Friday, March 3, 2017

Supervenience on the hands of an angry God


In his book Physicalism, or Something Near Enough, Jaegwon Kim puts forward the following characterization of the materialist supervenience thesis:

I take supervenience as an ontological thesis involving the idea of dependence – a sense of dependence that justifies saying that a mental property is instantiated in a given organism at a time because, or in virtue of the fact that, one of its physical “base” properties is instantiated by the organism at that time.  Supervenience, therefore, is not a mere claim of covariation between mental and physical properties; it includes a claim of existential dependence of the mental on the physical. (p. 34)

Kim goes on to deploy this thesis as a component of his influential “causal exclusion argument,” which is directed against non-reductive physicalists who accept supervenience but deny that the mental can be identified with the physical, and who also reject the epiphenomenalist claim that the mental has no causal efficacy.  In Kim’s view these theses cannot all be held together.  The basic idea is that if (a) every mental event supervenes on a physical event, (b) every physical event has a physical cause sufficient to produce it (the “closure” thesis), and (c) no event has more than one sufficient cause (the “exclusion” thesis), then it seems that there is nothing for the distinctively mental attributes of any event to do.  Hence the physicalist either has to embrace epiphenomenalism or, to save the causal efficacy of the mental, accept the reductionist thesis that mental properties are not merely supervenient upon, but identical to, physical properties.  (Kim spells out the argument more carefully and at greater length both in the book and in other writings.)

What concerns me in this post, however, is not the mind-body problem but rather an interesting and perhaps unexpected parallel Kim draws with some views on the nature of divine causation put forward by theologian Jonathan Edwards (of “Sinners in the hands of an angry God” fame).  Edwards took the occasionalist position that God is the only true efficient cause of everything that occurs, so that the apparent causal efficacy of everyday objects is illusory.  In a passage quoted by Kim in Physicalism, Edwards compares this purported illusion with the illusion that mirror images have causal efficacy: 

The images of things in a glass, as we keep our eye upon them, seem to remain precisely the same, with a continuing, perfect identity.  But it is known to be otherwise.  Philosophers well know that these images are constantly renewed, by the impression and reflection of new rays of light; so that the image impressed by the former rays is constantly vanishing, and a new image impressed by new rays every moment, both on the glass and on the eye…  And the new images being put on immediately or instantly do not make them the same, any more than if it were done with the intermission of an hour or a day.  The image that exists at this moment is not at all derived from the image which existed at the last preceding moment.  As may be seen, because if the succession of new rays be intercepted, by something interposed between the object and the glass, the image immediately ceases; the past existence of the image has no influence to uphold it, so much as for a moment.  (Doctrine of Original Sin Defended, Part IV, Chapter II)

The idea here is this.  It might seem like the mirror image of an object at time t1 is what causes the subsequent mirror image of the same object at time t2.  But that is not the case, and in fact the image at t1 does not cause anything.  Rather, it is the object itself which causes both the image at t1 and the image at t2.  Now, in a similar way, it seems that (say) the movement of one billiard ball on a pool table causes the movement of a second billiard ball a moment later.  But that (claim occasionalists like Edwards) is also an illusion.  It is rather God who causes both the movement of the first ball and the movement of the second, and the first billiard ball has no more efficacy than the mirror image.  There are also no persisting objects (including the billiard balls) but rather a succession of fleeting objects created successively by God, which only appear to constitute persisting things in the way that the image in the mirror falsely appears to be one thing persisting over time.

There is, as Kim indicates, an interesting implicit parallel here to Kim’s causal exclusion argument (though Kim himself doesn’t explicitly draw out all of these parallels).  You could read Edwards as presenting a challenge to his fellow theists that is analogous to Kim’s challenge to his fellow physicalists.  Just as Kim begins with the fact that both he and other physicalists accept the supervenience of the mental on the physical, Edwards begins with the fact that theists affirm the supervenience of all things on God – that is to say, they affirm the doctrine of divine conservation, according to which the world could not persist in being even for an instant unless God were continually causing it to exist. 

And just as Kim’s argument could be deployed as a defense of epiphenomenalism – the thesis that mental attributes don’t really have any causal efficacy, but only falsely appear to – so too Edwards’ argument is a defense of occasionalism – the thesis that ordinary objects don’t really have any causal efficacy, but only falsely appear to.  An epiphenomenalist inspired by Kim would say: “If the mental supervenes on the physical, then (given certain further premises) the physical does everything and there’s really nothing for the mental to do.”  And Edwards is basically saying: “If ordinary objects supervene on God, then (given certain further premises) God does everything and there’s really nothing for ordinary objects to do.”

Now, there is the difference that Kim’s position is actually framed as a dilemma, whereas Edwards’ is not.  Kim is saying that the physicalist either has to opt for epiphenomenalism or opt for a reductionist identification of the mental with the physical.  A strictly parallel Edwardsian argument would pose a dilemma according to which the theist either has to opt for occasionalism or opt for a reductionist identification of ordinary objects with God.  The latter option would really amount to a kind of pantheism on which ordinary objects just are God perceived under different aspects.  To perceive one billiard ball hitting another is really just to perceive God acting under one aspect, to perceive the sun melting an ice cube is really just to perceive God acting under another aspect, and so on.

Then again, it is not clear in either case that the horns of the dilemma are really all that different.  Start with the mental-physical case.  Even on the reductionist horn of Kim’s dilemma, the mental arguably has no more efficacy than it does on the epiphenomenalist horn.  For example, even if the reductionist physicalist identifies the belief that it is raining with a certain brain process, it is very hard for the physicalist to avoid the conclusion that it is still the neurophysiological properties of that brain process, and not its intentional content, that end up doing all the causal work.  The distinctively mental attributes of a mental state are either made epiphenomenal after all or implicitly eliminated. 

From a Thomistic point of view, this is exactly what we should expect given the Scholastic metaphysical principle agere sequitur esse or “action follows being” – the thesis that the way a thing acts reflects the manner in which it exists.  If a thing does not really do anything at all, then neither can it truly be said to be real. 

It is for this reason that some Thomists argue that occasionalism collapses into pantheism, so that the occasionalist and pantheist horns of the dilemma that Edwards’ position might seem to generate also end up not being very different.  Hence, just as Kim’s position arguably leads to the implicit elimination of the mental, Edwards’ position arguably leads (whatever his intentions) to the elimination of everyday objects and the conclusion that God alone is real.

Be that as it may, does Edwards really show that divine conservation entails occasionalism (whether or not it also entails pantheism)?  No.  Note that Kim’s dilemma follows not from supervenience by itself, but only from supervenience together with his additional assumptions about causation (the closure and exclusion theses).  Similarly, Edwards’ conclusion would follow from divine conservation only if we were to accept certain explicit or implicit further assumptions that he is making about causation.  And Thomists would not accept those assumptions.

This turns out to be example #1,234 of how the acceptance or rejection of the Aristotelian-Thomistic (A-T) analysis of causation has a ripple effect across the philosophical and theological landscape.  Edwards thinks that the relation of an object at t1 and the same object at t2 is like the relationship between the mirror image at t1 and the mirror image at t2, and that what is in question in each case is whether the first bears a relationship of efficient causality to the second.  Just as the mirror image at t1 is not the efficient cause of the mirror image at t2, so too the object at t1 is not (so the argument seems to go) the efficient cause of the object at t2.  (Here, by the way, I am interpreting Edwards’ position the way Kim does, or at least the way Kim’s use of him suggests.  I am not doing Edwards exegesis, and I don’t think Kim is claiming to do so either, but merely examining a view that one could derive from his text.)

But this is at best a highly misleading way of characterizing the situation.  It is true that there can be no question of efficient causation between two objects here, but that is the case not because of some parallel with the mirror example, but rather for the simple reason that there aren’t two objects in the first place, but only one object, albeit one that exists at both times.  Perhaps Edwards is thinking (as many contemporary philosophers would) in terms of a causal relationship between distinct events at t1 and at t2, or between distinct temporal parts at those two times.  But we A-T philosophers would say that there are no such things as temporal parts, and that it is things rather than events that are in the strict sense efficient causes. 

So, even if we allow that the mirror images at t1 and t2 are distinct things of which we may ask whether or not they are related by efficient causation, it is just a muddle to think that a physical object at t1 and t2 amounts to distinct things of which we may ask the same question.  The analogy between mirror images and physical objects is simply not a good one, so that it isn’t clear why we should take it to support an occasionalist conclusion.

To be sure, there is a sense in which it might be said that there is a kind of causal relation between an object at t1 and the same object at t2.  But it has to do, not with efficient causation, but rather with formal and material causation.  The objects at t1 and t2 are the same object, not because something at t1 serves as an efficient cause of something at t2, but rather because it is the same composite of prime matter and substantial form at both times.  It is only if we try to reduce all causation to the efficient kind that it will seem that we need to understand an object’s persistence over time in terms of efficient causation, and then conjure something like events or temporal parts to serve as the purported relata.  And it is only once we have done that that we will be led to make the further mistake of thinking that there is some interesting analogy here with the mirror images, so that we start pondering (as the occasionalist does) whether to keep the purported relata while dropping the efficient-causal relation between them.

Another problem is that the Kim-style argument for occasionalism that Kim seems to be attributing to Edwards seems to presuppose that when we speak of divine causation and of efficient causation between physical objects, we are speaking univocally.  And for the Thomist that is simply not the case.  For one thing, where divine conservation and concurrence are concerned, God’s causality is of a primary or underived kind, whereas the causality of physical things is of a secondary or derivative kind.  For another thing, we are in all cases applying the concept of efficient causation to God in an analogical way, since the sort of causal circumstances that apply to physical objects (spatial contiguity, transfer of energy, etc.) cannot intelligibly apply to that which is immaterial, atemporal, absolutely simple, etc. 

The upshot is that divine causation and the causation that physical objects exhibit are simply not in competition with one another, the way that an occasionalist application of the exclusion principle requires that they be.  To suppose they are in competition is like supposing that I cannot see the geometry book in front of me and at the same time see that the Pythagorean theorem is true, on the grounds that the Pythagorean theorem is not located where the book is and thus is not in my line of sight.  The fallacy here is that the word “see” is not being used in the same, univocal sense in both claims, but rather in analogical senses.  I don’t see the theorem in the same sense in which I see the book, even though I really do see both.  

It is similarly fallacious to suppose that if God is the ultimate cause on which the activity of billiard balls, the sun, etc. supervenes, then there is nothing left for them to do.  For physical objects do not cause things in the same, univocal sense in which God does, but rather in an analogical sense.  It is true both that God causes the second billiard ball to move and that the first billiard ball causes it to move, without any competition, redundancy, or overdetermination, because they are “causing” it in different senses.  (For the same reason, it is no less fallacious to suppose that if the physical objects have real causal efficacy, then there is nothing left for God to do – an atheist rather than occasionalist error.  But that is another issue.)

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114 comments:

Red said...

somewhat unrelated( but this post still touches this a little),
My biggest source of frustration with Dr Feser's views is that all this talk seems to presuppose wrong view/theory of time-space and persistence ,these views are vastly rejected in contemporary disciplines and are only salvaged by some defunct or at least highly revisionist interpretations of relativistic physics. which makes it a highly implausible view to hold.

In his most argumentations(natural theology or Phil of mind) Dr.Feser just assume the reality of change and temporal becoming,
this in my view is the biggest problem with A-T and what ultimately undermines it completely.
so consequently it has negative consequences for the ideas discussed in above post.

Callum said...

Red,

Feser doesn't assume the reality of change, he argues it cannot be coherently denied. He has helpfully quoted Karl Popper in his reply to Einstein in that his interpretation essentially suffers the same problems.

Also, search Tim Maudlin on this site. He has gone on record of the uncritical reflection by physicists on time and it seems that the tensed theory is as defensible within the philosophy of time.

I have to say though, I have not been more impressed by any other philosopher in showing the issues with physicalist theories of mind, than I have with Feser. Brilliant!

Callum said...

Regarding the types of causation, will you new book on the existence of God be going over these types of topics? Specifically the compatibility of immutability and a causing God?

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

I think that all causes are agent causes. It seems to me this is entailed by theism's foundational premise that God is the metaphysical ultimate. Thus the idea that God is the only true efficient cause makes some sense to me. Consider for example rain and ask what its efficient cause is. On theism the answer is: God's general providence. The efficient cause of all movement in physical nature is God's general providence. When we mention some physical property as the efficient cause we mean a property of God's general providence. So it's not really the case that the efficient cause of everyday objects is illusory. The efficient cause of everyday objects is a true order for (as all order) it is grounded in God's general providence. Or let me put this A-T way: The efficient cause of everyday objects exists, and its efficient cause is God's general providence. After all on theism (whether of dualistic or monistic flavor) everyday objects are real and possess their natural properties only because their efficient cause is God's general providence.

But there is an important exception to the above. Some things (contra Kim's closure thesis) have two efficient causes in that two agents willed them. Consider for example the fire produced by striking a match: Its efficient cause is both God's general providence that produces the physical nature of the match and the human's willed action of striking the match. Creation is such that God's will makes possible for human will (and also for God's special providence) to be exercised within a physically closed universe. That's indeed a significant part of the structure of creation, I'd say a part that reveals the intelligence of creation.

In short: Physical nature is realized by God's general providence and (as the physical sciences have proved beyond reasonable doubt) it is physically closed. But this physical closure is such that both the human free will (and thus the possibility of the repentance of the soul) and God's special providence (and thus the possibility of divine participation in creation, including say the creation of humankind in God's image) obtain. In this short article I describe a possible realization of such a world from the perspective of the dualist theist.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@Callum,

”Specifically the compatibility of immutability and a causing God?”

I think this apparent paradox is based on a misunderstanding, or if you like in a failure to consider God's greatness: On theism God is the mataphysical ultimate of reality – the first mover, and thus immutable. But God is not *only* the metaphysical ultimate of reality. That would contradict the definition that God is the greatest conceivable being, since we can easily conceive of a being greater than a being which is only the metaphysical ultimate of reality. Namely a being of personal nature who loves, creates creatures, is pleased in them, interacts with them, atones with them, etc.

The idea that God can be both immutable and moving may strike one as paradoxical, but it's not. Even everyday objects can be both not moving and moving. Consider for example a spinning sphere: The sphere certainly moves but its center doesn't. Come to think of it that's a good analogy for God: God participates in creation by moving the way the sphere rotates, while God is the unmovable metaphysical ultimate of creation the way the sphere's center is unmovable.

Red said...

Callum,
Experience of passage is only argument tensed theory of time has in its favour but its really as bad an argument as any,experience of time gives us no reason to believe that A-theory is true even if it makes it a little intuitively plausible. A cursory look at papers written by contemporary philosophers on philpapers will tell you that. And no, those two theories are not empirically equivalent and equally defensible,evidence highly favours tenseless theory, again search philpapers,check especially some reviews of WLC's work or Smolin's if you think tensed theory is really defensible.

and suppose Dr.Feser thinks he can defend A-theory or atleast he is justified in believing in change, still it would make his arguments for theism extremely question begging because an atheist would find no reason to take tense seriously and would be reasonably justified in rejecting arguments like five ways right of the bat because nothing really changes .
so even if you think modern physics doesn't completely undermine A-T , it does make it question begging ,pseudo-scientific and not the self evident deductive proof of rationality of theism that its proponents make it out to be ..

I believe in phil of mind some kind of Idealism is better for theism than A-T views and some kind of Plantinga style reformed epistemology or some kind of Fedeism is better than the kind of argumentation A-T philosophy offers ..

and of course Feser's work is impressive and I am sympathetic to it but it has its problems ..

cheers.

Jason said...

@Red,

If you have not, I strongly recommend you to purchase copy of Dr Feser's book: 'Scholastic Metaphysics', where he defends at length the reality of change, and discusses topics such as four-dimensionalism.

With regard to natural theology, even if change were not a real feature of the world, Aquinas's argument from the distinction of essence and existence would be unaffected.

Red said...

@Jason

His defence of change doesn't mean anything see my reply to callum above.

essence/existence distinction is derived from act/potency distinction so given eternalism,collapse of later implies collapse of the former .

Callum said...

Red,

I'm just going to be upfront and say i have no real reading in the literature of philosophy of time, so i'd be surprised if intuitive plausibility and arguments from experience are the only arguments for a tensed theory, but i wont quibble.

Feser actually defends the claim that there must be some change somewhere, otherwise you end up with the same paradoxes Aristotle replied too. This is why he quotes Popper in replying to Einstein that there must be change that goes on in the mind/consciousness and it seems incoherent to think otherwise.

Did you check the post on Tim Maudlin on this site? He points out that physicists seem to read put implications from the equations in physics regarding in time.

I cant get my head around how A-T begs the question. It argues for them and directly addresses whether change occurs or not. Nor can it be pseudoscience when it is based on philosophy of nature.

