Monday, December 18, 2017

At last, another open thread!


Long overdue (sorry), it’s the latest open thread.  Talk amongst yourselves.  Unlike Linda Richman, I won’t give you a topic.    From Aquinas to Quine, Cheap Trick or fine wine, bad puns and lame rhymes – the field is wide open.  Though, you know, maybe capital punishment is a little played at the moment…

As always, keep it civil, keep it classy, no trolling or troll-feeding. 

212 comments:

  1. Dr. Feser, Are you planning to publish philosophy of nature, philosophical psychology, logic, epistemology,etc. books to go with your metaphysics book? Something like Dr. McInerney's series from FSSP publishing?

    Thanks

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    1. I know he has a philosophy of nature book forthcoming, and I'm pretty sure he has a book on the soul in the works as well (whether it will look explicitly like a manual treatment as opposed to something more along the lines of contemporary philosophy of mind, I'm not sure).

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    2. Thanks for the valuable information.

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    3. David Bentley Hart is also working on a book on the soul. Should be interesting to compare them. He has several very interesting talks on the subject on Youtube:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqahaQgW4PA&t
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUWMvhZyqoo&t
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZ5yQ7t60UQ&t

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  2. Was Hans Urs von Balthasar critical of Aquinas? Or just how some scholars during his time presented Aquinas' thought?

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    1. Balthasar is deeply influenced by St. Thomas, though he is critical of St. Thomas on certain points (angelic discourse comes to mind).

      But Balthasar's main project (by sheer volume) focuses more on his aesthetics and dramatics than his logic (where one finds metaphysical topics treated). St. Thomas himself didn't focus much on aesthetics or dramatics. So there is a difference of emphasis. Balthasar just has a much wider outlook than St. Thomas does.

      If you are interested to see where they intersect, the first volume of the Theo-Logic would be where I would start.

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    2. Thanks for the reply, Thomas.
      I'm going to look into that book.

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  3. Reposting this for the sake of publicity and discussion:


    Can we argue for the PSR using a demonstrative argument to the effect that it is contradictory of the nature of being?


    Suppose a PSR rejecter answered the question of "What keeps the universe in being?" with "Nothing keeps it in being."


    Now suppose he were asked the question "Why don't unicorns exist?". The answer to that question would obviously be "Because nothing keeps them in being."


    Now obviously, this creates a contradiction, because unicorns don't exist and the universe does.


    This argument would be the closest thing to arguing for PSR directly, and the only way to counter it would be to somehow find a way to not make the above two propositions equivocal.


    The meaning of nothing keeping an existing thing in being and nothing keeping a non-existent thing in being would have to be different from each other, because otherwise we would have absurdity.


    Another way to put this in a more formal way would be:


    1: " If nothing keeps a thing in being, that thing does not exist."

    2: " Nothing keeps a unicorn in being."

    3: " Therefore, unicorns don't exist."


    Premise 1 is obvious, as is premise 2.


    And when that same syllogism is applied to the universe, a manifestly false conclusion arises.


    What do you think?

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    1. My guess would be that instead of replying that nothing keeps the universe in being, you'd probably hear something to the effect that it keeps itself in being - existential inertia and all that...

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    2. But this does mean that if we refuted the Existential Inertia thesis, the atheist would be left with nowhere to run because to posit a brute fact would lead to a contradiction.


      And I'm not even so sure if existential inertia is a good cop-out reaction, because the question of existence also incorporates contingency.

      We ask why things exist because they are obviously not necessary, and the question can also easily be reformulated by using reasons instead of being kept in existence.


      One could answer the question of why unicorns don't exist by saying that there is no reason for them to exist, or that no reason obtains.


      As such, the problem would easily open up again, which would lead to God.

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    3. My guess is that an atheist would deny 1 and simply respond that something can exist without being kept in existence. Why? Because it just does. It's a brute fact; they're not saying that "nothing" causes something in a weird way as if "nothing" could have powers or anything, rather they are saying that the universe simply exists with *no* explanation whatsoever; it's not that it's "being caused by nothingness" but that it is not being caused at all and not explained at all. Why do unicorns not exist but the universe exists? The atheist would reply it's a brute fact, period, it simply is the case that the universe exists but unicorns don't. The atheist could argue, perhaps, that you are implicitly assuming intelligibility and PSR in order to rule out an unintelligible fact or the existence of something that has no explanation or reason whatsoever. And might be the case, considering how deeply attached our thinking is on PSR, even when we can't notice it. (That's also why, in general, nobody ever talks about "brute facts" or even seriously considers their possibility outside the context of cosmological arguments, I think.)

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    4. @Miguel,


      My guess is that an atheist would deny 1 and simply respond that something can exist without being kept in existence. Why? Because it just does. It's a brute fact;


      But doesn't the idea that something can exist without being kept in existence basically imply that nothing is keeping the universe in existence?

      If the universe exists for no reason and is a brute fact, then that claim implies that there is nothing "behind" the universe so to speak that makes it that way.


      And that seems to be enough to ground the first premise. We would then move on to the fact that unicorns are not kept in existence as well and the argument goes through.


      Again, the argument here is that brute facts imply that the same proposition is true of both existence and non-existence, which is a contradiction.


      Why do unicorns not exist but the universe exists? The atheist would reply it's a brute fact, period, it simply is the case that the universe exists but unicorns don't.


      The argument doesn't actually contain the question of why unicorns don't exist in an explicit fashion.

      In fact I think you might be right on this one, but we could quite easily reformulate the argument to the simple proposition that "Nothing keeps a unicorn in being." or "No reason obtains for the existence of unicorns."


      I don't think the atheist can deny that the proposition that no reason obtains for unicorns is true. And from that proposition we could make a parallel proposition about the universe such as "No reason obtains for the existence of the universe." which would lead to a contradiction.

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    5. That is to say, 1 says that if there is no explanation or reason for why something exists instead of not existing, then that something cannot exist. So, something can only exist if its existence has a sufficient reason. That's already PSR.

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    6. The atheist could accept that "no reason obtains for the existence of an unicorn" without accepting that "S having a reason for its existence" is a necessary condition for "S exists". No reason obtains for the existence of the unicorn, and likewise no reason obtains for the existence of the universe (in the sense of a sufficient reason). True. But it's just a brute fact that the universe exists without such a sufficient reason but unicorns don't.

      Maybe you can make an argument that this situation seems weird; perhaps you can argue that if the atheist says that, then he therefore can't hold that the absence of a reason for the unicorn's existence somehow explains why there are no unicorns. I believe Pruss has made such an argument in his PSR book: an argument from negative states of affairs. But that's different from thinking there would be a contradiction involved in holding that nothing keeps unicorns in existence and nothing keeps the universe in existence.

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    7. @Miguel,


      Well, here is the basis from which the argument was formed:


      P1: "Unicorns are not kept in existence"

      P2: "The universe is not kept in existence"

      Both propositions are true in the same sense, yet the second is false.

      The only conclusion is that something is keeping the universe in existence.

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    8. P1 and P2 mean that there is nothing keeping either a unicorn or the universe in existence, but the truth of this would be irrelevant to the PSR-denier, I believe, because the PSR-denier thinks something can exist without being kept in existence (existential inertia) and without its existence having any sufficient reason whatsoever, it just exists for no reason and with no explanation.

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    9. The upshot, I think, is that one could then make an argument from negative states of affairs and therefore the consistent PSR denier could not say that P1 explains why there are no unicorns in existence. This means that the consistent PSR denier cannot hold that the absence of an explanation for S could be an indicator or an explanation that S is not the case. If I'm correct in reading this, this could bring problems for the use of best explanation (which we constantly rely on in common life, philosophy and science) which Pruss argues in his article, etc.

      PSR denial is crazy, but I think we can't show a strict violation of PNC with your argument, if I understand it right.

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    10. Then the argument would be that, since a thing doesn't exist if it's not kept in existence, then the universe can't exist if it's not kept in existence.


      To suggest that something can exist without being kep in existence would in some way be refuted by the fact that non-existence things are not kept in existence.


      Actually, if the atheist agrees that the reason unicorns don't exist is because nothing is keeping them in existence, then it seems to naturally follow that the universe needs to have something that keeps it going.


      Or rather, a difference needs to be introduced between the propositions to make sense of the universe existing.

      What is that difference? No explanation whatsoever. In other words, nothing.


      If something can exist for no reason, then that is the same thing as saying that there is literally on difference between the 2 propositions. The universe just exists. Which isn't a difference.

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    11. "Actually, if the atheist agrees that the reason unicorns don't exist is because nothing is keeping them in existence, then it seems to naturally follow that the universe needs to have something that keeps it going."

      I agree, but that's why I said it can be developed as an argument from negative states of affairs and/or perhaps an argument that inference to best explanation would be damaged without PSR (Pruss makes both arguments, the first one in his book and the second both in his book and his article in Blackwell, I believe). I just don't think it's a demonstration from PNC because the PSR-denier would bite the bullet and insist that a thing's having a reason for its existence or non-existence is not a necessary condition for that thing's existence or non-existence; that's precisely what PSR denial is. For them it would be a completely brute fact that the universe exists but unicorns don't; it is unintelligible, there is no reason for it whatsoever, but it just is, that's all. It is true that neither the universe nor unicorns have sufficient reasons for their existence, but unicorns just happen to not exist while the universe happens to exist even despite that. Why? Because it does; no reason whatsoever.

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    12. @Miguel,


      In fact, it strikes me somewhat now that I think of it that the PSR denier cannot non-question-beggingly escape this paradox of answering what difference there is between the propositions.


      For the difference between P1 and P2 is that P2 actually exists, while P1 doesn't.


      But that doesn't answer the argument, because the point is that something doesn't exist and it has no reason to obtain.


      The unicorn has no reason, while the universe also hasn't. Yet there is a difference between them.


      I'm still not sure if any of this is correct, but it strikes me for some reason as being a big problem when trying to figure out how there is no difference between propositions yet a difference in result.

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    13. Now I just thought this:

      PX: S has a sufficient reason, a cause, or an explanation
      PE: S exists

      If we can show that PSR denial implies not only that PX is not a necessary condition for PE, but that PX has nothing whatsoever to do with PE; that is, that S's having a cause has nothing to do with, and has no bearing on, the existence of S, then we'd have an even more bizarre scenario. And perhaps this can be shown by something close to what you're saying. I'm under the impression that Pruss (yes, Pruss again) makes an argument like this, modal argumets for PSR, but I have yet to study that section.

      Anyway, those are my thoughts on the matter. I don't think that what you said is irrelevant, I think we can argue for PSR by pointing out how we do and should take the absence of sufficient reason to be an explanation for a thing's existence, for example; I just don't think what we have here is a direct argument from non-contradiction for the reasons I've stated.

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    14. To develop it further, to say the universe just so happens to exist for no reason doesn't seem to me to actually offer a good difference between P1 and P2.

      For a brute fact is just not an explanation, but because brute facts are not an explanation, they also cannot be real differences.


      In other words, there really is no real difference between P1 and P2, and brute facts as such don't offer an actual difference.

      In fact, the question may be asked "In virtue of what does the universe exist and unicorns don't?"


      The answer would be, in virtue of nothing, but that doesn't answer the question. That denies the question. There would therefore be no difference between P1 and P2. But if that is the case, then the universe shouldn't exist, but it does.


      To say the difference is a brute fact is false because brute facts don't actually constitute a difference by definition.

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    15. Joe, it does deny the question, but the very point of PSR-denial is the denial of such questions. They're not offering any explanation, but the point is that they have no need for an explanation. Why must there be an answer to your question? Their view is that there need not be explanations to every contingent fact.

      Of course you can still appeal to an inference to the best explanation and say that appeals to "brute facts" should in any case be a last resort. But arguments for PSR from best explanation are well-known; e.g. The empirical arguments, why things don't pop up into being for no reason, etc.

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    16. Understood.


      But there is another approach I've been thinking about and it's about the nature of being as such.


      We already know that one aspect of being is self-intelligible, namely the laws of logic.


      But to say that brute facts are possible is to say that there is one aspect of being that is unintelligible.


      But that is as ridiculous as saying that the existence of a thing is partially brute and partially explained by God.


      In other words, the very nature of being in one aspect we know for certain seems to provide inductive evidence into other aspects of it as well.


      Yet another problem would be with the idea that brute facts are possible and that something can in fact exist for no reason.


      But if something CAN happen, then there must conversely be a HOW it could happen.


      The atheist thus owes us an answer as to HOW a thing can be a brute fact. Which is impossible since it wouldn't be a brute fact if we could find a way how it could be. In fact brute facts reject the question of how just as much as why.


      For example, we could easily ask HOW a contingent thing exists, which brute facts would require us to reject.


      This itself might also be another contradiction. Because if there is no HOW to a question, then that is exactly the same as saying that a thing is possible.


      When you jump out a window saying you will fly, people respond by saying "No way!" which indicates that such a thing is not naturally possible.


      Yet brute facts require us to answer the HOW question without an answer, because there doesn't seem to be a way a PSR denier could answer HOW a thing exists, and since the only answer to that question is God, the PSR denier is forced to answer that there is no HOW answer.


      But that implies a rejection of POSSIBILITY, which is a contradiction.


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    17. @Miguel,


      Also, btw, how exactly would an argument from negative predication and states of affairs for PSR work?

      Is it an inductive argument, or a deductive one that provides a straight way to PSR?

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    18. It's just that we generally accept explanations for negative states of affairs. It's commonly done and we use it in everyday life, in science, philosophy etc. so we shouldn't abandon it. It would be a cost. Here's how Pruss presents the argument in his book:

      "Here is a pattern of explanation we all accept, which was already met with in Section 3.4: “Why did the yogurt fail to ferment? It failed to ferment because none of the usual explanations of fermentation, namely, the presence of bacteria, were there to explain it, and there was no unusual cause. Why did the dog not bark? It did not bark because no stranger approached it and none of the other possible causes of barking caused it to bark.” These are perfectly fine explanations, and they are not elliptical for longer explanations, though of course they are not ultimate explanations since one may ask why no stranger approached the dog.
      In these explanations, we explain a negative state of affairs by noting that the positive state of affairs that it is the denial of lacked an explanation. But now observe that this form of explanation presupposes a PSR, at least for positive states of affair, for if such a PSR does not hold, then one has failed to explain the negative state of affairs. If it is possible that a dog should bark without cause, then in saying that there was no cause for the dog to bark we have not explained why the dog did not bark. We may have explained why a nonbrute barking did not occur, but we have not explained why a brute, or unexplained, barking did not occur.
      Our acceptance of the preceding explanations as nonelliptical is thus a sign of our tacit acceptance of the PSR."

      He then answers some objections.

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    19. @Miguel,


      I've just thought of something.


      There is no difference between P1 and P2 because they are both true.


      Yet there is a difference because the universe exists and unicorns don't.


      This is contradictory because one is saying that there is both a difference and not a difference.

      To say that something exists for no reason is obviously to try to introduce some external difference, but at the same time one is saying that both are the same without a difference.


      If there is no difference between P1 and P2, then neither would exist. But since one does exist there must indeed be a difference.

      Unless of course, one wants to say that the propositions aren't both true. Which would introduce a difference.


      You cannot have it both ways.


      And I can't get rid of the suspicion that the difference is adduced illegitimately, that is, outside of the propositional realm of P1 and P2.

      In fact, one must actually justify why there is a difference between P1 and P2, otherwise brute facts would be unjustified.


      So the PSR denier is left with having to admit that there is no difference between P1 and P2, yet also he has to affirm that one exists and another doesn't, which is clearly a difference betwen the two.


      What do you think? Is this a way to salvage the contradiction objection, or is this approach above also problematic?

