sloppy, because those words are not perfect synonyms, but I trust it makes the point.)

calling this an "inclination" to an end or goal or purpose still seems to be smuggling in some kind of purposive agency ("pointing to") in A, when it's really just dictated by what A is in the first place. Why is it impossible for that to be the end of the story?

Well, it’s the end of the end. Compasses point to the north, right? (It’s a direction, just like “down”.) Does saying that a compass points north smuggle in any [intelligent] agency? That’s just what compasses do. Or if you prefer, it’s dictated [now there’s some intentional-agent smuggling!] by what a compass is in the first place. So where’s the problem?

If I didn't think thomism was worth it, I wouldn't bother to question it in the first place.

Naturally. It’s all part of a balanced Socratic breakfast!

Dennis said...

@Bob

"In and of itself the paper in order to float has to subsist an identity"

This is false.

If you don't believe me, take a sheet of paper, crumple it up into a ball and drop it. "

So, this disproves causal dispositions, how?

Mr. Green said...

Bob: we know why a rock will generally tend to roll down a hill - the answer to which has really nothing to do with the rock.
One tends to find the same type of problem, at some point or other, when examining pretty much anything through teleological lenses.


Of course it has everything to do with the rock — I can guarantee you that a rock that isn’t there won’t roll anywhere. (Methinks your teleological lenses need cleaning.)

Bob said...

@Mr. Green,

Cute, but changing the question just to avoid the answer is simply not cricket.

Bob said...

@Dennis,

Not sure I was trying to disprove "causal dispositions", just pointing out that the definition you seem to be using for "causal disposition" seems obviously flawed.

Dennis said...

@Bob

"Cute, but changing the question just to avoid the answer is simply not cricket."

I think you don't understand what we mean by the form, at all. Gravity is the effector of the paper in such fashion that it 'floats,' in comparison even the very crumpling of the paper that you yourself have posited depends on the substratum of paper. Now why does it float when it's not crumpled and yet fall, in a different sense when it is crumpled, is due to how gravity effects or imposes itself along with other causal factors when concerning it. In your case we are simply look at gravity, now, how does it affect paper(non-crumpled state) in comparison to it in a crumpled state, it is at best only due to mass being added. Nothing more.


"Not sure I was trying to disprove "causal dispositions", just pointing out that the definition you seem to be using for "causal disposition" seems obviously flawed."

Bold claim. Can you say you have a fair understanding by what we mean when we say that 'x' subsists its identity through change? And that too, btw, if it doesn't disprove causal dispositions, then the paper still has telos that is dependent on its substratum which is maleable to certain changes while still subsisting its identity. From what I've gathered, you don't understand what it means by Form, because your example, far from showing that my definition for 'causal dispositions' to be wrong, only serves to reinforce the point of causal dispositions, since although you can crumple a paper, you can't make an elephant out of it.

Jeremy Taylor said...

At the moment it is hard to see just what you are pointing out?

The problem with teleology - for me - is that, for instance, we know why a rock will generally tend to roll down a hill - the answer to which has really nothing to do with the rock.

What does this actually mean? It is hard to make sense out of it.

Bob said...

@Dennis

In your case we are simply look at gravity, now, how does it affect paper(non-crumpled state) in comparison to it in a crumpled state,it is at best only due to mass being added. Nothing more.

Yeah....no.

As to the rest, you have lost me. I am not sure what you are now talking about - perhaps it is a language issue.

Bob said...

@Jeremy Taylor


What specifically, do you think causes rocks to tend to roll down hills as opposed to rolling up hills?

Dennis said...

@Bob

"In your case we are simply look at gravity, now, how does it affect paper(non-crumpled state) in comparison to it in a crumpled state,it is at best only due to mass being added. Nothing more.

Yeah....no."

You're not expanding on this, at all. So I'll clarify what we mean by the form in specific fashion.

The straight paper is being affected by gravity, in such fashion that it tends to 'float,' in comparison to it 'falling' when crumpled, does this take from the fact the identity of the paper? It's substratum? No. It is in the nature of paper that it be affected in such fashion, even by your crumpling while retaining its form, now of course, things change but they still subsist their identities through change(not all kinds of change of course)!

If simply gravity is being looked at, the mass of the speed is not affected. But here, speaking normatively, it does affect it, because other factors are included, so I do not get what your objection is.


This all comes down to my original question, do you even understand what we mean by the Form? Do you understand what we mean when we say that it is in the nature of x to be affected by change, yet still retain its identity? That it is in the nature of paper to be crumpled, and yet still retain its causal dispositions, that necessarily depends on its identity? I don't think you do.

Take Mr. Green's example, there are a few things you need for the rock to fall.

(i) The existence of the rock, (ii) the rock being effected upon by certain causal factors, (iii) the rock subsisting its identity or causal dispositions that which allows its effectors to make it go downhill.

I submit, (iii) is necessarily required for the effectors to produce any effect. And that is what we call telos, which is dependent upon the Form of an object.

"As to the rest, you have lost me. I am not sure what you are now talking about - perhaps it is a language issue."

No wonder.

This doesn't answer my question whether you actually understand what we mean by the form or what we mean by subsisting. I will ask you to pay heed to my earlier posts and since basically all that I'm doing is expounding upon the same point, post after post, I suggest for anyone who is interested that they pick up Joseph Bobik's Aquinas on Matter and Form and the Elements.

Dennis said...

@Bob

" In your case we are simply look at gravity, now, how does it affect paper(non-crumpled state) in comparison to it in a crumpled state, it is at best only due to mass being added. Nothing more."

Oops! My bad! The changing of the shape necessarily affects the rate of fall given the air resistance and how it is affected by the shape/form you give to the paper via crumbling.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Bob,

Cut the nonsense. You say that the tendency of the rock to roll down the hill has nothing to do with the rock, but you neither explain nor support this. What do you mean? At the moment your comments are so ambiguous and vague as to be next to meaningless. Are you attacking the idea that the casual tendencies have anything to do with the specific nature or substance of the rock?

Are you the Bob who has posted here in the past?

Bob said...

@ Jeremy Taylor

Which direction do you think that a rock would tend to roll if there happened to be a neutron star at the top of the hill?

I post here from time to time and am a regular reader of this blog.

Mr. Green said...

Bob: Cute, but changing the question just to avoid the answer is simply not cricket.

What question did I change? You started out with "why a rock will generally tend to roll down a hill", and then you switched to talking about a neutron star (or whatever) actually causing a rock to roll. Quite clearly the tendency of the rock belongs to the rock and not to something else. It takes something else to actualise that potential, but that's the different question. The property of the rock that makes it the kind of thing that moves when gravity acts on it (otherwise known as its "mass") is, well, a property of the rock. Your original sentence amounted to the claim that the mass of a rock has nothing to do with the rock.

Which direction do you think that a rock would tend to roll if there happened to be a neutron star at the top of the hill?

I don't know which part of the hill used to be the top, but now that a neutron star has arrived, it's all bottom.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Bon,

Of course, if you totally change the scenario, then the rock may well act differently. I have no idea what that is supposed to prove though.

machinephilosophy said...

"Compasses point to the north, right?"

Yes, human artifacts that are already given a teleological leg up, are defined as "pointing".

That's not the issue, as I've said several times.

And the rock rolling down the hill instead of up has an "instead of" childseat opposition concept supplied by us to ensure it doesn't get hurt.

machinephilosophy said...

The fact is, we in some sense must take certain rock-like objects as implying other things, just to survive.

The issue, then, is going back and making sure that there is a seamless sequence of inference for this teleological necessity so that there is "not even the appearance of evil" (--St. Paul), meaning the appearance of helping our own case by glossing over logical or even rhetorical gaps.

So I'm trying to get from undeniable bare inferential prior-assumption necessities to a concept of minimal telos or directedness or "pointing" that does not make hardened but open-minded nth-degree skeptics want to cognitively hurl, that's all.

machinephilosophy said...

"MachinePhilosophy: ...which strictly speaking merely means a set of conditions will produce a certain result or type of result.

But "teleology" is just Greek for "certain conditions produce certain results". It's not smuggling anything else in because there isn't anything else. Philosophers have to call it something, after all (and "stuff doing stuff" doesn't sound intellectual enough). Anything else is either an example of more advanced teleology (i.e. an example that brings in more stuff to talk about) or is the result of importing additional concepts from everyday use that aren't strictly present in the technical use of the words."

That last "is the result of..." illuminates this issue, and you can play with it in reverse.

I'm just trying to get from purely atheistic rational primitives to wide cultural viability of this kind of minimalist A-T telos, using the necessary prior/background notions that no one can deny, but that have been heretofore not connected with any possible bridge to thomistic metaphysics.