Callum said...

Also, not picking on Red in particular, i'm certainly commonly guilty of it, but how annoyed must Feser get when his blog posts end up with comments that are hardly ever relevant?

IchBinEinBerliner said...

Illuminating as always, thanks Ed!
Reading your post as well as this recent review of Dennetts new book by Nagel

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2017/03/09/is-consciousness-an-illusion-dennett-evolution/

reminded me of this amazing passage in Etienne Gilsons "Unity of Philosophical Experience". After tracing how the occasionalism of Ockham inevitably leads to Humean scepticism, he concludes:

"..the history of philosophy is to the philosopher what his laboratory is to the scientist; it particulary shows how philosophers do not think as they wish, but as they can, for the interrelation of philosophical ideas is just as independent of us as are the laws of the physical world. A man is always free to choose his principles, but when he does he must face their consequences to the bitter end. During the Middle Ages, the exact place of philosophical speculation had been clearly defined by St. Thomas Aquinas; nothing, however, could have obliged his successors to stay there; they left it of their own accord, and they were quite free to do so, but once this had been done, they were no longer free to keep philosophy from entering upon the road to scepticism. The Renaissance at last arrived there. But man is not naturally a doubting animal; when his own folly condemns him to live in uncertainty concerning the highest and most vital of all problems, he can put up with it for a certain time; but he will soon remember that the problems are still there clamouring for solutions. Usually a young hero then arises who decides that the whole business has to be done all over again, like Descartes; he may eventually start his experiment by the same blunder that had brought on both scepticism and his own struggle to get out of it, like Descartes; so that the same old cycle will have to revolve in the same old way until philosophers are willing to learn from experience what is the true nature of philosophy."

Jason said...

@Red

You say: "His defence of change doesn't mean anything see my reply to callum above".

In other words, the defence of the reality of change means nothing to you, because change is not real for you, and because it is not real you must reject the defence of change...because change is not real...now that is question begging.

You also say:

Dr.Feser thinks he can defend A-theory or atleast he is justified in believing in change, still it would make his arguments for theism extremely question begging because an atheist would find no reason to take tense seriously and would be reasonably justified in rejecting arguments like five ways right of the bat because nothing really changes .
so even if you think modern physics doesn't completely undermine A-T , it does make it question begging ,pseudo-scientific and not the self evident deductive proof of rationality of theism that its proponents make it out to be


I have a few comments:

1. His arguments would not be question begging, seeing as to beg the question is to assume the thing to be proved. Yet in giving the arguments, change is not the thing to be proved; the thing to be proved (or rather, explained) is what ultimately explains change. Yes, the argument takes as a given (assumes) the reality of change, but that is to be defended independently, and is not to be proved in the theistic argument, and thus no question begging occurs there.

Thus for people who deny change, they can still accept the argument as one which demonstrates what would be the ultimate explanation of change, if change was real. Which brings us to point 2.

2. Do you actually affirm that no potential becomes actual? One could apply the method of retorsion so as to demonstrate you cannot coherently deny change. I am curious, what reasons do you have for denying the reality change, the act/potency distinction...the actualization of potentials?

3. Modern physics does not make AT Metaphysics question begging; seeing as to be question begging is to assume what is to be proved...but A-T metaphysics is a proposed system of metaphysics...not an argument that assumes what is to be proved.

4. It is not pseudo-scientific, it is not an attempt to be scientific (in the narrow sense), seeing as this is metaphysics. Thus calling it pseudo-scientific is a category error.

Moreover, all these theses on change (whether it claims that change does vs does not exist) are metaphysical - no matter which view it is, they are all proposed metaphysical implications of the physics.

You claim that:

essence/existence distinction is derived from act/potency distinction so given eternalism,collapse of later implies collapse of the former.

Incorrect. While one can say essence is potency in respect of existence (as Aquinas does in in De Ente & Essentia), that a thing's essence is distinct from its existence can be affirmed wholly independent of whether change is real.

Red said...

@jason
I am no expert on Phil of time and I concede to you that my claims here that A) tensed theory of time is not empirically equivalent to tenseless,the tense less is supported better by science and B) experience of passage of time gives us no reason to prefer tensed theory. Both totally boil down to arguments from authority but this authority are experts so it's justified .

Can you please elaborate how denying change would be incoherent I've heard this argument but I can never really understand it ..

Wouldn't it be pseudo scientific to believe in alsolute simultaneity, luminiferous aether etc...

How would any of my atheist friends take any of my argument seriously if I first have to wrestle with Einstein to even begin to defend that feature of reality on which my argument for theism depend wouldn't that make arguments like five ways just redundant ? I am better off being a fedeist ..

@callum
I suppose I am somewhat Relevant here as substantial causation requires change..

Callum said...

@Red,

I think the only argument which could be completely undermined even if we accept change doesnt occur is the first way. Essence/existence, form/matter and finality dont seem to depend on time and all certainly have independent arguments for them.

I really couldn't recommended Scholastic metaphysics more. It will address most of your questions, even if you decide the answers arent satisfactory.

Also, no offence intended in mentioning you. I dont think this conversation is random compared to the topic, but I couldn understand Ed's frustration in how common it is

Jason said...

@Red,

Change, as you likely know, is the actualization of a potential. Thus when ice melts, some potential is actualized. Such is the kind of thing you need to accept as real to accept, say, the first part of Aquinas's first way - that change is real.

One absurdity in denying change is that the individual denying change is moving their lips (or fingers typing) when trying to argue against change; but for one's lips to move or finger's to hit the keyboard just is the actualization of a potential - change. Or to even deny change on the basis of some physical theory involves experiment, formulating a prediction, going from ignorance to a state of knowledge, and all of this is entails change. Feser elucidated such arguments in Scholastic Metaphysics.

"Both totally boil down to arguments from authority but this authority are experts so it's justified."

I don't think an argument from authority is ever justified. If you accept things such as ice melting, a computer shutting down, etc., then you should accept that some potentials actualize. If you do deny such things, I am interested to know precisely why.

You ask: "Wouldn't it be pseudo scientific to believe in alsolute simultaneity, luminiferous aether etc..."

Pseudo-science is a mistaken belief regarded as being based on scientific method. Metaphysics is not an attempt to do science (at least science as define in the modern sense). Absolute simultaneity is not a required affirmation of the A-T proponent. And luminiferous aether is not a metaphysical thesis, so that is irrelevant to the discussion.

You ask: "How would any of my atheist friends take any of my argument seriously if I first have to wrestle with Einstein to even begin to defend that feature of reality on which my argument for theism depend wouldn't that make arguments like five ways just redundant ?"

Simple. Ask them: do you affirm that things such as ice melting, water freezing, their lips moving, talking, arguing, acquiring knowledge etc. are real features of the world? If so, then they should not deny Aquinas or that some potentials are actualized.

Red said...

@Jason,
All that you say at best only makes change a really weird phenomenon but I don't see how is it just incoherent to deny it there seems to be no contradiction in just saying that lips moving,ice melting,coffee cooling is just an illusion. once we have empirical evidence confirming predictions of STR which entails eternalism why can't we just assert the non existence of change ? there seems to be no incoherence ...on the contrary there is no evidence for presentism other than our subjective experience of change. which is no good argument really ..

Absolute simultaneity is not a required affirmation of the A-T proponent. And luminiferous aether is not a metaphysical thesis, so that is irrelevant to the discussion.
what? have you read WLCs defense of tensed theory of time? It does require affirmation of Lorentz Aether theory ..otherwise you can't reconcile A-theory with STR ...

I just can't wrap my head around the fact that how can first way or any of the five ways be sound if you accept that all moments of time are equally real..just try running them with keeping B-theory in mind they all just become absurd..
maybe some kind of argument from contingency can be run (check Chris Weaver's paper "Yet Another new cosmological argument") but A-T approach to natural theology surely gets undermined ..take this above post for example it claims in it require Substance based causation to be true but it can't be given Eternalism i think ..

anyways I think maybe A-T can be reconciled/reformulated with Eternalism in some way or but that has yet to be done or maybe I am simply misunderstanding something ..

Mr. Green said...

Red: My biggest source of frustration with Dr Feser's views is that all this talk seems to presuppose wrong view/theory of time-space and persistence

There is no problem. To whatever extent the relevant views about time are actual science, they cannot contradict A-T metaphysics, and to whatever extent they (allegedly?) contradict the metaphysics, they are not really science.

There are two possibilities:

Either: (a) The models of physics simply do not warrant these extravagant claims about the nature of time or the impossibility of change. We must always remember that the physics is only a model, and one that is restricted to providing certain mathematical frameworks that allow us to describe and predict certain events. That you can model the earth as a point-mass in no way entitles us to claim that the earth really is a point; likewise, models of time (or "space-time") that leave no room for actual change do not mean that there really is no such thing as change. In fact, change is self-evident, so whatever they may tell us about what change is like or is not like, it cannot be that it doesn't exist at all.

Or: (b) The claims about the nature of time and change can be legitimately extrapolated from the models in the relevant senses, in which case those claims must be compatible with the metaphysics. Note that the concepts of act and potency are based directly on something we know with certainty, namely our experience of change. It doesn't matter what time "really" is, we know it's something, because we have direct experience of it. Physics cannot contradict this experience (at its fundamental and direct level), because it must also be based on those very same experiences — if it is not based on our empirical observations, then it isn't science. Our interpretations and inferences may be wrong, but at root, both the physics and the metaphysics are grounded in the same reality, so they cannot really contradict each other. So if it turns out that "four-dimensionalism" really is a correct description of the world, then it is no problem for A-T, because at most they are describing the same thing in different ways (much as you might describe the same thing using Cartesian co-ordinates or polar co-ordinates — they may sound quite different, but they will always give the same answers because they are describing the same reality).

Mr. Green said...

Red: I don't see how is it just incoherent to deny it there seems to be no contradiction in just saying that lips moving,ice melting,coffee cooling is just an illusion.

They might be illusions, but then your illusions themselves are changing, so "change" still has to be something real. If you think you are looking at an apple, you might be wrong, because you're only hallucinating, but redness itself cannot be a hallucination, because the experience of redness is the actual thing that the hallucination consists of — if there were no such thing as "red", you could not hallucinate the apple in the first place!

Our experience of "change", in the most general sense, is something of which we have direct, irrefutable evidence. Now you might be wrong about what you think change is, or how it works, or anything else, but that there is something that we call change cannot sanely be denied. As Jason said, that would be absurd.

once we have empirical evidence confirming predictions of STR which entails eternalism

But of course, it doesn't entail that — it can't, because the metaphysical claim ("eternalism") operates at a different level from the physical claim (relativity). The only thing physics can entail is that our (best so far) mathematical models can be pictured as an "eternal" world. But it doesn't follow that (a) that is the only way it could be pictured, or (b) that that model or picture can be taken as a literal description of the correct metaphysics.

on the contrary there is no evidence for presentism other than our subjective experience of change. which is no good argument really ..

As indicated in my previous comment, that is the only good argument. If our experiences are wrong(!), then science has no empirical foundation, and is meaningless.

how can first way or any of the five ways be sound if you accept that all moments of time are equally real..just try running them with keeping B-theory in mind they all just become absurd..

What's the absurdity? The only Way that mentions time is the Third, and it's trivial to interpret it as different positions in a spread-out time. Again, whatever you think our experiences of change "really" are, just take A-T as talking about that. If change is "merely" different positions in 4-D (or however you'd like to describe it), then potency is just a way of talking about the "structure" of objects across the fourth dimension, and everything still works. (I do think that there are philosophical problems with block-universe models, but they don't affect the scientific side of things. I echo Jason's recommendation of Scholastic Metaphysics.)

Callum said...

Red,

The reason Scholastic metaphysics is being recommended to you is that it specifically addresses block universes and why Feser thinks they still apply to the First Way.

Anonymous said...

Red,

Relativism by itself doesn't deal with any notion of substance, therefore the treatment of space-time manifolds by a relativist as 'blocks' without change is not directly pertinent to philosophy.

If there is just an observer and/or his instrument with a determinate set of relations given within bounds of that observer's range and space and time are combined as one, then this manifold is just the same as a 'tenseless' idea of time from the very first step. 'Tenseless' time is not empirical, but follows from analysis of relativism. Relativism is theoretical and empirical, but it is not brutally empirical. That relativism can be combined with other physical or metaphysical ideas is my meaning here. Relativism belongs to a body of theories which are empirically applicable and institutionally acceptable and 'appealing to expert authority' is fine in an essay, but not in philosophical argumentation except insofar as that argumentation occurs in an institutional setting which presupposes commonly accepted authorities for all parties to appeal to. Now, I'm not saying that relativism is baseless or something foolish, but only that it is not necessary to see it as you see it and that it can be combined with other notions besides the ones with which it is currently combined.

Red said...

@Green
I don't know what you mean when you say STR doesn't entail eternalism...if we deny absolute simultaneity then there is no objective present...and that is what it proves. you have to,following Craig make use of Neo Lorentzian interpretation which is ...well bad ..surely it would be pseudo scientific to believe in existence of Aether ...

and maybe you can make further correction ..but doesn't five ways require this objective present ?

and surely your response to me seems to be something a little more than that maybe it all mysteriously fits together ..which would be highly unconvincing..
@callum
Does Feser reconciles block conception of universe with first way? I had only seen the heading Against Four dimensionalism on its table of contents but thats not what I was interested in..

but anyway thanks for response ,maybe I really need to do a bit more reading..but these are just my reservations ..

Callum said...

@Red
Feser does argue against four dimensionalism in that section but that is within regards to substances and identity. I'm sure he explains why even a four block universe would still be susceptible to the Act/potency distinction and lead to Pure Actuality. I'll check though, i am may thinking of his essay on internal motion and Einstein in Neo Scholastic essay.

Also, are you aware John Bell argued going back to Lorentz' interpretation due to the results of his theorem? Remember STR has three physical interpretations all empirically equivalent, it doesnt strictly entail any specific one. Rather, it is decided on philosophical arguments so cannot be pseudoscience.

Also, don't you think 'the existence of the aether is silly' is just an argument from incredulity?

Cant recommended Feser's book highly enough, you'll gain from it regardless.

Red said...

@callum
well I am familiar with some of his arguments for reality of act/potency under block universe but they amount to little more than appeals to our modal intuitions about contingency/necessity and feels more like hand waving ..
these are the kinds of arguments he presents in Neo-scholastic essays and in one of his recent talks is scholastic metaphysics any different?

again not being really well read myself I would be arguing from authority but there seems to be no empirical equivalence between those interpretations and thats what every reviewer of WL Craig's lengthy work on this topic suggests check some of them out..clearly empirical evidence favours tenseless theory of time thats why all the scientists and most philosophers accept it and it won't be acceptable to call them all prejudiced, would it? and that does contain theistic some theistic philosophers ..

if Aether is undetectable how can it its existence function as anything in our scientific models of reality , and all metaphysical thesis which require it becomes dubious..

Physicist,blogger and a devout christian Aron Wall has said in the past that he finds Feser's book Scholastic Metaphysics impressive but unconvincing ..


so all this being said even if we accept that A-T arguments have something to them,they are still highly dubious and can't function as rational proofs of rationality of theism,certainly not in a debate with a committed skeptic and thus can't serve as guide to a sound,rational theistic worldview ..which is sad part because thats what its proponents want ..don't they?

Brandon said...

so all this being said even if we accept that A-T arguments have something to them,they are still highly dubious

But why would one want to base anything on appeals to modal intuitions about dubiousness?

Red said...

But why would one want to base anything on appeals to modal intuitions about dubiousness?
I don't get what you're trying to ask...can you be clear?

Jason said...

@Red

"All that you say at best only makes change a really weird phenomenon but I don't see how is it just incoherent to deny it there seems to be no contradiction"

A really weird phenomenon...that describes precisely what you are undergoing while responding to me. You say change (actualization of potential) does not exist; yet a potential is actualized, undeniably and by definition, while you articulate your denial of the reality of change. Are you trying to change our minds on the topic?

"there seems to be no contradiction in just saying that lips moving,ice melting,coffee cooling is just an illusion. once we have empirical evidence confirming predictions of STR which entails eternalism why can't we just assert the non existence of change ?"

And there seems no contradiction in accepting change is real. The empirical evidence on which you rely on to deny change presupposes change viz. in order to test, interpret and draw an inference. By your reasoning, I can simply ask you: why we assert that the theory which you affirm is an illusion?

"there is no evidence for presentism other than our subjective experience of change. which is no good argument really"

So you prefer another's subjective experience and interpretation of experiment and physics rather than your own experience of change?

"maybe some kind of argument from contingency can be run"
Believe it or not, a A-T style argument from contingency (not necessarily the Third Way) would succeed too, seeing as it would not concern time or change.