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  4. Dear Dr. Feser,

    In your latest book on natural theology you don't mention, let alone discuss, the very important Thomistic teaching on the unilaterality of the relation between the world and God: The world is as created completely dependent on and related to God. God, however, is in no way dependent on or related to the world.

    It seems to me that this teaching is extremely important in order to acknowledge God's divineness and incomprehensibility. However, this teaching also involves a fundamental problem which is even overlooked in Aquinas: How is it even possible that God is related to the world?

    In my view, only the trinitarian and christological content of the supernatural revelation can answer to this problem: God's relation to the world is the divine relation between the Father and the Son, i.e. the Holy Ghost. The world particpates in this relation, however, this relation, which is identical to God himself, is not constituted by the world. The Son became a human being in order to reveal to us our community with God in this sense.

    But then it seems to be highly problematic to talk about God's love for the world in philosophical terms, like you do. Natural theology cannot know anything about God's love for the world because this love it is a supernatural reality which cannot be identified by natural reason. Philosophy cannot tell us that we have communion with God, to the contrary it has to claim und justify that God "dwells in inaccessible light" (St. Paul).

    What do you think?

    Kind regards,
    Bob

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    1. If God had no love whatsoever for the world, why would He have created it? We obviously can know of God's love for the world through reason alone, if anything because we know through natural reason that 1) the world exists, 2) the world's existence is dependent on God and so God exists; and therefore that considering 1 is true, it necessarily means that God finds some good in the Creation, enough so that He freely decided to create it and keeps us all in existence. Of course God loves the world and has an interest in it -- it exists!

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    2. I notice that in "Five Proofs" Feser rejects pan-en-theism on the grounds of the nature of God; but the Christian concept of God claims a distinct level of things with the Trinity. Presumably the Trinity must be distinct from the side of God that is subject to simplicity. And certain Christian mystics like Meister Eckhart have made a distinction between "God" and "Godhead". Perhaps God's unity with the world is found in the Trinitarian aspect.

      Greg

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    3. God, however, is in no way dependent on or related to the world.

      a fundamental problem which is even overlooked in Aquinas: How is it even possible that God is related to the world?

      Bob, I cannot understand the nature of your problem. On the one hand, you accept that God is not related to the world. On the other, you seek a solution to the problem of of how it is that God is related to the world.

      Proposed Solution: God is not related to the world. Doesn't that settle the "how"?

      I am sure you would have noticed that, so I must assume that I don't understand your context.

      But then it seems to be highly problematic to talk about God's love for the world in philosophical terms, like you do. Natural theology cannot know anything about God's love for the world because this love it is a supernatural reality which cannot be identified by natural reason.

      On the contrary: We can know from natural reason that God loves what is good. The world is good (or: has goods). Therefore it must be true that God loves it.

      What Garrigou-Lagrange points out (following other Thomists) is that unlike us creatures in whom our love is a RESPONSE to seeing a thing and knowing it as good, in God his determination as to its nature, and as to its nature coming to exist concretely, is entirely causative. God does not respond to a good by seeing it as good and therefore loving it, he is not passive to its being good: it is in virtue of God's willing that it be that it is good (and lovable by us) - it is in virtue of God's will to love it as concretely existing (rather than merely a possible being) that it is and is therefore good. Goodness is convertible with being, but being is received from God. God is not a passive player.

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    4. @ Tony:

      A little bit more context: Communion with God, and our faith is about communion with God, presupposes that there is a real relation going from God to the world. Aquinas, however, teaches that there is no real relation going from God to the world (only a notional one). I think that both claims are true. In order to reconcile the apparent contradiction one has to refer to the content of revelation: God's relation to the world is not constituted by the world but by God: The world participates in the eternal love between the Father and the Son. This claim does not contradict the claim that there is no real relation going from God to the world which is constituted by the world's existence.

      But just because of that one cannot "read off" God's love from the world, i.e. know it by natural reason. We need Christ and his message as a revelation of this love.

      From my point of view, all approaches that construe creation as implying a real relation going from God to the world which is constituted by the existence of the world are problematic. In think one has to understand creation as a unilateral and subsistent relation which constitues the reality of the world.

      If we knew already by natural reason that God loves the world or that we have communion with God, supernatural revelation would be more ore less redundant (there are no degress of love or communion here).

      So my point is that only the trinitarian and christological content of our faith elucidates how it is possible having communion with God and at the same time acknowleding at the same time God's utter transcendence and absoluteness.

      With regard to your argument: Perhaps we know from natural reason that God loves his own supreme goodness. But we also know from natural reason - at least I think so - that God is not really related to the world. But God loves the world as created in the image and likeness of his Son. This is, however, a supernatural claim.

      By the way, Aquinas distinguishes between two modes of God's love(Sth I-II 110 a 1c). I would argue, however, that the first mode does not imply communion with God but only states that nothing can exist without God.

      Best,
      Bob

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  5. Dr. Feser,

    I have recently been working on developing an outline for an alternative implementation of the Turing Test, which uses symbolic communication in the form of a board game (tactile or simulated) as the standard for determining whether the opponent has a true intellect.

    As part of this project (the details of which I will leave out for now) I have been working on developing a more fine-grained understanding of the specific acts which are unique to the immaterial intellect by virtue of that immateriality. The game will be made with sufficient complexity (branching factor, mainly) to prevent Monte Carlo and alpha-beta methods from reducing the game tree, but the five main Acts of the Intellect that I have come up with are:

    1. Abstraction of Essences (through Analogy of Proper Proportionality)
    2. Judgment of propositional truths (which allows for a conscious mind to properly self-reference)
    3. Reasoning on the logical merits of an argument
    4. Free choice (because the will is disposed to the Good as such, and all objects of choice are imperfect goods)
    5. Language as a symbolic means of expressing the 'term' produced by the intellect in stage 1, 2, or 3 above.

    But there are currently two questions I am working through, and finding a lack of good resources.

    1. Are all levels of abstraction (natural, mathematical, and metaphysical) impossible for animals using the cogitative power, or only metaphysical, and if the latter, why?

    2. If a robot (an embodied computer) were to be built with a telos that is specific to the whole, different from any telos of a part, would it be possible to cause a new substance to be generated, so that upon turning the robot on, it would go from accidental form only to something with a substantial form, and why or why not?

    With an answer, particularly to the second question, I believe the requirements of the game would soon be complete -- but I am not sure how to confirm the answer on the basis of the discussions of techne and telos that are common in scholastic manuals.

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    1. 2. If a robot (an embodied computer) were to be built with a telos that is specific to the whole, different from any telos of a part,

      I suppose that this might indicate a deficiency on my part, but I have trouble understanding what this might be, in human terms. Are you suggesting that we would be operating on the level all the way down to atoms, protons and electrons, and even quarks, so as to re-formulate them so that their telos is as a whole to the robot's purpose? I take it that the Aristotelian-Thomistic POV is that when we talk about molecules and atoms in the human body, we are talking about virtual molecules and atoms: outside the human body, and separate from any organism, the protein molecule has certain observable behaviors that indicate its essence. However, when it is part of a human, its essence is, rather, "human", and its behavior to the extent like to its behavior not in a body is - in the body - just that of a part: to perform a distinct function for the whole. If we didn't have parts with distinct functions and operations, we would be blobs of plasm that consisted of purely "human" blob bits equally and uniformly throughout. This thesis entails, I think, that the essence "human" subsumes all of the would-be essences of carbon, water, calcium, etc. and makes those to be no longer carbon, water, calcium when part of the body, but only parts of human that ACT LIKE carbon, water, and calcium.

      So, are you proposing that we somehow take such control of nature at its roots that we make the silicon in it no longer be silicon
      really but "robot" because it has a robot essence? I think it takes the power of the Creator to do something like that.

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    2. No, I just mean that while a hammock made of vines has no unifying telos, an animal does, despite both objects being made of parts, each of which have their own teloi according to their natures.

      So since a computer is usually said to have only accidental form (and thus no telos as a unit), is it possible to change this, and make it more like an animal than a vine-hammock?

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    3. Christopher Keller: So since a computer is usually said to have only accidental form (and thus no telos as a unit), is it possible to change this, and make it more like an animal than a vine-hammock?

      I don't think so; as Tony said, that seems to be something only God could do. Something like it might make sense without the idea of change: that is, we can (as far as we know) combine hydrogen and oxygen in just the right way to bring about a new substance, water, that has its own substantial form. It is likewise conceivable that there already is some substantial form of rational-animalhood that applies to just the right combination of mechanical parts, such that when joined in the right way, simply causes that kind of being to come into existence — just as when human beings reproduce, they bring together non-human substances in the right way to cause a human being to come into existence.

      (Of course, just as with human beings, if this new substance possessed an immaterial intellect, then God would have to create a new one each time. Indeed, it's not clear that any possible "rational animal" wouldn't just have to be a man in the philosophical sense. We also have to consider the possibility that if an animal could be brought into being in such a manner, it might not be a rational animal — if the idea is that we started out building a sort of cleverly-programmed computer, and reached a point where its matter was capable of underlying an animal form, that we might end up with a brute that was sufficiently "brainy" to act with a high degree of seeming reason.)

      As for Turing-tests, Turing himself did not of course address the metaphysical question, but instead adopted the practical businessman's approach: as long as it "looks" intelligent enough to do what you want (e.g. replace your call-centre employees), then that's officially Good Enough. But it is — at least in principle — always possible to build a machine that fakes intelligence to any arbitrary degree. Since we aren't telepathic, we can evaluate only physical symptoms of purported reasoning and extrapolate backwards. That means that the evidence alone can never conclusively prove that a machine, or chimp or dolphin or parrot, is intelligent. (We may be able to conclude that there is intelligence at work somewhere, as in Aquinas's Fifth Way. Do spiders understand the geometry, etc., needed to spin their webs? Rather, hasn't God simply designed them with the necessary instincts?)

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    4. We turn a substantial form into a merely accidental form when an organism dies, by definition -- so it seems possible to do the reverse, and turn a computer with accidental form into a creature with substantial form.

      All I'm asking is if this is possible, and if not, why not?

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    5. Christopher Keller: All I'm asking is if this is possible, and if not, why not?

      As noted, we do do this, whenever we make water or have babies. What we can't do is conjure up new substantial forms. So it is hypothetically possible that some machine of just the right structure by the nature of its parts gets replaced with a new substance — if God has already created that substantial form (or chooses to create the first one at that moment). If not, all we are doing is manipulating existing substances accidentally, and all we will end up with is accidentally-formed substances. There is no way to force God into creating new substances. (If God had not decided to create the substance of "water", then when we joined hydrogen to oxygen in that certain way, all we would end up with is a water-like artifact of accidentally-arranged atoms.)

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    6. I suppose then the next question would be how we might use observable differences to infer which of the two is the case. If a computer or robot were to perform some action X, such that X can only be either the result of a genuine intellect or else would have to be simulated by a computer which is orders of magnitude beyond the theoretical physical limits of a computer in our universe, if there exists such an X, then this would seem to constitute sufficient evidence.

      My current project is to define this X.

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    7. Christopher Keller: If a computer or robot were to perform some action X, such that X can only be either the result of a genuine intellect or else would have to be simulated by a computer which is orders of magnitude beyond the theoretical physical limits of a computer in our universe, if there exists such an X, then this would seem to constitute sufficient evidence.

      That's an interesting approach. When I said that "in principle" it's simple to simulate any act of intelligence, it in no way indicates that it could be done in practice without exhausting the materials or energy of the known universe, or be able to function in anything remotely close to human reaction-time, etc. Of course, there may not be such a limit — any particular act can be simulated by machines merely by making a recording of a human doing it. And to pass the test, a machine needs to be able to simulate only some subset of what a man could do or say. (After all, no individual human can respond perfectly intelligently to every possible situation; our knowledge and abilities are limited, we make mistakes, some of us are bit thick, some are even mentally crippled in some way.)

      In other words, given the impressive capabilities that man-made objects already possess, it is plausible that a functionally "good enough" simulation of intelligence is indeed physically possible. And I think that until we have such a machine, there is no way to know whether that's because there is such a limiting X, or whether we just haven't figured out any clever-enough programming tricks to make it work.

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  6. Another very important question about the soul:


    Is Alex the gray parrot a rational animal?


    He was trained for 20 years by his master to study all sorts of things, and these are the results:


    He is the first animal in history to ever ask a question about himself when asking what color he was when looking into a mirror.


    He also seems to be aware of the concept of nothing when he was once asked what difference there was between two identical objects, and he somehow answered nothing as if he understood it (this was when he was 30 years old - Alex was born in 1976 and died in 2007).


    He even mashes syntax together to create new words!


    When being introduced to an apple, he started calling it a banerry - which means he combined parts of the words cranberry and banana to describe something new, as if he actually understood the meanings!


    He is even the only animal so far to show boredom when asked questions over and over again!


    What do you think? Can this be explained in some way without putting immaterial rationality into the picture?

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    1. Well, I think we're not really sure if Alex wasn't just displaying memorized association and behavior instead of actual abstract thought. There have been criticisms of the whole thing; from the wikipedia page:

      "Some in the scientific community are skeptical of Pepperberg's findings, pointing to Alex's communications as operant conditioning.[3] Critics point to the case of Clever Hans, a horse who could apparently count, but who was actually understanding subtle cues from the questioner. In another case, Nim Chimpsky, a chimpanzee was thought to be using language, but there is some debate over whether he simply imitated his teacher.[2] Herbert Terrace, who worked with Nim Chimpsky, says he thinks Alex performed by rote rather than using language; he calls Alex's responses "a complex discriminating performance", adding that in every situation, "there is an external stimulus that guides his response."[2] However, supporters of Alex say that Alex was able to talk to and perform for anyone involved in the project as well as complete strangers who recorded findings, though such interactions do not involve the strict conditions required to exclude rote and operant responding."

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    2. That might be the case for some, but there are certain other things that are quite interesting on their own.

      Alex may have asked a question about himself without using any abstraction, because it is easy to see how using simple imagination and consciousness one could ask about a certain color.


      But that does leave the question of how a parrot could have developed intentional curiosity and even knew how to use the correct words which he associated with posing a question and of a specific topic, namely color.


      Yet another thing that still remains a bit mysterious is how Alex actually used different pronouns for himself and others, almost as if he were showing the self-reflection of an actual intellect.


      And yet another mystery is how Alex managed to create a new word to name a certain new object he was presented with by using his knowledge of known objects and the names associated with them and then forming a combination to associate that with.


      That right there is the closest thing one could get to intellect, because it involves naming new objects by remembering known ones and extracting their similarities to the new one for comparison.

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    3. JoeD: Is Alex the gray parrot a rational animal?

      All animals — indeed, all creation — is rational, for it is all beautifully ordered and intelligible as created by our supremely rational God. Oh, you mean, does the parrot have a rational intellect? No, of course not.

      My coffee-maker can tell me when it's out of water... that doesn't make it aware, let alone self-aware. And the owners' manual uses different pronouns to refer to me and it — and the manual doesn't even have a computer inside!

      A good question to ask in such cases is, "Could a machine do that?" And in these cases, the answer is yes. Tasks such as comparing the colours of triangles is in fact pretty easy to program — the hard part is getting a machine to "see" anything in the first place. (It's something that seemed straightforward enough until people actually tried to do it: but we don't live in a cartoon-world where everything has thick, black outlines; consider how much we rely on knowing what something is to figure out where the edges are rather than vice versa. It turns out to be really hard just to get a computer to pick out "an object" from a splotch of colours.) Animals do not have reason, but they do have senses, so they get the hard part "for free". It's not really surprising then that they can do so many things sans intellect — other than because of our instinctive anthropomorphism (which also leads us often to talk and act as though our computers could think, even though we know they don't).