Bob said...

@ Mr. Green,

What question did I change? You started out with "why a rock will generally tend to roll down a hill",

Actually, my original reference to the rock was in response to this from you:

Of course rocks are directed to falling down: they don’t fall up or shoot randomly out to the sides, right?

Thus my comment that you had, in fact, changed the question.

Timocrates said...

@ machinephilosophy,

Alright but if we're going to deny final causes we might as well see what the consequences are.

Firstly, if there be no final causes, then we cannot speak of completion. Good luck getting something actually done at work or finishing a piece of writing. It's being done or complete is the end sought but such things are not real.

Similarly, one will have to stop differentiating between living species of things. For we know the species when we know the end toward which the thing strives; namely, a healthy adult specimen. But if living things do not actively attempt to become those, then they are equally in potency at all times to all things and each other and, therefore, are equally each other. Thus distinction disappears. Plants ought to produce or become elephants.

Without natural ends, processes become impossible as everything is always equally in potency to everything else: no form is ever realized or produced. Change becomes impossible.

Without final causes all distinction and diversity would disappear. This is why diversity and distinction is explained through forms ultimately and not matter.

Now saying that dogs bark and that cats meow is no explanation why dogs bark and cats meow. Of course "it happens." But that it happens is not the cause of its happening (this doesn't just violate PSR, it would also mean things cause themselves to exist and something would come from nothing). Remember the Scholastic maxim: the end is the beginning. We seek the reasons and causes of dogs barking and cats meowing. If there were no final causes, this would be vain.

Air tends to rise. Saying that "it happens" is not the reason why it happens. Scientists are not content with such an "explanation." No. They seek the reasons and causes for its rising.

Final causes terminate in forms (not matter). We could not explain why things tend toward what is good for them and avoid what is evil for them without final causes. The Good is something real and, in a sense, so is the evil that it avoids. Predator seeks prey and prey avoids predator. Ultimately this is explained by specifying the good of the thing(s) in question, which is of course very real.

We seek the causes of the beginning of the universe exactly because we want to know the reasons for its evident ends or evident termini. We also suspect that in knowing and understanding the causes of the universe we can predict the end toward which it will consequently be naturally directed or toward which it will tend. This entire processes would be pointless if we did not expect final causes to actually explain things or enlighten us.

machinephilosophy said...

What is an example of someone who does not know about final causality, who cannot distinguish between objects?

And if the answer is that the final causality is simply there, and we intuit the distinctions between objects on the basis of that intuition---I fully agree.

But that still doesn't give a justification for the original claim that final causality is there in the first place. And that's what I'm trying to see a complete argument for.

If someone says that there can be no objective morality without there being a God, I say, "Am I objectively morally obligated to believe that? In that case, there is *already* an objective morality operative in my evaluating the notion and possibility of objective morality, prior to any standard first-order moral issues.

Similarly, if without final causality there can be no distinctions between objects, haven't I already made such distinctions in order to talk about it?

And in that case a more logically basic case for final causality must be discoverable, and it must be discovered and developed prior to even trying to resolve the issue with regard to, say, inanimate objects.

So if there is final causality, it must already be in place and operating in my mind, and necessarily so---logically and existentially prior to my theorizing about it concerning extramental objects. I just want to see how that would be argued, and then the rest is easy because of the inheritance from that prior abstract analysis.

Timotheos said...

"But that still doesn't give a justification for the original claim that final causality is there in the first place. And that's what I'm trying to see a complete argument for."

I’m of course jumping in here a little late, so I’m not sure if my comments will be on point with your concerns, but I don’t think it is too hard to justify the existence of final causality if there is in fact true efficient causality (and not that nasty Humean stuff). The key here lies in remembering that there is both active and passive potencies for each correlative act. Now for something to change something from potential to actual requires it to have the power to do so, the ability, i.e. the active potency; have good luck trying to have something cause something without it having the ability to cause something. But the ability to cause, say, a rock’s existence is to have an ability specifically ordered to causing a rock’s existence, otherwise it wouldn’t have that ability, and so for something to cause a rock’s existence is for it to be ordered with a sort of final causality towards producing that effect.

Note that this is in fact removed from the question of whether there is in fact any causality at all; the world might just be a giant collection of unrelated brute facts, and it would still be the case that if there were any efficient causality, there would be final causality as well.

So any denial of final causality will need to accept the existence of brute facts, something I believe you already have denied the existence of.

machinephilosophy said...

Where have I denied the existence of brute facts?

machinephilosophy said...

"...even the most minute of objects and events must possess this [final causality], however, we do not impose this necessity, we rather see that this is the case."

But that is precisely the issue. It could be that we just see it, but it still needs to be justified, even if it is only the case for it being a necessary assumption of thought.

Jeremy Taylor said...

But Dr. Feser and other Thomists give argument to justify final causes.

Timotheos said...

@machinephilosophy

"Where have I denied the existence of brute facts?"

Right here?

"I do believe in the universality of causal law, but ends I see only in humans or similar types of beings and possibly in a more rudimentary and primitive way in animals."


And let us be clear that by brute fact I mean an uncaused coming into existence, or something without a reason for its existence, not tautologically as a fact unable to be explained without a why.

Now if you're cool with denying the universality of the PSR or the principle of causality, that's fine, but then in fact proving that would be your goal, not that every efficient cause has built in finality, which, if I'm right, follows from the very notion of something’s being an efficient cause.

Dennis said...


If someone says that there can be no objective morality without there being a God, I say, "Am I objectively morally obligated to believe that? In that case, there is *already* an objective morality operative in my evaluating the notion and possibility of objective morality, prior to any standard first-order moral issues.

Similarly, if without final causality there can be no distinctions between objects, haven't I already made such distinctions in order to talk about it?


Oh you're doing it...

scientific analysis per se is already bummin cigs off teleology

------

So if there is final causality, it must already be in place and operating in my mind, and necessarily so---logically and existentially prior to my theorizing about it concerning extramental objects. I just want to see how that would be argued, and then the rest is easy because of the inheritance from that prior abstract analysis.

"...even the most minute of objects and events must possess this [final causality], however, we do not impose this necessity, we rather see that this is the case."

But that is precisely the issue. It could be that we just see it, but it still needs to be justified, even if it is only the case for it being a necessary assumption of thought.

Bizarre.

I've already addressed this, our investigations show that Final causality is something that necessarily depends on the substratum of things, it depends on the Formal cause. If you are having problems with what the Formal Cause is, I do suggest you pick up the book I mentioned. In Summary: Objects are open to the reality of change, and every causally efficacious suitor receives a different reception depending on what form the object of their visit has. The reception of these great-many suitors is what we term Final cause. If you want to know why these effects have to exist prior to them coming to be and etc. you'll have to delve into metaphysics, I suggest start with Parmenides and Heraclitus.

Mr. Green said...

Bob: Actually, my original reference to the rock was in response to this from you:
>Of course rocks are directed to falling down: they don’t fall up or shoot randomly out to the sides, right?


OK, if you mean that the words in the sentence "rocks do fall down" are different from the words in the sentence "rocks do not fall up or sideways", then yeah, you got me. But if you meant something that had a point, you are going to have to spell it out more clearly.

Mr. Green said...

MachinePhilosophy: Yes, human artifacts that are already given a teleological leg up, are defined as "pointing".

I'm pretty sure it's not because of human artifice that lodestone is affected by the earth's magnetic field. A pointy rock deep in the woods that nobody has ever seen can point north too, so I still don't really see what the problem is supposed to be.

And the rock rolling down the hill instead of up has an "instead of" childseat opposition concept supplied by us to ensure it doesn't get hurt.

I don't get it. Remove the "instead of" and the rock will still roll downhill. You seem to be assuming that "atheistic rational primitives" form a coherent set, but it's not clear to me that that doesn't amount to saying, "Assuming atheists are right, show me they're wrong." Anyway, most atheists quite assertively accept physics (rocks fall down, etc.) which is an obvious and sufficient starting point. If you want to go even further and start from entirely nihilistic view — that there are not even any laws of physics, that the world is nothing but static into which we read, at best, our own imagined patterns (or some such kant), well, I'd want to know why you think starting from the unreasonable is a reasonable starting point. Even then, one's own ability to think (or sense, or whatever) entails directedness, so teleology cannot coherently be completely denied. Is that what you're getting at?

machinephilosophy said...

Yeah, in us humans.

But the standards of analysis are already God-level, both logically and existentially prior to analysis of these issues. Therefore, prima facie, atheism wins by default, even if they admit A-T teleology, moderate realism, etc.

That's not all of the story. More later.