Here's a question for you: Do you deny that some potentials actualize e.g. a female giving birth?

Callum said...

Red,

I'll check out the talk later to see if it matches with what I read in Scholastic metaphysics. But, prima facie, i find it hard to believe that Feser appeals to modal intuitions! He is quite critical of that route. Fo you have Neo Scholastic essays? Could you reference page numbers to this hand waving?

Regarding the empirical equivalence of the different physical interpretations of SRT, here is a paper by Craig which was presented at a session of the Philosophy of Time Society;

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/response-to-mccall-and-balashov#ixzz4aQe4HVNV

"SR has three different physical interpretations, which are empirically equivalent. During the positivist era, these differences were glossed over, since empirically equivalent theories were thought to be merely different linguistic expressions of the same theory. But with the collapse of positivism, the differences between competing physical interpretations of SR can no longer be ignored, since they entail radically different ontologies."

"My argument is that SR supports a tenseless theory of time only if the Spacetime Interpretation is shown to be the correct interpretation." Though he doesnt list them, he notes that he argues there are powerful objections in his view to the spacetime objection. Either way, I doubt he could get away eith being so blunt and straightforward in saying all interpretations are empirically equivalent at a conference on time, if they weren't. Especially as he was also replying to objections! You'd think it would be noticed that he snuck that elephant in the room.

Check out what Bell has to say regarding returning to Lorentz interpretation. I dont know why you think it makes related metaphysical hypothesis dubious. Note Craig points out that other options also cannot be completely empirically verified "On the contrary, it is empirically impossible to justify the light postulate because we cannot measure the one-way velocity of light".

Callum said...

Red,

Regarding why most scientists favour the space-time interpretation of SR, check out what Tim Maudlin has said on the subject;
http://edwardfeser.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/maudlin-on-philosophy-of-cosmology.html?m=1

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/maudlin-on-time-and-fundamentality-of.html?m=1

Also, I had a read of Aron Walls blog. I liked his series back on the Craig/Carroll debate. Notice that he doesnt actually give his reasons for rejecting Scholastic Metaphysics, apart from a vague appeal to other consistent possibilities.

Take a look at what another physicist, blogger and Christian has to say on Aristotelian ideas with regards to Carroll;

http://inference-review.com/article/good-god

Seeing as they are on the same street, you may be interested in what our host himself had to say regarding Carroll;

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/carroll-on-laws-and-causation.html?m=1


Red said...

Jason said...
A really weird phenomenon...that describes precisely what you are undergoing while responding to me. You say change (actualization of potential) does not exist; yet a potential is actualized, undeniably and by definition, while you articulate your denial of the reality of change. Are you trying to change our minds on the topic?


well I am sorry ..perhaps I was being unclear and muddleheaded here..what you are describing here makes sense but maybe you don't really understood my problem yet...
Its true that these examples you give here can only be correctly called change and it is indeed absurd to deny its existence entirely but ..thats not the issue here... this what you broadly call change is under eternalism/B-theory of time just a mere replacement ..but it does still exist ..e.g An apple is fresh at t1 but is rotten at t2 ..all these times are just different points in 4d space-time,and they all exist simultaneously

but it seems that A-T metaphysics and arguments like five ways require something entirely different ..it requires the view of time knows as presentism ..it requires that Present/Now is somehow objectively privileged e.g Fresh apple goes out of being and rotten apple come
into being .. And that is the view that modern physics certainly refutes ...

Craig's Kalam argument is certainly in his view, predicated from start to finish on presentism and is completely undermined by B-theory of time so he has spent huge amount of time articulating and defending Presentism ..but Dr. Feser never elaborates what his argument requires and how they should function given different views on time.. He causally uses language of of coming into being..becoming etc throughout his work .and that is extremely frustrating...

in short ..let me just ask you this ..does five ways require Privileged present or not? If yes then surely they are dubious

Callum said...

So Red, I think you are way too quick to dismiss A-T as dubious. Some type of change must occur within consciousness itself others it undermines the very empirical observation STR and the space-time theory rests on. You arent going to coherently get rid of all change. Somthing like the act/potency distinction seems unavoidable. Apart from vague and underdeveloped ideas of laws of nature (which seem to encounter an infinte regress problem anyway), there seems to be no way of adequately exlaining the regularity of causation without something like the principle of finality along with efficient causation.

Here's the bottom line for me, no other metaphysics is as powerful over so many domains. The mind body problem seems to be solved only by having some type of intrinsic teleology, whether that is neutral monism or hylemorphism needs more argumentation. The anti-reductionist state of the sciences and biology in particular fits with A-T more than any other system (in and of themselves also add further weight to the principle of finality).

I know no other metaphysical system that can adequately explain the mind-body problem, how the sciences fit together whilst not being plausibly reductionisic and sufficiently address serious metaphysical issues like the regularity of causation, the necessity of there being change at least somewhere, why there exists something rather than nothing and an account of the laws of nature on a par with the best theories. Thats the hallmarks of a powerful metaphysical theory, not a dubious one.

Red said...

Callum
I am sorry if I sound very dismissive but thats not what I am trying to do...of course I hope some form or the other of the cosmological argument is true ..or that the world is teleological but it seems to me that Five ways don't just require affirmation of change in one form or another way too broad sense ...especially if we are arguing for an Abrahamic Monotheistic God and not some Panentheistic Paul Tillich/Mark Johnston-esque necessary ground of being ...
It requires the radical doctrine of presentism which is dubious ..perhaps if you've ever read those heated discussion on Kalam arguments first premise (what it really means that whatever begins to exist has a cause ) you would get the hint...any way five ways don't require absolute beginning of cosmos ..but it does share some of the same intuitive support to the effect that criticism of one is the criticism of the other.....

Has Tim Maudlin had change of views? from what i knew he was a B-theorist ..maybe he is also only saying that we can't coherently say that time is unreal...but problem with A-T is regarding the nature of time..

Callum said...

May i also say Red, that you seem quite influenced by what the mainstream view is. I was very much like this, if a view is right, it surely wouldn't be such a minority. But thats a problem, what matters is whether it is justified. Within the presentist vs eternalist view, you have to take into account just how prevalent positivist tendencies are in scientific academia. This is noted by both Craig and Maudlin among others.

More importantly, there simply is a huge chasm with philosophical views on science, time, maths, causation, metaphysics etc.

For example, the philpaper survey in 2009 showed that the overwhelming believe in a priori knowledge, favour non Humean laws of nature and platonism regarding abstract objects. How comptaible do you think with what physics tells us? Or is there a lot physics leaves out?

I should note that only 26% favoured a B theory of time. Not what you would expect if it was entailed by modern physics!

Callum said...

Red,

Give the posts a read on Maudlin, it also linkd to longer interviews it gives on the topic.

You keep asserting that presentism is dubious but B theory is hardly the overwhelmingly accepted option.

Also, i did have a thought about the kalam the other day. Feser notes that presentism seems to undermine Craig's philosophical arguments for the beginning of the universe;

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.co.uk/2016/09/yeah-but-is-it-actually-actually.html?m=0

I agree that on presentism there isn't an actual existence of concrete things. However, eternalism seems to entail it! Ironically, i think eternalalism may entail a finite universe given the apparent incoherence and paradoxes of actual concrete infinities. Presentism is needed to support the first premise. But, a finite, eternalist would seem to give more credence to the universe being contingent. I accept the PSR, but rationalist arguments for the universe being contingent seem to be either there's no reason to think it is neccessary or appealing to modal intuitions. But a finite universe supports a contingent one. (Compare with how A-T shows the universe cannot be neccessary in principle).

Red said...

well most philosophers don't give their opinion on Philosophy of time ..most consider themselves Insufficiently familiar with the issue ,try selecting the fine response details on that survey also check among those subcategories Philosophy of science and metaphysics ..B-theory is clearly privileged ....

and while I am willing to go with you in thinking that maybe all of them are just prejudiced (somehow) it still won't do me good in an argument against skeptic if i have to appeal to faith(here on presentism) anyway...so its probably no good arguments for accepting theism anyway if the atheist can just point out that he doesn't share our background intuitions regarding the argument,accepts some alternate model of reality etc..

a good argument on the other hand is one which can be run on multiple contrasting models ..and which even Pastor Bob can use to convince an atheist that atleast he is unwarranted in rejecting theism..

Callum said...

Red,

I'm sure Feser has argued not just in Scholastic metaphysics, but in Neo Scholastic essays that any instance of change (read act/potency) is going to result in Pure Actuality. So just one instance of the actualisation of a potential is enough.

Also, I don't think you have thought through carefully enough the situation you are describing. Sure, some type of change in consciousness is unavoidable but the rest could be change. Not so fast.

The argument of Feser and Popper is to show the *minimum* amount of change we must accept. That doesnt mean there isnt any more. And if we have run a reductio ad absurdum against a view which seeks to eliminate all change, we should rightly question whether it is really successful in elimimating any change. If it's original entailment (no change at all) fails, why think the rest doesn't?

But lets put that aside and take for granted there is no intrinsic teleology. How is this helping the atheist? Now, even somewhat naturalistic options in explaining the mind body problem like neutral monism is just as worse as A-T and the eternalist now has made the mind-body problem unintelligible. Further more, by being stuck with just change in the mind, it has made it worse! Now we have a changing mind in and unchanging body.

Also, no intrinsic teleology means that theres no explanation of how anti-reductionist science fits together or, arguably, biology specifically. If we deny final causation, the only way to really explain regularity is to appeal to laws of nature. How exactly does this help the atheist? Remember, if we are going on authority as you are with eternalism, Humean accounts of laws are rejected (and have powerful objections from metaphysics anyway). Apart from adopting instrumentalism (which may end up undermining your whole argument for eternalism in the first place) it seems you are left with Platonic laws (if we reject the Aristotelian view due to an unchanging universe). But explaining how Platonic laws explain regularity is notoriously difficult - how abstract objects or propositions can causally affect or prescribe physical things/events has been one of the Platonic traditions biggest issues!

So when you say that it would be best to describe yourself as a fedeist, you would be letting them off the hook. For on their worldview, they cannot explain why there is something rather than nothing, why there are regularities, either entail a reductionistic view of science which not only seems to be incompatible with how modern science has turned out but incoherent, or simply leaves it a brute fact that science is anti reductionist and finally makes the mind body problem evem worse.

I know which sounds ultimately more fedeistic than the other. .

Callum said...

Red,
But do the results of that not give you pause? Remember, you claim presentism is dubious and that the empirical evidence of modern physics *entails* eternalism. That's hardly what we would expect when less than 35% of philosophers of physical science accept B theory.

Neither am I saying its all down to some prejudice or something. It could be down to a variety of reasons (Maudlin lists some, but I'm not sure if you've read it).

If, as Craig argues, the physical interpretation of SR isnt going to be addressed by empirical observation then its the philosophical arguments which will pull most of the weight.

Also, are you trolling? Since when is presentism based on faith? Its based on the undeniability of change, Craig argues that there are powerful objections to the space-time interpretation on which it rests. There's no faith here, just arguments. If you are so concerned about whether you can win a debate with a skeptic, perhaps you should make yourself more familiar with the literature rather than relying on book reviews. Have you read Craig's book and the books of others in response? Then, you'll weigh what you think is true. Having an opinion based on knowledge of the literature is the best way to argue with a skeptic.

"a good argument on the other hand is one which can be run on multiple contrasting models". I see no reason why this is true when talking about metaphysical notions like time, change or causation. You seem to be failing into the scientism trap where a philosophical argument has to be like a scientific one.

Callum said...

"especially if we are arguing for an Abrahamic Monotheistic God and not some Panentheistic Paul Tillich/Mark Johnston-esque necessary ground of being". This is false, classical theism broadly construed as the acceptance of divine simplicitly is compatible with an eternalist view of the world. Brian Leftow is an example.

Red said...

from what I understand ..in new scholastic essays and here Feser's respons to this type of objection is that we would need pure actuality to explain the contingency of the world...he says something like that the fact that only one possibility obtains among many others means that some potential is actualised so it requires something already actual(and reason for actualization of that on possiblity)..
but its really confusing ..what does it have to do with five ways? its more like an argument making use of PSR ..but it just uses our modal intuition..and they could be mistaken..

although maybe Leibnizian argument is not susceptible to this kind of objection considering one of its most prominent contemporary proponent Alex Pruss is B-theorist ... but it seems to me that the necessary being it proves is a being which is not free and is coexistent with the world...

and I don't know how exactly can physicalism be salvaged from all those issues you raise ..but maybe an atheist following likes of Thomas Nagel ..accept intrinsic teleology but deny that it proves the existence of a Divine being ...again It seems fifth way requires present to be privileged to..argue from teleology to an intelligent being...


Matthew Kirby said...

Red,

Your apparent premise that block universe approaches are the uncontroversial default position of physicists is simply wrong. For example, Relativity and QM are presently incompatible largely with respect to time, and, if anything, cosmologists seem to be preferencing QM in looking for the synthesis that will be the "TOE". The nature of time is still a live question. Indeed, a strictly empirical, positivist attitude would refuse to grant ontological status to hyperplanes of simultaneity, and thus refuse to make metaphysical inferences from their various orientations in space-time. No such "simultaneous" collection of points in space-time can be constructed except intellectually by inference based on observations reliant on time-like interactions. The denial of the reality of the "present" based on considerations of simultaneity ignores the fact that the proper time of each world-line is the only directly observed or experienced time and the prior concept, and is all that is required to ground the actuality of the present.

The other important point to make is that under theistic assumptions, the universe is a block universe from the transcendent perspective, but temporality is real within it. In other words, it reflects just the duality found in physics.

Red said...

Ok ..I do agree with you now that we are justified in accepting presentism ...and not rejecting it out of the bat..but still someone who wants to avoid the conclusion of theistic arguments is equally justified in rejecting it...

and while eternalism might be broadly compatible with existence of a necessary being..but it has bad consequences for theism because it limits God's freedom ..and Problem of evil is strengthened..

out of these reasons Peter van Inwagen ..though a devout christian..is a very harsh critic of natural theological arguments ..and has a radically different views of what philosophy can do ..thats his solution to Problem of evil..

Callum said...

Red,
Have you read Neo Scholastic Essays?

When someone reasons from act/potency to pure actuality they are in line with the First Way. Can i ask if you have read any book of Scholastic approach to natural theology?

Leibniz's cosmological argument is a kind of hat tip to the scholastics in that he tried to summarise their arguments but without relying on their metaphysics. That is why they seem similar.

Regarding Nagel's view of intrinsic teleology. . . You would, afterall, need something like intrinsic teleology which you said was dependent on presentism! So, again, eternalism seems to entail very grave problems for physicalism. Especially if we deny things like finality.

Red said...

Callum

No I haven't read the book Neo Scholastic essays but you can fine large part of his essay on motion in Aristotle,Newton and Einstein on amazon...and I have read Aquinas and TLS and it doesn't even mention this kind of objection much less address it..

Now I might be mistaken but from what I know .Leibniz's cosmological argument is a type of argument which are generally called arguments from contingency..these are conceptually similar to first three ways as they are all arguments for first cause but they do differ a lot in their background metaphysical assumptions ...A-T arguments make use of the concept of causation which requires that contingent substances or things have causes but these other arguments make use of contingent facts,events,state of affairs and some other categories..now I don't know if its true but it seems to me from what I've read that for one substance to cause the other absolutely need presentism ..but maybe some of those other arguments remain untouched by this difficulty..

you remember during his debate with Carroll,Craig reformulated first premise of kalam argument from whatever begins to exist have a cause to ..If the universe began to exist it does have a transcendent cause from what I've read on his site and else where ..thats because one of his colleague Chris Weaver informed him that these days philosophers find this kind of view on causation on which substances stand in causal relations mistaken..so Craig reformulated it because he said that whatever ones view on causation is it should still be accepted that universe Just didn't pop into being out of nothing...
Now Chris on his blog posted some new criticism of craig's argument and also suggested that this reformulation might not make it better..now on that post there was also ..some criticism of Aristotelian view of causation along the same lines...but his blog is unfortunately no longer active..

now all of this can be completely wrong..as Dr.Feser provides detailed defence of his views on Substances,causation etc keeping contemporary view in mind...and I haven't read it...

.....

Presentism is requires I think only to argue from Teleology to Intelligent being..not to affirm its existence in the natural world..


Anonymous said...

"IchBinEinBerliner said...
Illuminating as always, thanks Ed!
Reading your post as well as this recent review of Dennetts new book by Nagel

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2017/03/09/is-consciousness-an-illusion-dennett-evolution/"




I know that this is completely unrelated to the current topic, but... "MARCH 9, 2017 ISSUE"?
What? Does they mean 9th March, or it is just sequential number of the issue?