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    4. @Mr.Green,


      So you are saying that Alex's ability to combine syntax to name a new thing he has never seen before on the basis of it's resemblance to other things he has seen and knows the words associated with it, can easily be achieved by the imagination and knowledge that can be had without intellect?


      And what about the fact he seems to understand the concepts of "bigger" and "smaller" and "same" and "different" when being presented with a wide variety of objects? He somehow knows how to associate the difference in size and color of objects with certain words as if he knew what they meant!


      And the owners' manual uses different pronouns to refer to me and it — and the manual doesn't even have a computer inside!



      So there is a way in which an animal can learn (by himself mind you! Alex wasn't actually taught, at least not intentionally, to do this!) to use different pronouns for himself and others?


      And what would you make of Alex being the first ever animal to ever ask a question about himself, namely what color he was?


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    5. Does Chomsky have anything to say on this?

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    6. https://www.firstthings.com/article/2017/04/first-words

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    7. JoeD: So you are saying that Alex's ability to combine syntax [...] can easily be achieved by the imagination and knowledge that can be had without intellect?

      Since a computer could be programmed to do it, then yes, I would count that as relevantly "easy" for something with an actual imagination.

      And what about the fact he seems to ...

      What about it? A pair of calipers can "tell" the difference between bigger and smaller; my camera can "recognise" what colour it is; your answering-machine "learned" to call us by different pronouns; nature "knows" what nothing is (and abhors it, no less); Boggle™ games "invent" new words; and any cat ever shows "boredom" if you ask it repeated questions (in fact you don't even need to repeat them, cats get bored at the drop of a hat!). Yes, of course, these examples all require a suitable amount of generosity of interpretation; but so do all stories of animal "intelligence".

      So there is a way in which an animal can learn (by himself mind you! Alex wasn't actually taught, at least not intentionally, to do this!) to use different pronouns for himself and others?

      As your comments indicate, these claims always need to be qualified in terms of "intentionally", "seemingly", etc. Like claims about what quantum mechanics "proves", etc., we have to watch for reading an interpretation into the facts and then reading it out again. Computers can do all these things, therefore an immaterial intellect is definitively not required. I don't mean to say that the way animals perform these tasks is the same as the way computers do it; but that there is a way proves that other ways could be possible.

      And what would you make of Alex being the first ever animal to ever ask a question about himself, namely what color he was?

      Not much; for starters, I don't know any of the details, only that at some point some animal did something in some circumstances that some human being decided to call "asking a question about himself" (or was reported, possibly incorrectly, as saying). I do make a little something of calling it the "first", because if animals really were intelligent in any sense, then why in the world would this parrot be the first? We've been training chimps to fake-converse for some time now, surely a chimp is smarter than a bird-brain. The obvious conclusion is that the crucial factor is something about the parrot's specific environment rather than anything to do with "animal intelligence" in general.

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    8. @Mr.Green,


      He looked at himself in the mirror and said "What color?" to which his owner replied gray six times before he finally got it.


      So what should we make of that?

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    9. He didn't need to know the concept of "color" to appropriately ask that question, I believe. He could just have memorized and associated the particular use of "what color?" without really knowing it as a concept, hence why Herbert Terrace said Alex might have learned this stuff through rote. I'd also wager that's why he needed to hear "gray" being repeated six times before he "finally got it". It wasn't a genuine question. The whole thing reminds me of Searle's Chinese Room argument.

      I'd say Alex's case shows us how some animals can have very impressive learning capabilities, but it is far from clear that it suggests rationality or anything close to abstract thinking.

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    10. @Miguel,


      May I ask a few more questions?


      1) Does the Augustinian argument from eternal truths depend on the immateriality of the intellect in order to work? Or could we say for the sake of argument that the intellect was material and the argument could still go through?


      I am asking because it seems to me that if we want to say that universals, propositions and abstract objects subsist in an eternal intellect because of the nature of these abstract things and their intentionality, it seems we also have to argue for the immteriality of human intellects as well.


      2) What about the panpsychist response to the Augustinian argument to the effect that the World-Soul of all physical reality grounds universals? Such a response was suggested by OA Police.


      3) Does the argument from logical possibility / grounding of possibility depend on realism about universals and abstract objects? Or can we for sake of argument accept nominanalism about universals and abstract objects and the argument from possibility would still get us to God? That is, are the Augustinian and Possibility argument related deeply such that they depend on each other in a way, or are they truly independent of each other?

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    11. JoeD: He looked at himself in the mirror and said "What color?" to which his owner replied gray six times before he finally got it.

      Again, there are so few details, there's very little we can conclude. If I had to guess, I'd say that the parrot — presumably trained with treats to react to the "whutcolur" sound — decided to cut out the middleman and see if making the sound himself would get him treats. (And tried repeatedly when his thick owner just talked back instead of giving him the wanted cracker. After all, if he were really so smart, why would it take him six times to understand?)

      Of course, there are all sorts of possible explanations. Maybe parrots really are rational animals, and have just been hiding it really really really well. Or maybe Dr. Pepperberg is a brilliant ventriloquist playing an elaborate practical joke on everyone. Or maybe advanced extraterrestrials were controlling him with their animal-mind-control rays. Or maybe Alex is a parrot-shaped extraterrestrial (or an alien inside a little robo-parrot suit as in Men in Black). But since an immaterial intellect is clearly in no way required to perform such feats, the reasonable explanation is simply that he's a regular non-concept-abtracting bird.

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  7. What do you guys think about this blog post made by former hardcore Thomist Jay Dyer, who converted to Eastern Orthodoxy?

    https://jaysanalysis.com/2016/10/19/augustine-aquinas-barlaam-palamas-the-root-of-western-theological-error/

    Hard hitting criticism against Aquinas and the Catholics/West in general. Brings up Palamas and his essence/energies distinction which could conflict with what Aquinas concieved of God as being "actus purus".

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    1. Aquinas made clear that the distinction between second actuality and passive potentiality is what causes composition. Palamas considers the "Energies" to be in first actuality, with the Essence being Pure Act and Absolutely Simple. This is discussed in his Triads and Capita. I can find links and citations if you would like.

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    2. Yeah that would be great. Thank you.

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    3. Palamas, The One Hundred Fifty Chapters, Chapter 145:

      >"...Thus those who in our day disbelieve the teaching of the Spirit given through our holy fathers and who revile us when we agree with the fathers, say that if the divine energy differs from the divine essence, even though it is envisaged as wholly pertaining to God's essence, then either there will be many gods or the one God will be composite. They are unaware that **it is not activating and energy but being acted upon and passivity that produce composition**. God activates without in any way being acted upon or subject to change. Thus He is not composite on account of His energy..."

      Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles I.18.p2:

      >"In every composite there must be act and potency. For several things cannot become absolutely one unless among them something is act and something potency."

      Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I.25.1:

      >"Power is twofold—namely, passive, which exists not at all in God; and active, which we must assign to Him in the highest degree.... Active power is not contrary to act, but is founded upon it, for everything acts according as it is actual:"

      See also the De Potentia Dei I.1.ad1 for how Thomas views this in his metaphysical framework.

      Palamas says the Divine Essence is simple in his Dialogue:

      >"The divinity is one and simple and undivided and does not abandon the supernatural simplicity on account of the pious distinction according to the activities."

      https://books.google.com/books?id=CqljFEGjWJEC&pg=PA58#v=onepage&q&f=false

      And:

      "And because God only acts according to His divine powers and does not suffer too, He alone is really simple in a supernatural way.... But that which only acts without changing or acquiring anything from the things outside itself--how can that be composed through the activities? Hence, the divine is simple and almighty."

      https://books.google.com/books?id=CqljFEGjWJEC&pg=PA90#v=onepage&q&f=false

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  8. Also, I am rather intrigued by infinite intelligibility arguments for God's existence.


    The main question I have about them is what are we going to do now that we are aware there are different types of infinity, some larger than others.


    The natural numbers are infinite, yet the reals are bigger.

    I wonder how the existence of infinities, some bigger than others, will affect the argument from infinite intelligibility since infinity is no longer a singular concept as it was at the time of Aquinas.

    Aquinas for example argued that our concept infinity presupposes something that actually and formally has it, which could only be God.


    This supposes that infinite magnitudes or even multitudes cannot exist, and also happened to have been made before larger infinities were discovered, thus showing how the concept of simple infinity is not even the biggest one, since our everyday concept of infinity is mostly of the same type as that of the natural numbers.


    Any thoughts?

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    1. I'm not sure it would change anything; Cantor himself was a theistic mathematical platonist, so his own interpretation was that all of mathematics was grounded in divine omniscience, so it's unclear how the Cantorian discoveries could be inconsistent with that.

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    2. I am not talking about an Augustinian argument from eternal truths, but about an argument from the very concept of infinity as such to God.


      Aquinas once made such an argument when he said how our intellect understands things by extending infinitely. The infinity of numbers is such an example, and the only reason for such an orientation of the intellect is if there were some actually infinite intelligible thing out there.


      But I don't exactly know how Aquinas's argument would stand today now that we know there are bigger infinities out there.


      His argument seems to be based on the infinity of numbers specifically in order to reach an infinite intelligible that contains them in some sense. Now that we know there are bigger infinities, we would have to ask how big that intelligible must be to contain them. Is it infinitely intelligible to contain the natural numbers only? Or the real numbers? Or all of the alephs and every class of large cardinal properties as well?

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    3. Yes, I am aware of the difference; I'm the person who originated the label 'infinite intelligibility arguments' for infinite intelligibility arguments. As I noted, there does not seem to be any reason to think that it would have any affect at all, given that Cantor, as a theistic mathematical platonist, himself thought that the hierarchy of infinities required God.

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    4. Oh, so Cantor himself thought that God's intelligible nature was needed in order to ground the hierarchy as well? I guess you weren't refering to an Augustinian argument but rather to an intelligibility argument as well when you described what Cantor believed about them.

      The only other objection that I could think of would be that there is no set of all sets even when it comes to infinities, so there might not be one intelligibility out there that has them.

      On the other hand, Cantor was the man who discovered the above himself, so I don't think we should take that objection seriously since the man still believed in God.


      Literally the only other objection I can think of is Rudy Rucker's objection in "Infinity and the Mind" to Cantor's idea of the Absolute Infinite as being not really coherent or plausible.

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    5. Cantor doesn't have an infinite intelligibility argument as such, as far as I am aware, but he does take the hierarchy of infinites to presuppose the Absolute Infinite, which he regards as being in God. To that extent his interpretation has the same structure as an infinite intelligibility argument, and so it's unclear where any problem could enter.

      On the incoherence objection, Cantor takes the Absolute Infinite to be an inconsistent multiplicity, rather than a set of all sets. But it makes sense for him to think it exists nonetheless. Cantor thinks of mathematics as being about what you can think about; sets he conceives of as, more or less, thinking-togethers; but the things that can be thought about are not reducible to the things that are thinkable-together. The field of mathematics itself is an inconsistent multiplicity in Cantor's sense of 'inconsistent' (mathematicians spend lots of time studying things consistent in themselves that are not consistent with each other).

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    6. I wonder how the existence of infinities, some bigger than others, will affect the argument from infinite intelligibility since infinity is no longer a singular concept as it was at the time of Aquinas.

      Like Brandon, I don't think variation on infinities would affect the issue. But that's a mere opinion, as I am not strong on the infinite intelligibility argument.

      I would just point out that the notion of there being multiple levels or degrees of infinity depends upon there being what is "infinite in THIS respect", so that it can be limited in other respects. The rational numbers are infinite, but limited to those that can be represented as the ratio of a whole number to a whole number. That limit means that they are not infinite in every respect. The set of reals takes away a portion of that limitedness, but has its own limits (it does not include the imaginary numbers).

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    7. @Tony,


      That limit means that they are not infinite in every respect. The set of reals takes away a portion of that limitedness, but has its own limits (it does not include the imaginary numbers).


      The set of reals is bigger than the set of naturals precisely because it actually contains more members than the naturals. The naturals and the reals don't have a one-to-one correspondance ratio, which means there are more reals than there are numbers.

      I don't think that one-to-one correspondances can be spoken of as a "Limitation" in the proper sense of the word.


      And then there is the fact that you can always make sets that are bigger than the reals in cardinality, in fact there are infinitely many such sets, each bigger than the last.


      And then you get to large cardinal properties, inaccessible numbers, indescribable numbers, and we also don't know if the large cardinal property hierarchy also goes on forever or if it has an upper limit because it would eventually become incoherent to suppose higher levels (see Reinhardt and Berkeley cardinals for more information).


      So there must be some way in which we could describe all of these cardinalities above as being qualified infinities or being "in this respect".

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    8. JoeD, somehow I feel that the "cardinality" of an infinite set must not be confused with the concept that answers to the question "how many" in a finite set. Nor the matter of one-to-one correspondence. That there be a one-to-one correspondence, in finite sets, helps to tell us "how many". But it does not tell us so in infinite sets. Clearly, the set of {the odd whole numbers} is "lesser" than the set of {the whole numbers}, in some sense, even if they can be set in one-to-one correspondence.

      I think there is a mental mistake is considering cardinality as if it "just is the quantitative measure" of an infinite set. Hence, I don't think we have quite locked things down to the point of saying

      The set of reals is bigger than the set of naturals precisely because it actually contains more members than the naturals.

      The set of reals is "bigger" because it has all the members that the naturals have, and others besides. But this is true also of the comparison of the whole numbers to the odd whole numbers, and yet they are said to have "the same cardinality". So, then, the cardinality must not be wholly sufficient to tell us about the quantity of the infinite sets, yes?

      I didn't intend to speak of one-to-one correspondence as a "limitation" as such, so much as indicating where there is a limitation. A pointer, a sign. But not the only pathway to realizing there is a limit. The limitation resides in whatever it it in the set that allows us to determine its cardinality: its "essence" if you will. It must be true that the set of natural numbers is more limited than the the rationals, if the naturals contains all the members in the naturals and then some others besides. Well, the same must be true of higher cardinalities: whatever infinity a set has, if some other set includes it and has still more members, then it is limited by whatever precludes it from having those others.

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    9. @Tony,


      Clearly, the set of {the odd whole numbers} is "lesser" than the set of {the whole numbers}, in some sense, even if they can be set in one-to-one correspondence.


      Well, mathematicians consider the set of odds and naturals to be exactly the same cardinality, even though it's true the odds don't have all the members the naturals have.



      The limitation resides in whatever it it in the set that allows us to determine its cardinality: its "essence" if you will. It must be true that the set of natural numbers is more limited than the the rationals, if the naturals contains all the members in the naturals and then some others besides. Well, the same must be true of higher cardinalities: whatever infinity a set has, if some other set includes it and has still more members, then it is limited by whatever precludes it from having those others.


      Well, if you look up Cantor's diagonal proof, you'll see how even fractions have the same cardinality as naturals, even though it might seem the fractions are bigger because each denominator can have infinitely many numerators, and since there are infinitely many denominators there are thus infinities upon infinities of numerators and fractions as such.


      But the reals are truly larger than the naturals because they simply outnumber them.


      In fact, there are things out there that do have the cardinality of those higher infinities. The set of all possible geometrical points of all possible geometrical objects has the cardinality of the reals - aleph 1. And the set of all arbitrary functions is even bigger than the reals - it's cardinality is aleph 2.


      You can also use powersetting, which is to make a set of all possible combinations of each member of the previous set as well as the original members, to thus create a higher cardinality which is bigger than the previous one in the same way as the reals are bigger than the naturals. This also ascends to infinity.

      So I guess we could take powersetting as a way to find out what limitation a certain cardinality has. Perhaps we could say an infinite cardinality is limited because it's not a powerset of anything, or is not powersetted a certain amount of times and is located in a specific place in the hierarchy.


      Aleph 7 could thus have the limitation of being smaller than all higher alephs by virtue of not being a powerset of itself and so on.