And I -will- get to all the comments made to me, just a heavy work schedule right now.

Bob said...

@Mr. Green

OK, if you mean that the words in the sentence "rocks do fall down" are different from the words in the sentence "rocks do not fall up or sideways", then yeah, you got me. But if you meant something that had a point, you are going to have to spell it out more clearly.

The direction the rock will fall has nothing to do with the rock - is and has been my point.

Jeremy Taylor said...

And what relevance do think that has to the matter cat hand, even if it were true (in fact, you are trading on ambiguity)?

Bob said...

@Jeremy,

It has pretty much everything to do with the argument for teleology.

Jeremy Taylor said...

In what sense? This is not the first the time you have weighed in with these questions you neither explain properly, looking as if you haven't taken the time to learn the first thing about the Thomistic accounts you are criticising.

So how about you cut the nonsense and actually explain in some detail what you mean and its relevance to the issues at hand.

machinephilosophy said...

"In physics, one speaks of the system changing dynamically in order to minimize a potential function, the which defines equilibrium states on a manifold over parameter space. This is just a fancy way of saying telos.

But why must that be, when "in order to" simply means "always results in"?

In other words, when the system changes dynamically in a certain way, some function is minimized.

How is this is anything more than "If x then y" labeled with some minimal teleological term?

Again, it just seems like an effortless victory in characterization, namely that "always results in" is somehow, by that mere fact itself, a telic end.

I don't see how there can be a solution to this without specifying the standards of both ends identification and explanatory adequacy.

machinephilosophy said...

Because we recognize laws such as entropy, or tendency towards minimal energy, we talk about those "tendencies". But one can still say "always results in" and leave it at that.

A scientist will say, "I observe the rock. I conjecture a law of the form "The rock will always do X", I test the conjecture via experiments. The rock always does X. I call it a law."

Until someone comes along with an experiment that contradicts that law, it remains a law in the textbooks.

Beyond that---and without philosophical meta-scientific justification---any scientist that goes beyond that is not practicing science at that point.

And I'd like to say that what Ed and other thomists are doing is simply a higher science, meta-science, whether they are right or not (and I think they are).

But Sean Carroll's point is that scientists must address their underlying assumptions about how the world is since physics has started to undermine some of those assumptions.

But this is not problematic with respect to "X always does Y". We can still say that
without referring to any kind of teleological concepts, however minimal.

It's been suggested to me that the "law" that reality is non-local is worth using as an example:

http://www.nature.com/news/physics-bell-s-theorem-still-reverberates-1.15435

At the atomic level, science has had to conclude that "things" are not always actual but sometimes "potential", and seems to indicate that at that level there is a coming into being happening---*when* "things" are observed.

In that sense one is observing the universe unfolding, at its boundaries or as it is happening, and that the observer both participates and cannot be removed.

Hence the question: What is the universe "unfolding"?

So scientists have discovered that their own observation of what they thought was objective and separate, is in fact not objective and separate.

Consequently, scientists have had to accept their own role within their experiments. Their experiments cannot be coherently set up or analyzed without incorporating the observer, or at least the possibility of observation and the sort of observation made possible, into the experiment. And they are not even sure whether the observer itself is necessary or just the possibility of an observation of a particular sort set up by the measuring apparatus.

machinephilosophy said...

"So scientists have discovered that their own observation of what they thought was objective and separate, is in fact not objective and separate."

I do not accept this in its unqualified form, by the way. In that form, as an unqualified universal, it has a fatal self-referential error.

Scott said...

@machinephilosophy:

But why must that be, when "in order to" simply means "always results in"?

I don't understand this question. How is "always results in" (or even just "results") not teleology? Isn't "resulting in" just what it basically means?

machinephilosophy said...

Then why doesn't mere "resulting in" work for final causality?

"Hey, it merely means *this*." Well then *use* merely that, and make the case.

Can't have it both ways: if teleology is already universally accepted as a part of "A results in B", then additional terms are superfluous. But what is wanted seems to be added to mere results, mere eventuation, mere if-then consequents, etc. At least I don't see any arguments for final causality that use more obviously teleological terms that mean nothing more than the definitions that have been given.

Do a global search-and-replace on the key teleological terms, substituting the plain definitions that I'm supposedly somehow not getting, then see if it still works. But I don't think it will, until and unless a case can be made for minimal teleology already being necessarily embedded in what seem to be completely non-teleological terms that are used to define those teleological ones.

Scott said...

@machinephilosdophy:

At least I don't see any arguments for final causality that use more obviously teleological terms that mean nothing more than the definitions that have been given.

Aren't you thereby agreeing that teleology means "resulting in"?

machinephilosophy said...

I said I don't see arguments for final causality that use teleological terms that, when their definitions are examined, are composed of completely non-teleological terminology and concepts.

That just seems like trying to pull a teleological rabbit out of a non-teleological hat.

Hence my suspicion that this issue is resolvable only by showing at a deeper level that there is no such thing as a non-teleological hat in the first place.

machinephilosophy said...

And to anticipate the let's-ape-the-bumbling-evangelicals cheerleaders, the above means that I don't see how a teleological term can be derived from a completely non-teleological definition.

Scott said...

Hmm, as puzzling as this will sound, I think (I'm not sure yet) you've just made up my mind to convert to Catholicism. Weird, I know, but it makes sense to me.

Thank you.

Scott said...

Yes, the more I reflect on this, the more I think it's grace, and I'd better not reject it. I've called a priest.

machinephilosophy said...

lol You'll have to give me *something* more specific here, Scott, for me to know exactly what it is that prompted that. But you know me. I'm not only a fellow-traveler of Catholic belief (in addition to thomistic metaphysics and theistic argumentation), but have contemplated the same thing myself.

Almost a decade ago, Wallace himself, in The Modeling of Nature, says that "there is no easy answer" to questions of, for example, how natural evolutionary processes also entail teleology or goal-directedness, and eliminate the possibility of chance by somehow determining in advance things like more developed species.

And he delineates three meanings of "end":

1) Terminative: Sheer terminus, the point at which a process stops (a rock rolling down a hill), 2) Perfective: A perfection or good that is attained through this process (molecules become a tree), and

3) Cognitive: An intention or aim ("the type of final causality found in cognitive agents"). (pages 16-17)

I really don't have a problem with any of these three. The problem as I see it is an unwarranted move from the sheer terminus of a rolling rock to some kind of perfection or good or ideality attained through that terminated process.

I also don't have a problem with classifying processes as isolable with their respective beginnings and ends, although I think there is a criterial issue with identifying those ends and not some earlier or later stage, in the case of inorganic things.

But to continue, Wallace comments concerning 2), the perfection or good attained:

"In some instances of natural change this meaning is easily verified, in others it is not. . . . In inorganic changes it is difficult to see in what sense a compound is better than an element, or an element of higher atomic number better than an element of a lower."

Also revealing is the following:

"Much of the difficulty with teleology in nature arises from conceiving all final causality as intentional or cognitive and not sufficiently differentiating the cognitive from the terminative and perfective."

I'll need to study chapter 2: Modeling the Inorganic (pages 35-73) very closely to see how he fleshes out the terminative, which for me is *the* issue that blocks the later perfective and cognitive sections, to have a better handle on this, and of course check Ed's Scholastic Metaphysics as well. The need to read what Ed has referred to at the top of pages 91 and 93 of that work.

At least I've narrowed it down a lot more in my mind because of this discussion.

Sometimes, as in the case of inorganic final causality, you just have to be your own St. George. He should have saved the first maiden, of course, but I think his legacy has more than redeemed him.

Where are the new St. Georges? Come out, I say!
(Destiny is calling---with the usual shove.)

Timocrates said...

@ machinephilosophy,

I think that your point that final causality “is just there” can be related to the principle of non-contradiction, which also “is just there.” Its being universally basic and necessary seems to make knowing it, for practical purposes, almost useless, because it is not something we can change. Notwithstanding, who thinks the principle of non-contradiction to be meaningless or unimportant? It obviously is. It gives us rational confidence and, in turn, scientific confidence too – the framework of reality doesn’t so much shutter us in and limit us as it does facilitate for us directions to pursue and give us some starting points for further investigations that can bear fruit. Finality is like that too. It is assumed and universally basic as well as necessary: without it, we could not know and understand things, especially things involving change or motion.

Also, consider that if a thing is doing anything, then it must be doing something and not nothing. If X is doing Y, then it is not doing not-Y. Already we can see how in anything change there is already necessary something of a termini. But equally so, if something is changing, it is not changing into anything or everything – certainly not at the same time. Such a change would be unintelligible and also violate PNC.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Machine Philosophy writes,

How is this is anything more than "If x then y" labeled with some minimal teleological term?