Anonymous said...

do they mean*

Callum said...

Red,
Good to know you have read Aquinas and TLS, so you are familiar with the basic outline of A-T metaphysics. I'll go over scholastic metaphysics again.

Regarding Leibniz's version of the argument, it can be run on either a substance or events based theory of causation. I would say that the first 3 ways presume a substance view of causation.

I can't see how presentism is required for Intelligence to explain teleology. If you accept that state of affairs (for the sake of argument) can be intelligibly said to have intrinsic teleology for certain outcomes, I don't see how you can maintain said states of affairs which regularly certain other ones don't need an explanantion. That explanation can only be a Divine Mind.

A quick clarification on Chris Weaver, I think it was more of a pointer that a causal theorist could reject the first premise if he isn't a substance causal theorist. Craig is absolutely keen on making arguments which have as open view on various metaphysical positions as possible. However, that doesn't think Craig thinks it's mistaken or even likely to be mistaken, noting a paper by Alfred Freddoso in showing that medieval views of causation are just as defensible today. I haven't read Weaver's blog, but you can understand I'm not going to be impressed just because someone raised objections to Aristotelian views of causation. What matters is how good the objections are. On the flip side, I find that Feser's book has touched on how contemporary Metaphysics has shown the real problems other theories of causation have.



Red said...

Callum said...

I can't see how presentism is required for Intelligence to explain teleology. If you accept that state of affairs (for the sake of argument) can be intelligibly said to have intrinsic teleology for certain outcomes, I don't see how you can maintain said states of affairs which regularly certain other ones don't need an explanation. That explanation can only be a Divine Mind.


Makes sense,cuz on classical theism even universals depend on divine mind but to me here the confusion is that when argument states that in order for the effect to be efficacious it must exist in someway..and that seems to be require presentist view of time in which the effect doesn't exist yet...

But yea the intelligent being might still be required to explain why that one effect obtains ..or why causal regularity exists...

now in an older post i raised similar objection and Dr.Feser's reply was that
Relativity at best affects where we locate potency in physical reality, not whether we need to locate it somewhere there or other, and thus it need not be dealt with at length in a treatment of the Five Ways.

but again my confusion seems to be that this reply might not be cogent because act/potency doesn't just require change in this hugely broad sense(which of course would be undeniable),this apparent Change under block universe could be just a replacement...

well but anyway its good to know that there are many different arguments for theism even on differing views of metaphysics ...


Anonymous said...

Red,

Let's put it this way, the question one should ask a Thomist regarding relativism is this: Is the multiverse of all possible space-time manifolds an adequate substitute for God as the pure Form causing all things?

To the extent that the act/potency distinction applies to the theory of substance and relativity does not deal with substance, questions regarding act/potency might be better related to QM than to relativism. If the Thomist approaches presentism through his theory of substance, then one needn't even bring up modern relativism: One could just ask why hard theological determinism isn't true given that God is the pure form determining all things from eternity. However, God is infinite whereas a particular space-time manifold is within bounds and thus finite. Are the bounds of a particular manifold real limits of a closed system or conventional limits for determining a model 'block'? What is a multiverse of such model blocks? How do the parts of the multiverse relate to one another if real? Why can't God contain all blocks and determine them as containing free creatures (or at least the present one, taken as 'real', if the other ones are 'unreal')? How is any theory of substance to be combined with space-time relativism so as to produce a complete cosmology? Is A-T capable of playing that game? And so on.

FZM said...

Red,

this what you broadly call change is under eternalism/B-theory of time just a mere replacement ..but it does still exist ..e.g An apple is fresh at t1 but is rotten at t2 ..all these times are just different points in 4d space-time,and they all exist simultaneously

This is a question I was thinking about after reading one of your posts a while ago. Given what you describe here why need the 'apple' be treated as a single thing or substance? It seems it could be justifiable to treat the rotten apple and the fresh apple as two different eternally existing things (they have quite different properties). I don't understand how real 'replacement' can be going on, there just seem to be two eternal things with different properties which, possibly due to some form of illusion we experience as the same object?

In some ways this may apply to all the things we identify as substances, objects etc. which we experience as having an identity persisting over time. I am wondering what kind of implications this would have for the experiments that provide empirical support for the idea that there is no real change?

Also, another poster has already noted, I was trying to think about the implications of the fact that change exists only in the mind (not even there?) for philosophy of mind and physicalist explanations of the mind; seems to take mind/body issues to another level of complexity.

Red said...

FZM..

well the comment you quote by me is just a little crude representation of B-theorist
notion of what is called Change... i think its helpful here to distinguish words replacement and becoming both notions seems to denote what we might think of as Change but they are different i think...Give this blog post a read ..I think its more appropriate to call change in the sense of case 1. in this linked blog post replacement as opposed to becoming (thought posts' views differ slightly) ..

but the A-theorist demand is something more ...this something more is like the change we consciously experience ... where objects go in and out being..
and this is the kind of change in the sense of becoming is what arguments like five ways seem to require(again at least to me right now) ...the supposed incoherence that Feser's blog post linked here by user " Callum" ..would be in denying change in its entirety but it won't be in denying Presentism(and thats what my confusion is )

regarding the issues you raise, I have little to no knowledge on the endurantist/perdurantist debate on persistence and identity so I don't know what I should say in response, B-theorists are usually Perdurantists,the user "callum" informs that Feser does argues against Four-dimensionalism based on issues with persistence and substances in "Scholastic Metaphysics" ,a book i haven't read ..

and finally, I don't have much knowledge of implications this have for Physicalist theories of mind...the Embodies Cognition theory might help explain the experience of passage in a physicalist system ..or maybe it does really make physicalism unintelligible.









Red said...

Callum,

Also, are you trolling? Since when is presentism based on faith? Its based on the undeniability of change, Craig argues that there are powerful objections to the space-time interpretation on which it rests. There's no faith here, just arguments. If you are so concerned about whether you can win a debate with a skeptic, perhaps you should make yourself more familiar with the literature rather than relying on book reviews. Have you read Craig's book and the books of others in response? Then, you'll weigh what you think is true. Having an opinion based on knowledge of the literature is the best way to argue with a skeptic.

No, I am not trolling I am so sorry if it seems that way ..maybe I have said something uncritically thinking in these writings for that I apologise...the reason I have to rely on book reviews,comments and afterthoughts is that most of the actual argumentation on both sides are beyond the scope of my knowledge especially Craig's work on the subject is huge and I can't possibly comprehend it all right now..so I have to rely on what other experts say about it...

You seem to be failing into the scientism trap where a philosophical argument has to be like a scientific one
Yea..that seems right regarding Aether being empirically undetectable...maybe I should avoid thinking this is a killer argument against presentism..

Daniel Carriere said...

Off topic, but I am wondering when and if Scholastic Metaphysics will go on Kindle or Audible?

Thanks,
Daniel

Callum said...

Red,
I meant no offence with the whole troll thing. I just thought it was too far to think an A theorist relies on faith. For the record, I think both both serious arguments in their favour and i am far from the most knowledgable on the topic myself!

Im also thankful for the link you gave to Feser's talk in January. The guy needs to have more lectures on youtube! Im looking forward to the next boo on natural theology (but more so on philosophy of nature). Particularly the Augustinian argument from universals. Platonic theories seem to have the uperhand regarding abstract objects, as Feser notes its hard to ignore some type of realism. But nominalism isnt completely out of the picture because of the third man problem i expect.

I really want to read an Aristotelian defence by this guy;

https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=/amp/s/aeon.co/amp/essays/aristotle-was-right-about-mathematics-after-all&ved=0ahUKEwiu87uztMLSAhUFYpoKHbkxCMgQFghPMAo&usg=AFQjCNGoNIVF1IeK3acD9RRwVnrnhS9WpA&sig2=B9a9SwSYshmCcgx_2JnbTA

It seems to combine the strengths of nominalism/platonic theories with none of their weaknesses. As i said, the sign of a great metaphysical thesis is its power throughout different disciplines.

Red said...

an anonymous user first posted that link to Feser's talk on this Post ..

maybe word Faith is too much but A-theorist do have some difficulty in justifying the postulating of Undetectable Aether if in case their argument that it explains the change better fail ..do give that post to Dr.Pruss' blog I shared above a read..

I do realise the Literature on this topic is huge,complex and its evaluation is beyond any combox discussion,both theories might be justified at present but still it would be good to know what sort of view A-T arguments for theism requires,would they get undermined similarly to Craig's formulation of kalam or not?

I am reading through that article...thanks for sharing it..

Tony said...

is that all this talk seems to presuppose wrong view/theory of time-space and persistence ,these views are vastly rejected in contemporary disciplines

Both A-theory and B-theory are somewhat short of "the accepted position" if you cover the fields of physicists and philosophers. The dispute continues. We are rationally free to not pick a side yet. (I think that both theories are importantly deficient / defective).

Experience of passage is only argument tensed theory of time has in its favour but its really as bad an argument as any,experience of time gives us no reason to believe that A-theory is true even if it makes it a little intuitively plausible. A cursory look at papers written by contemporary philosophers on philpapers will tell you that.

"Contemporary philosophers" other than A-T philosophers? Or what? I tend to think that philosophers who actively oppose A-T philosophy are, by and large, either out-and-out ignorant of it, or bad at philosophy, at least so far as I have observed. I haven't read them all.

extremely question begging because an atheist would find no reason to take tense seriously

Except for all the times he actually uses tense to speak, to do science, etc. Except for that. So, who is question begging?

well I am sorry ..perhaps I was being unclear and muddleheaded here..what you are describing here makes sense but maybe you don't really understood my problem yet...
Its true that these examples you give here can only be correctly called change and it is indeed absurd to deny its existence entirely but ..thats not the issue here... this what you broadly call change is under eternalism/B-theory of time just a mere replacement ..but it does still exist ..e.g An apple is fresh at t1 but is rotten at t2 ..all these times are just different points in 4d space-time,and they all exist simultaneously


"Simultaneously?" What does that mean? How about the b-theory philosophers get back to us on their theory when they can describe their theory adequately in a language that HAS NO TENSE in it? Indeed, that has no verbs? Until then, all they can do is describe their theory metaphorically, and not very well at that. Interesting limitation, isn't that?

B) experience of passage of time gives us no reason to prefer tensed theory. Both totally boil down to arguments from authority but this authority are experts so it's justified .

The "expert philosophers" often are anything but. The expert physicists are not experts at philosophy of nature, which is what they need to be to parley their expertise into an account that holds water. cf the continuing fight over "interpretations" of quantum theory. They are stymied. We non-experts are justified in taking their highly disputed dicta with a dollop of quarks.

once we have empirical evidence confirming predictions of STR which entails eternalism why can't we just assert the non existence of change ?

It can only "confirm" on an "interpretation" of the results. See above.

well the comment you quote by me is just a little crude representation of B-theorist
notion of what is called Change... i think its helpful here to distinguish words replacement and becoming both notions seems to denote what we might think of as Change but they are different i think...Give this blog post a read


I read it. It remains, Red, that B-theory has no account for the state of the rotten apple at t2 "after" the good apple at t1, it is just posited. This is neither science nor philosophy. (Dragging in the multiverse, in my opinion, compounds the offense with an absolutely deus ex machina pure invention that contradicts Occam's Razor and should be ruled more offensive than positing God.)

John West said...

It's worth drawing a few distinctions, Red.

The first is between A-theorists and B-theorists. A-theorists think there is an absolute, objective present; B-theorists deny that there is an objective present.

The second is between endurantism, perdurantism, and exdurantism. If a duck endures, it's wholly present both waddling at t1 and flying at t2; if it perdures, it's a spacetime worm with a waddling part at t1 and a flying part at t2; if it exdures, it's a whole object waddling at t1 connected by an “I-relation” to a counterpart whole object flying at t2.

The third is between alterational and existential change. If the duck-waddling-at-t1 is one and the same as the duck-flying-at-t2, that duck has undergone alterational change; if the duck-waddling-at-t1 goes out of existence and is replaced by a duck-flying-at-t2, there has been a case of existential change. Aristotelians sometimes call alterational change accidental change and existential change substantial change.

What people here are trying to uphold is alterational change (and, whether or not there is an objective present, we do seem to have a pretty clear experience of that). Since both perdurantists and exdurantists deny it, it's up to them to convincingly explain it away.

[D]oesn't five ways require this objective present?

Not at all. One can, for example, be both a B-theorist and an endurantist. Then there is no objective present, but things still undergo alterational change.

A B- and temporal parts theorist might think current temporal parts depend on past-relative temporal parts, or non-temporal entities, to have certain potentialities actualized (e.g. their existence). Anyway, nothing in the Five Ways rides on whether or not there is an objective present.

Red said...

John West.
Thanks,this is what I was looking for,

The first is between A-theorists and B-theorists. A-theorists think there is an absolute, objective present; B-theorists deny that there is an objective present.

Yea that is the terminology I'am working with here..though sometimes(somehow) there is a distinction created even between A-theory and Presentism,B-theory and Eternalism and there also exist so called eternalist A-theories.. whole debate is confusing and perplexing as hell...

Your remarks make sense,but few questions..
One can, for example, be both a B-theorist and an endurantist. Then there is no objective present, but things still undergo alterational change.

well first of all I've heard those guys seem to be rare breed,but I won't quibble with that..so it becomes easier to run five ways on eternalism if one combines it with endurntism as opposed to perdurantisms?

A B- and temporal parts theorist might think current temporal parts depend on past-relative temporal parts, or non-temporal entities, to have certain potentialities actualized (e.g. their existence). Anyway, nothing in the Five Ways rides on whether or not there is an objective present. you mean by this statement that even a perdurantist can run five ways?


So act/potency distinction doesn't share same metaphysical commitments to the first premise of kalaam ? Craig is certainly very clear in that he says that whatever begins to exist at t has a cause if it comes into being at (this should be a tensed fact,temporal becoming should be objective) ...it would have been very helpful if Dr.Feser elaborated what he exactly means by a potential being actualized,its just always directly introduced and one spend rest of the book confused and perplexed by all argumentation.

and finally what are the implications eternalism has for classical theist conception of creation according to which creation is God's act of conjoining essence with existence ? can God do that tenselessly ?





jaime lopez said...

Prof Feser could you comment the question of the week on Are My Theistic Arguments Dependent upon a Metaphysical System?

Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/are-my-theistic-arguments-dependent-upon-a-metaphysical-system#ixzz4aesFJwj2 Why is he so disrespectful about Aristotelian-Thomist metaphysic? and can someone reject Aquinas arguments by simply denaying his metaphysic? if so how possibly can a metaphysical argumente be establish?

John West said...

Red:

and finally what are the implications eternalism has for classical theist conception of creation according to which creation is God's act of conjoining essence with existence ? can God do that tenselessly ?

Sure. Why not? God doesn't exist in time anyway.

So act/potency distinction doesn't share the same metaphysical commitments [as?] the first premise of the kalam?

Nope.

I don't mind talking Red, but maybe we should move the “Are the Five Ways and B-theory compatible?” discussion to the forum. It's pretty off-topic here. (Part of the reason we (some of the regulars here) opened the forum was to give people a place to ask off-topic questions without derailing Ed's threads.)

James said...

Quite a philosopher, but too bad about the whole Darth Maul thing.

Red said...

John West,

ohh well I wasn't aware of existence of that forum..and I'am surprised to see this same issue discussed there frequently..

sorry about that thread derailing thing..I didn't mean to go this much into it but no one was posting anything related to philosophy of mind so ..

and I have got to thinking that eternalism might not be this killer objection to five ways as I have always thought..it still seems problematic though.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ John West,

”God doesn't exist in time anyway.”

To speak of the “existence of God” can be misleading. The idea is not that besides all the many things we all agree exist (such as apples or mountains or colors or people) theism claims that also God exists. Theism is not the claim that God belongs to the set of all existents. Theism is a claim about the nature of existence itself, namely that existence is grounded in God. Theists and naturalists agree with the proposition “apples exist” but mean something quite different by it. The fundamental difference between theism and naturalism is not about what exists, but about that existence is.

Case in point the expression “We exist in time, but God doesn't”. What does this actually mean?

I'd like to to suggest two propositions I trust we all agree:

1. We ourselves living in this world and experiencing and acting in space and time, the whole of the human condition, is created by God. But God's condition is not limited in the way we are.

2. By special providence God takes an active part in this world often actively interacting with us in space and time. As far as God's interaction with us goes, God does experience space and time. Surely it's not like only we can experience God's space and time, but God cannot :-)

Perhaps a concise way to put it is: “We only live in space and time, but God is not thus limited.” But then it would be appropriate to say “God is both inside and outside of time.”

John West said...

To speak of the “existence of God” can be misleading. The idea is not that besides all the many things we all agree exist (such as apples or mountains or colors or people) theism claims that also God exists. Theism is not the claim that God belongs to the set of all existents.