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    10. Well, mathematicians consider the set of odds and naturals to be exactly the same cardinality, even though it's true the odds don't have all the members the naturals have.

      Which is my point: "cardinality" does not get at the whole of what we mean when we talk about the quantity of a multitude. Not with infinite sets, anyway. It is a useful concept, sure, but it is not complete enough to cover the difference between the set of odd integers and the set of integers.

      But the reals are truly larger than the naturals because they simply outnumber them.

      Sure, the set of reals is larger, because it includes the naturals and has others besides.

      Do you mean that the set of {the reals except for the naturals} is larger? Is the "number" of that set higher than the "number" of naturals? Only if you consider Aleph one to be "a number", which most do not. It is a cardinality, of course. I would be more cautious, and not talk about there being "more" or the set being "larger", and just talk about the cardinality being higher. Which is what we can say precisely, the other being very imprecise and open to error.

      So I guess we could take powersetting as a way to find out what limitation a certain cardinality has. Perhaps we could say an infinite cardinality is limited because it's not a powerset of anything, or is not powersetted a certain amount of times and is located in a specific place in the hierarchy.

      I am afraid I am not making myself clear. First, a set is not "limited" because of its cardinality. Its cardinality is a something that is caused by its limitations. A set is limited in virtue of what is is that determines what belongs to the set and what does not. The formal assignment principle, for sets determined by concept rather than by mere list: the "set of integers" is limited by the concepts that tell us what "integers" are, which entails that there are other things (like fractions, and irrationals) that are not in "integers". For every set that is determined, its determination tells us what belongs and what does not, and setting off what does not LIMITS it. Cardinality doesn't cause this, it is an effect of it.

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  9. This is a question for the smart Thomists who hang out around here (Brandon, Tony, Mike T, etc.) -

    I don't know if any of you saw this critique of some ideas in Rod Dreher's book over at "Public Discourse":

    http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2017/12/20325/

    To make a long story short, the author of that piece thinks Rod ignores natural law thinking in his analysis of the American Constitution and political thought. Ignore for a moment whether or not that argument is correct -- I'm interested in Rod's reaction. He took notice of the criticism and basically said that he shared David Bentley Hart's opinion on natural law ideas -- he thinks they are correct BUT won't convince anyone of the truth.

    O.K., so this is all well and good and we've been through all these arguments before. What interested me is that a lot of commenters on Rod's blog started posting comments that disagreed with the idea that the natural law had anything to teach us at all about the Truth. Some of their comments were foolish and of the variety we've seen around here before (e.g. Aristotle was wrong about physics so natural law must be wrong) but there were two criticisms that I haven't come across that I'd love it if someone could point me to some responses:

    1) Aristotle used natural law arguments to justify slavery;

    2) Aristotle also used natural law arguments to make the case that women were 'inferior' to men (although in what sense the comment doesn't say)

    So the thrust of these comments is that can we trust natural law arguments today if they give us such divergent (and morally dubious) answers in the past?

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    1. Aristotle doesn't have a fully developed natural law theory, although he has certain elements, not fully developed. I would argue that you don't get a fully developed natural law theory prior to Cicero.

      Nonetheless, we have to be precise (more precise, I think, than natural law theorists themselves sometimes are) as to what is meant by 'natural law arguments'. On any natural law theory, all moral arguments of any kind are based on natural law; the arguments themselves may be good or bad, of course, but it's being based on natural law that makes them identifiable as 'moral' at all. In this sense, both arguments obviously fail: if Aristotle's conclusions are bad, the most reasonable explanation is just that his arguments were bad, not that natural law is thereby falsified. On the other hand, people often mean by the term, 'arguments that are not only based on natural law but based on specific higher-level reflection about natural law'. In this sense, neither of these aspects of Aristotle are based on natural law arguments; they are based on purported empirical facts about the inability of certain people to act rationally without the guidance of someone else.

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    2. Brandon,

      You are amazing. Thanks for that quick, but very smart reply.

      I appreciate the help from a pro.

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    3. To add what Brandon said, the criticism against Aristotle by way of his coming to wrong moral conclusions wouldn't just work against natural law theory. It would work against any moral theory. You could take any major figure and find that person justifying something we would think is wrong. It's really an indictment of any form of moral realism.

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    4. For some reason, it doesn’t seem to bother them that several prominent Darwinists used Darwinism to justify racist beliefs.

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  10. I'm dealing with very strange objections to CT from a rejection of "atemporal causation". I'm not sure how to deal with it because I'm not sure in what respect, if at all, I'm committed to such a thing nor the precise proper philosophy of time as it relates to causation I should communicate. What are the best books/articles on these topics at present?

    Also what are the best books on Thomism and epistemology?

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  11. For the prime mover to be the terminus or principal cause of a per se causal series, its causal efficacy relevant to the per se causal series and its existence (since existence precedes causal efficacy) need not be the result of an actualized potentials. That is, its causal efficacy in a per se causal series cannot be the result of a movement from potency to act. Likewise, its existence can't be the result of a movement from potency to act.

    However, though it may seem odd, couldn't the prime mover still have potentials theoretically? That is, couldn't it still have potentials irrelevant to its causal efficacy in a per se causal chain and irrelevant to its existence? Of course, being the principal cause, there wouldn't be anything prior to it to actualize said potentials, but couldn't it still logically have these potentials, these limitations of its being?

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    1. If they were "potentials", is there some way these potentials can be actualized? If so, who (what being or agency) has these actualities - for we know that a being cannot get some actuality which it does not have except it receive it from without. And yet, if some OTHER thing has these actualities and the Prime Mover does not, then the OTHER thing would be the mover in the event of the Prime Mover getting the actuality in question.

      And if there is no other from which it can actualize its potentials, then in what sense does it have "potential"?

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    2. I look at it like this. Potentials are not just a principle of determination they're also a principle of limitation. If something is potentially red then it is limited to actually being that which is non-red. So, theoretically couldn't the prime mover have limitations on its actuality?

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    3. Anyone else have thoughts on this?

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  12. When God creates something, given the assumption He is Pure Act, how does he create something with potency? Is potency (or prime matter) created Ex Nihilo or does it "pre-exist" in some way in the Divine Mind? Is elevation from pure nothingness or non-being to potency logically possible? (This is all assuming the Christian doctrine that matter does not co-exist with God but is created by God).

    Basically, an account of creation in terms of act/potency/essence/existence from an A-T perspective would be appreciated. I understand the Five Ways, but does anyone know the exact steps (logically speaking at least) God must take in order to create something and then actualize it?

    Thank you!

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    1. My understanding is that God creates the existence common to everything (esse commune) first and foremost. That is the primary act of creation from his power. That esse commune must be distinguished from his esse divinum. God's esse (esse divinum)"is a maximal reality that includes within its power anything that in any way exists, for if anything is independent of God's power, it is precisely without esse, and thereby nothing. Thus esse commune participates in esse divinum as an effect in its cause, in which case esse divinum transcends esse commune as a cause does its effect." (Aqinas's Way to God: The Proof in De Ente et Essentia by Gaven Kerr)

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  13. Open thread?

    Ok Classic Theism rulez!

    Theistic Personalism blows chunks!

    Hard Science Fiction is Awesome! Going faster then Light is so over rated right now!

    Milo Yiannopoulos is the greatest modern defender of Free Speech.

    Guy Benson bores me to tears but not as much as George Will.

    Watching the left melt down over Trump is awesome.

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  14. You're a Trick fan? Aww, man, you truly are aces high, Dr. Feser! "The magic of Robin Zander, the charisma of Rick Nielsen...The Dream Police, da da da da da da dee" (Mike Damone, "Fast Times at Ridgemont High").

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  15. Dr. Feser,

    I was talking to my high school campus minister about your pro-death penalty stance and reasoning behind it. He replied that a person should never be killed (innocent or guilty) other than in self defense because they are sacred and created in the Image of God. Also, he continued to say that retributive justice goes against the Gospel (Jesus says no longer eye for an eye) and that no one ever merits punishment. Basically the "we are punished by our sins not for our sins" stance. Instead, he said that we should only punish so much as to protect society from the criminal, and, by that definition, it is unnecessary to kill anyone as a form of punishment due to our highly developed prison systems.
    How would you respond to this? How do we maintain the sacredness and dignity of the human person while also granting legitimacy to the death penalty?

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    1. I would just quote Genesis 9

      "And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being. 6 Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind."

      It is precisely because we are created in the image of God that the death penalty is necessary, as per this passage and as per centuries of church teaching.

      God bless

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    2. Nathan: He replied that a person should never be killed (innocent or guilty) other than in self defense because they are sacred and created in the Image of God.

      Of course! Meanwhile, a murderer should always be executed because his victims are sacred and created in the image of God! (Life imprisonment? You get that for running ponzi schemes... how can you set a price on the infinite worth of the imago Dei compared to some stolen cash?)

      Basically the "we are punished by our sins not for our sins" stance.

      You should search for Prof. Feser's previous articles about the true nature of punishment; and of course there's his book, which addresses the question in more detail.

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    3. And read his book, of course.

      In addition to what he says in his book: the campus minister needs to re-think his thinking, by considering Genesis 9:6 and these questions: Christ also said in the Gospel not to strike the aggressor, but to turn the other cheek. How then is self-defense (or other defense) therefore legitimate either?

      If retributive punishment goes against the Gospel, then is ALL punishment therefore is prohibited, not just the death penalty. Is he arguing to do away with prison sentences, and parents putting Johnny in the corner? (By the way, you can't get prison sentences "to keep us safe" except by way of the retributive aspect of punishment, for otherwise there could be no release from prison until some "expert" decided that he was no longer a threat, and so prison would not be for a set time period but (like mental illness) "for the duration" that the problem persists.

      Under the "we no longer need to..." because we have such good punishments, is he prepared to put murderers into solitary confinement where they have no possible contact with anyone, including not even communication? For, mob and gang member murderers continue to deform the justice system by communicating threats to OTHERS, via the people they do talk to, and this includes prison guards (who can be "gotten to" through threats to their families, or by paying them off). Somehow, nobody I know who is against the DP is in favor of prisons that are so automated that the convict cannot possibly have any contact with others.

      (Jesus says no longer eye for an eye) and that no one ever merits punishment.

      This is an oxymoron: punishment JUST IS the (de)merit of doing wrong. Everybody who does wrong merits the just treatment of doing wrong. Even if Jesus said (though he didn't) not to punish, that cannot be taken as saying "because they don't deserve it" instead of (just as one alternative) "even though they deserve it, I demand of you a higher calling". In fact, he never said "don't punish" and the closest he ever came to suggesting it is, on being told by the adulteress that there was nobody there to condemn her, "neither do I condemn you". You can try to get "neither do I condemn you" to "you must not punish at all" all you want, but it's not in there.

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  16. Looking forward to Neo-Scholastic Essays for Christmas

    Figuring out how the Thomsit can yawn at the exceptionally speculative models of the Origin of the Universe (pretty simple really)

    Continuing my initiation into the (actually quite sane) world of Quantum Mechanics

    Oddly enough I'm missing Stardusty, yes he was an ass but he provided hours of amusement.

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    1. Come to classicaltheism.boardhost.com

      We have a novel-long thread discussion with him.

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    2. oh so he took the hint after all, is he still playing at being a science dork or has he matured into someone who acts his age?

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    3. Come and see for yourself. The thread is undoubtedly one of the longest if not the longest discussion in the forum's history. I sort of lost track of the back-and-forth between SP and the forum users. It seems like they have to do a lot of repeating and explaining. They claim SP is just unwilling to admit the error of his premises--there may be truth to this.

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  17. I have a question:

    For human reproduction, God must imbue each human soul in to it's body at conception. I'm assuming that the very moment that the sperm and ovum combine, that is the exact moment that God imbued the matter with the human form. If we consider any other option, then we run a serious risk of making the point of 'ensoulment' ridiculously unclear since then we either have something non-human or no unified entity at all.

    Which brings me to my question: What happens if God doesn't do the 'ensoulment'? Would something non-human be formed, or would no unified individual of any kind be formed (basically it would still be sperm and egg as separate entities)? It would seem both answers are problematic.

    If something non-human is formed, then it will grow and develop given the kind of thing that it is. There is nothing impossible about the non-human being very very human like as well and we wouldn't know its not rational until much further in its development when language is developed.

    But if nothing is conceived, then this poses another problem, since it implies that our reproductive process is radically different to any other animal, which have the power built in to produce a new individual of the kind of animal. Ours is effectively not reproductive at all.

    We can't really say that God coming in and basically performing a miracle for each human conception counts as part of our natural reproductive process.

    Any thoughts?

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    1. Just a guess, but what makes a human soul human is that it's an intellectual, rational soul. So presumably the (purely hypothetical) union you posit would be a physically human (the biologists would say it is, from its DNA) but not metaphysically so. Like Seth's wife, or a Kardashian.

      Just how I see it.

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    2. I've thought about this before, but this is actually a question I could use some thoughts on myself.

      My surface level take is this:
      If God, at least initially, did not do the "ensoulment," then we would still be human beings biologically. We would also, then, still have a soul in the standard sense, as it applies to plants and animals. We would not, however, have eternal souls, until God does so. This would surely be a problem, but I guess I don't get what you mean by the possibility of us not being an actual separate entity or of being non-human.

      With that being said, I definitely see the problem of human reproduction and being made in God's image being unclear.

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    3. "So presumably the (purely hypothetical) union you posit would be a physically human (the biologists would say it is, from its DNA) but not metaphysically so."

      It will appear very much like a human, but it couldn't be human since it will lack the human form. I don't believe its possible to just have the animal side of the human form, but not the rational side, and still say it has a human form.

      Forms, as far as I understand, are unities, so either the matter has the whole form or not at all, even if the form is not completely realised in the matter. It would be like having the form of a triangle and thus have 3-sides but not have angles adding up to 2 right angles. It doesn't seem to make sense.

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  18. How good will the Beatific Vision be for us on the scale of happiness?


    I once read a Thomist who claimed that the Beatific Vision is such an awesome and powerful good that it is beyond even the sort of thing that would make us perfectly happy.


    That is, the Beatific Vision is beyond even perfect happiness. Which goes against the usual description of the Beatific Vision as being a state of perfect happiness, not something BEYOND even perfect happiness, but at the same level as perfect happiness.


    In fact, because God Himself is currently unknown to the intellect in His complete nature, and is also the source of all intellectual things, it seems to me that the Beatific Vision will also exceed any intellectual idea we could have of the happiness that awaits us after the final resurrection.


    Usual descriptions of reality after it has been redeemed and resurrected and glorified are to the effect that it is like tasting every good and delicious taste at the same time, smelling every good and exquisite smell at the same time, hearing every good sound, seeing all things beautiful, feeling all things wonderful, experiencing all things amazing, and all this at once.

    This state of affairs has also been described as being similar to our current reality only without sin, a place of endless desire where we will always have a desire for something yet that desire is always satisfied, a place that is both Home and Adventure at the same time, where our relationships with loved ones will go beyond even what we have here now, where all good things that we experienced here are also present but in a higher state, and so on and so on.

    Indeed, there are many descriptions of Heaven, all describing something which seems reasonable to hope will be part of the New Creation.


    Yet at the same time, since all of these things can either be imagined or understood directly by the intellect, it seems that the happiness of the Beatific Vision in the New Creation will be beyond even those descriptions.


    That is not to say that these descriptions are incorrect, but that they fail to describe all that will be experienced in the Beatific Vision. It simply means the Beatific Vision will be at least all of that, and certainly much more.


    What do you think?

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    1. JoeD, I think the answer is both simple and difficult.

      On the simple scale: the BV is full happiness. It isn't "beyond" happiness, though it is beyond any of our concrete imaginings of happiness.