Again, it just seems like an effortless victory in characterization, namely that "always results in" is somehow, by that mere fact itself, a telic end.


Isn't the point that we observe this regularity and wish to explain it? Sure, it could be a brute fact or we may not be able to explain it even if it isn't. But we can try, and final causation, and the rest of the relevant Thomistic concepts, is an attempt to thus explain it. Whether it is an effortless victory would depend on the quality of that explanation and how it addresses other alternatives, like brute facts. Certainly, Dr. Feser and others spend a lot of time both explaining the Thomistic arguments and critiquing positions like the acceptance of brute facts.

Dennis said...

@machinephilosophy

I'll simply tell you what your argument looks like to me, correct me if I'm wrong.

Rachel: Hey, did you get a present for Dennis's birthday?

Joel: Nothing, I just wrapped something I bought and gave it to him.

Rachel: .....isn't that what we call a present?

Joel: No, why would you call that a present or a gift? I just wrapped an object and gave it to him, he spent nothing and perhaps even did nothing to even deserve the object. But there's no reason to call this thing a 'present' or a 'gift' when it is adequately addressed by employing lengthier terms expressing the same thing which are more commonly used in day-to-day life.

Rachel: .....


I share Rachel's reaction here if this is your argument, I want a clear yes or no if this is the kind of reasoning you are employing.

Dennis said...

@Scott

Praise be to God.

machinephilosophy said...

Dennis: No.

Now I'm not making fun of you in this, and I'm not sure it's analogically accurate:

Rachel: Hey, did you get a telic rock for Dennis's birthday?

Joel: Nothing. I just got him a plain rock.

Rachel: .....isn't that what we call a telic rock?
. . . .

I'm not using the definition of teleology in objects and then denying it in specific instances of those objects. I'm saying how do I recognize teleology in inorganic objects in the first place. Seems like the terminus sense of "end" has to be settled---as somehow also teleological---before going on to perfective and cognitive ends.

And someone above made the remark that efficient causality assumes final causality. That's quite interesting---and if true, may solve this problem---but I'll have to study efficient causality more to have a considered judgment about it. And I will soon.

A number of engineers and scientific types from India on Facebook point to a sophisticated artifact such as a rocket engine and say: "That's scientific theism!" And I know what they are saying, however hilarious it continues to strike me---I even like the remark---but that remark is correct in an extremely fast and loose implicative sense only if one is already a theist to begin with.

Thomistic metaphysics is a universal system, if it's anything at all. And I want to see it outdo Aristotle in smoothly transitioning to at least deism or even pantheistic rationalism from inert matter per se, so to speak.

That in turn paves the way to the theistic proofs, or at least to the 2nd and 5th ways. I would go directly to Nielsen's independent criterion argument to argue for God myself, but I do for sure suspect that the 2nd way is successful.

I would just like to see, for example, pages 93 and following in The Last Superstition to be greatly expanded to anticipate the various objections to it both before and after the book's publication, especially since it's potential to counter atheism is far greater than Kalam could ever be because of the relative paucity of its issues.

In fact, the infinite series issue, which is very different for the 2nd Way as opposed to Kalam, is the only issue I see in the 2nd Way argument itself, the transition to theism being a separate issue that is logically subsequent to 2nd Way argumentation for a first simultaneous sustaining cause.

The 2nd Way is also far more elegant and far more basic theoretically, then Kalam or any of the other standard arguments.

Scholastic Metaphysics may in fact do this, so I need to take a close look at the argument as developed there.

Dennis said...

@machinephilosophy

Thanks for the clarification, although the analogy distorts mine, and so again it refuses to make sense. As long as you are not arguing that 'teleology' is a superfluous term because it can be expressed in other terms which are more commonly used. I'm fine.

"I'm not using the definition of teleology in objects and then denying it in specific instances of those objects. I'm saying how do I recognize teleology in inorganic objects in the first place."

Please. I beg of you, get the book I've asked you to get. All my posts are addressing that very specific issue, and you yet ask again, so I can do nothing but ask you to get the book I've recommended. If you don't understand the formal cause[in full depth], you will hopelessly confused as to what teleology is.

In my opinion there are also some structural problems. For instance, in my opinion the treatment of causality is pretty seriously defective. Anyone who's read much Feser knows that one of his biggest concerns is to defend the reality of final causality against reductionists who want to eliminate all but efficient causality. This is a project I am fully on board with. Unfortunately this concern leads him to begin his discussion of causality with final vs efficient causes, which is a misstep. Material and formal causality are put off until the following chapter, under the discussion of substance. The result is that the nature and force of the reasons for accepting the reality of final causality always remain somewhat obscure, because final causality is unintelligible without formal causality. - Michael Sullivan

All my posts have been expressive of this very specific point.

machinephilosophy said...

Dennis, I don't go off and read books or essays or look at web pages or videos, and I don't try to get anyone else to that either. I'm already too busy with graduate work, and so must simply argue the points myself, however much in detail that may wind up being.

The mere existence of final causality is in fact in question widely (I'm just now discovering), and I'm open to arguments for it but so far I don't see any that are from the ground up. And there may not be any arguments that do that. But if so, then higher-level arguments will have to be carried out, and that may be, as I've said before, what's required given the four types of causes.

I do realize these four causes are not completely independent in the first place, but whether or not that implies that there is a causally cognate or more basic meta-theoretic argument that must ground final causality in inorganic objects, remains to be seen.

So I'm not someone who cursorily read criticisms of final causality and then decided to come here and just raise sceptical hell. All I've read so far, except for some unavoidable comments on here and facebook, is pro-final-causality (Feser, Wallace, Benignus, and others), and I'm just trying to see the whole notion of the existence of final causality in inorganic substances from the logically justificatory ground up without giving it any free rides or passes with regard to the most severe inferential-sequence scrutiny I can muster.

Truth deserves no less for its competing candidates.

And if we already necessarily assume final causality or if efficient causality assumes it, so be it. I just want to see the argument for that or whatever it is that grounds our belief in final causes at the inorganic level, vis-a-vis all the objections to it and all the proposed alternatives.

Only then can we be confident of our rejection -or- acceptance of final causes at the inorganic level.

Timocrates said...

@ Scott,

God bless you brother. Welcome home.

Timo.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Machine Philosophy,

Sorry, but I'm still extremely confused about what your criticism of the Thomistic arguments for final causes is.

You seem to be arguing that Thomists are assuming final causality without properly arguing for it. Would this be the correct interpretation?

Timocrates said...

@ machinephilosophy,

If you accept the following:

Every effect has a cause.
From nothing comes nothing.

... then in time you will come to see finality too, its reality and its necessity.

I would add too that in the context of final causes Aristotle gives examples that we could evolution today. How do we know if something is an instance of evolution or not? It's summer here in Arizona and I am tanning, but that's not evolution, obviously. But if I were to change into a kind of thing that had different natural ends than being/becoming a human being, presumably that would be an instance of an evolutionary change. It's the ends/limits of a thing that define that thing.

Dennis said...

@machinephilosophy

The mere existence of final causality is in fact in question widely (I'm just now discovering), and I'm open to arguments for it but so far I don't see any that are from the ground up. And there may not be any arguments that do that. But if so, then higher-level arguments will have to be carried out, and that may be, as I've said before, what's required given the four types of causes.

And these very questions are coming from a misunderstanding, or an incomplete understanding of the full doctrine!

If you read Aristotle without reading the Platonic dialogues or Plato, the chances of you having little-to-no as to what is being talked of are extremely high.

If you read the Platonic dialogues and Pre-Socratics, and not read Plato and Aristotle, then you will simply say that these things have no answers whatsoever.

This is why the tradition and the questions raised by Parmenides, Heraclitus, and the other Pre-Socratics is vital to knowing what Aristotle is speaking of in the first place.

I understand that you are busy in your work, as am I, and is everyone else. Now this is what irritates me,

So I'm not someone who cursorily read criticisms of final causality and then decided to come here and just raise sceptical hell. All I've read so far, except for some unavoidable comments on here and facebook, is pro-final-causality (Feser, Wallace, Benignus, and others), and I'm just trying to see the whole notion of the existence of final causality in inorganic substances from the logically justificatory ground up without giving it any free rides or passes with regard to the most severe inferential-sequence scrutiny I can muster.

And if we already necessarily assume final causality or if efficient causality assumes it, so be it. I just want to see the argument for that or whatever it is that grounds our belief in final causes at the inorganic level, vis-a-vis all the objections to it and all the proposed alternatives.