Both beings and God exist, if we're willing to use “exist” analogically. Beings exist contingently and derivatively; God's existence is identical with his essence. (We can, using the latter sense, say that “Existence Itself exists”.)

Drop me a line at the forum in a couple weeks if you want to talk about God and Being (esse), or the Problem of Being.

John West said...

By special providence God takes an active part in this world often actively interacting with us in space and time.

God doesn't have to exist in space or time to interact with things in space and time. (Regularity theorists probably think he has to, but there is nothing in either dispositionalist or primitivist accounts of causation requiring that causal relations' relata all exist in space or time.)

2. By special providence God takes an active part in this world often actively interacting with us in space and time. As far as God's interaction with us goes, God does experience space and time. Surely it's not like only we can experience God's space and time, but God cannot :-)

It's worth distinguishing between God experiencing space and God existing in space. It seems epistemically possible that all-knowing God could have my first-person experiences in order to have knowledge he would otherwise lack. (I don't know. Maybe.) It's, however, probably not possible for God to both exist in space and not exist in space (to be both spatial and non-spatial).* The latter looks like a contradiction.*

Out of curiosity, would you be willing to make the same point about God and change?

*It's not as if God has parts, and half of him can exist in space while the other half doesn't.
*Perhaps people with more mystical conceptions of God (who think we can only talk about him negatively) can claim that this is only a contradiction within the Discursive Framework. I don't know.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ John West,

”It seems epistemically possible that all-knowing God could have my first-person experiences in order to have knowledge he would otherwise lack.”

Omniscience (classically understood) entails that God has my first-person experiences, doesn't it?

” It's, however, probably not possible for God to both exist in space and not exist in space (to be both spatial and non-spatial).* The latter looks like a contradiction.*”

I think we should be careful with the concept of contradiction. It is defined and holds in formal logic, including propositional logic – as long as the propositions used have a clear meaning. But propositions do not always have a clear meaning. Consider the two propositions “The apple is inside the box” and “The apple is not inside the box”. It would seem that one and only one of these two propositions must be true. But in fact this depends on the nature of the apple, and thus on what exactly we mean by “apple”. If you are a physical realist then, interestingly enough, the original realist understanding of quantum physics entails that the apple may well be both inside and outside the box. Suppose reality is just like the Copenhagen realist interpretation of quantum physics has it. Then it's not like propositional logic is falsified. Rather our improved understanding of reality has rendered the above two propositions imprecise and perhaps meaningless.

If we should think carefully about the nature of apples when forming propositions about them, imagine how much care we owe to propositions about God. Incidentally, the clearest propositions and in any case the most relevant propositions about God refer to our personal relationship with the person of God. Our knowledge of God is the knowledge of a person loving another.

[continues below]

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

[continues from above]

”Out of curiosity, would you be willing to make the same point about God and change?”

Yes of course. In fact I find it rather scandalous how an ancient idea has troubled philosophy for so long. The ancient and evidently correct idea is that since God is the metaphysical ultimate (or the first mover) God is simple and immutable. But it's not a given that God is *nothing but* the metaphysical ultimate, and thus it does not follow that God is nothing but simple and immutable. Indeed given St Anselm's definition God is not just the simple and immutable metaphysical ultimate, since we can very easily conceive of a being greater than that. In Christianity we find that there is something about God (the metaphysical ultimate) that is simple and immutable, and something about God (the incarnated Christ) who is complex and changing (was born here, said these words there, died on the cross, was resurrected, and so on).

Consider something as simple as an ideal sphere spinning. Its center is immutable and simple but the sphere as as whole is not. If a spinning sphere can be both simple and immutable in its center and complex and moving as a whole, so can God.

In general there is extremely little that one may think limits God. After all reality is what God wills. So if God (being not only the simple and immutable metaphysical ultimate) wants to grow and change and take part in creation as a personal being in time in space or perhaps in many spaces at once – who are we to say “According to our concepts or according to our metaphysics God can't do that”. I say if God wants to then God can and will do that.

So the only question we may wonder is what God, being the greatest conceivable being, would want. Would God want to interact with us who live in space in time? Would God want to experience space and time while interacting with us? On the Christian story, indeed on theism as contrasted to deism, the answer to the first question is a clear yes. In my mind the answer to the second question is also yes. Why? First because as a Christian I believe God already did so in the incarnation of Christ. Surely it's not like the incarnated Christ only pretended to experience space and time – we all agree that the incarnated Christ was fully human. Secondly because on my sense of greatness that is what God would want to do – to come close to us always. And thirdly because it seems to me this is what is revealed to us in our spiritual experience of the living Christ. One does not experience Christ as a being who is not experiencing space in time. Rather one experiences Christ as the disciples experienced Him albeit not in the flesh.

Incidentally, here I am not talking about some high mystical experiences, but as the present and common experience we have of Christ when we read the gospels or pray. That person who is a member of our acquaintances, that person we personally know, and to whom we call to in moments of joy or sadness. We experience that person as a person experiencing our time and being close to us in space. And as I explained above I see much reason to hold and no reason to doubt that our personal experience of Christ is truth tracking in these respects.

Anonymous said...

A recent posting by Craig on his rejection of the A-T framework and metaphysical systems in general:

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/are-my-theistic-arguments-dependent-upon-a-metaphysical-system

John West said...

Omniscience (classically understood) entails that God has my first-person experiences, doesn't it?

I'm staying out of this one. :-)

(You might like Daniel's old post on God and de se knowledge.)

John West said...

I think we should be careful with the concept of contradiction. It is defined and holds in formal logic, including propositional logic – as long as the propositions used have a clear meaning. But propositions do not always have a clear meaning. Consider the two propositions “The apple is inside the box” and “The apple is not inside the box”. It would seem that one and only one of these two propositions must be true. But in fact this depends on the nature of the apple, and thus on what exactly we mean by “apple”.

This is fair. (I accepted Armstrong's multilocated universals in space until recently, which provide another example.) But it won't help you here.

Suppose relationalism about space. Then your claim that God both does and doesn't exist in space amounts to the claim that God both does and doesn't instantiate a spatial relational property. (God's side of the spatial relation he stands in.) Since, however, something either instantiates a property or doesn't, this is absurd.

Suppose substantivalism about space. Then your claim that God both does and doesn't exist in space amounts to the claim that God both does and doesn't instantiate a relational property of being at a spatial location. Since, however, something either instantiates a property or doesn't, the substantivalist case comes out as absurd as the relationalist one.

I can't think of any other accounts of space that come out better.

Consider something as simple as an ideal sphere spinning. Its center is immutable and simple but the sphere as as whole is not. If a spinning sphere can be both simple and immutable in its center and complex and moving as a whole, so can God.

The center of a sphere isn't simple in the relevant sense. It, for instance, still has properties. It's not immutable either. I can pick up the sphere and change its location, or destroy it.

It's absurd to say that something is both immutable and can change.

John West said...

So the only question we may wonder is what God, being the greatest conceivable being, would want. Would God want to interact with us who live in space in time? Would God want to experience space and time while interacting with us? On the Christian story, indeed on theism as contrasted to deism, the answer to the first question is a clear yes. In my mind the answer to the second question is also yes. Why? First because as a Christian I believe God already did so in the incarnation of Christ. Surely it's not like the incarnated Christ only pretended to experience space and time – we all agree that the incarnated Christ was fully human. Secondly because on my sense of greatness that is what God would want to do – to come close to us always. And thirdly because it seems to me this is what is revealed to us in our spiritual experience of the living Christ. One does not experience Christ as a being who is not experiencing space in time. Rather one experiences Christ as the disciples experienced Him albeit not in the flesh.

Hah. This argument is interesting. Alas, I have no religion.

I haven't read enough Incarnation literature to play advocatus diaboli, either.

(For what it's worth, I suspect the Incarnation the sort of thing scholastics spent decades dissolving the problems around.)

Gyan said...

Dianelos,

"original realist understanding of quantum physics entails that the apple may well be both inside and outside the box."

Rather a misunderstanding of quantum mechanics.

grodrigues said...

"If you are a physical realist then, interestingly enough, the original realist understanding of quantum physics entails that the apple may well be both inside and outside the box. Suppose reality is just like the Copenhagen realist interpretation of quantum physics has it."

As Gyan said this is false, and demonstrably so. Neither Bohr, nor Heisenberg nor any serious physicist I know has ever maintained this. Bohr (the closest that comes to a "Copenhagen realist") is fairly explicit and insistent in all his writings on the logical consistency of QM.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ John West,

You might like Daniel's old post on God and de se knowledge.”

I did find it interesting, because I had no idea people doubted that God can and almost certainly does choose to know how it is like to be anyone of us. After all to know how it is like to be another person is a faculty we ourselves possess, albeit in a very weak from. It's called empathy. So subjective experience must not be private, not even among humans. Our subjective experience is to a tiny degree transparent to those around us, and especially to those who love us. There is no reason why there can't be conditions of personal experience where that faculty is stronger, up to complete transparency.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ John West,

”something either instantiates a property or doesn't”

I have a problem with such sweeping principles. Actually I sometimes have the impression that instead of philosophers using concepts it's concepts that use philosophers :-)

I suppose here you mean essential properties that define what a thing is. For example an essential property of solids is whether they have edges or not. So according to your principle the proposition “a solid either or hasn't edges” is necessarily true. But it isn't: Consider a reality in which by nature cubes pulsate between being cubes and spheres. In that reality your principle does not hold. Perhaps you'll respond that philosophy is about the actual reality and not about any reality one may imagine. True, but we don't know how actual reality is, and that's why we are doing metaphysics, discussing about theism versus naturalism, and so on. As long as reality is such that it would produce the human condition – which is all the data we have – everything goes. Take an essential proposition near to home: namely being a human. Using your principle one might suggest that a biological organism cannot be both a human and a beetle. But suppose that our own nature in actual reality is such that we pulsate between being humans and beetles, but in the state of being human we have no recollection of our experiences of being beetles and vice-versa. That's possible, isn't it? So sweeping propositions like the above which define what is possible and what isn't are misleading since by fiat they exclude a huge subset of possible realities.

Now the skeptical conundrum looks serious but in fact isn't. As life is too short and thinking is too useful to waste it, here is a reasonable epistemological principle: Think only about propositions that are worth thinking about, which are those propositions that have a meaning that can possibly matter to you. In the sense that there is something that might affect your condition depending on whether that proposition is true or not. “I am in way entirely invisible to me pulsating between being a human and being a beetle” is not such a proposition and therefore not worth thinking about. Philosophy is a practical business.

To know how reality actually is does greatly matter to me. To know of the truth of theism and why it hurts to live in a way not consistent with this fact, matters in the same way that it matters to know that walls are hard and why it hurts to try to walk through them. I am not saying that theism is true, I am saying theism is an idea worth thinking about it. As is any other metaphysical view that entails a pragmatical effect in our lives.

Coming back to our discussion the issue was my claim that God is both outside and inside of space. I think this is true (indeed clearly so), but you responded it's a logical impossibility. I explained why I think it is true. Can you, without using what are at bottom ad-hoc principles, explain why you think it is impossible? I say it is possible for God do be both outside and inside of space; why should I worry that it isn't unless you provide a concrete reason to doubt it?

Incidentally in metaphysics possibility is always the default position. Everything is in principle possible because we can think about everything. Thus the burden of proof is on the side of the one who claims it. Take for example metaphysical naturalism. I find it is unreasonable to the point of absurdity, but it is certainly possibly true since one can easily describe a naturalistic reality which would produce the entire human condition and thus all data we have on which to ground our beliefs about reality. Strictly speaking the only realm where one can claim impossibility propositions are my immediate and current experiences and whatever is entailed by them. In conclusion: I am not asking you to prove to me that it is impossible for God to be both inside and outside of space. I am asking you to give me any reason whatsoever why I should doubt that this is possible.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ John West,

“The center of a sphere isn't simple in the relevant sense. It, for instance, still has properties. It's not immutable either. I can pick up the sphere and change its location, or destroy it.”

I think the center of a sphere is simple in the relevant sense because it has no parts. As for having properties, God as understood by ancient (and thus primitive) theology also had properties, such as being the metaphysical ground of reality, as being simple, as being immutable, as being the creator of the world (and to say that all these are identical to each other does not make of them non-properties). And I am positing an ideal sphere not a sphere you can pick up and move around. I mean neither can you pick up and move the first mover :-)

”It's absurd to say that something is both immutable and can change.”

Actually I am saying that God is both immutable and does change. God is immutable like the center of a spinning sphere is unmovable, and changes like the rest of the sphere moves. I think it's a big failure of our powers of cognition to hold that God is nothing but simple and immutable. Not to mention grossly violates Anselm's definition. Again, give me a reason why I should doubt that God is both the unchangeable first mover and the changeable personal creator who actively, indeed interactively with us, participates in creation.

doubter said...

I have a problem with such sweeping principles

True, but we don't know how actual reality is

Using your principle one might suggest that a biological organism cannot be both a human and a beetle. But suppose that our own nature in actual reality is such that we pulsate between being humans and beetles, but in the state of being human we have no recollection of our experiences of being beetles and vice-versa. That's possible, isn't it?

Now the skeptical conundrum looks serious but in fact isn't. As life is too short and thinking is too useful to waste it, here is a reasonable epistemological principle: Think only about propositions that are worth thinking about, which are those propositions that have a meaning that can possibly matter to you.

Take for example metaphysical naturalism. I find it is unreasonable to the point of absurdity, but it is certainly possibly true since one can easily describe a naturalistic reality which would produce the entire human condition and thus all data we have on which to ground our beliefs about reality. Strictly speaking the only realm where one can claim impossibility propositions are my immediate and current experiences and whatever is entailed by them.


Again, give me a reason why I should doubt that God is both the unchangeable first mover and the changeable personal creator

Words are inadequate. There is no way to describe this gibberish sufficiently. You've heard of the random Kant generator? Well, this is like a random sludge generator. Just string any words and sentences together and see what slime flows out.

John West said...

As for having properties, God as understood by ancient (and thus primitive) theology also had properties, such as being the metaphysical ground of reality, as being simple, as being immutable, as being the creator of the world (and to say that all these are identical to each other does not make of them non-properties).

God has properties in the sense that different predicates apply to him, but not in the sense that he has real, irreducible properties. (When I said the center of the sphere has properties earlier, I was talking about real, irreducible properties earlier.)

Here is another argument. Since the center of a sphere is a contingent, non-God entity, it's at least complex in that its essence and existence are distinct. Hence, it's not simple in the relevant sense. (If it were, it would be ipsum esse subsistens.)

The sphere center's contingency means that it's not immutable either.

John West said...

I suppose here you mean essential properties that define what a thing is.

Nope. I mean any property at all.

So according to your principle the proposition “a solid either or hasn't edges” is necessarily true.

My principle, I suppose, was that some one thing can't both have and not have a property at the same time, in the same respect.* (The qualifications are completely standard.)

I could argue using the indiscernibility of identicals: if two entities are absolutely identical, they must have the exact same properties; every entity is absolutely identical with itself; hence, every entity must have exactly the same properties as itself*; hence, nothing can both have and not have a relational property. But I don't need to.

*Compare to Aristotle's first version of the principle of non-contradiction: “It is impossible for the same thing to belong and not belong at the same time to the same thing and in the same respect.” (Metaph IV 3 1005b19–20)
*Look at how self-evident the second last conclusion is on its own.

John West said...

Consider a reality in which by nature cubes pulsate between being cubes and spheres. In that reality [the principle I'm attributing to you] does not hold.

Your shape is a cube at one time and a sphere at another. It doesn't both have and not have a property at the same time, in the same respect.

Can you, without using what are at bottom ad-hoc principles, explain why you think it is impossible?

I'm arguing from a principle that either goes back as far, or can be derived from similar principles that go back as far, as the Ancients. (It's not ad hoc. I didn't create the principle just to reply to you.)

Anyway, it has been fun, but I have lots to do next week. :-)

Timocrates said...

It is only if we try to reduce all causation to the efficient kind that it will seem that we need to understand an object’s persistence over time in terms of efficient causation, and then conjure something like events or temporal parts to serve as the purported relata.

This was rather generous of you, Professor Feser. You can't have events if all you have is efficient causation: if we only have efficient causation, then there are no products or effects at all. Agents make and cause things distinct in some way from themselves; of course, you need either formal or material causes here to account for that distinction and also to provide a terminus of the change.

For example, X makes B out of A (a sculptor [efficient cause] makes a statue [formal cause, terminus of the change and effect] out of bronze [material cause and subject of the change]).