      St. Thomas points this out constantly: as embodied spirits, i.e. spiritual animals, our normative operation as humans is to know through and with the operation of the senses. Thus the things we know best of all are the common, everyday physical things that have essences: trees, dogs, humans. We can formulate universals from the concrete instances that we experience, but our forte remains in dealing with what HAS concrete experience.

      Hence for us, "happiness" is a term of generality that we formulate from the concrete instances of things that tend to make us happy: physical pleasure, beauty, friendship, making something well. The concept we have of happiness, though, does not limit itself to any one of these, but to all that is fulfilling to the human nature. The satisfaction of that nature's faculties for being, in operation in full, is what brings happiness.

      What St. Thomas say about human happiness is that man in his highest faculty desires to know, and the ultimate satisfaction of that faculty is to know the highest of beings, the most universal of causes, the greatest of beautifuls, and the most perfect of goods. This is God. Thus the highest natural act of fulfillment is contemplation of God as man can know him from natural goods. And the satisfaction of the lower faculties ought to tend toward the fulfillment of the higher as supporting it in perfection.

      But man can know Him better, through supernatural means. The absolutely highest fulfillment of his faculties of knowing and loving are, through grace, the knowing and adhering to God seen as He is in Himself, without intermediary representation, in the BV. In that, we see God not through concepts such as "perfect" and "good" and "beautiful", but directly, and this overwhelms the intellectual capacity so that it has no room to desire anything more. Man could not possibly sin in that state, for man could not conceive of something else to be preferred than God. So not only is one's present happiness perfect, one also is assured of never withdrawing from it - which is itself an aspect of that happiness.

      But we cannot imagine that sort of happiness. St. Paul is clear that it completely exceeds our ability to say what it is like. Our ability to explain is tied to what we HAVE experienced, and that means tied to physical experience and what is abstracted from it. The BV is not like any of that, in part because the knowing involved does not work through concepts abstracted from physical things.

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    2. @Tony,


      But the Beatific Vision is beyond any happiness that is naturally fit for us men. After all, it is a supernatural gift that we humans needn't even have been offered it in the first place by God, and we could have at least in principle achieved the biggest amount of happiness that we can as humans achieve. The Beatific Vision is just something that goes beyond any of our possible hopes and imaginings of happiness.


      And this is what I mean when I say that the Beatific Vision is so good that it is beyond even perfect happiness :


      https://thomism.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/ramble-on-interpreting-the-hellfire-passages-in-scripture/


      If you scroll down below you will see James Chastek saying:


      <<< For my own part, I see the beatific vision as so wildly exalted and disproportionate even to the sort of good that would make us
      perfectly happy
      that it is odd to see it as any failure of divine mercy to grant it to someone. Hell is just the failure to be granted this almost ridiculously infinite gift of deification. >>>



      That, combined with both Chastek's and Brandon's statements about how every picture we could possibly imagine or even conceive of Heaven is in the end merely a part of Limbo when compared to the Beatific Vision, is I think what prompted Chastek to surmise it in the above form in the first place.


      So in a sense, I think I might have to disagree with the phrasing of the Beatific Vision as being "full" happiness; the wording, to me at least, doesn't go far enough with how extraordinary the Vision is. For some might misunderstand full happiness to mean simply the biggest amount of happiness we could possibly have by our own nature, not the supernatural happiness that we could not achieve by anything possible in nature or imagination even in principle for us.


      But I do agree with your conclusion that the Vision, because it is intellectually direct and has as it's object a thing which we cannot completely conceive of, except in glimpses and shadows of hope already present here on Earth, is thus a type of happiness beyond any that our human nature could achieve or imagine.


      I think that the distinction between Eden and the New Creation is perfect for this.


      While the Garden of Eden represents the maximum amount of happiness humans can achieve on their own accord and imagination, the New Creation is a type of happiness that we could never achieve of our own and, correct me if I'm wrong, isn't even properly made for us in the first place!


      The Vision is not just a type of happiness that restores imperfections, heals wounds and raises things up to the level of utmost natural perfect; but rather is something wholly beyond it in scope and power.


      I think this is also why Christianity has always insisted that salvation as such is a gift and does not come from our own works; because the reward offered is something that we weren't even naturally designed for, not just rather a helping hand that brings us back to a natural paradise we unfortunately happen not to be able to bring ourselves back to.


      It is something for which we weren't actually made for because it is beyond our nature, rather than a return to nature and nothing else.





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    3. JoeD, I get your drift, I think. And overall I agree with much of what you said, but I think it is necessary to add a qualifier or adjustment.

      I agree that sanctifying grace is "above our nature" and not something we could ever have or aspire to or merit naturally. All the more so, then, heaven and the BV. Grace and being called to adopted sonship to God is always a gift, and inherently higher than human nature.

      But at the same time, St. Thomas says that (and the mystic saints attest to it) that 'we were made for heaven.'

      This is true from 2 angles. In the first: our intellects are CAPABLE of being raised up by grace to knowledge of God as he is in Himself; and more importantly, even on a natural level (i.e. without being raised by grace), if a person rightly ordered were to be informed that the BV is available, he would desire to have it. The good that we can possess in the BV is not of such a nature that it wouldn't even be recognized as desirable according to our nature, the only reason a person unenlightened by grace does not actively desire it is that he has no perspective under which it even MIGHT be possible.

      And (again, according to Thomas) the nature of the fulfillment that constitutes the BV, i.e. intellective operation of knowing the universal cause, the highest beauty, the most desirable of goods, in itself, is not inherently foreign to the intellect, so much as there being no natural method for it to accomplish it.

      Hence, so far as I understand Thomas, human nature was always intended by God to be raised up by grace, this is "the design of the created order" that humans be naturally capable of and disposed to receive such grace, and with that grace be made suited to heaven. Such gift is indeed a gift rather than our nature - but then for each person who exists, to exist is, also a gift of God and not something that they naturally deserve. The grace is a gift of a higher order, but both are more than could be merited without help.

      There is no such normative state of "natural happiness" that is "fully what God designed for humans given their nature", his design for their nature was to be raised up by grace to the BV. Every falling short of that is a falling away from the plan for their being made for heaven. Just as there is no TRUE human virtues (like justice, courage, patience) that are not in operation tied to charity the ground of all the virtues, there is no true human behavior that is fully and wholly right (rectified, justified, righteous) that is not grounded in charity, and there is no fully right human intention that is not ultimately seated in love of God as from charity, which is higher than we can achieve "by nature". That is, in a person past the age of reaching reason, human acts chosen when not in a state of grace are not fully righteous, not fully GOOD, and are not conducive to his proper end which is supernaturally achieved with grace.

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    4. I agree that there is some confusion about the meaning and nature of Hell.

      On the one hand, some of the Fathers and Doctors are clear that it constitutes "the place in the afterlife without God". Which, naturally, entails that Limbo be "in Hell".

      On the other hand, the common meaning of Hell is "the place of torment in the afterlife", which naturally entails that Limbo be not in Hell.

      I believe that it is best to avoid the confusion and talk about the actual attributes you want to get at. For me, everyone who is past the age of reason when they die either die in the state of grace or die with personal sins by which they actively rejected God, this means that everyone outside of the Limbo of the Infants is either headed to heaven or a place of justice for their active opposition to God - a place of active punishment for their active opposition.

      The Limbo of the Infants is clearly other than a place of punishment for active, chosen personal sins. It is, therefore a different condition than that of active punishment for opposition to God. Calling that "Hell" also is guaranteed to be confusing. I just insist on conceptually separating Limbo from the place of active punishment for active personal sins. Since their condition is different, that it be something like "the same place" is completely irrelevant.

      The condition of infants in Limbo is - according to Thomas - not that of torment, but is "without God". Since (as I suggested above) to one who does not perceive the BV as possibly available, not having the BV is not perceived as a loss, they do not experience the lack of the BV as "a punishment" unless it is made known to them that "well, you could have been in heaven had anyone baptized you, but tough luck, nobody did." Somehow I suspect that this gratuitous information is not imposed on them.

      Everyone else either merits heaven (by gift of Jesus' merits), or demerits active punishment for personal sins.

      I don't see any specially strong reason to think the metaphor of fire is ultimately the only apt one for spiritual suffering. Nevertheless, after the Final Judgment those in Hell will get their bodies back, and they could suffer literal, physical fire as well as any spiritual suffering. Is this what the Bible means? Perhaps not, but I know of nothing that makes it something out of order to allow for: it could be.

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    5. @Tony,


      I don't see any specially strong reason to think the metaphor of fire is ultimately the only apt one for spiritual suffering. Nevertheless, after the Final Judgment those in Hell will get their bodies back, and they could suffer literal, physical fire as well as any spiritual suffering. Is this what the Bible means? Perhaps not, but I know of nothing that makes it something out of order to allow for: it could be.



      Well, one interpretation of the fires of Hell that I've stumbled upon is that Hell is just shame. It's not torture or anything, but simply the shame of exclusion from the kingdom of God and the shame of the sins one has commited.

      This idea would also be able to explain what Limbo is, considering how children who die before the age of reason did not develop a capacity to understand shame, and as such cannot experience the punishments of Hell.


      What's more with this interpretation of Hell is that it's one of the more merciful ones out there, it consists of the idea of proportional punishment according one's sins, giving venial sin some attention as well, and is also in line with the more merciful interpretations of Hell as given by Ephram the Syrian and a handful of other obscure fathers who also took similar views.

      All of this without compromising on doctrine.

      I certainly think that this, combined with a certain "high-view" of Heaven such as Chastek's more-than-perfect-happiness which reveals it to be an infinite gift, makes for an excellent apologetic when it comes to talking to those who have Hell as a stumbling block to the faith and are critical of it for that reason.


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  19. I thought Edward Feser's treatment of Divine Simplicity in Five Proofs was excellent and very enjoyable to read. However, I'd like better to understand how it can be reconciled with the doctrine of the Trinity. Does anyone know of any good resources (whether articles, books, blog posts) that address that question?

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    1. You could try C.E. Rolt's commentary in a translation of Pseudo-Dionysius:

      https://www.ccel.org/ccel/rolt/dionysius.html

      Which has discussion of the Trinity.


      Also: "The Doctrine of God (Contours of Christian Theology)" by Gerald L. Bray, has a little bit that could be relevant to you, and you could probably find it for a few dollars second-hand.


      Greg

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    2. @Ian: Fr. Thomas Joseph White has written an article addressing your question: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ijst.12133/full

      Blessings,
      Karl

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    3. That looks perfect, thank you.

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  20. A new article from David Bentley Hart on Feser's book about capital punishment issue.

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    1. Those texts don't clearly speak against retributive punishment... I think his argument is that they would have been understood that way to his Jewish audience who wouldn't have just seen them as about personal morality?

      Anyway, the *in principle* Biblical support for the death penalty is crystal clear. If you are denying it, then I would suspect ideological bias.

      However, I don't think any part of the Bible clearly or explicitly teaches either for or against retributive punishment. The Bible teaches a more or less proportional punishment; but that's not strictly the same thing as teaching a retributive theory of punishment. (Although the two things tend to be associated.)

      As for the woman caught in adultery (if that part of the text is original)... it's very difficult imo to take any general principles out of it. Jesus didn't clearly say, "never use the death penalty". He didn't even clearly say, "Never use the death penalty in cases of adultery". If Jesus meant "never punish anyone if you aren't free from sin yourself", well sorry, but Jesus would be very silly for saying that. So what exactly did he mean?


      Greg

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    2. He's pretty damning in his assessment of Feser's recruitment of certain early Church Fathers (and I too have noticed that Feser can be dismissive/ignorant of them at times), but even if Feser didn't get the context right in his references to them, I don't think that affects the main arguments of the book, so far as I can glean them (not having fully read it yet myself).

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    3. Ugh. DBH, again? Must we?

      Well, let me make some points. First, DBH rather obviously trades on ambiguity. One hopes it is inadvertent, but if so it says rather poor things about his general reasoning ability for other arguments. For instance, he falls down ignoring the difference between "doctrine" and "dogma".

      What we actually and very clearly say is that the doctrinal statement that Pope Innocent required the Waldensians to agree to is what makes capital punishment a matter of orthodoxy.

      But DBH’s response is this:

      I see. Fair enough, I suppose. Even then, Feser is incorrect in saying that what the Pope demanded from the Waldensians was assent to a “doctrinal” point (at least, if the Enchiridion Symbolorum is to be trusted); so his argument is false prima facie.

      He goes on a bit later to add:

      “Orthodoxy,” “doctrine” . . . these are fairly unequivocal terms. Yet neither is actually appropriate. There is in fact not a single dogma of the Catholic Church that requires the liceity of the death penalty. The Pope could tomorrow declare all capital punishment sinful and incompatible with Catholic teaching ex cathedra, and he would not be contradicting a single recognized doctrine. If you doubt this, tolle, lege any copy of Denzinger.

      But the point is that “doctrine” is NOT THE SAME THING AS “dogma”, while he treats them as the same. Denzinger’s work is “Sources of Catholic Dogma”. Let’s take a look at the difference, here:

      a doctrine is a proposition (or set of propositions) taught by the Magisterium of the Church.

      And then dogma:

      Cardinal Avery Dulles explains the present meaning of the term:

      In current Catholic usage, the term “dogma” means a divinely revealed truth, proclaimed as such by the infallible teaching authority of the Church, and hence binding on all the faithful without exception, now and forever.
      [The Survival of Dogma, 153].

      The two are clearly not co-extensive, and Jimmy Akin says that. The Church has teachings which are not infallibly asserted, she has teachings which are not defined in specific proclamation as binding on all the faithful, and she has teachings which are infallible but are not from the deposit of faith.

      Feser and Bessette are claiming that the licitness of the DP is a doctrine, a teaching of the Church. DBH keeps on saying No, there is no dogma about it. He is either being tendentious or stupid. You pick.

      He also trades on the ambiguity in “approves” when he re-ups on his original critique:

      What I do not understand, however, is Feser’s complaint that I then misrepresented his book when I wrote this: “the claim Feser and Bessette advance is not simply that Catholics may approve of capital punishment, but that they must, and that it actually borders on heresy not to do so.”

      Well, maybe he does NOT understand, but then he is just admitting to being dense. Feser is saying that a Catholic must accept the principle of the licitness of the DP, but allows that Catholics may disapprove of its actual use in any (or even all) cases. Given that DBH’s own claim is that the licitness is irrelevant because the Gospel says not to use it in any case, one wonders HOW he “does not understand” what they are saying, but there it is.

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    4. DBH’s penultimate point is “nonsense. Twaddle. Dare I say, Balderdash?” (As he says of Feser’s critique.) He tries to unwind Feser’s attack on DBH’s seeming disposal of ALL punishment in his account of the Gospel message. There is one main problem with his reasoning here: He seems completely ignorant of the meaning of retributive justice.

      Feser understands it perfectly well: He is arguing for the liceity of a Christian principle of retributive justice, whereas the New Testament consistently forbids Christians to adopt such a principle. … No doubt the gospel’s prohibitions on retribution requires prudence where the law is concerned, which means discerning which sorts of punishments are essentially retributive and which instead allow for the reformation of the criminal. Since capital punishment leaves the criminal dead, it would seem to be the very definition of the former. A large fine, a period of confinement, a life sentence, even the force exerted against a criminal to prevent him from harming another person (even if that force should prove lethal)—all of these can be imposed without complicity in the logic of retribution, at least ideally.