You still think we are assuming this. Your skeptical hell is nothing more than an echoing of ignoring the points made against you. If you are talking about the confidence one has in a proposition, this already shows sign of 'Critical realism' in some senses, and let me tell you, Etienne Gilson dealt with any sort of 'Critical realism' to be a contradiction in terms, there is no such thing.


Learn about how we're coming to the conclusion that final causality is a part of the world. Hint: Formal Cause! The hint about efficient causality is given by Timocrates, so I don't need to do that part!

Disce aut discede.

I don't say this with disdain, but rather, with irritation. There is simply no substitute for actually reading the material. Do it at your own pace, there's no rushing it, come back and raise the questions after you've gained a better or full understanding, I'll be happy to try to answer you. However, if you are unwilling to read up and understand the points made by us, but still continue to make your own points that is void of proper understanding of how Efficient, Formal and Final causality all relate to each other and especially why the Form must have an existential priority above that which instantiates it, then I am sorry to say I have no incentive to answer to your skepticism at all. I'm sorry, but I am thankful for your engagement, it had a final cause and it certainly serves(has served) many purposes that is beyond my intellect and imagination, one that I can see, is Scott's admission to converting to catholicism. Thanks be to God.

Mr. Green said...

Scott: Hmm, as puzzling as this will sound, I think (I'm not sure yet) you've just made up my mind to convert to Catholicism.

Who says philosophy doesn't work! It's another causality of applied metaphysics!

Scott said...

@Mr. Green:

Who says philosophy doesn't work!

Hey, it's love of wisdom or it isn't. And if it isn't, it's not philosophy.

John West said...

I agree that people ought to read the material, but I'm pretty sure Machine Philosophy has at least a bachelor's degree in philosophy. It might be good to holster statements telling him he needs to read Plato and Aristotle.

Scott said...

@Anyone who cares: I saw the priest (Father Ralph) this morning, and things look good.

That's not sarcasm. I know that some of you do care, and I would appreciate your prayers at this time of inconvenient grace. ;-)

John West said...

Out of curiosity, are they asking you to spend a year in an RCIA program first?

Scott said...

@Timocrates:

God bless you brother. Welcome home.

Thank you. Those words mean more to me than you can know.

@Dennis:

Praise be to God.

Yes.

@machinephilosophy:

You'll have to give me *something* more specific here, Scott, for me to know exactly what it is that prompted that. But you know me. I'm not only a fellow-traveler of Catholic belief (in addition to thomistic metaphysics and theistic argumentation), but have contemplated the same thing myself.

I wish I could give you more, but I'm not sure. Something about your remarks on teleology made me think about final causation, and that in turn made me think about God. And something happened, and I knew…what I knew, and what I had to do about it.

@John West:

Out of curiosity, are they asking you to spend a year in an RCIA program first?

I don't know yet; the priest wasn't any too specific. I gathered they tailor their program to suit the convert.

Scott said...

Thank you, Ed, for your part in this, which was not unlarge. I've said before that the two things I find attractive about Catholicism are Aquinas and Palestrina (that is, reason and beauty, which are ultimately the same), and Aquinas was all you.

John West said...

I don't know yet; the priest wasn't any too specific. I gathered they tailor their program to suit the convert.

Well, mon ami, I wish you the best.

Scott said...

@John West:

Danke schoen, mi amigo, as they say in France.

Glenn said...

Scott,

I would appreciate your prayers at this time of inconvenient grace. ;-)

Inconvenient?

Oh my. (Not really. ;))

o The Spirit breatheth where he will; and thou hearest his voice, but thou knowest not whence he cometh, and whither he goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. John 3:8

o And Peter opening his mouth, said: In very deed I perceive, that God is not a respecter of persons. Acts 10:34

Glenn said...

(I hasten to add that, of course, that in no way is meant to imply that you haven't previously been "born of the spirit". For shame.)

John West said...

Scott.

Danke schoen, mi amigo, as they say in France.

Though not in Canada. Not yet, anyway. Probably soon.

Scott said...

@Glenn:

Oh my. (Not really. ;))

No, not really at all. But His time isn't our time, and His ways aren't our ways.

Timotheos said...

@ Scott

"I saw the priest (Father Ralph) this morning, and things look good.

That's not sarcasm. I know that some of you do care, and I would appreciate your prayers at this time of inconvenient grace. ;-)"

Already been praying for you Scott; look like they've been effective (or more likely Mary's...). God bless and hallelujah!

Timocrates said...

@ Scott,

"I would appreciate your prayers at this time of inconvenient grace"

Rest assured you are already in the Church's heart and prayers, Scott.

Scott said...

@Timotheos:

Already been praying for you Scott

Thank you. Yep, sounds like it's been working. Marian intercession may be a result but that doesn't mean your prayers haven't themselves been effective.

Scott said...

@Timocrates:

Rest assured you are already in the Church's heart and prayers, Scott.

Thank you. I know that and I treasure the knowledge.

Georgy Mancz said...

@ Scott

Deo gratias!

This calls for a Te Deum

Prayers (and hopefully Mass intentions) coming.

George LeSauvage said...

Scott, God's blessings be with you. I know you're making a good choice.

(BTW, don't be put off by some of those in RCIA; There are sure to be some whom you cannot fathom. It takes all sorts to make a Church, and God loves them all.)

Crude said...

Well, congratulations Scott.

Edward Feser said...

Scott, that's wonderful! And thank you for your consistently fine contributions to discussion in the comboxes here. You've played a big role in keeping the exchanges at a high level of quality. You'll see from the preface to Neo-Scholastic Essays that I dedicate the book to my readers. It's guys like you that I have in mind.

Scott said...

@The Georges and Crude: Thank you for your kind words and thoughts. @Ed: Kind words indeed. Thank you. I hope I've earned them, and I know other contributors have done so. I won't try to name them for fear of leaving someone out, but I'm happy (and blessed) to have had their examples to follow and to extend my admiration to them. Keeping this conversation at a suitably philosophical level is a joint effort and there are many participants who are part of the "joint." If you think I mean you, I probably do.

machinephilosophy said...

Scott, if I've said anything that spurs you on in your spiritual path, then I am both humbled and gratified. But Feser deserves a great deal of credit, because I'm just a struggling reaction to his thinking.

Things cannot go on without some radical charitable critical engagement to shore up persuasive efficacy, not just against materialistic atheism and it's culture-fashion trickle-down influences on people's beliefs, but also against the malaise of general anti-intellectualism, which spans from adolescents and even their elementary school camp followers (it went below junior high level and beyond schoolboy paradoxes, long ago) through the highest levels of scholars, scientists, and engineers, along with major media figures of influence. One must go to where the battle rages, to actually fight the war. (Non-Catholic Christianity just seems totally hopeless, even infantile, in this regard.)

Ten years from now, Catholic or not (and I hear Catholicism is in far worse shape than non-Catholic denominations here), there's simply not going to be a new generation that funds Christianity.

Even if you discount the Barna and America's Research Group stats, which state that something like 70-90% of youth identifying as christian in any sense in the last year of high school will abandon Christianity by age 29---cut those stats in half and it's still bleak. And we're talking in the next 10-15 years. The sheer age of the people currently propping it up---shelling out the monthly support---just compounds this foreboding.

And atheism is going to surge, especially as it's marketing and it's leaders' rhetoric matures. Sean Carroll is the best example of this so far, who with a single 3-minute video has pulled off probably the most effective popular statement of naturalism since the term was coined.

We can sneer and fault-find scepticism, subjectivism*, and anti-intellectualism all we want, but the demographic trends are clear. And I'm not the only rationalist with an atheist background who is alarmed at these threats to the intellectual tradition that thomism (and a strong but small segment of sympathetic fellow-travelers) seems almost alone in defending.

_____________
*Subjectivism is simply the new term in academia for relativism, since relativism has been widely (and rightly) characterized as giving cover to and equalizing the legitimacy of all views including extreme and even sociopathic ones. "You don't want to say you're a relativist" my lecturer in several courses including epistemology often said in my undergraduate philosophy courses.

Brandon said...

Scott,

I'm glad I checked in on this thread again, so I can add my congratulations to everyone else's! I understand very well that sometimes it just takes the right build up to the right moment -- that was how it was with me; I was discussing Thomism and defending Catholics for years before I became one, and then one day it was just the obvious thing to do.

Crude said...

machine,

Even if you discount the Barna and America's Research Group stats, which state that something like 70-90% of youth identifying as christian in any sense in the last year of high school will abandon Christianity by age 29---cut those stats in half and it's still bleak. And we're talking in the next 10-15 years.

Where does Barna say that? The only stat I found that was comparable said that only 20% of 'highly churched' Christians stay 'spiritually active' by age 29. (That stat, by the way, was from 2006.)