Even if we include material causation we still have many problems (for what differentiates matter). Rearranging things would at least be a formal change: so even if the physical world were somehow reducible to simple uniform bodies of a finite amount that never in themselves changed, then all the difference and changes we actually see and need to account for would follow from formal changes in the relations of those bodies to one another (increased or decreased distance, say, causing rarity and density for example). Somehow the distances between those bodies would have to be real - in fact, even hyper-real - to account for all the change and difference we see and experience in the world, even though that wouldn't be matter.

The early modern Atomists tried for a while to have a physical system that did have specifically the same simple bodies account for everything, but rather quickly these needed to be diversified into electrons, protons and neutrons (with photons being added later) and now we have also the sub-atomic particles.

Timocrates said...

Correction/clarification: to account for all the change and difference we see and experience in the world, even though that [increased or decreased distance] wouldn't [itself] be matter [or efficient causation either for that matter]

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ Gyan

”Rather a misunderstanding of quantum mechanics.”

Actually there is nothing that can possibly be “misunderstood” in quantum mechanics. QM is the description of a mathematical pattern or order present in physical phenomena. QM's usefulness relies on the fact that it provides us with a mathematical method to make exact probabilistic predictions about the observable result of many experiments (actually in its current form of all experiments in which gravity has no significant relevance). That's why QM has been used so extensively to build useful machines. No mystery so far, and in general no need to understand anything beyond the complicated but dumb matter of how to apply QM's equations, something one may easily enough program a computer to do.

Things became mysterious when people tried to understand what QM says about physical reality. Most physical scientists then (as today) are physical realists and believe that the equations of science do not only describe order of physical phenomena but actual physical reality. The order QM revealed is present in quantum phenomena is a statistical order. The question then was what mechanical reality would produce that statistical order for us to observe. Surprisingly enough that question turned out to be very difficult to answer. It's not that it can't be answered, but each possible realist suggestion appeared to do more harm than good as a defense of physical realism, because it sounded crazy. The very fact of there being so many realist theories, each perfectly respecting QM, greatly weakens he idea that the physical sciences are sufficient for understanding reality, or even just physical reality.

First a few words about QM. QM describes the state of a physical thing by its so-called wavefunction (which is mathematically specified by the Shroedinger equation, the fundamental equation of QM). The wavefunction of a thing is a field of numbers in space and evolves through time (“space” here is all space around the original position of the thing as far as the speed of light allows). So for example by using these numbers at some particular time and within a particular volume of space QM tells us with what probability this physical thing will be observed located in that volume at that time. Similarly all physical properties of a thing can be read from the numerical values of its wavefunction.

Now on physical realism scientific equations do not only describe phenomena but also the reality that produces them. Thus, for example, if Newton's equations describe a force field around masses then there is in fact such a force field around masses. But QM describes an electron or an apple as physical things that are smeared all over the universe. But when we make an observation, say use an electron detector or look at the apple, then it is always found in one place. Different solutions were proposed to this radical difference between physical reality as we observe it and physical reality as described by the equations. The Copenhagen interpretation said that when an observation is made the smeared out thing “collapses” in the concrete thing we observe. The many minds interpretation said that things are always concrete and it's observers who are smeared out each observing things differently. The many worlds interpretation said that both things and observers are concrete but the entire universe is all the time branching in a multitude of parallel universes in which concrete observers observe concrete things in the right statistical proportions. There is Bohm's interpretation according to which there is one universe and only concrete things and concrete observers, but that reality works as a kind of deterministic computer (the “pilot”) which produces observations that satisfy QM's statistical predictions; the smeared-out nature of each thing describes how that thing is represented in that computing reality.

[continues below]

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

[continues from above]

Now let's go back to the Copenhagen realist interpretation. It is the first one, and the one most often taught at school (since as it happens realist visualization is helpful when learning and using physics). I want to discuss why this realist interpretation says that the apple can be both outside and inside a box. Consider a closed system consisting of a table with an apple and an empty box on it, and let's (on physical realism) ask where the apple will be located after one second (t1) and after two seconds (t2). According to classical mechanics the probability that either at t1 or t2 we shall observe the apple being inside the box is zero, but according to QM that probability is very small but greater than zero. The idea is that a thing without any cause at all can move from the outside to the inside of the box. That idea violates both our traditional instincts about reality (the efficient cause) and about epistemology (the PSR), but today we know it's a fact. We have constructed machines, such as tunnel microscopes, which are based precisely on this fact.

But this is not the mystery. One can easily enough reconstruct one's instincts and conceptualize that it's in the nature of physical things to magically materialize elsewhere (or with much greater probability desintegrate all over the place), while explaining that such phenomena are so extremely rare for the large objects we deal with in our daily lives the we hadn't noticed their existence and that's why we formed false instincts. The mystery (or part of the mystery) the physical realist encounters is this: Suppose in t2 we are very lucky and observe the apple in the box; it still holds that the apple is either inside or outside the box, and one assumes this would also hold at t1. Unfortunately for the physical realist one can devise experiments where it can't be the case that at t1 the apple was either inside or outside the box. There are statistical observations that result from so-called superposition experiments which on physical realism only make sense if one assumes that a single physical thing has existed in two places at once and therefore interfered which itself. (This holds on all realist interpretations of QM; for example on many-worlds one thing exists at the same time in different universes; under the right circumstances these instances interfere with each other across the universes.) QM is of general applicability but it was once thought that such interferences can produce observable results only when using very small things such as elementary particles. We know today that this is not the case; there is no physical impossibility in putting an object large enough to be visible by the naked eye to be in two places at once, even though when we look we shall of course see it only in one place (we say that observation “decoheres” the superposition). Again: If every time we look we only see things in one place why must we assume that before looking it was in two places at once? Because on physical realism statistical features of what we see make it necessary for this to be the case.

[continues below]

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

[continues from above]

So why is it so mysterious that a thing might exist in two places at once? Because a thing that is in two places at once loses one of its essential properties, namely of location. There are many other physical properties that can be in superposition; so for example in the laboratory we have actually produced supeconducting rings in which electrical current flows in the two opposite directions at once. Other kinds of experiments, the so-called delayed choice experiments, tell us what the physical state of a thing in the past depends on what we choose to do today. According to the realist interpretation of quantum field theory (a major advance of the original theory) if a thing at t1 is observed here and at t2 is observed there, then between t1 and t2 that thing has moved through all possible trajectories and speeds between these two locations. In general Copenhagen's realist interpretation of QM appears to dissolve the concept of “thing”, and produces a picture of reality with no borders where everything runs into each other across space and time. Almost as different a picture of reality as one can imagine compared to the one we observe when looking and moving around.

In conclusion: The realist interpretation of QM, i.e. the idea that there is some mechanical physical reality out there which produces our observations of the physical universe, turns out to be mired in deep conceptual problems, and the way physical realists have been known to talk borders on the insane. Now given that metaphysics is of little practical use when building useful machines or advancing science, physicists have pretty much stopped thinking or speaking about this. Physicists keep using realist language of course (again it's a feature of our mind that it's easier to think in this way), but in a more or less openly metaphorical way, so for example they talk about the color of quarks, about strings, and so on. The fact remains that, as physicist Nick Herbert puts it in his book “Quantum Reality”, one of the best kept secrets of our time is that physics has lost its grip on reality. And philosophers who are physical realists (including I take it most theistic philosophers) either ignore the problem or else behave as this is some kind of acceptable state of affairs, perhaps trusting that in due time science will solve their problems. For all problems we have been discussing here are not science's problems which is happily and productively advancing knowledge, while physical realists are left behind to see what they do with the problematic implications.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ grodriguez,

”Bohr (the closest that comes to a "Copenhagen realist") is fairly explicit and insistent in all his writings on the logical consistency of QM.”

As I said above, the scientific theory of QM, is a mathematical method for calculating experimental results. It is not the kind of thing that might be logically inconsistent. So I assume that here by “QM” you mean the “Copenhagen realist interpretation of QM”.

Then I agree, that interpretation is logically consistent. It works. On the other hand I don't understand why you should think that the claim “this apple exists both inside and outside the box” is logically inconsistent. If physical realism is true then reality might well be like the Copenhagen interpretation describes. That interpretation may violate many of our previously held realist instincts, but from this it doesn't follow that it is logically inconsistent. After all we do agree that air may exist both outside and inside the box. Well, perhaps the nature of the apple is similar to air's in this respect.

Incidentally an interesting idea somebody proposed is that physical reality is a hologram. A hologram can produce a picture for us to observe but has the property that the information of each part of the picture is smeared all over the hologram. So, if you destroy one half of the hologram you can still see the whole picture albeit in less detail. The “reality is a hologram” idea suggests that all things that exist are located everywhere. I wonder what Aquinas would say about this possibility :-)

grodrigues said...

@Danielos Georgoudis:

"As I said above, the scientific theory of QM, is a mathematical method for calculating experimental results. It is not the kind of thing that might be logically inconsistent."

This is just rubbish. On so many levels. For starters, and as I have just pointed out, the primary "Copenhagen interpretation" advocate, Niels Bohr, insists on all his writings on the logical consistency of QM -- it is just a matter of reading his papers.

If it were not the "kind of thing that might be logically inconsistent", it likewise is not the kind of thing that has logical entailments and implications. But "a mathematical method for calculating experimental results" just is a case of a logical entailment of the theory. If it is not the sort of thing that has logical entailments, it is puzzling where all these alleged entailments of QM about an apple being able to be in two places at the same time that you keep churning out come from. Out of thin air?

"On the other hand I don't understand why you should think that the claim “this apple exists both inside and outside the box” is logically inconsistent."

Then you do not know what logically inconsistent means. Being outside of the box is the negation of being inside the box, so yes, the claim is a logical inconsistency.

"After all we do agree that air may exist both outside and inside the box. Well, perhaps the nature of the apple is similar to air's in this respect."

Your original claim about apples had nothing to do with being extended in space like air, which is a whole different claim and a hardly surprising one, but about the alleged QM entailment that a thing can be in two places at the same time. But this latter claim is provably false (the QM proof is elementary), so yes, what you are asserting either is, per the above, or entails a, contradiction.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ grodriguez,

My argument is that it is an error to conflate physical science with physical realism. Physical realism may be false, while all that physics says stay true.

The end of physics is to find mathematical order within physical phenomena. So for example we do not today have a mathematical model that covers both quantum and gravitational phenomena. If somebody finds a way to do it, specifically, if somebody finds a unified mathematical model that would produce the results both QM and GR produce, then she would get the Nobel price. Nobody would first check what the realist implications of her mathematics are. That's why physicists qua physicists do not worry about the QM realist interpretation saga.

Or let me put this way: Suppose tomorrow it was proven beyond reasonable doubt that we live in a computer simulation, i.e. that all conscious experience including the experience of the physical world which the physical science studies are produced by a computer in an invisible realm of reality. That could be proven, for example, if tomorrow we saw the night stars in heaven move to form the sentence “Attention Earthlings, you are living in a computer simulation”. If that were to pass not one iota would have to be changed in the books about physics, proving that the books about physics are not about physical reality.

A few comments that perhaps will clarify what I mean. You write:

”But "a mathematical method for calculating experimental results" just is a case of a logical entailment of the theory.”

Right, but this does not imply that the theory is the kind of thing that may suffer from logical inconsistencies. “P(i) = 1/6” is an equation that describes what we shall observe if we throw a die and entails a mathematical method (trivial in this case) for computing that probability. The results of applying this mechanical mathematical method may or may not agree with experience, but there is nothing that might be “logically inconsistent” in the whole business.

If you program a computer to realize for you the mathematical method entailed in QM you have a computer that works on binary logic. There can't be anything “logically inconsistent” in the operation of that computer.

”It is puzzling where all these alleged entailments of QM about an apple being able to be in two places at the same time that you keep churning out come from.”

QM does not imply that two apples can be in two places at the same time. The Copenhagen realist interpretation of QM does that. Other interpretations, e.g. the many worlds interpretation or the Bohm interpretation, very clearly do not.

”Your original claim about apples had nothing to do with being extended in space like air”

QM describes the apple by its wavefunction which is extended in space like air. If you are a physical realist you take this fact seriously.

Actually, to be precise, you do that if you are a scientific realist. But I don't know a physical realist who is not a scientific realist. If not on physical science where is the physical realist to base her knowledge about physical reality? On the other hand that this difference exists opens an escape hatch for A-T metaphysics which I understand (please correct me if I am wrong) entails physical realism: So the A-T metaphysicist may reject scientific realism while retaining the premises of A-T.

Incidentally to reject scientific realism as unreasonable at one stoke wipes out the nonsense that natural evolution disproves theism. This can be shown to be nonsense even on the assumption that scientific realism is true, but it's much easier to put it to sleep when showing that given the deliverances of modern science it is unreasonable to believe in scientific realism in the first place.

grodrigues said...

@Danielos Georgoudis:

"My argument is that it is an error to conflate physical science with physical realism. Physical realism may be false, while all that physics says stay true."

An "argument" I did not comment on anywhere in my response -- I believe I have not written "physical realism" even once. What I objected to are the provable falsehoods you asserted.

"Right, but this does not imply that the theory is the kind of thing that may suffer from logical inconsistencies."

Once again this is just rubbish for the reasons I have stated. Of course physical theories have logical entailments. Being inconsistent just means entailing an inconsistency, ergo physical theories can be inconsistent -- in which case they are also useless, as by the principle of explosion they entail everything and nothing, and thus are useless for predicting correlations.

"QM does not imply that two apples can be in two places at the same time. The Copenhagen realist interpretation of QM does that."

The "Copenhagen realist interpretation" does nowhere imply that. First, while I know what the "Copenhagen interpretation" is (roughly, it can be identified with what Bohr defended), I am not sure what "Copenhagen realist interpretation" is -- Bohr was not exactly a staunch realist. Second, actually reading Bohr quickly disabuses one of such falsehoods: nowhere does he state such a thing, nowhere. It is on the level of an urban myth. On the contrary, he *insists* on the logical consistency of QM. Third, if the "Copenhagen realist interpretation" implied that it would imply that QM was inconsistent.

"QM describes the apple by its wavefunction which is extended in space like air. If you are a physical realist you take this fact seriously."

Yes, an apple is described by a line in a Hilbert space (in common cases, L_2-spaces of sections of vector bundles). This nowhere implies that the apple is at two places at the same time; because as I keep saying, if it did, it would entail that QM was inconsistent. What a physical realist takes seriously is what physical realists take seriously, not what Danielos Georgoudis thinks they ought to take seriously. In particular, it neither means that they take the state vector as a real extra-mental entity (some do, some do not) and more important of all, for that is what I objected to, it does not mean that they ought to embrace logical inconsistencies. But I am not here to defend physical realism.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ grodriguez,

”I believe I have not written "physical realism" even once. What I objected to are the provable falsehoods you asserted.”

Well, my subject matter is physical realism, and how modern science has rendered it an unreasonable belief. As for the “provable falsehoods” you keep mentioning what Bohr hasn't said, when I haven't made any claims about Bohr saying that a thing can be located in two places at once. The Copenhagen interpretation is what is taught at school, and even though Bohr (as pretty much all founders of QM) did think and speak about what QM implies about reality, the details of what he has not said are entirely irrelevant. Physics and philosophy are not dogmatic fields and in no way depend on authorities who have some special access to truth. It's easy enough to understand why, given the fact that QM describes a physical system by its wavefunction, the physical realist is led to seriously consider the idea that a thing, whether electron or apple, is sometimes located in two places at once. We don't need to study Bohr for that, we can understand it ourselves.

Actually we don't need to know anything whatsoever about QM to understand why physical realism has been rendered an unreasonable belief. Simple table-top experimental observations, no more sophisticated than pressing a button and counting how frequently two bulbs light up as a result, are sufficient for understanding the problem. It's not QM that produces the problems for physical realism, it's phenomenological facts (which QM happened to lead our attention to). I have the intention of preparing a description of these experiments and the respective observational facts, because in this way the excuse “I haven't mastered QM's difficult mathematics so I cannot comment on the issue” is removed. The problem is not the theory of QM, it's nature as we experience it.

"Of course physical theories have logical entailments. Being inconsistent just means entailing an inconsistency, ergo physical theories can be inconsistent“

Now I think I see what you mean: Physical theories are often expressed as a set of equations, so, for example, if in the context of some theory we find the equation that acceleration equals F/m and another equation that entails that acceleration does not equal F/m then that theory would be logically inconsistent and would indeed lead to inconsistencies. So, fine, in that trivial sense a theory could be logically inconsistent and would producing different results for the same input. In Bohr's time physicists suffered from very strong deterministic instincts and opposed QM's probabilistic predictions which entails that the same input will produce different observable results (as Einstein put it “God does not play dice”). So perhaps (I am speculating here) at that time some suggested that therefore there must be some some logical inconsistency in the structure of QM, and Bohr responded that this is not so. In any case this historical issue is entirely irrelevant to my argument.