      Rather than refuting DBH through my own thoughts, I will simply point out that from Aquinas to JPII, the retributive end of punishment is EXPLICITLY held to be the primary end of punishment. DBH simply does not understand the Catholic view of punishment. So he should stop talking about it as if his views bear on Catholic teachings. As a defense of non-DP punishment it is idiotic. Does anyone suppose that fines are ever determined and demanded WHOLLY SEPARATE from the retributive aspect? Any time you have a punishment affected by proportionality, you find the retributive aspect. The whole thing is an embarrassment to a scholar, and DBH better hope it is soon forgotten.

      DBH’s final point is nearly as bad. He tries to claim:

      In the East, the matter was never really debated, and no theological justifications for capital punishment ever really entered the tradition. On the whole, the Eastern Church more or less unanimously opposes the practice, and has a long tradition of theological and spiritual teachers who have abominated it.

      Maybe, but these theological and spiritual teachers (whoever they are) seem to have been completely ignored:

      Ecloga, : (from Greek eklogē, “selection”), compilation of Byzantine law issued in 726 by Emperor Leo III…

      In civil law the rights of women and children were enhanced at the expense of those of the father, whose power was sharply curtailed. In criminal law the application of capital punishment was restricted to cases involving treason, desertion from the military, and certain types of homicide, heresy, and slander. The code eliminated the death penalty for many crimes previously considered capital offenses, often substituting mutilation.


      Mind you, the code of 726 removed from the rolls of capital crimes many that had formerly been considered capital (but not treason, homicide, heresy, and slander). Maybe the DP was “abominated” in certain Church circles, but it was not in civil matters. And since in Byzantium far more so than in the West, the emperor was clothed in religious connections and trappings of religious authority, it is incredible that he is seriously asking us to accept that the death penalty was truly rejected by the Orthodox Church altogether. Note that he offers no source to support his bald claim.

      As a whole, DBH’s argument is not the kind of death-blow to Feser’s main thesis that he thinks it is. It is rather weak all around, except where it is downright stupid, tendentious, or blind.

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    5. Yes, all the comments about retribution in the article were rather bizarre, and appear to trade on an equivocation between 'retributive' as used in talking about justifications of punishment and 'retributive' as used in more colloquial contexts. In the former, for instance, most 'essentially retributive' punishments are reformative as well. (His "Since capital punishment leaves the criminal dead, it would seem to be the very definition of the former" is also a red flag, since a very extensive part of Feser and Bessette's argument is that this is not true in the sense Hart means.)

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    6. Tony,

      I will simply point out that from Aquinas to JPII, the retributive end of punishment is EXPLICITLY held to be the primary end of punishment.

      Hart is discussing the ethical truth of the matter. If the truth is that capital punishment is not legitimate then those from Aquinas to JPII who thought it is were wrong. And since the legitimacy of capital punishment is not a dogma nor infallible teaching of the Catholic Church, she is free and should correct this error, if an error it is.

      DBH simply does not understand the Catholic view of punishment. So he should stop talking about it as if his views bear on Catholic teachings.

      Again what is important is the ethical truth of the matter. Hart agrees with Feser that the Catholic Church teaches that capital punishment is legitimate in principle. That’s not what Hart argues against.

      compilation of Byzantine law issued in 726 by Emperor Leo III…

      What we now call “Byzantium” was the Roman empire ruled by Roman emperors under Roman law. If anything the evidence you present about the rolling back of capital punishment probably demonstrates the positive influence of Christian ethics on Roman law.

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    7. I'd like to comment on Hart's assertion: "On the whole, the Eastern Church more or less unanimously opposes the practice, and has a long tradition of theological and spiritual teachers who have abominated it. All the major Orthodox jurisdictions have condemned the practice in recent years."

      Not so. See this article by Fr. John Whiteford, who argues very similarly to Ed:

      http://orthochristian.com/90931.html

      He mentions that St. Vladimir, after he converted to Christianity, abolished the death penalty, but with the encouragement of the Church, he also reinstated it.

      And see here: http://www.orthodoxchristianbooks.com/articles/480/orthodoxy-death-penalty/

      "Almost all Orthodox states, including the Byzantine and Russian empires, had the death penalty on their books for various crimes, including blasphemy and sorcery. Although, to the present writer’s knowledge, there was never any dispute over whether murderers and similar criminals should be executed, there was a dispute, in early sixteenth-century Russia, over whether the death penalty should be applied to the Judaizing heretics who almost seized control of the Russian State. St. Nilus of Sora argued against the death penalty, and St. Joseph of Volokolamsk – for it. In his work The Enlightener, St. Joseph argued with extensive quotations from the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Fathers, that while heresy as such was never punished with death in the Orthodox tradition, those who persistently and stubbornly tried to spread their heretical views and impose them on others were in a different category. St. Joseph’s views prevailed, and about three leading Judaizers were executed…

      "By the last decades of the nineteenth century, however, Russian practice was beginning to be influenced by the ideas of the liberals. The burning issue was how to deal with revolutionaries. While educated society, steeped in liberal ideas, regarded them as victims of the regime and even, sometimes, as martyrs for the truth, most Orthodox, including the tsarist authorities, thought that they merited the death penalty. Even Tsar Nicholas II, an extremely merciful and soft-hearted man by nature, made no moves to abolish the death penalty. Although he often exercised his right to commute a sentence of death to something more lenient, he recognized that for the most impenitent criminals the death penalty was appropriate."

      Re the modern-day view of the Orthodox Church, see here:
      https://orthodoxwiki.org/Capital_punishment#The_Orthodox_View.3F

      "It's difficult to define the Church's exact position on capital punishment as it has become a social issue mostly during the last century. Some jurisdictions have denounced it in formal statements: for example, this 1989 Resolution on the Death Penalty released by OCA. However, capital punishment has not been either fully accepted or condemned by the Church as a whole."

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    8. And since the legitimacy of capital punishment is not a dogma nor infallible teaching of the Catholic Church, she is free and should correct this error, if an error it is.

      Feser in his book argues - extensively -
      that it IS infallibly taught, even though he nowhere claims that it is dogmatically defined. Please stop these comments until you read the book.

      Look, I get your notion that "if the Catholic Church has been wrong all this time, it should own up to its error, switch, and teach the truth." But just STOP already. In THIS discussion it won't fadge. The issue is whether the Church has already set forth an infallible teaching on the subject. If the Catholic Church has done so, and were to (per impossibile) find that it had MADE AN ERROR in that "infallible" teaching, then the right thing for the Catholic Church to do is to declare itself absolutely null and void, to disband itself, and to cease to be a religion or an institution of ANY kind whatsoever. It's whole reason for being depends critically on its "infallible teachings" not to be in error - EVER. If it fails once, its reason for being falls to nothing. It should not "own up", it should go away. Period.

      And in this discussion between Feser and Hart, Hart is being unreasonable because he is trying to claim an crazy, stupid, uneducated error on Feser's part when (if there is an error) it is one held by the greatest saints of antiquity and right on up through the most recent Pope's encyclical directed to the point: the nature of punishment. If so, it is not on account of Feser being stupid and uneducated. The reality is that (as Brandon says) Hart is equivocating (at best) on the term "retributive", but I think that Hart simply does not even begin to understand the meaning the Catholic Church attaches to the terms retribution and to punishment, which is why he keeps making bone-headed errors in this debate.

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    9. Vincent, that's fantastic work. Thank you. I had only time to do the briefest search, yours is far more worthwhile.

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    10. Tony,

      “The issue is whether the Church has already set forth an infallible teaching on the subject. If the Catholic Church has done so, and were to (per impossibile) find that it had MADE AN ERROR in that "infallible" teaching, then the right thing for the Catholic Church to do is to declare itself absolutely null and void, to disband itself, and to cease to be a religion or an institution of ANY kind whatsoever.”

      Well I do hope the Church has not set forth an infallible teaching on the subject. If Feser has to argue “extensively” in his book that this is so, perhaps there is room for counterargument.

      But suppose the Church has clearly and definitely taught this infallibly. Why would correcting this error, if an error it is, be the same as declaring itself absolutely null and void? Surely it would be more reasonable for the Church to instead declare the whole “infallibility” thing null and void. In any case it seems to me that to insist on one’s powers of infallibility does not demonstrate faith but lack of it. Not humility but the lack of it.

      One way or the other the truth is not going to go away. And I feel certain that the Catholic Church is not going to stop growing in wisdom and in all other perfections. Time will show who is right. Thanks for the discussion.

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    11. Well I do hope the Church has not set forth an infallible teaching on the subject. If Feser has to argue “extensively” in his book that this is so, perhaps there is room for counterargument.

      Any idiot can disagree, and attempt to dispute. The fact that some truth has overwhelmingly extensive evidence to support it does not make it MORE doubtful than some truth that only has a little evidence to support it.

      Once again: READ THE BOOK. Then you can argue from information instead of from ignorance.

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  21. Aquinas was a compatibilist. Discuss . . . . .

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    1. Well Aquinas was wrong then, if that was really his position. Compatibilism destroys moral responsibility in any strong sense that would be needed for a theistic worldview.

      Now if you're an atheist, it's different. You could use a compatibilist view of human freedom/moral responsibility that would be good enough for practical punishment in a justice system. Criminals wouldn't really *deserve* punishment, but you could just ignore that problem and say you have to punish for the good of society.

      People sometimess appeal to the fact that a majority of philosophers agree with compatibilism; but that mixes up different senses of "moral responsibility" and "free will" that are being used. I doubt that a majority of philosophers would really believe that a strong form of moral responsibility exists under determinism.

      William Lane Craig:

      5. Universal, divine determinism makes reality into a farce. On the deterministic view, the whole world becomes a vain and empty spectacle. There are no free agents in rebellion against God, whom God seeks to win through His love, and no one who freely responds to that love and freely gives his love and praise to God in return. The whole spectacle is a charade whose only real actor is God Himself. Far from glorifying God, the deterministic view, I’m convinced, denigrates God for engaging in a such a farcical charade. It is deeply insulting to God to think that He would create beings which are in every respect causally determined by Him and then treat them as though they were free agents, punishing them for the wrong actions He made them do or loving them as though they were freely responding agents. God would be like a child who sets up his toy soldiers and moves them about his play world, pretending that they are real persons whose every motion is not in fact of his own doing and pretending that they merit praise or blame. I’m certain that Reformed determinists, in contrast to classical Reformed divines, will bristle at such a comparison. But why it’s inapt for the doctrine of universal, divine, causal determinism is a mystery to me.

      http://www.reasonablefaith.org/molinism-vs-calvinism



      Greg

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    2. To be honest I am somewhat open to the idea that compatibilism is consistent with moral responsibility. What are the strongest arguments against in your opinion?

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    3. Callum, I would agree with you. I did some free will study not too long ago, and out of the major views, compatibilism seemed to be the most reasonable. I also do not see crucial conflicts with holding such philosophical view as a Catholic, much less as a theist. That being said, I am very open to being corrected, considering I have not explored the compatibility question in depth.

      In terms of the objection, I surely do not see conflict with moral accountability. It is very deeply present in 'hard' determinism, but compatibilism does not involve everything being predetermined thus we are not free. Rather, free will is seen more as what we will in the now, which would allow for meaning and morality. This is substantially different from 'hard' determinism, because in such view meaning and morality are rendered absent. This is heavily due to the fact that free will depends on whether everything is determined, and if everything is, then we could not have chosen otherwise.

      Much more to elaborate, but I thought I would throw in the important distinction.

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    4. St. Thomas condemns compatibilism as heresy in the De Malo (VI.1).

      And in fact, the Catholic Church has declared as a matter of doctrine, human action must not be necessitated. (Denzinger 1094) The notion that the absence of external coercion is enough to say that human beings are free, while God ultimately necessitates human actions, is a position that is formally regarded as heretical by the Catholic Church.

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    5. The basic problem would be the lack of control. You can't avoid sins/crimes if you have been determined to do them. Yes, your character and desires may be part of the causal chain that brings things about; but that just creates the issue that there isn't a "you" that has control over "your" character and desires. You would just be a passenger along for the ride. Forces outside yourself will have determined you to rape or kill or whatever, and there is nothing you can do to avoid it. You aren't responsible for things if you have no control in being able to avoid them, and if forces outside yourself are really the things doing the work to produce them.

      Imagine I use a mind-control device on you. I make subtle changes to your character pusing you in a certain direction over time. I cause you to feel hatred towards a certain person, which becomes a desire even to kill them. You eventually murder this person, desiring strongly that they be dead, and being happy that you killed them. Surely there is a sense in which you "freely" acted, but is that enough to make you morally responsibile?

      I'm guessing you would be arguing something like, "Yes I wanted him dead, Yes I intended to kill him, but my desires and intentions weren't my own; they weren't under my control, and so I'm not responsible for what happened".

      But if God is pulling all the strings, then people would be responsible??


      Another way to look at this issue, is that the free will defence against the problem of evil, will not work with compatibilist freedom.

      With libertarian free will, you can say something like, "God desires that you use your freedom in a good way, although he allows you to use it for evil as that is a price of creating free creatures. Now God would still be responsible for evil in a certain sense. God still has to cooperate in the creature bringing about evil, or the creature wouldn't have the power to do it. But God can prefer that it not be happening, and it's not God's choice that it happens.

      However, switch over to using compatibilist freedom, and you will have an entirely different picture of the world. God will have set people up to sin. It's impossible for them to avoid those sins. God will have made the choice for them, even if people still "freely sin" in a certain sense. God could make you to "freely" be nice. Instead, for some reason, God has made you to "freely" rape and kill. A morally good God would select all these evils for the world?


      Greg

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    6. I'll have to reread Feser's Aquinas, but I distinctly remember coming away from the section on the will thinking how compatibilist it sounds.

      Maybe Thomas' position wasn't that consistent with the type of free will needed?

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    7. Thomas,

      from what I have read, compatibilism does not say God needs human action. According to such view, God would still be all knowing, so God is not sitting there waiting for us to act freely. This aspect makes it similar to determinism, but quite different from indeterminism.

      The basic premise I see as of now is that we are indeed free, based on the lack of external force as you mentioned. It is a philosophical take on free will, and since the Church says we are free, at least implicitly based on similar premises, I don't see any major conflicts.

      Thanks.

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    8. Doughnut 2100:

      Some have made the distinction between an external compulsion and necessitation, as the Anonymous poster does a few posts up. That is, we are free because God does not compel us as an external cause. Nevertheless, they hold, given God's will, we could not have done otherwise. One finds this view, more or less, in Herbert McCabe and Garrigou-Lagrange, as well as the Banezian tradition.

      This is precisely the position that both St. Thomas and the Catholic Church condemn as heretical. To cite the source texts again, see De Malo VI and Denzinger 1094.

      St. Thomas is quite clear that the way in which God causes the exercise of will does not necessitate it to one or the other alternative; that "specification" is the responsibility of the free person. St. Thomas is so insistent on this point, it is really hard to see how his interpreters could have mistaken him.

      De Potentia III.7:

      “We should not say that God left human beings in the hands of their own deliberation without acting upon their will. Rather, he did so because he gave human beings' will mastery over their acts, so that they would not be bound to one or the other contradictory alternative.”

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    9. Why, after 700 years, isn't Aquinas' De Malo available online in English, as are most of his other works?

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    10. As luck would have it, I just found an online version of De Malo. (I wonder how long it will stay up.) I'm not so sure about Thomas Cothran's claim that Aquinas condemns compatibilism as heresy in De Malo 6.1. Parts of it do read like that. But what about the reply to objection 5?

      "5. The human will is not in accord with God's will in one way, namely, insofar as the human will wills something that God does not will, as when the human will wills to sin. But God also does not will that the human will not will this, since the human will would not if God were so to will. For the Lord accomplished everything that he willed. And although the human will is in this respect not in accord with God's will regarding the human will's movement, the human will nonetheless can never be in discord with God's will regarding the outcome or result, since the human will always achieves the result that God fulfills his will regarding human beings. And as to the way the human will wills, the human will is not necessarily the same as God's will, since God eternally and infinitely wills everything, but human beings do not. And so Is. 55:9 says: 'As the heavens are exalted above the earth, so are my ways exalted above your ways.'"