And atheism is going to surge, especially as it's marketing and it's leaders' rhetoric matures.

Atheists always get completely outnumbered by a different group of people - the irreligious, 'I-don't-care' group. It's worth noting that atheism has already fractured into camps that are going at each other's throats: see PZ Myers versus Dawkins, the atheist+ movement versus the anti-SJW Gamergate style atheists. That's probably a real vision of the future - the world isn't uniting behind the glorious naturalistic vision and secular utopianism. It's fragmenting into subjective individualism, mob rule, frantic emotionalism and more.

I'm not saying that Christianity is just about to experience some golden age and all that. It's more that I'm saying the problem you're describing - the subjectivism, the relativism, the anti-intellectualism - is eroding a whole lot more than Christianity. It's even eroding itself. The western world is having a mental meltdown on a number of fronts, while also committing suicide (check those demographic rates.)

That said, people have been ignorant for a long time. I agree that 'popular trends' need to be addressed, and the intellectual persuasiveness of Thomism doesn't have the same popular impact as Bill Nye yutzing it up. But it's a battle that has to be fought on multiple fronts - the Thomists do their part. Others need to do their own part as well.

Mr. Green said...

Bob: The direction the rock will fall has nothing to do with the rock - is and has been my point.

Ah, I see what you mean. Yes, which direction counts as "down" depends on things other than the rock. And if the question had been "which way is down?", then I would have been changing it. But of course the original question was about the rock's tendency, and you can't have "the rock's tendency" without "the rock['s]". The tendency, or the ability, or potential, or property that makes the rock the kind of thing that falls [down, whichever direction that may be] is certainly a property of the rock. Indeed, we call it the rock's mass. Something that doesn't have mass would not fall at all, in any direction, so clearly it's wrong to say that it has "nothing" to do with the rock.

Mr. Green said...

MachinePhilosophy: But why must that be, when "in order to" simply means "always results in”?

I think the issue is that either we bring in teleology from outside, and thus smuggle in the thing we’re looking for; or else we do not bring it in, and cannot get to it from non-final causes — you can’t get ends from a stone (wait, we’ve been arguing that you can!). But of course “bringing in” and “smuggling in” are not the same: yes, we have to pull the horse inside the walls, but there is no army of ends hidden inside; it’s just the horse, no smuggling needed.

All right, so what is the horse? How do we get finality in a way that’s clear, undeniable, and unbegging of questions? First let’s note that final causes are forms, too; but not “static” forms, not the “shape” of a single fixed moment — final causes, I think we might say, are forms spread across time. The shape of an arch is a formal cause; but the tendency or potential of an arch to hold itself up is something that applies over a span of time. Thus we get the directed order of teleology from a “formal” orderliness + the directedness of time itself.

To deny finality, you’d have to deny the order (claim that reality really is just random static, where any appearance of order is an illusory fluke), which you can say, but cannot really mean (unless perhaps you truly are mad). Or you can deny the direction, the time, which frankly is also going to make people think you’re mad. (It doesn’t matter whether you say change is an illusion — that just pushes the directedness back into your mind or something; if the world doesn’t change, the “illusion” still does; we aren’t here making claims about what “time” really is, we’re merely observing that whatever it is that accounts for our perception of change it involves a direction from past to future).

So ultimately, “in order to” is just “order” + “to” [time-pointedness]. You can try to reject either half, but nobody [sane] is going to believe you — the few people who try to make such claims don’t even believe it themselves, at least not to watch them go about their day-to-day lives. Does that get to the fundamental level you’re looking for?

Mr. Green said...

Crude: the world isn't uniting behind the glorious naturalistic vision and secular utopianism. It's fragmenting into subjective individualism, mob rule, frantic emotionalism and more.
I'm not saying that Christianity is just about to experience some golden age and all that. It's more that I'm saying the problem you're describing - the subjectivism, the relativism, the anti-intellectualism - is eroding a whole lot more than Christianity.


Indeed. It seems to me that "atheism" has reached its peak — the past few years have provided about the most accommodating environment possible, and if they haven't reached double-digits by now, they never will. The problem isn't to prove to people that order or telos or even God are real, because (most) people already recognise these, instinctively. What we really need to fight is the anti-intellectualism, the authority-rejecting pride that leads one to arrogate the right to decide without reason — an attitude so pervasive in modern society that we actually find religious people defending the misbegotten idea that faith means believing "against" reason!

Yes, it's a necessary evil to pay some attention to loud-mouthed "new" atheists simply because they get attention, however undeservedly, and it's important to point out when even self-appointed emperors are naked. And rolling around drunkenly in the gutter. But I worry that too much effort is wasted on shooting fish in barrels (as amusing as that may sometimes be) — it keeps the discussion from advancing to a higher level, and implies that worthless claims are more important and more serious than they really are. What is much more important is to teach people that the things they mostly already accept or to which they are innately sympathetic are justified by reason. The man on the street does not respect science because he himself is an accomplished scientist, but because he knows that somewhere out there are people who are. He likewise does not need to be an expert in philosophy himself, but he does need to be made aware that the traditional views have very able and worthy defenders.

Gyan said...

Prof Feser writes
"But in that case they would be rational animals -- in which case they would be human beings"

Man is defined as rational animal but surely this definition does not imply that all rational animals are man.

Man is defined as rational animal simply because the only rational animals we see are men.
If there were indeed other rational animals, we would define man with more precision eg.
man is rational animal descended from Adam and Eve.

Scott said...

@machinephilosophy and Brandon:

My heartfelt thanks to you both. And Brandon, yes, you've got it spot on. I appreciate your understanding.

On a related subject, I am struggling, not unexpectedly in view of the occasion, with some demons right now. They will not win but prayers would, as usual, be helpful.

Timocrates said...

@ Scott,

Increased temptations are proof of movements toward holiness. Temptations provide a kind of negative proof of spiritual being, truth and reality - and the objective reality of holiness also.

Before your reception into the Church you can expect temptations to increase as well as a possible sense of a kind of darkness to follow you about and a sense of a crushing of your spirit away, especially, from the joy of the Gospel and the Spirit. Don't be dismayed at this, it is quite normal. During it you are already learning to live in faith and trust, being moved to an ever deeper bond of trust in the power of the living God for your strength and protection and the attainment of felicity.

Scott said...

@Timocrates:

…a sense of a crushing of your spirit away, especially, from the joy of the Gospel and the Spirit.

Yes. And it will not succeed.

machinephilosophy said...

Crude

I didn't look up the research when it was reported simply because it didn't seem like there was any controversy about the attrition percentages, only the reason for them. Since Chri$tianity Today only provides a preview of Drew Dyck's well-known article "The Leavers", I'm purchasing his book which hopefully contains all the references to the research as well as that article itself. Granted it's from 2010, but here's a blurb from it:

"Young people aren't walking away from the church-they're sprinting. According to a recent study by Ranier Research, 70 percent of youth leave church by the time they are 22 years old. Barna Group estimates that 80 percent of those reared in the church will be "disengaged" by the time they are 29 years old. Unlike earlier generations of church dropouts, these "leavers" are unlikely to seek out alternative forms of Christian community such as home churches and small groups. When they leave church, many leave the faith as well."

But the issue of ageing supporters---the money issue---will soon tell an unarguable tale that will put these interim cultural trend issues to rest.

As the consensus corrodes, the Judeo-Christian consensus' effect on the conscience of youth about belief in God will wane rapidly, and then scepticism and atheism will become, as Nietzsche remarked---like breathing.

Timocrates said...

@ Crude,

"As the consensus corrodes, the Judeo-Christian consensus' effect on the conscience of youth about belief in God will wane rapidly, and then scepticism and atheism will become, as Nietzsche remarked---like breathing."

Our modern society is especially good at this. The sheer volume of distractions especially young people are constantly bombarded with is already breath-taking. We are constantly bombarded with images and messages of death and violence and the fear it produces yet, notwithstanding, we are never moved into reflection about death, which would of course temper voyeurism and vanity and be conducive with philosophical searching or seeking. Now that's quite a thing, isn't it? Moderns see and hear of more death than any other people ever in history; yet simultaneously we are the least likely to actually think about the significance of the imminence of our own death! Indeed, much of our modern habits seem to be little more than desperate attempts to ensure we do not have to deal with those tough questions - and technology today provides seemingly endless possibilities to give passing enthrallment or distraction.

