While there are still a few days left to September, I should note that this month marks the 10th anniversary of this blog. It was initially started in part to serve as a kind of online supplement to The Last Superstition, which was published around the same time. Of the eleven books I’ve written, co-written, or edited, seven of them (including TLS) have appeared during the last ten years. We’ll see if I can keep up the pace during the next ten years.
Fellow comic book aficionados will have observed that this is also roughly the lifespan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and if TLS was my Iron Man, then perhaps my Infinity War will be my forthcoming book Aristotle’s Revenge: The Metaphysical Foundations of Physical and Biological Science. I am just now putting the finishing touches on it and it should be out by the end of this year or early next year from Editiones Scholasticae. More information to come on that before long.
As with the MCU, there is a plan for the future. In case you are curious, next on the agenda are a book on the immortality of the soul, a book on sexual morality, a book on the truth of the Catholic Faith, and a book on Modernism. In that order, though I reserve the right to shift things around or drop something altogether as circumstances change.
In the meantime, it’s a good occasion for another open thread. You know the rules. Keep it civil, keep it classy, but feel free to discuss any topic you wish.
God bless you sir! I am working through TLS and Philosophy of Mind. Love them both.ReplyDelete
I have not read and reread two books outside of the Bible besides the two I mentioned above due to the difficulty and my limited capacity.
I may actually be getting smarter :)
How about a podcast?!
a book on modern...ism? interesting...ReplyDelete
I am looking forward to Aristotle's Revenge. One of my favorite science popularizers is Sean Carroll. He has a great way of explaining some complex physics. But he could use a rigorous Aristotelian challenge to some of his sillier ideas such as poetic naturalism. Perhaps you would be interested in being a guest on his Mindscape podcast. As one of the smarter materialists, he is quite open to philosophical discussions, having taken some philosophy at Villanova as an undergraduate.ReplyDelete
Will Aristotle’s Revenge give a defense of the vegetative soul at all? I am thinking of merelogical nihilists (atomistic, eliminative materialists, etc.) who would say that there are only particles arranged “plant-wise”. I think the unity of consciousness proves the sensitive soul.ReplyDelete
I would love to hear your thoughts on that.
Wouldn't the idea that basic material constituents can be "plant-wise" hint at a presumption of some sort of holistic metaphysical principle like the AT form?Delete
I think that the merelogical nihilist would argue that plants are merely bio-molecular aggregates of substances that are related in the same way that the parts of a machine or parts of an ecosystem are related and that there is no overarching unity in the plant. The question is, what properties of plants are not completely reducible to their constituent parts, if any (the way the unified consciousness is not reducible to any one part of the animal body). That is what I would like to see some research on, as I think it would be a great exercise in fleshing our Aristotelian Holism.Delete
Can’t wait for your next books!ReplyDelete
For your book on sexuality please address how the PF argument compares with past statements by doctors of the church. It’s one thing to show just how wrong those are that say that Catholic teachings on sexual morality must be loosened. It’s another to combat rigorists who believe that any sex “act” must absolutely be procreative and unitive, with “act” being defined as any oral or manual stimulation - see http://catechism.cc. You’ve addressed magisterial and doctrinal statements quite well with respect to capital punishment but perhaps a similar treatment here would be useful.
I know that Dr. Feser addresses these points in one of his articles and in the comment section on this blog. However, I was listening to a talk by Fr. Ripperger on the Natural Law and its decline in which he says the Curia responded to a question in 1932 on this matter with an explicitly rigorist view.Delete
So I get Dr. Feser's view, it seems to make rational sense to me, and I get that it has been the common opinion since the 50's, however this seems to not be simply a matter of what St. Alphonsus or Aquinas said, but what the Holy See is saying.
He references a dubia and an answer as late as 1932 in this talk.
Start at 46:05 and go for 2 mins to get the relevant info https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=scJ7MZ42vcM&t=2835s
I hope Ed would weigh in here. I'm curious as to whether the magisterium has reversed course or have it been silent on the matter and its been just philosophers and theologians weighing in?
The thing is I can't find the reference Fr. Ripperger is referring too. Also, it is probably in Latin, so it wouldn't be of any use to me anyways hahaDelete
At around 47:57 Fr. Ripperger is stating the question of the dubia: "Is it permissible for a husband to ....(unintelligible to me).... with his wife" ? I'm not a native English speaker and I don't hear the words. Can someone help me by writing the missing words here? Thanks.Delete
I think it is "commit sodomy with his wife".Delete
Given that no orthodox theologian today and definitely then would propose nevermind say yes to full blown sodomical acts, I can only interpret this as meaning spousal foreplay involving oral sex and possibly anal sex acts that culminate with male ejaculation during the marital act.
Wow! I can’t wait for all these books to come out. Keep up the good work, Dr. Feser!ReplyDelete
Thank you for your work and your blog. It has been quite influential in my own philosophical thinking, my faith, and my life in general.
I'll mention it here too:ReplyDelete
Zippy Catholic has died. He had his own blog and used to be a co-blogger with Feser over at What's Wrong with the World. He could handle himself in a debate much better that Mark Shea could. What should have been an interesting conversation (Feser/Beckwith/and others on one side.... Shea/Zippy/And others on the other) was killed by Shea's inability to hear a dissenting view point without saying "Oh My Gosh! How DISGUSTING and STUPID that you'd even think that!".