      It sounds as if what Aquinas is saying here is that when I sin, choosing a lesser good over a greater one under the illusory belief that it will bring me happiness, God doesn't want my will to move toward that lesser good. Nevertheless, He does want the outcome that the lesser good (and not the greater one) is chosen by me, and whatever outcome He wants, He gets, without fail. God achieves this outcome simply by refraining from willing that my human will should move toward the greater good. For if He had willed that my human will should move toward that good, then I would surely have chosen it.

      Why, you ask, isn't this a violation of free will, in Aquinas' view? As he explains in his reply to objection 4:

      "The will when moved by God contributes something, since the will itself acts, even though God moves it. And so the will's movement, although from an external source as the first source, is nevertheless not coerced." It sounds like Aquinas is saying here that because my will is still acting when I choose a lesser good over a greater one (thereby sinning), even though it is moved by God, it is still responsible.

      Aquinas, as I read him, is a Bannezian.

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    11. Vincent:

      There are questions on which St. Thomas' opinion is unclear. This is not one of them.

      St. Thomas repeatedly affirms that the human will is free because it is not necessitated, not merely because it is not compelled. That is what he is stating is heretical in the body of De Malo VI.1. And St. Thomas also affirms in a number of places, some of which I have listed above, that God's causing the will does not determine it to one result rather than another. Indeed, as a general principle, God's causality does not exclude real contingency from things.

      So, if human will is not necessitated (by God or anything else) and if God's causing the exercise of will does not determine it to one result or another, why does St. Thomas say that there is no discord between the outcome of a human decision and God's will? Part of the reasoning is evident from the objection you quote. God's will is permissive, a person may choose x or y (or refrain from choosing). If a person chooses x or y or refrains from choosing, it is consistent with God's permissive will. Pretty straightforward stuff, even when stripped of context.

      Recall that when Thomas says that God wills things in human affairs St. Thomas is using extrinsic denomination. There is no real internal difference to God whether he wills this or that created event.

      Anyway, St. Thomas' account of human freedom is luminously clear, and ties very nicely into the other elements of his theology and metaphysics. For instance, there seems to be some confusion about what St. Thomas means when he speaks of God contributing something to the will. But an awareness of St. Thomas' account of God subsistent esse, and as the final end of all things makes everything fall nicely into place. The will, to act at all, must be oriented toward the good, and God is the Good. The will, to be exercised, must exist, and God is existence. And this doesn't require us connecting the dots ourselves; St. Thomas does this for us himself when he says that what God contributes to the exercise of will is his proper effect, namely esse. But esse is not a specifying cause, whether when contributed to the exercise of will or anything else. Fortunately, St. Thomas has been insistent all along, throughout the corpus of his work and over the course of his career: the specifying cause (i.e., the choosing this or that) is the human being's free, unnecessitated choice.

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    12. God achieves this outcome simply by refraining from willing that my human will should move toward the greater good. For if He had willed that my human will should move toward that good, then I would surely have chosen it.

      Vincent, I would add that what you say here is not the right way to understand Aquinas' view of God's operation in the human willing the good.

      God is the first cause of all motion. And in human willing, even more so, God is the first cause of the first movement of the will toward the good. This movement is always toward good, for this is what GOD causes. But what God causes there he does not determine necessarily, he determines contingently: the will is able to DEFECT AWAY from the true good to an alternate - i.e. an apparent good. God is in no way the cause of the defection, only man is the "cause" of it (and "cause" is in scare quotes because such defection is LACK of due order and therefore is evil, i.e. lack of actuality that ought to be. There is no proper cause of lack of being, no Efficient cause of non-being, there is only a DEficient cause of non-being. Of himself, man can only take away being, not add.)

      So when man sins, it is not that God "refrains from causing them to move toward the greater good", it is that God DOES initiate in them motion toward the greater good, but as contingent causality, and they defect from that good to a lesser good.

      Separately: It is not because God causes contingent events such as sin to happen necesssarily that they certainly happen according to his plan, it is that He - God - willed his plan to come about according to contingent causality, which DOES happen but does not happen via necessary mode of causing. So, with God causing in nature, it is not right to say "because God is certain of it, it happens necessarily". When God intends X to happen contingently, it happens contingently and this precludes it happening via necessity.

      Thomas Cothran, it seems to me that your explanation leaves room for the human's free choice for the good to be truly due to human causality not attributable to God, and thus for man to have something of "his own" that is good. But St. Paul and St. Augustine and St. Thomas reject this: what am I [without God's action in me] but an unproductive servant? All good is God's good; though he grants to us secondary causality of good, this means that he both gives us that wherewith to be able do the good and also gives us to be doing the good - both the power and its exercise. What we "contribute" is NOT DEFECTING. St. Jose Maria Escriva said this constantly: of myself, the only thing I ever add to the event is mistake, error, wrongness, sin, confusion, destruction. It is only when I contribute nothing of my OWN doing, and get [my ego] out of the way and let God - acting in me to will and to do - that my action is worthwhile. God is the ultimate cause of every good, and I am a secondary cause of good when I cooperate rather than defect from what HE is doing through me. It is all Him. When He initiates in me to incline toward the good, I can either persist in that in cooperation and thus arrive at the good, or I can defect from it.

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    13. Tony:

      > St. Jose Maria Escriva said this constantly: of myself, the only thing I ever add to the event is mistake, error, wrongness, sin, confusion, destruction.

      That may be St. Jose Maria Escriva's view, but it is not St. Thomas'. When St. Thomas discusses the freedom of the will, it is not the ability to sin, nor is it freedom from external compulsion. It is the non-necessitated choice (the subjective condition) (cf ST II-1, q. 10, arts. 2 and 4) made possible by multiple paths to the good (the objective condition) (cf ST II-I q. 8 art 1, ad. 3).

      Nor is it St. Thomas' view that we contribute nothing to the free act of choice. For the ultimate final cause toward which the will is ordered is God; and the per se cause of existence in which all existents participate is God. Without either participating in God as subsistent being or being drawn to God as the final cause, the will cannot act.

      But St. Thomas is emphatic that the human will does contribute something: namely the choosing of this or that. And St. Thomas is clear that while God causes the existence of the choice, and is ultimately the end of the choice, he does not determine the choosing of one or the other alternative. This is true not only of the will, but on general principles: St. Thomas, in De Potentia 3.7, rejects the view that God's universal causality means that natural things do not contribute anything distinctively their own. On the contrary, St. Thomas argues, God's action alone is not sufficient to bring about certain created effects without the complementary and distinct causality of the creature. The whole point of St. Thomas' account of instrumental causality is that neither the primary nor the secondary cause are alone sufficient; each requires the other to produce the effect.

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    14. When I have spoken with Calvinists, who normally go in for compatibilism, they seem to have to redefine the "goodness" of God to get their system to be consistent. So what they mean by "goodness" as applied to God, is what other people would understand to be "evil".

      So you might be able to make Calvinism consistent, but the price is throwing away the goodness of God.

      What I would mean by the goodness of God would include that every single person that God creates, God intends good for that person, and has created them in such a way that they have a real chance of finding a happy and worthwhile existence, although that may well depend on how they use their freedom.

      It should be obvious that this principle-of-goodness isn't going to work with Calvinism, ignoring Calvinist Universalism perhaps.

      But then, throwing out such a standard of goodness will leave you with what kind of "God"?


      Greg

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  22. Do homosexuals really exist? I say they dont exist, I mean during sexual reproduction, two gametes from both parents fuse, forming a zygote. A zygote is also referred to as a fertilised egg. All gametes are haploid cells, meaning they have only one set of chromosomes (1n). So, when gametes fuse, they form a diploid organism: 1n+1n=2n. There is no way this can happen between two men, in other words, there is no such a thing as homosexual reproduction, therefore homosexuals dont exist.

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    1. Professor,

      Would we able to see some material on sexuality and gender, especially as related to same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria.

      Alternatively, I've heard Dr. Jordan Peterson and Dr. Stephen Hicks comment extensively on postmodernism and Marxism. Could you care to way in in a series of blog posts. I think a thomist's perspective on this is needed.

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    2. Sorry Jaime, that comment above was for Ed lol.

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    3. Dont worry. there will be a discussion between William Lane Craig and Dr. Peterson and also with an atheist woman but I dont remember her name! The discussion is about the meaning of life or more specific if there is a meaning of life

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    4. Do you mean with Rebecca Goldstein? There is a discussion planned at Univ. Toronto on January 26:

      https://www.wycliffecollege.ca/religionandsociety

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  23. I want to understand the ontological argument, the Kant's critique for it and why the critic fails (or works).

    Anon1700

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    1. I would recommend these sources for understanding it:
      http://www.iep.utm.edu/ont-arg/

      http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/12/plantingas-ontological-argument.html

      They both go over some objections, although i'm not sure there is much of Kant (but he does not seem to apply to some of the versions anyway).

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  24. Why was/is Kant’s epistemology wrong? Can anyone point me in the direction of a helpful analysis? Thanks

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    1. You assume it's wrong, but have no idea why? You're going about it the wrong way.

      I personally don't see that his epistemology, in its essentials, conflicts with Catholic teaching, though it may conflict with certain kinds of Thomism. Perhaps you assume the truth of the latter, but even then, you should still familiarize yourself with Kant.

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    2. @ Louis Grilli

      I know Feser has previously linked to some criticisms of Kant from a Thomist perspective on the Just Thomism blog (https://thomism.wordpress.com/), though unfortunately it looks like some of the links are dead now.

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    3. I seem to remember someone describing Lonergan's argument for the existence of God as distinctly Kantian?

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    4. @Louis Grilli: You can find a classical Thomist treatment of Kantian epistemology in P. Coffey's Epistemology.

      I also suggest you read J. Maritain, J. Pieper, and E. Gilson on this issue, since they all interact with Kant. (Gilson directly engages Kant in one of his books on realism.)

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    5. Anonymous,

      Yes you’re right I can see how my presentation of my question was misleading. I simply meant to say that on this blog, Prof Feser has been extremely critical of Kant, specifically his morality and epistemology, and I was wondering why. I have not seen a detailed analysis in Prof Feser’s work (at least that I’ve seen.)

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    6. @Louis Grilli:

      If one is familiar with Kant's Prolegomena, he should remember the following statements:

      "Since the Essays of Locke and Leibniz, or rather since the origin of metaphysics so far as we know its history, nothing has ever happened which was more decisive to its fate than the attack made upon it by David Hume. He threw no light on this species of knowledge, but he certainly struck a spark from which light might have been obtained, had it caught some inflammable substance and had its smoldering fire been carefully nursed and developed. . . .

      "I openly confess, the suggestion of David Hume was the very thing, which many years ago first interrupted my dogmatic slumber, and gave my investigations in the field of speculative philosophy quite a new direction. I was far from following him in the conclusions at which he arrived by regarding, not the whole of his problem, but a part, which by itself can give us no information. If we start from a well-founded, but undeveloped, thought, which another has bequeathed to us, we may well hope by continued reflection to advance farther than the acute man, to whom we owe the first spark of light."

      Now, Dr. Feser has shown elsewhere the problems with Hume's philosophy. (Just throw "Hume site:http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com" into the search engine of your choice.) Since Kant's philosophy is premised on assumptions (1) shared by other modern philosophers (2) which don't have a leg to stand on when compared with scholastic philosophy, one has reason/warrant to be critical of Kant.

      Anonymous is correct that, whatever view you hold of Kant, you should familiarize yourself with his thought (especially if you are an aspiring historian of thought).

      If you *really* want to know which principles of Kantianism are compatible with classical Thomism, you have two options: read both schools for yourself, or get ahold of Etienne Gilson's book on the subject: https://www.ignatius.com/Products/TR2-P/thomist-realism-and-the-critique-of-knowledge.aspx.

      Hope this helps.

      Blessings and merry Christmas,
      Karl

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    7. Unfortunately Gilson's response to Kant is not particularly incisive, and amounts to a form of naive realism.

      The most promising response to Kant (and Hegel) that I've seen from a (broadly) Thomist perspective comes from Bernard Lonergan. And his work Verbum is a nice corrective to the interpretation of Aquinas' view of knowledge given by Gilson, Maritain, and their schools.

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    8. @Thomas M. Cothran: What are your thoughts on Josef Pieper's treatment of Kant in Leisure: The Basis of Culture?

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    9. Karl:

      Unfortunately, I haven't read much of Pieper. Leisure has been on my reading list for some time--I'd be curious to hear what his treatment of Kant is.

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    10. Thomas: Pieper's critique is rather piecewise. He also mentions Kant in his Hope and History.

      Go read Leisure. Right now. It's good.

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    11. I personally don't see that his epistemology, in its essentials, conflicts with Catholic teaching, though it may conflict with certain kinds of Thomism. Perhaps you assume the truth of the latter, but even then, you should still familiarize yourself with Kant.

      Perhaps, but nobody should try to familiarize themselves with Kant before they are thoroughly grounded in sound philosophy. Before that, Kant is sure to make things worse, not better. Indeed, Kant almost always makes things worse anyway - the point of being thoroughly grounded beforehand is to not accept much Kant says, which is how you prevent him from making things worse.

      Furthermore, it is generally better not to try do Kant on your own, but to have more minds to apply to his stuff, i.e. to study WITH others. He's almost incomprehensible in his own expressions, it helps to work out his meaning as a team.

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    12. I can't believe that no one is recommending Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange and his God His Existence and His Nature which takes upon itself to wreck the foundations of every modern philosophy.

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  25. What is the argument for the objective reality of potentials? Is the argument that the only way we can explain the reality of change (which is undisputable) is to recognize the true existence of potentials?

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  26. Arriving super late so this might not be seen, but was hoping readers of this site could provide me with some recommended reading in psychology/psychiatry. God bless you.

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    1. What kind of stuff are you looking for?

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    2. Literally anything you think would be useful for an aspiring professional. General goodstuffs, Thomistic approaches (Fr. Ripperger's Intro to Mental Health is alright, but as implied by the title, only a start), Christian approaches, etc. Psychotherapy, addiction, forensics, pharm, you name it.

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    3. It has its fair share of problems.

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    4. You might try just about anything by R.E. Brennan.

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    5. @Jaime Lopez

      Yeah, the clearest illustration of that is in the latest version of the DSM, in which gender dysphoria is no longer a mental disorder but binge drinking has been subsumed under alcoholism, which is. In other words, a guy who has himself surgically and chemically mutilated because he thinks he's a women is mentally healthy but a guy who has a few beers on the weekend is mentally ill. Psychology is the phrenology of the 21st century.

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    6. @Jaime Lopez

      Yeah, the clearest illustration of that is in the latest version of the DSM, in which gender dysphoria is no longer a mental disorder but binge drinking has been subsumed under alcoholism, which is. In other words, a guy who has himself surgically and chemically mutilated because he thinks he's a women is mentally healthy but a guy who has a few beers on the weekend is mentally ill. Psychology is the phrenology of the 21st century.

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    7. It is crazy and also add to that the lack of objective tests

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  27. Thanks for the open thread, Dr. Feser.

    I was reading Raymond de Roover's article on Scholastic economics over the weekend (http://www.jstor.org/stable/1882146). In the article he states that medieval canon law originally defined usury as "any increment demanded beyond the principle of the loan" (p. 173), yet abandoned it in 1830 after the Napoleonic Code was adopted in nearly all of western Europe (p. 176). If true, should this worry faithful Catholics who believe in the faith once given for all saints?

    Blessings to those of you who respond to my question.