But like the hyper-sexualization of culture that is already yielding a certain jadedness and an eventual total burn-out (we can expect soon the final debasement and trivialization of sex - i.e., nothing really fancy about it after all); likewise, this circus of distractions can also only result in its own burn out of the individuals involved. The over-stimulation of man's senses and base appetites can but only weaken him; and people, when weak, tend to react by false or desperate shows of strength or control. I think the attempt by radical progressives we are seeing today to acquire an increasingly universal and virtually totalitarian grip over society and culture via hijacking and dominating political and legal institutions is something of a proof of this already happening. But truly is it written that it is the meek who shall inherit the earth.

Timocrates said...

Sorry, my above reply should actually have been addressed to machinephilosophy!

machinephilosophy said...

Thank you, Timocrates

And news about life extension research, however false and whiz-bang to the realities---"Like, y'know, in just a few years genetics is going to eliminate death altogether!"---pads their minds' sublimation of death's imminence even more.

Crude said...

machine,

Granted it's from 2010, but here's a blurb from it:

As I said, I'm not doubting that young people are disengaged with Christianity. What I'm doubting is the following:

As the consensus corrodes, the Judeo-Christian consensus' effect on the conscience of youth about belief in God will wane rapidly, and then scepticism and atheism will become, as Nietzsche remarked---like breathing.

Yeah? Seems like a load.

I mean, don't get me wrong. I know that is, among certain Cultists of Gnu, a prominent pseudo-intellectual beat-off fantasy - but all evidence indicates that the culture is hurtling towards a variety of subjectivisms, skepticism of anything that isn't doctrinally mandatory (including, at times, skepticism itself), and more. Again, I'm not saying that this is some kind of good news for Christians - far from it. But it's bad news for just about everyone, atheism included. Again, just see the in-fighting among atheists - including literal schisms.

That's why Barna talks about 'spiritually disengaged' people. It's not that they've become convinced that atheism is true and that materialism rules the land. It's that they simply don't give a shit, and don't pretend to besides. And for the ones that do give a shit, their atheism is often wrapped up with politics.

Beyond that, really - the idea that the one thing propping up religious belief is 'Church money' itself strikes me as bizarre. As if the only thing standing between people and firm, convinced atheism is, what.. making sure Anglicans keep getting ample money flowing to them? In my view, their handling of that money, the way they've presented their own faith (and I'll count various Catholics in this equation as well) has been essential to that corrosion to begin with. If I wanted to make the greatest impact on the uneducated in favor of theism, it's a 50-50 split on whether it would be better to give money to the right churches, or out and out take it from the wrong ones.

Anyway, all this isn't to say that it's unimportant to reach out to - let's be honest - uneducated people who can barely figure out basic analogies, much less grapple with formal/final causes and metaphysics. I think it's very important, and I know Thomists don't do that. But it's weird that people expect *Thomists* of all people to try and reach that audience. They're doing their own jobs quite well, as near as I can tell. Want to reach the slower people? Use your spare time to be entertaining, write some books and games and comics, and more.

Timocrates said...

@ Crude,

Philosophy inspires art and challenges artists to be true to their vocation. People who know artistic people know that they respond to the propositions of philosophy intensely. There is a reason Aristotle gave attention to poetry and theatre. Artistic people desperately need challenging from philosophy, otherwise they lose their original vocation and end up becoming slaves to commercialism.

Thomism and philosophy generally stimulates artistic creativity, whether for or against. Both often make for good art, insofar as it goes.

Crude said...

Timocrates,

In some cases, I'm sure. In other cases? They react to other things. There's nothing wrong with a bit of commercialism either, for that matter.

I worry in cases like these that people think that influencing through art requires exceptional skill and depth. Which, I think, ends up viewing the problem as 'We need to make more video games and comic books for thomists.'

Enticing idea in one way, but again, maybe there's a larger audience out there that needs attention too.

Timocrates said...

@ Crude,

Commercialism does not belong in art or philosophy, as every philosopher and artist knows. Art and philosophy are both apt to make men kings, and kings have no regard for merchants.

It's a temptation to every philosopher to allow money to become his end. But he knows better. So much better. His original vocation to philosophy was not out of love of money - I can think of no more moronic a soul who philosophizes, especially today, because he believes it profitable. Rather, I know the philosopher in career naturally has a kinship with the artist because he detects in them his own plight: a powerful desire to give without receiving and being content with the payment of love and thanks from all those who benefit, but of course troubled by the need for materialistic necessities. That is why both true philosophers and artists are naturally heroic and industrious: they truly cast their bread on the water. This is especially why we as a people and culture must treasure out philosophers and artists, even in their faults, errors and weaknesses. The fact that, e.g., artists expose themselves to public scrutiny is their innate generosity; and the fact that Wisdom wishes to pronounce herself on the rooftops, though destitute of reward, is why we at least owe them love and friendship.

... We don't need more video games and comic books. Those who make them need more philosophers: philosophers are the best judges of art, naturally salvaging the babies from the dirty bath water.

Timocrates said...

@ Crude,

And, lastly, I would add this to the final part I wrote above about philosophers being the best judges of art: artists truly do need criticism from philosophers; artists are the muses of philosophers in their humanity and philosophers are the muses of artists in their truth. They act like two necessary organs of a living, breathing body. The philosopher needs rest in the artist and the artist needs prompting and judgment from the philosopher. The artist wishes in his nature to be philosophy in practice most perfectly (most often, "beautifully"); the philosopher requires the humanity of the artist's internal conflict to drive him to more perfect - that is, human - application of his meaning and truth. The artist is brave in that he dares to apply the philosopher's theory; the philosopher is a friend insofar as he naturally critiques the artist in such a wise that the artist respects it and is emboldened and inspired to be more perfect.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Timocrates,

What do you mean by commercialism? And what do you mean by artist?

In traditional societies, there has generally been less of a divide between artists and craftsmen. The conception of the artist a select occupation, set apart from the rest of society, producing largely with beauty alone in mind, not use, is a early modern and modern one.

Jeremy Taylor said...

That is, if one is talking about artists-craftsmen - producing things in exchange for money, I don't think there is anything wrong with this. The artist-craftsman has always produced things for patrons and customers in order to make his living, creating what is useful. Beauty was infused in what was useful in traditional societies. There was far less a split between them, as in modern society. In this sense I see nothing wrong with combining commerce and art.

Of course, if you are referring to modern consumerism, then that is something different.

Timocrates said...

@ Jeremy Taylor,

Of course there is nothing wrong with it. My family is mercantile and they do it honourably. But corruption of philosophy and art (in everyday man's terms) will come from commercialism. It's a delicate balance, as I meant to say above.

But let's be plain. When is the last time you read something of lasting or enduring value when you knew or even sensed a profit motive beneath? What is it that corrupts motives in people you have met, such that you acquired distrust or suspicion? We can all forgive men or women who are looking for a living; however, we all also hold sacrosanct certain bonds.

The best artists are motivated not by profit but by - as cheasy as it sounds - love. Why did Dante write his epic work? It had to do with his own love of country. Shakespeare barely made anything.

Commercial logic has its own proper sphere, and God help the country where merchants rule. Religions are disgraced by the same, as the influence of Venice during the Crusades.

I have to stand by what I said earlier: philosophers need artists and artists need philosophers. Ultimately, philosophers also need theologians. Philosophers are never "fans" of artists, though artists deserve their fans. Philosophers make the theory, the artist makes the model and the fan follows. This is why being a philosopher in any society (no matter what name philosopher is changed to) is so important. Artists present a way of living in a human and practical sense; the philosopher teaches the artists what is worth living. Or if I am wrong, someone explain to me the influence of pop artists on mass culture.

And no. Contrary to what might be popular in the USA today, commercialism and competition are vanities. They only work if the rules are fair, and they are not; further, it is in fact cooperation that makes man achieve. Ask any platoon.

Mr. Green said...

Timocrates: Commercialism does not belong in art or philosophy, as every philosopher and artist knows. Art and philosophy are both apt to make men kings, and kings have no regard for merchants.

A king who has no regard for his merchants is going to have trouble running his kingdom. Where commercialism doesn’t belong is hobbies; everyone’s got to make a living. Artists are really just a kind of craftsmen. I see Jeremy has already made this point — the modern view of the artiste is woefully puffed up with self-importance. What we need is not less commercialism in art, but less pride. We may think that Hollywood is in it for the money, but — OK, it’s in it for the money, yes, but decent films are generally more profitable than indecent ones. If moviemakers were only more concerned with profit, we’d get less filth. It’s a peculiar modern perversion that the artist’s job is to regurgitate his own inner feelings instead of presenting to us the goodness and truth that lie without. But that makes the artist less important than his message — he’s only a messenger boy, a craftsman whose skill is to find an efficient manner of delivering a statement by Someone Else.

... We don't need more video games and comic books.