[continues below]

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

[continues from above]

”The "Copenhagen realist interpretation" does nowhere imply that [an apple can be in two places st once].”

It does, and it is easy enough to understand why. Usually the point is made mentioning not apples but photons or electrons (even though there are now experimental results with entire atoms which are thousands of times more massive than electrons), but given that QM applies to all matter and not only to small systems it follows that the same applies for apples. QM does not recognize a classical world of large objects as being different when compared to a quantum world of small objects, and indeed quantum effects have been measured in crystals weighting some 100 kilos. One can hypothesize that QM is an incomplete theory and does not always apply to large objects for quantum results for large objects are difficult to experimentally ascertain, but betting against QM has proven unwise. Absolutely all the (for physical realism) weird results of QM that have been put to experimental test have been proven correct. Here a recent and impressive case https://phys.org/news/2015-05-quantum-theory-weirdness.html about how our choices change *past* reality. (And observe the misleading title. It's not quantum theory that is weird but then conjunction of quantum theory and physical realism.)

“while I know what the "Copenhagen interpretation" is (roughly, it can be identified with what Bohr defended), I am not sure what "Copenhagen realist interpretation" is -- Bohr was not exactly a staunch realist.”

All interpretations of QM propose a description of physical reality that would produce the phenomena that QM predicts, thus all of them are realist interpretations. If one is not a physical realist one feels no need whatsoever to describe such a physical reality, since one believes such a reality does not exist. It's interesting to note that for centuries the greatest philosophers in the West were idealists (and thus did not believe in physical realism) for reasons that have nothing to do with modern science. Rather suddenly in the beginning of the 19th century and with no clear reason the idealistic understanding of reality fell out of favor among philosophers, suggesting that philosophy (what philosophers do) is sometimes moved by fashion and not by reason.

Incidentally, idealism doesn't claim that physical things don't exist as many believe. As any metaphysical theory about reality idealism is a claim about the nature of things, including physical things. In particular idealism claims that physical things exist as mental orders (moved to a small degree by us and to a far larger degree by God – “moved” in the Aristotelian sense). So, for example, the bulbs lighting up in the table top experiments I shall describe are moved by us since we set up the experiment and are pushing the button, but the deeper order (namely the one described by QM) is moved by God's general providence.

”if the "Copenhagen realist interpretation" implied that [an apple can be located in two places at once] it would imply that QM was inconsistent.”

Why? What is logically inconsistent in the view that all things, including apples, are located in many places at once, but that when we take a look they instantly collapse to the normal concrete always-in-on-place kind of objects we experience? And collapse according to probabilistic rules described by QM, and which entail that if after a few seconds you look at the table you've just put an apple on, with virtual certainty you will see the apple still being there? Such a realist interpretation of QM is inconsistent with many a physical realist's suppositions but that does not make it inconsistent in itself nor inconsistent with our experience of the physical world.

grodrigues said...

@Danielos Georgoudis:

"It does, and it is easy enough to understand why."

It does not. You simply do not know what you are talking about. Go read Bohr -- his papers, his collected works, Plotnitsky's book "Niels Bohr and complementarity", etc.

"All interpretations of QM propose a description of physical reality that would produce the phenomena that QM predicts, thus all of them are realist interpretations."

This is of course, false under the common meaning of "realist interpretation", e.g. in instrumentalist interpretations (some of them derivative of the Copenhangen interpretation). Now we learn, that "realist" as you are using is a rigorously redundant qualifier.

"Why?"

Is this a serious request for me to give what is an elementary proof in QM? I will honor it if that is indeed your request, but you really ought to know something about the subject.

Gyan said...

Dianolos,
"given that QM applies to all matter and not only to small systems it follows that the same applies for apples"

Where is this given?
You merely presume this to be so. Actually, the electrons and photons exist in a sense quite distinct from the sense in which things like apples and tables exist.

Electrons and photons are entities postulated in physics. Apples and tables are directly perceived things.

So, apples exist in our corporeal world while electrons and photons exist in a world defined by a physical theory.

The laws and expected behavior of one world do not necessarily translate into another world. Thus it is totally unjustified to assert that an apple could move without a cause or a cat could be in a state of superposition of being dead and alive.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ Gyan,

”Where is [it given that QM applies to all matter]? You merely presume this to be so.”

QM's Schroedinger equation applies to all physical systems, whether they consist of one particle or many particles (people even speak of the wavefunction of the entire universe). The strange *phenomena* (such as superposition) have already been demonstrated with atoms which consist of many particles https://physics.aps.org/articles/v8/6 ; in a slightly less direct way in large organic molecules consisting of 400 atoms http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms1263 ; and in the quest of building a quantum computer (I personally doubt it's possible but that's another story) they have even constructed superconducting rings https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070614104042.htm in which current appears to flows in both directions at once – a truly macroscopic case of superposition. But even if such phenomena had not been experimentally demonstrated it would be irrelevant. Physical realists try to think how reality should be in order to produce the order QM predicts for all systems, and what QM predicts is a given.

”Actually, the electrons and photons exist in a sense quite distinct from the sense in which things like apples and tables exist.”

Not at all; apples consist of elementary particles and thus are of the same substance. That's true both on physical realism and physical anti-realism.

”Electrons and photons are entities postulated in physics. Apples and tables are directly perceived things.”

There is as little doubt that electrons and photos exist as apples and tables exist. That we can perceive the latter but not the former is neither here nor there. On physical realism we do not directly perceive apples and tables anyway; strictly speaking we only perceive the innards of our brain.

”So, apples exist in our corporeal world while electrons and photons exist in a world defined by a physical theory.”

According to physical realism there exists one physical reality in which we live. The talk about the “quantum world” and “the classical world of our everyday experience” refers to the fact that the physical world QM describes is nothing like the world we perceive when we look around. That's actually not strange. For example the “scientific theory” of the throwing of a die predicts that the six numbers will each come up with 1/6 probability, but when we actually look only one number has come up. There is no reason for a scientific theory to describe things or events in the same way we would describe them. What physical realists hope is that the scientific theory will be such that they can base on it the description of *one* physical reality, and one that does *not* violate reason. Well, as it happens the greatest scientific theory ever, QM, did not do them the favor. Which, epistemologically speaking, leaves the physical realist hanging in a very uncomfortable position: First there are several completely different realist interpretations of QM; so what reason does the realist have for picking one over the other? And secondly, each of these descriptions entails claims that appear to be more fantastic than the most imaginative ancient mythology. Such as what we do today changes past reality, or that reality consists of a vast and ever-growing number of parallel universes in some of which we cannot commit suicide no matter how we try, and in some of which the Statue of Liberty every day takes a swim around Manhattan.

[continues below]

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

[continues from above]

Given the vast implications in philosophy it's strange that these issues are not more generally discussed. Perhaps the problem is that by the age of three we are all physical realists, and among the grown-ups the vast majority of atheists and most theists are physical realists too, much of Christian metaphysics appears to entail physical reality, scientists would not like to advertize the fact that they have lost their grip on reality, etc – so the whole embarrassing issue is kind of swept under the rug. But the problem is real. Einstein (who was one of the founders of QM – he got his Nobel for it – but deeply disliked what QM implies for physical reality) was so frustrated that he once asked if anybody really believes that the moon is there only when one looks at it.

”Thus it is totally unjustified to assert that an apple could move without a cause”

That there is movement without a cause is a feature of QM, indeed is a feature of all probabilistic theories of phenomena. When in the double-slit experiment you detect that the electron has passed through the left slit there is nothing that caused it to do so rather than pass to the right slit. So, for example, the premise of efficient cause is in trouble already.

Now to be precise there are deterministic interpretations of QM such as Bohm's. The idea behind all such interpretations (including the much easier to conceptualize “computer simulation hypothesis”) posit that there is a vast realm of reality cognitively unreachable by us in which a large number of so-called “hidden variables” is realized. The fact that we can't possibly know their value gives us the impression of random stuff happening, of events not having a cause we can see.

On non-realist (or anti-realist) theistic metaphysics the problem about physical objects remains. One may hold that all movement including the slot that electron passed through is caused by God's will, but I am not sure this saves A-T's premise of efficient cause.

”or a cat could be in a state of superposition of being dead and alive.”

Let's not continue discussing QM because physical realism's problem has nothing to do with it; QM just called our attention to it. The problem is that our factual experience of nature has a structure that renders physical realism implausible. I have started working on the description of a simple set of such experiential facts, and God willing I'll publish this description later today. Without knowing anything about QM you could then take a go and suggest what kind of physical reality might produce the described simple set of observations.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ John West,

”Since the center of a sphere is a contingent, non-God entity, it's at least complex in that its essence and existence are distinct.”

I am not considering a sphere in the actual theistic world, but in a world in which nothing but this spinning sphere exists and thus its center is non-contingent.

”Nope. I mean any property at all. My principle, I suppose, was that some one thing can't both have and not have a property at the same time, in the same respect.* (The qualifications are completely standard.)”

Ah, but when I said that God is both immutable and changeable I explicitly stated that the former holds when one considers God as the metaphysical ultimate and the latter holds when one considers God as the divine participant in creation, the personal agent behind special providence. Thus I meant these properties *not* in the same respect. Incidentally given Anselm's definition as well as classical theistic understanding it is both true that God is the metaphysical ultimate (which entails immutability) and a participant in creation (which entails changeability). So, I don't see where the problem is.

”if two entities are absolutely identical, they must have the exact same properties”

You mean: If two entities are identical they must have the same properties *in the same respect*. No problems here either: God when considered as the metaphysical ultimate is identical to God when considered as the participant in creation, since none of their in the same respect properties conflict. (I use “in the same respect” in the broader sense which entails “at the same time” or “under the same conditions” etc.)

”Your shape is a cube at one time and a sphere at another.”

In the world I was describing there are only “pulsating” shapes, such as spherecubes, spherecylinders, cylindecubes, and so on – but no cubes, spheres or cylinders. Anyway this example is now moot.

”I didn't create the principle just to reply to you”

Right, I my use of “ad-hoc” was unwise. What I meant though is this:

Consider a general principle P that includes the concept X. Either X is well-defined and P makes an additional claim about X, namely that reality is such that P(X) is true. Or else P is used as part of the definition of X, or if you prefer one defines X in a way that comports with P. In the latter case P is just a tautology, and thus cannot be used as a premise to an argument.

Now in everyday use the concept of “property” does not entail “in the same respect”, but in often used in relational contexts. So for example I might truthfully say “I was young but now I am old” or “This apple is visible when there is light but invisible when there is not”. The qualification “in the same respect” amounts to a change designed to make the concept of “property” fit the principle. Here the principle becomes a useful tautology in that it serves the goal of making clear the sense in which the philosopher uses the concept of property. But when one forgets that and uses the principle in an argument then one is misusing it. One should rather, like you did in the end, clarify in what sense the concept of “property” is used.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ Tony,

”Speaking generically, the "end of human life" applies equally to all humans. Not just those who are fallen.”

In general when one talks about humans, one means humans in our condition, and thus neither the first and last Adam, nor humans in heaven, and so on.

”Adam and Eve were created not in a fallen state. They fell through their choice to sin, but before that choice there was no sin nor imperfection due to sin in them.”

I never understood this view. For me to be in a fallen state means to be in such a state that one will perhaps choose to sin. That's what distinguishes the state of persons in heaven: they won't.

Anyway the whole story in Genesis does not make much sense. The very word “Fall” suggests a failure in God's purpose in creation, which is an absurdity. The very early theologians of Genesis tried to explain how despite God's perfection sin entered the world, or in other words tried to produce a theodicy. And didn't quite succeed (which is no wonder given that three thousand years later and two thousand years after the incarnation of Christ we haven't yet completely succeeded either). Their idea that it's not God's purpose but Adam's disobedience that brought sin into the world does not really make sense. After all if Adam were given the kind of gift you suggest Mary was given then he would not have sinned. If God so wanted, God could certainly have created Adam to be as saints in heaven are, namely free to sin but so holy that he would never in fact choose to do so. The early theologians understood the problem of evil – and the story in Genesis was the best they could come up with.

Alternatively, an intriguing idea is the written story that has reached us was corrupted from the original. A better suggestion about how sin entered creation (which is completely different but strangely close to the Genesis text) is as follows: Adam was created neither in a fallen nor in a perfected state, but rather in a morally vacuous state such as animals enjoy, namely not to know about good and evil and therefore not to be subject to sin. But then Adam, the rational animal, was given the following choice: “Remain in your morally blind state in which there is no suffering and no death but no blissful life in atonement either, or else learn about good and evil in which case you will fail and sin and thus enter the path of suffering and of death, but which is also the path that will lead you and your children into eternal life in unity with God.” By choosing the latter path Adam brought sin into the world. Thus sin entered the world by free choice and for a good end, the best end for Adam and all humanity which he thus committed into the same path. Without Adam there wouldn't be Christ; without Adam's falling, there wouldn't be raising in Christ. As Catholic mass puts it “felix culpa”. - The beaut of this story is that it makes Adam, the primordial human, to freely agree on the path of suffering and death, and thereby removes a point of stress in the Christian view of creation.

[continues below]

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

[continues from above]

”Mary was also sinless throughout her life. This is part of the Orthodox faith as much as the Catholic faith. If you reject that, you just reject both 'lungs of the Church'.”

Lest our discussion become disagreeable let's agree that 1) salvation comes from repentance and from the transformation of our soul into the likeness of Christ; not from agreeing with every single dogma (which entails to worry which church if any is right in all its dogmas), 2) the meaning of dogmas is to help us to repent, 3) dogmas can be mistaken, 4) God gave us a rational soul in order to be rational.

So here is how I reason about this matter: We don't and couldn't possibly know the last details of Mary's life on which to base the belief that she never committed the slightest sin. Therefore, if that belief is true it came to us by revelation, it is a fruit of faith. Revealed truth is truth which helps us to repent; there are no superfluous or decorative revealed truths. The belief that Mary was given the special gift never to sin in her life (as you say was thus “strengthened”) is I find irrelevant for repentance. If anything it has a negative effect, since it makes me wonder why hasn't God given me that gift that would strengthen me in the same way (the whole idea that God elects some and doesn't elect others suffers from the same problem). Secondly it diminishes my admiration for Mary and thus darkens the gospel story. For I admire Mary much more by holding that without having received such a special gift she had faith and lived the holy life. And I empathize with her much more in her suffering – she becomes the model of suffering humankind and reveals the beauty of it. Lastly I don't feel I am rejecting the church's position on Mary, but only that I understand the titles of “Mother of God” and of “untouched by sin” as honorific and metaphorical ones.

I am thinking that much confusion is produced when one interprets in a literal sense words meant to be used spiritually. Anyway I believe we shall meet Mary in the afterlife, so we might ask her directly about this issue and settle our disagreement.

[continues below]

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

[continues from above]

”God's gift with grace by which he works to lift us up out of sin”

As I said I am unclear about the dogma of “grace”. In my mind God's salvific grace doesn't lift us up out of sin – but rather gives us the opportunity for that. Grace is an act of creation realized by Christ's coming for all humanity: it opens a path which connects heaven and earth.

Now there is a problem: Let's assume that Mary was not given any such special gift all but is the queen of the saints who also haven't been given any such gift. The problem remains that some of us seem to be more blessed than others (the theme that God favors some over others is already found in the Old Testament stories). This is a version of the problem of evil, and as all facets of the problem of evil this too gives us the opportunity to understand God better: Not to change our own sense of perfection to make this fact fit, but rather to see how this fact reveals to us a greater perfection of God.

I find there is a very beautiful solution to this problem I itch to share here: The apparent differentiation of divine favor between people is indeed an evil and thus a property of the fallen state of the current human condition. But to understand the divine purpose for that fallen state one has to look at creation from the point of view of God and thus from the eschaton. And from that full point of view there are not many people but one humankind. Atonement entails unity in God and thus the unity of all humankind too. Each one of us will be there at the eschaton but we shall be one with everybody else, and when looking back we shall realize that each one of us has always been at bottom the same with our neighbor, so it's not really that some were favored more than others nor any injustice in that. Under this understanding all the apparently “excessive” ethical commands of Christ in the gospels (“return no evil but love your enemy, offer to the thief more than she wants to take from you”) - all such commands become trivially and obviously true. And several other stories and teachings of Christ in the gospel are clarified also. And finally this explanation does not fit with hellism.

”Mary's glory (not 'value', which is modern claptrap), is first in her being chosen by God for her role, and second in her perfect responsiveness to God's gifts, at every moment giving wholehearted cooperation with the gifts by which he was working in her "to will and to do" His work.”

I am trying to understand how you mean the above: In your view Mary's perfect responsiveness to God's gifts was her own merit or was itself the product of another gift God gave her?