    Karl

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    1. The Catholic blogger Zippy has a very useful Usury FAQ:

      https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/usury-faq-or-money-on-the-pill/

      Usury is the charging of interest on a mutuum loan. A mutuum loan is a full recourse loan, i.e., a loan that is personally guaranteed by the borrower.

      See question 29 regarding the question of canon law having changed. My summary: the doctrine of usury has never changed, but the Church has basically ignored it and got rid of all ecclesiastical penalties associated with it. As a consequence, confusion reigns today.

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    2. Thanks, Ian. I think I'll request a few of the books Zippy mentions from my local library via ILL.

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    3. Zippy is pretty good on the limited question of usury.

      I think Ian is right that the usury condemnation generally applies to the mutuum loan. The Romans defined a mutuum in terms of the loan of a fungible good, and "fungible" meant something where you regard a quantity of them as interchangeable with any other equal quantity, like flour, salt, and apples. The connection with recourse is indirect.

      One of the Lateran Council's defined usury as:

      "“This is the proper interpretation of usury when gain is sought to be acquired from the use of a thing, not in itself fruitful (such as a flock or a field) without labour, expense or risk on the part of the lender.”

      In any case, I think Ian is right in saying that nothing has changed about the basic teaching.

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  28. What would be a Thomistic treatment of intellectual property/copyright?

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    1. Dr Feser has an article on property rights in Neoscholastic essays

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    2. Ed has actually written quite a few articles on the subject: http://www.edwardfeser.com/articles.html

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  29. How is divine timelessness reconcilable with the A-theory of time? Aquinas seems contradictory on this issue, because he says that God knows things as they are in themselves, but that God doesn't know things successively. That seems to support a B-theory of time, which he surely would not have held as a realist. William Lane Craig has good arguments that the two are irreconcilable and I have yet to find a good rebuttal.

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  30. If we believe that quaila and subjective experience giveus real, incommunicable knowledge (which Dr Feser does hold, as do I) then how is it possible that God knows all things? Leaving out the complicated issue and ultimate mystery of the incarnation, it seems strange to say that God knows what it's like to "see" blue, or "feel" pain. We could even get more abstract and ask if God knows "what it's like" to feel imperfect, sinful, etc. One way out is to say that God knows all that it is logically possible for him to know, that it's logically impossible for him to know what it's like to be a sinner from a subjective standpoint. One philosopher used the analogy of empathy to explain how God could know what it's like to feel these things while not actually experiencing them from a first person perspective. But it seems that our empathy towards other people is linked with our sensitive nature. We have empathy for someone in pain because we ourselves have been in pain before, but God doesn't have that kind of original experience (again, leaving out the issue of the incarnation).

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    1. I think most Thomists would claim that though necessarily God is omnipotent that doesn't mean God knows everything in the same way that we do.

      On the otherhand we have philosophers who hold more developed accounts of Omnisubjectivity:

      https://www.baylor.edu/content/services/document.php/39971.pdf

      Re imperfection and sin I think one would handle them the same way one handles pain. Those sensations are not in themselves negative - the guilt of sin is a way of alerting us to damage/the loss of a moral good just as pain is a bodily good. Sensations about enjoying sin qua sin could be broken down to sensations about misplaced justification - one enjoys x sin qua sin because one doesn't really believe it to be wrong and thus holds the prohibition against it is unjust and there is a good in rebelling against it.

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    2. Aquinas says that the divine intellect knows all singularities and material things through its own simple intellection. Since God's active power extends to matter, and God is first cause of all effects, God's knowledge extends to all things, not only as universals, but as singularities, including material things. This is in ST 1a q. 14 a. 11, and there is more in nearby parts of that work.

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  31. I define Theistic Personalism, as the denial of Divine Simplicity (where Divine Simplicity is understood in the weak sense of having no separable metaphysical parts).

    Does anyone object to this definition? I am inclined to prefer it over the claim that God instantiates the kind 'Person', as many philosophers who deny the DS claim are nominalists (often for Bible thumping reasons).

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    1. Perhaps there are entities in our world that are simple in this weak sense?

      I would define Theistic personalism in the sense that it construes God and the world as parts of an overlapping system that is even encompassing God.

      Bob

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    2. @OA Police

      A Theistic Personalist so called "deity" isn't really divinely simple but I think that is because human persons aren't simple (i.e. essence and being are not really distinct) & a theistic personalist "deity" is basically unequivocally comparable to a human person only it is more Uber.

      God in the Classic Theistic Sense is "personal" in that God has Intellect & Will analogously compared to human intellect and will as opposed to unequivocally compared.

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    3. Some philosophers who affirm DS are also nominalists, Like see, Jeffrey Brower and Michael Bergmann they argue that DS is incompatible with any kind of realism even with trope theories.

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    4. I object to the definition. I would suggest the following: a theistic personalist is someone whose preferred characterization of God is not "Necessary Being" or "Being Itself" but an unlimited Mind. Theistic personalists don't necessarily deny Divine simplicity, although they do tend to draw a distinction between God's necessary essence and His free, contingent operations.

      On this definition, Duns Scotus would not qualify as a theistic personalist, even though he ascribed intellect and will to God and humans univocally, because he characterized God as an Infinite Being.

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    5. The reason I said metaphysical parts i.e. really distinct metaphysical properties, was to allow for other understands of Divine Simplicity than that of Thomas(with his real distinction between essence and existence). Scotus didn't deny DS though he opted for a weaker understanding of it than Thomas.

      I know there were and way well still be plenty of classical theists who are nominalists.

      @Son of Ya'Kov,

      That is one account of simplicity but talk of analogy ties it in with Thomas account specifically.

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    6. Daniel makes a good point. I believe Thomists affirm the identity thesis understanding of DS. There are other understandings. The Cappadocians,for example, attack Eunomius' version of the identity thesis because they think it makes a nonsense of ordinary and Scriptural language about God (it makes his goodness identical to his justice, etc., wheras they think it's important to maintain the distinct reference of these terms). But they still affirm divine simplicity. Now, Eunomius' version is a lot cruder than St. Thomas', and it isn't clear that they would be as opposed to it, but it does show there are different understandings of DS.

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  32. If someone could point out compelling arguments for and against "thomistic personalism" of JPII et al. I would be much appreciated!

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  33. I found this link that talked briefly about evolutionary biology and the Natural Law: https://aeon.co/essays/how-evolutionary-biology-makes-everyone-an-existentialist1

    the natural law section is further down near the middle of the article. It seems like the definition of nature and law they use for Aquinas doesn’t add up to what Aquinas was actually talking about. Anybody care to comment on it?

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    1. Yes, it is a bad summary of it natural law theory, and a bad objection to it.

      Natural Law theory has nothing to do with determining the laws of nature and then inferring what we ought to do. There is no "bait and switch" because Aquinas never talks about "laws of nature" to begin with.

      Natural Law instead has to do with (1) what is natural to something - i.e. the final causes inherent to it; and (2) whether an action or behaviour aids to the fulfillment of those ends or not.

      As Dr Feser put it in his book Aquinas, "natural" refers to "the final causes inherent in a thing by virtue of its essence, and which it possesses whether or not it ever realizes them or consciously wants to realize them."

      Most importantly, this author is wrong to infer that evolutionary biology shows there is no such thing as human nature. Are we supposed to believe that the question, 'what is it?' has no answer when it comes to humans? Whatever exists is what it is; it is this sort of thing rather than that sort of thing. The physical processes through which things manifested (evolution) doesn't change that.

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  34. Sorry, here's the correct link:
    https://aeon.co/essays/how-evolutionary-biology-makes-everyone-an-existentialist

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  35. How do Thomists and Scholastics, respectively, usually respond to the challenges of Holistic and contrastive underdetermination? What purely deductive is out or put on the table?

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  36. How do Thomists and Scholastics, respectively, deal with the challenges of Holistic and contrastive underdetermination? What purely deductive way leads us out of the woods? I don't think that such an answer is available, since any hypothesis you put forth, I can imagine someone else putting another competing hypothesis, and then I only see us settling which account is better on the basis of induction. In any case, I'd like to hear Thomists and Scholastics make their case, any (Thomist/Scholastic) literature which specifically deals with this would be appreciated too.

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  37. I'm studying the Aristotelian proof and I think I understand the most crucial step of the argument (that a hierarchical causal series must terminate in a first member with inherent causal power), but I'd like to know if anyone sees a flaw or room for improvement in my presentation (since I plan to present it to some atheists):

    1. The only possible explanation for how causal power can exist in a series is if it is produced (even if that be out of nothing, for the sake of argument).

    2. Therefore, there can be no explanation for how causal power exists in a hierarchical causal series that entirely consists of members which can only mediate rather than produce causal power.

    3. But there is always an explanation for how causal power exists in an existing causal series.

    4. Therefore, a hierarchical causal series that entirely consists of members which mediate rather than produce causal power cannot exist.

    5. Therefore, any hierarchical causal series which consists of members that mediate rather than produce causal power must also include a member which imparts causal power to the series nonderivatively and thereby explains how causal power exists in the series.

    Thanks for reading, and please reply if you have any ideas for how I could improve this presentation of this crucial step in the Aristotelian proof.

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  38. I'm studying the Aristotelian proof and I think I understand the most crucial step of the argument (that a hierarchical causal series must terminate in a first member with inherent causal power), but I'd like to know if anyone sees a flaw or room for improvement in my presentation (since I plan to present it to some atheists):

    1. The only possible explanation for how causal power can exist in a series is if it is produced (even if that be out of nothing, for the sake of argument).

    2. Therefore, there can be no explanation for how causal power exists in a hierarchical causal series that entirely consists of members which can only mediate rather than produce causal power.

    3. But there is always an explanation for how causal power exists in an existing causal series.

    4. Therefore, a hierarchical causal series that entirely consists of members which mediate rather than produce causal power cannot exist.

    5. Therefore, any hierarchical causal series which consists of members that mediate rather than produce causal power must also include a member which imparts causal power to the series nonderivatively and thereby explains how causal power exists in the series.

    Thanks for reading, and please reply if you have any ideas for how I could improve this presentation of this crucial step in the Aristotelian proof.

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    1. I've given up on the finite series argument because it unwarrantedly extrapolates a needed empirical cause for what was supposedly already THE total empirical causal series, but your argument is the first that has renewed my interest.

      It highlights the problem of explanatory adequacy by implication, but more importantly---and specific to your argument---it raises the issue of determining what are the possible explanations to be considered.

      Yet the same old problem remains: when you reference a causal series, aren't you already assuming that that series is in need of explanation of some kind even if it already includes that one cause which imparts causal power to the rest?

      Also, why would it have to be only one imparting cause? If one cause can do the imparting, why not more than one?

      Finally, and this applies to any argument for God actually, whatever we think about the causal series issue, isn't this based on inference somehow "causing" one view of causation to be true as opposed to any other? "Cause why?" is a perfect example of this blurring of the line between inferential and empirical causation.

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    2. "aren't you already assuming that that series is in need of explanation of some kind even if it already includes that one cause which imparts causal power to the rest?"

      It needs an explanation, and that one cause which imparts causal power to the rest is the explanation. The alternative the atheist would enjoy would be something like "causal power exists in the series without any member of the series that produces it", but the point of my argument is that this atheistic alternative is inadequate because it's equivalent to saying "there is causal power in the series for no explanation at all". It's extremely ad-hoc and self-evidently implausible to suggest the series of changers, though all being mediums of causal efficacy, just has causal power with no explanation at all. And there's no independent motivation for the atheist's conclusion, either, other than "I sure want to avoid theism".

      "Also, why would it have to be only one imparting cause? If one cause can do the imparting, why not more than one?"
      I could appeal to Ocam's razor at this point, or point out that the context of the argument leaves room for only one productive member of the causal series.

      In this particular causal series we are talking about actualized actualizers--which mediate the causal power--and an unactualized actualizer--which produces the causal power. But in order for a member of this particular series to be producing causal power, it must be an unactualized actualizer--one which has no privations, as conceptually follows. And after performing a conceptual analysis on what an unactualized actualizer is, you find that there is no trait to differentiate it from another "unactualized actualizer" and so it is conceptually impossible for there to be more than one. (See one of his books for a full exposition of the latter argument).

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    3. yeah, I think Stuart Hackett successfully proved the impossibility of more than one such cause, and part of it was the razor.

      Ok, so it's really the first premise and the assumption that the causal series must have an explanation, that is still in question for me.

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    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    5. "Ok, so it's really the first premise and the assumption that the causal series must have an explanation, that is still in question for me."

      I think the supposition that the causal series must have an explanation is the default position. It's about as intellectually dignified for an atheist to pull the "that's just how it is, no need to look any further" card as it would be to answer "why is the sky blue" with "it just is, unintelligibly, without any reason whatsoever, so stop asking." If the assumption that change has no explanation is what atheism rests on, then atheism is philosophically bankrupt.

      Exceptions to the principle that things have explanations need to be justified, and in the absence of some independent argument for the inexplicability of a causal series of changers I think we are well within our right to point to the straightforward theistic explanation.

      As for your suspicions about premise 1--that "the only possible explanation for how causal power can exist in a series is if it is produced--I am somewhat surprised anyone could find this controversial. What explanatory alternative is there?

      It would seem that either the causal efficacy in the series is/was produced, or else it "popped into being from nothing"--whatever that would mean, and, again, if atheism rests on the premise that change is explained by the causal force imparted on it by "nonexistence itself", then atheism is philosophically bankrupt.

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    6. I think the problem of proving the actual standards for explanatory adequacy is also soluble only via self-referential analysis plus anticipating allegations of logical errors by grounding the argument on the assumptions of its negations and logical alternatives.

      This is a strangely missing or glossed-over issue in atheism, naturalism, and natural selection as well.

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    7. I see. Thanks for the interesting discussion! Merry Christmas

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  39. Replies
    1. If everything needs an explanation, then both the need for explanation of the series, and the explanation itself, would need explanation, two apparently vicious regresses.

      I think the only way to prove this would be to point out the implicitly assumed explanation of everything in the very denial or even mere questioning of that necessity.

      Same problem with the denial of universally overarching meaning, purpose, etc.

      Boyle would probably say that at that level of basic concepts that explanatory necessity is, the only way to prove it is in the assumptions of its denials or self-reference inconsistency in those denials themselves.

      Otherwise, one necessarily begs the question and the argued denial always has the advantage because the above method is the only thing that isn't vulnerable to accusations of question begging in any other kind of attempted positive proof.

      And of course: Merry Christmas

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  40. Something of interest I’ve just stumbled upon:

    “Flipping Fisher’s Famous Theorem

    by William F. Basener and John C. Sanford

    A recent paper in the Journal of Mathematical Biology (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00285-017-1190-x) has uncovered major problems with the historically pivotal Fundamental Theorem of Natural Selection. That theorem was proven by Ronald Fisher – one the great scientists of the last century. Fisher’s theorem was published in 1930, and was the foundational work that gave rise to neo-Darwinian theory and the field of population genetics...The authors of the new paper describe the fundamental problems with Fisher’s theorem. They then use Fisher’s first principles, and reformulate and correct the theorem. They have named the corrected theorem The Fundamental Theorem of Natural Selection with Mutations. The correction of the theorem is not a trivial change – it literally flips the theorem on its head. The resulting conclusions are clearly in direct opposition to what Fisher had originally intended to prove.”

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  41. Hoping I'm not too late to catch people here, but as someone who very little background in mathematics and no background in computer science, can anyone recommend any good texts for either field that introduce concepts and terms in an understandable way that isn't also so oversimplified as to be effectively false? Broad surveys rather than specialized or restricted-scope works would be preferred. Regarding the comp-sci in particular, I am less interested in application so much as the theory and terminiology behind it such that it might be useful for understanding discussions surrounding things such as computationalist theories of mind and the like. Thanks!

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