True, television and film are still the predominant media. We need more Thomistic sitcoms.

When is the last time you read something of lasting or enduring value when you knew or even sensed a profit motive beneath?

In my experience, you can’t judge a book by the price on its cover. Which work of Mozart’s would you throw out because he was feeling the pinch when he composed it? Sure, the best artists are not motivated by profit. So are the best cobblers. Or rather we should say, “not only by profit”.

it is in fact cooperation that makes man achieve. Ask any platoon.

Ah, but there wouldn’t be any platoon if there were no enemy to compete against. Life is a more mundane balance, a mix of contraries, than we often wish; extremes are so much more thrilling. One of the biggest problems with modern art is that it no longer suffers itself to be restricted in any way. What we really need is more discipline.

John West said...

It seems to me a false dichotomy[1]. Competition and cooperation are not contraries. Competition presupposes cooperation (as Timocrates tacitly admits in his comment about rules). Conflict and cooperation are, perhaps, contraries.

[1]The exception is the ecological senses of the words, where competition means something more like conflict, but that isn't the words' ordinary uses and becomes confusing when applied to humans.

Crude said...

Timocrates,

Commercialism does not belong in art or philosophy, as every philosopher and artist knows. Art and philosophy are both apt to make men kings, and kings have no regard for merchants.

I can't agree, and as near as I can tell, Aristotle wouldn't agree either. Most men aren't cut out to be kings. Or merchants. I think sights need to be set lower.

As for commercialism - pursuing money above all else isn't the goal here, though some pursuit of money isn't the problem. But communicating to a broader audience, in terms they can either understand or absorb? That's something commercialism has had more success with.

I'm entirely on board with there being a place, and an important one, for philosophy, higher intellectual pursuits and arguments. There's a place for that. But there's also a place for trying to reach the ignorant, the heretofore uninterested, and frankly, the stupid.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Timocrates,

Again I think some of the issues are about how we define the terms artist and commercial. You mention great poets like Shakespeare, but they are somewhat anomalous. In traditional society all craftsmen were artists (and we could probably include peasants and yeoman, who understood the skills to healthily bring forth the fruits of the soil, not to mention landscaping and other crafts) in one sense. There was neither a clear divide between artists and other workers, nor one between beauty and utility, as we see in the modern world. I worry that in concentrating on only great poets, and separating them from all other artists and craftsmen, as well as in neglecting use, we perpetuate this modern view of art.

Art and crafts should have uses - the final and formal causes of work - and it is these that should inform the aesthetic quality of the work. Having such a use it is makes sense that the work will often be saleable, and there is nothing wrong with that in principle. It is also perfectly true that beauty should be a part of use, as this is implied in attention to the form of the work and creating for truly humane use.

Of course, if one is talking about modern consumerism, this is entirely different. Billions of pounds are spent globally each year, just to try and sell things that people would probably not buy otherwise (hence it is requires marketing). In modern industrial and electronic society, use and aesthetics are separated to a huge degree, so we have mass produced, ugly junk, in which commercialism has destroyed both beauty and even thought at fully humane utility, and popular artistic notions that see use and utility as totally foreign to art.

Crude said...

One thing I want to make clear. When I talk about the need for Christians to make comic books, video games - call it 'low media' if you want to get your snob on - it's not like I'm arguing there needs to be some kind of mass-market appeal, or worse, that you can measure your success by your profit margins. I've got little love for that kind of 'Christianity' or that kind of commercialism.

I'm simply talking about bringing some amount of Christianity - heck, some amount of Thomism - into the creative sphere. And the 'creative sphere' covers quite a lot. It doesn't always require depth, and in fact serious depth is sometimes inappropriate. Not everyone is deep. Not everything needs to be deep.

Step2 said...

Indeed, we call it the rock's mass. Something that doesn't have mass would not fall at all, in any direction, so clearly it's wrong to say that it has "nothing" to do with the rock.

It isn't wrong to say that mass is not unique to rocks, and its movement is far more precisely described by gravitational forces, friction, shape, etc. So describing its tendency as a final cause is an insufficient description unless you assume a particular "normal" context, when it is better to map out the context first and then describe its movement.

Anonymous said...

So describing its tendency as a final cause is an insufficient description unless you assume a particular "normal" context, when it is better to map out the context first

Still dealing with final causes.

Step2 said...

Apparently I'm dealing with someone's obsession for oversimplifying.

Mr. Green said...

Step2: So describing its tendency as a final cause is an insufficient description unless you assume a particular "normal" context, when it is better to map out the context first and then describe its movement.

Nah, if it were better, then I would've said it. A sufficient description is one that fits the topic in the context being discussed, not one that clutters the issue with too much detail. A precise mathematical accounting would be suitable for studying relativistic physics, but it would be off-topic in this discussion about final causality.

machinephilosophy said...

Crude

The absence of any kind of substantial spiritual dimension in life is already like breathing for the vast majority of people.

That factor alone, increasing rapidly year by year, is already erasing any felt need for God or even spirituality per se in just about any sense.

The issues that are left? Science is seen to have taken care of many of those already---while replacing superstitions, many of which are associated with religion---and to them science is just as equally well on its way to providing immortality, and the digerati value a virtual ideal state as much as old-schoolers value an envisioned celestial city, especially if you can store versions and copies of yourself.

But except for the spiritual-like value of music, I see nothing but a thoroughly pervasive default atheism in the daily life of culture, and it's not even being challenged to any appreciable or significant extent.

And when contemporary humanity is sick, it wants a super-rationalistic medical scientist, with no (to them) hocus-pocus about God or spiritual matters.

And I'm far from the only person who thinks theism is headed for zero if the modern mentalities (they are legion) are not effectively countered---and soon.

But if 150 quality soldiers can disintegrate an army of over 40,000 conscienceless murdering thugs in Sierra Leone, . . . .

I'm working on the cognitive equivalent of some of their tactics, such as sending into the opposing camp paid prostitutes with full-blown aids.

But in the case of analytic philosophy, it looks like they have already hired some themselves.

Crude said...

machine,

The absence of any kind of substantial spiritual dimension in life is already like breathing for the vast majority of people.

See, I disagree. I think people are going absolutely nuts with the spiritual dimension and are 'interpreting' it in all kinds of crazy ways.

But except for the spiritual-like value of music, I see nothing but a thoroughly pervasive default atheism in the daily life of culture,

I disagree. I think it's a thoroughly pervasive default subjectivism, which is ambiguous between broad irreligion, paganism and deism. There's always the talk about how people live as 'practical atheists', but I always regarded that as bunk - practical atheists wouldn't have much care for 'justice' and 'morality' and all that jazz, even if they were fundamentally misguided about all of the above.

It's not that I think things are in great shape. If anything, I think they're in worse shape than you're saying. But you come across to me - and perhaps I misunderstand - as being convinced that a deep commitment to science, atheism, materialism, etc exists throughout the culture. I think it's a deep commitment to screaming irrationality, which tends to act out against Christianity in particular, but also acts out against 'scientists who wear the wrong shirt during a press conference' and more.

I'm working on the cognitive equivalent of some of their tactics, such as sending into the opposing camp paid prostitutes with full-blown aids.

Well, I can appreciate that kind of talk - kudos for the vivid imagery.

Jack said...

Dear Prof. Feser,

I'm studying Computer Science at University. I know that this is perhaps not your area of expertise, but I've read some of your articles on this blog criticizing Computationalism. Do you know of any professors or text books in the field that take a view of Computing more amenable to Aristotelian metaphysics and less bogged down in scientistic reductionism?

John West said...

Jack,

I'm studying Computer Science at University. I know that this is perhaps not your area of expertise, but I've read some of your articles on this blog criticizing Computationalism. Do you know of any professors or text books in the field that take a view of Computing more amenable to Aristotelian metaphysics and less bogged down in scientistic reductionism?

Hopefully Ed, or someone else with more expertise, replies. In the meantime, computationalism is a theory in philosophy of mind. So, if that's how you're using it, I suspect Dr. Feser would point you to his work on hylemorphic dualism.

But I'm guessing you mean something else. Could you clarify what you mean by "Computing"?

Jack said...

Mr. West,

Yes, I intend to read Dr. Feser's work. As for what I mean by computing, I suppose I ought to have been more broad and stuck to "Computer Science". What I'm interested in is avoiding common errors and fuzzy thinking in regards to the relationship between computers and minds. I think that scientism and computationalism are somewhat of an Anglo phenomenon along with "Analytic" philosophy in general, following on from men like Hume and Locke. I wonder to what extent the English language has influenced this. I think that the Greek term "nous", for example, which refers to the intuitive mind, may alone be an effective barrier against Anglo errors.