I am asking this because I have the feeling that in the West the idea of God's sovereignty has been inflated to the point of removing our own place and thus responsibility in creation. That we can't move a finger but for God's grace, does not imply that it's not us who move our finger.

Gyan said...

Dianelos,
"QM's Schroedinger equation applies to all physical systems"

You are begging the question. For one thing, quantum mechanics does not apply to the measurement process. It does not describe the wave function collapse.

"There is as little doubt that electrons and photos exist as apples and tables exist. That we can perceive the latter but not the former is neither here nor there"

It is not the question of perception. Point is that electrons and photons are entities that are postulated in some physical theory. While apples are not.
Fundamental revision of the physical theory might eliminate necessity of postulating electrons and photons but apples remain forever.

jaime lopez said...

Dianelos Georgoudis said."Lastly I don't feel I am rejecting the church's position on Mary, but only that I understand the titles of “Mother of God” and of “untouched by sin” as honorific and metaphorical ones. " The Church does understand "Mother of God" as real description(also Marys sinlessness) The Catechism says and quote:" Mary's divine motherhood

495 Called in the Gospels "the mother of Jesus", Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her son, as "the mother of my Lord".144 In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father's eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is TRULY"Mother of God" (Theotokos).145" SO you do reject the Churchs position on Mary ""Let it be done to me according to your word. . ."

494 At the announcement that she would give birth to "the Son of the Most High" without knowing man, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary responded with the obedience of faith, certain that "with God nothing will be impossible": "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be [done] to me according to your word."139 Thus, giving her consent to God's word, Mary becomes the mother of Jesus. Espousing the divine will for salvation wholeheartedly, without a single sin to restrain her, she gave herself entirely to the person and to the work of her Son; she did so in order to serve the mystery of redemption with him and dependent on him, by God's grace:140

As St. Irenaeus says, "Being obedient she became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race."141 Hence not a few of the early Fathers gladly assert. . .: "The knot of Eve's disobedience was untied by Mary's obedience: what the virgin Eve bound through her disbelief, Mary loosened by her faith."142 Comparing her with Eve, they call Mary "the Mother of the living" and frequently claim: "Death through Eve, life through Mary."143" Catholic theology is not your field is it?

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ Gyan,

”quantum mechanics does not apply to the measurement process. It does not describe the wave function collapse.”

It doesn't and couldn't possibly, because wave function collapse is not a phenomenon, and scientific theories only describe physical (quantitative) phenomena and the (mathematical) order present in them. Wave function collapse is a hypothesis of the Copenhagen interpretation, it is a property of a reality that would produce the phenomena and order QM describes. Other realist interpretations don't hypothesize the existence of wave function collapse. If some these other realist interpretations is the correct one then wave function collapse doesn't exist at all

Point is that electrons and photons are entities that are postulated in some physical theory. While apples are not.

Strictly speaking physical theory is the continuation of what infants do in order to make sense and control their surroundings, namely to produce a useful model of phenomenal impressions. So epistemically speaking the discovery of the existence of apples and of electrons is of the same kind. But, granted, there are differences also. So what's the point? Perhaps it's what you write below:

”Fundamental revision of the physical theory might eliminate necessity of postulating electrons and photons but apples remain forever.”

Once again, one must be careful not to conflate science with its realist interpretation. There is one reality, and better scientific theories may cause abrupt changes in our beliefs about reality. But the theories themselves remain. A scientific theory is never falsified; rather a still better one (more exact or more general) may be discovered.

Consider Newton's mechanics. Newton discovered and described a particular order in gravitational phenomena (whether the falling of an apple or the movement of the Moon). The description of this order entails the concept of gravitational force fields. The order in itself is purely mathematical, but the mathematics describe a force field so the two are equivalent in practice. It was natural then that physical realists assumed that force fields are real things existing in actual reality. Now several centuries later comes Einstein who discovers and describes a more precise and general order present gravitational phenomena, and calls the new theory general relativity. The description of this order entails the concept of the bending of spacetime. The order specified by general relativity is purely mathematical, but the mathematics describe the bending of spacetime so the two are equivalent in practice The physical realist will now think: It was wrong of me to believe that in reality mass produces a gravitational force fields around it (and that's why nearby things seem to be attracted by it); that early realist hypothesis is now replaced by the provably better hypothesis that mass bends spacetime around it (and that's why nearby things seem to be attracted by it). But the same effect does *not* apply in the science. The order discovered by Newton in gravitational phenomena is still there despite the fact that Einstein discovered a finer order. Thus in the science of gravitational phenomena both force fields and the bending of spacetime coexist, in the sense that they describe orders (or patterns if you will) existing in phenomena. A set of data (and that's what physical phenomena are) may contain many superposed levels of patterns. Consider for example this list of numbers: 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21. One order is that it contains only whole numbers, a more detailed order is that it contains a growing list of whole numbers, a third even more revealing order is that that after the first two whole numbers each number is the sum of the previous two. The third order has greater predictive power than the second one, but does not falsify it.

[continues below]

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

[continues from above]

Coming back to the existence of electrons: “Electron” describes part of the pattern discovered by Maxwell in electomagnetical phenomena. The same word also describes part of the more detailed pattern of QED discovered by Feynman and others in a huge range of phenomena. The concept of electron used by Maxwell is not the same as the one used by Feynman since the two refer to different patterns, and thus the realist understanding about electrons has also shifted. But electrons as patterns within phenomena will stay with us for ever (or at least as long as the respective physical phenomena stay with us :-)

Not to mention that we have electron detectors which detect electrons, so it's not like with the advancement of science they might stop detecting them. Our realist understanding of the nature of what it is that which electrons detectors detect might change (as it has changed between Maxwell and Feynman) but there will always be electrons around. It's the permanence of apples in our experience of the world I'd rather worry about.

Incidentally I've advanced with my exposition of how a few factual observations are sufficient for understanding the mystery of QM (which is not really QM's). The usefulness of the exercise is that everybody can understand what the problem is without knowing anything at all about QM, and thus realize that the problem will remain whatever may happen to QM in the future. It's observational facts that render physical realism problematic, not this or any future scientific theory. It looks like God did not wish to make metaphysics easy for us, but also did not wish to let us to go too much astray.

It's a work in progress, but since I haven't started a blog yet if you have access to facebook you can read it here.

Gyan said...

Dianelos,
You might usefully read a recent post by Feser on Abstraction at this very blog. Physics proceeds by abstracting from real objects. You know, objects like apples and tables. The process of abstraction yields entities like electron and photon. So, it is definitely not the case that apples and electrons belong to the same category.

A problem is that you don't realize or at least emphasize the fact that registering of the objects is where all knowledge proceeds from. This is what Fr Jaki has stressed in his writings and this is also Thomism. You perhaps proceed by Descartes or even Humean lines. But these starting points are grossly inadequate as Feser has tirelessly expounded over years.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ Gyan,

”Physics proceeds by abstracting from real objects. You know, objects like apples and tables.”

We don't know how reality is, that's why there is so much and so deep disagreement in metaphysics. Thus we don't really know whether apples are real objects in the first place. For example if we found out for a fact that we live in a computer simulation then we wouldn't call apples “real objects” in the sense we use today. Not to mention, those who embrace idealist metaphysics already disagree with the belief that apples are “real objects” in the common sense. Finally it's clearly false that physics proceeds by abstracting from real objects: For, again, if we found out that we live in a computer simulation not one iota would need to change in any book of physics, nor for that matter in any book of the physical sciences including chemistry, biology, paleontology, and so on.

But I do agree that physics proceeds from abstracting from *physical phenomena*. Physical phenomena are of course part of reality, indeed they are part of the existential data we have, and which are really the only true facts we can know. Moreover it's quite evident what kind of abstraction physics does: it discovers mathematical patterns present in the set of physical phenomena. Such patters may entail phenomena we haven't yet observed, and lo and behold, when we put together the required experiment said previously unobserved phenomena now materialize. (If not then we say the respective pattern – aka scientific theory – needs improving.)

”The process of abstraction yields entities like electron and photon. So, it is definitely not the case that apples and electrons belong to the same category.”

I agree that the process of abstraction over physical phenomena yields entities like electron and photon. It also yields entities like apples. That the later abstract discovery happens in the brains of infants while the former abstract discovery happens through the business of science is irrelevant to the nature of the discovery.

I can prove to you that the apple is an abstraction over phenomena: Suppose I put a black paperboard in front of you and ask you what you see behind it. You'll answer you don't see anything because the paperboard doesn't let you. So I take a needle, make a pinhole in the paperboard and ask you again. Perhaps you'll say that you see a greenish point of light but still no object. Suppose now I continue making random pinholes in the paperboard. After probably several thousands of such pinholes at some point, rather instantly, your brain will form the clear image of an apple and you'll say: “I see an apple”. But what your brain just did was to *abstract* from a large number of dot-like pieces of light the apple you saw. The experience of the apple happens effortlessly and seemingly instantly, but what in fact is happening is that your brain discovers in the thousands of dot-like pieces of light the pattern it had learned as an infant is the pattern of the universal apple. Which is the same process that adult Newton's brain went through to discover within the perhaps thousands bits of gravitational phenomena he new about the presence of the pattern called “gravitational force-field”.

We learn from the data we have. I wonder if you had a look to the article where I describe a set of simple observational facts which are sufficient to demonstrate why physical realists were so perplexed with quantum mechanics. Imagine Aristotle or Aquinas were to observe the same set of physical phenomena; what might they have said?

doubter said...

For example if we found out for a fact that we live in a computer simulation then we wouldn't call apples “real objects” in the sense we use today.

Dianelos, if we found out for a fact that you're a computer simulation of a turnip, that wouldn't require any change in our understanding of reality.

Tony said...

In general when one talks about humans, one means humans in our condition, and thus neither the first and last Adam, nor humans in heaven, and so on.

In a casual conversation in a pub, we might mean that. In a careful discussion in philosophy or theology, saying "the end of human life" without qualifying it is to be taken as unqualified. Which is what I did.

In any case, "the end of human life" taken generally - as in "in general" - includes both those who have fallen and those who have not: you have been unable to articulate what you mean because you have no conception of man APART from our condition after sin entered the world.

I never understood this view. For me to be in a fallen state means to be in such a state that one will perhaps choose to sin. That's what distinguishes the state of persons in heaven: they won't.

Anyway the whole story in Genesis does not make much sense. The very word “Fall” suggests a failure in God's purpose in creation, which is an absurdity.


Yes, I get that you don't understand the Bible nor Christianity.

The very early theologians of Genesis tried to explain how despite God's perfection sin entered the world, or in other words tried to produce a theodicy. And didn't quite succeed

I am so glad that you clarified that you think St. Paul's understanding of Genesis is empty. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.

A better suggestion about how sin entered creation (which is completely different but strangely close to the Genesis text)...Adam was created neither in a fallen nor in a perfected state, but rather in a morally vacuous state such as animals enjoy, namely not to know about good and evil and therefore not to be subject to sin. [Nor to be human. Tony]...Thus sin entered the world by free choice and for a good end,

So, in your view it is an unsuccessful theodicy to say that sin entered the world through Adam's sinful act against God's will, though God's (higher order) will would be tolerate that sin and then to atone for that sin through Christ's Incarnation and suffering; and it is a better theodicy instead to say that sin entered the world because Adam chose to sin "for a good cause" which would entail atonement and our redemptive suffering, making it rather that God positively desired those sins.

I hate to tell you, but burning down the forest to prevent a child destructively pulling a leaf off a tree might not be such a good solution. You reject Genesis because you don't like the theodicies constructed to explain it, including 3/4 of St. Paul, and in its place you would erect a myth that requires that God desires sin directly rather than tolerating it.

In any case, you reveal over and over you have nothing in common with Christianity. You don't believe in the Bible, nor in Orthodox tenets, nor in the Fathers of early Christianity. You are just inventing your own religion, using the bits and pieces of the Bible that you like and rejecting the parts you don't.

Lest our discussion become disagreeable let's agree that ... 3) dogmas can be mistaken,

Amazing! I had no idea you were so dense. Let's get this straight: According to the Catholic Church, dogmas CANNOT be mistaken. You are telling me that you want me to agree to stop being Catholic to discuss with you. Boy, that's either arrogant, or ignorant, or both.

Tony said...

P.S. I include in "dogma" only what the Catholic Church does. Nothing else.

Gyan said...

Dianelos,
"Thus we don't really know whether apples are real objects in the first place"

It is not a sane position.

Gyan said...

Dianelos,
" your brain discovers in the thousands of dot-like pieces of light the pattern it had learned as an infant is the pattern of the universal apple."

The late neurologist Oliver Sacks would have disagreed. Perception of objects is far more than pattern-matching. See his case history of The Man who mistook his wife for an hat.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ Gyan

"It is not a sane position"

:-) Well tell that to some of the greatest philosophers of the West from Plato to Plotinus to Berkeley (never mind virtually the entirety of Eastern thought). Not to mention that some of the smartest philosophers around today (Bostrom, Chalmers) figure it's not at all improbable that we live in a computer simulation, in which case apples are not physically real. Not to mention some of the founders of QM also argued that our notions of physical reality are far off the mark.

That physical realists feel in their bones that to doubt the reality of apples (the way they imagine it) is absurd, doesn't make it so. If anything I find it absurd to hang on with much confidence on physical realism when one is aware of the plethora of of conceptual difficulties it suffers from and which modern physical science has only multiplied (surely an unexpected development). As far as I can see physical realism has nothing more going for it than the argument that all 3-year olds believe in it. And that we do in fact possess a brain that makes it easier to navigate our daily lives imagining that our environment is physically real.

”Perception of objects is far more than pattern-matching. See his case history of The Man who mistook his wife for an hat.”

Sounds interesting, thanks, I'll have a look.

Tony said...

Not to mention that some of the smartest philosophers around today (Bostrom, Chalmers) figure it's not at all improbable that we live in a computer simulation, in which case apples are not physically real.

Tell you what: I will bet you that when you get to the afterlife, you will find that "apples are real objects" turns out to have been a far, far more sensible proposition to work with (and far more true) than "we live in a computer simulation."

Gyan said...

Dianelos,
The scientific instruments that ground physics and also ground the proposition "we live in a computer simulation" --are these instruments real?
Are computers real?
If one doubts the reality of apples, one has no right to ANY inference of physics.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ Tony,

”I will bet you that when you get to the afterlife, you will find that "apples are real objects" turns out to have been a far, far more sensible proposition to work with (and far more true) than "we live in a computer simulation."”

I already believe that apples are real objects. Nobody in their right mind entertains the slightest doubt about that.

The question at hand is whether apples are real in the sense that physical realists believe. I find that reason moves us away from that belief. The arguments given for that belief appear to be very weak, and the conceptual problems of that belief multiply. And multiply in part because of the discoveries of the physical sciences, which looks really bad.

Now take theism. The human condition would be exactly the same if God had made physical objects according to how idealists understand it and not according to how physical realists understand it. Why should God go the roundabout way and create physical objects as a different substance? The only argument I can imagine is Augustine's, namely that God delights in the richness of creation. But that richness is present on idealism too, since to delight entails experience.

Therefore especially on theism I see no grounds for physical realism. If you know of any theistic argument for physical realism I'd like you to point me towards it.

Incidentally, right now I am listening to some very interesting discussions that took place at a recent colloquium at the Notre Dame Institute of Advanced Study on “Mind, Soul, and World”. I was surprised to hear one of the specialists there claim that the best way to interpret Thomistic metaphysics is within the idealist framework. I wonder what Feser would say about this idea :-)

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ Gyan,

”Are computers real?”

Of course. We build them, and they produce some very useful work for us. And even surprise us.

”If one doubts the reality of apples, one has no right to ANY inference of physics.”

As I explained in the previous comment *nobody* doubts the reality of apples. The question at hand is whether apples are real in the sense physical realists imagine.

As for physics, I have already pointed out that if we found out for a fact that we live in a computer simulation then no one iota would have to change in all of the books of physics. Ergo, physics has nothing whatsoever to do with physical realism; physics doesn't in the very least depend on physical realism being true.

Gyan said...

Dianelos,
Sanity requires affirmation of reality of objects. And this affirmation is prior to ANY reasoning or arguments. See for instance Stanley Jaki's Means to Message:

"Every philosophy is a message. For conveying that message there has to be a tangible means, such as a book. Therefore, for the sake of a minimum of consistency, the philosopher's message or system should account in full for the reality of the means.This new book by Stanley Jaki aims at unfolding the consequences of this minimum for the main topics of philosophy. The necessary first topic is the objective reality of the means, or in general "objects". Any neglect of this will result, Jaki argues, in philosophical sleights of hand that endlessly breed one another."

Amazon.com

That idealism fails to do. Idealism requires God to perceive objects but existence of God itself can not be demonstrated in idealism.