Also interesting: over at Shea's blog you can see he drafted a post to Zippy and he'll let anyone in the comments defecate all over him (people who know squat about him)…. while the Bearded, Bloated Buffoon says nothing. But post something in his comments that is even slightly non-critical of Trump and watch him fly into a rage.
As I said of Zippy regarding my past interactions with him. He was a worthy opponent. Shea is not.....Delete
RIP Zippy. Another of my favorite bloggers.Delete
Speaking of Zippy, I think it would be interesting for Feser to do a post on the Thomistic understanding of usury.
By the way, I just checked out the Shea thread, in which I had left a couple comments last week defending Zippy from slanders: Shea has since deleted the slanderous comments (he says he had been traveling and had not been checking that comment thread), so whatever his faults, I don't think he ought to be criticized for letting people defecate all over the recently deceased.Delete
I would really like to hear more about the book on Sexual morality, The outline of topics discussed would be helpful.ReplyDelete
Will it upgrade the PFA?, it is often claimed that even though it might be philosophically plausible it isn't very intuitive and Politically persuasive.
And what about proving immorality of IVF?
This recent practice of IVF-with-ROPA (Reception of Oocytes from Partner) seems to allow same couple to share a certain sort of Union which natural law says they can't have.(with one partner providing the eggs while the other becomes pregnant.)
Is this any better morally or worse?
And just how does one deal with today's culture that is at large extremely perverse in this regard.
I actually find it intuitive, even if not in its percise technical formulation. At least in light of conparing perverted sexual acts to eating merely for pleasure and vomitng it up merely so you could eat again: isnt this whole eating thing great, if only it didnt also nourish my body!Delete
I think not just attacking perbersity as perverse or evil, but as fake, or illusory might work better. Also promoting a positive, substantial, real conceptual of what sex is, and celebrating that would be better.
I meant same-sex couples.Delete
Thanks for all the effort you put into the blog! It's content and the people I meet here have had a significant impact on the way I reason.ReplyDelete
I'm very excited about what I'll learn from your upcoming work. I'm curious: why call out biology distinctly (or, redundantly) from physical science in the subtitle "The Metaphysical Foundations of Physical and Biological Science"? Is it that biology might be more familiar to readers in general and dispel fears that the content is too focused on abstract physics?
Love and prayers for you and your family from Sydney, Australia.
Please prof. Ed gives us the book about the truth of the Catholic faith first.ReplyDelete
While you are waiting you might check out Ronald Knox's The Belief of Catholics. The pre-V2 triumphalism is a little dated, but it starts at the preambles and goes all the way through in a very concise manner.Delete
It was the book that converted me from Evangelicalism to Anglicanism.Delete
a book on the immortality of the soulReplyDelete
Will this deal with the question of hell also?
If so, I hope Dr. Feser will explain exactly why having a classical view of free will (where what one wills follows from a judgment of its good) does not entail universal salvation, as per David Bentley Hart. I found Hart's argument a bit sketchy, but I also found Feser's reply a bit sketchy too, at least on this specific point. Feser only said that Aquinas famously held the classical view of free will and at the same time affirmed the eternity of hell, without explaining exactly why Aquinas thought they were compatible.
I myself tend to find Hart's argument problematic because it doesn't adequately account for change.
Aquinas argues that the soul’s orientation is fixed on separation from the body (and also that being reunited with the body cannot resume change, though this is less important to what I’m going to argue).
It seems to me that Hart's own particular argument for universal salvation doesn't survive this kind of analysis.
1. If intelligent beings cannot exist as purely immaterial minds apart from changeable material bodies, that would defeat arguments for the survival of the soul after bodily death.
2. If immaterial minds cannot but choose God, they don't meaningfully have will (or maybe even intellect).
3. If they can choose other than God, then they must do so permanently, as purely immaterial beings are pure form (plus existence) and to "change" form isn't really to change but to obliterate one being and replace it with another.
And if immaterial intelligences can choose other than God and their choice is permanent, then Hart's idea that all rational beings simply _must_ ultimately choose God is defeated.
Note that it doesn’t matter if God voluntarily refrains from creating purely immaterial beings for fear that they would choose other than himself. The point is metaphysical: according to Hart, all rational beings _must_ be open to eventually choosing God.
BTW, DBH is also writing a book on the soul. He's also promising to put out a book on universal salvation fairly soon. Hope Dr. Feser engages with them both.ReplyDelete
Ditto Thursday. I actually found Dr. Hart's arguments very persuasive, and Dr. Feser's response rather lacking. I would very much look forward to more interaction between the two of them on this subject.Delete
Hart sorely needs to tell us how his universalism fits in with a coherent metaphysics of change.Delete
On the other hand, Feser can't just tell us that Aquinas affirmed both a classical account of free will and an eternal hell.
Thursday, what is the difficulty in Hart's metaphysics of change? I'm not studied enough in this area to intuit a problem you're referring to.Delete
But I agree, Feser did seem to simply beg the question in his response.
I wonder though if Feser is hiding a card. Maybe he doesn't believe God really desires all men to be saved? Maybe Feser opts for Augustine's odd interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:4?
And Feser's analogy of God desiring all to avoid sin reveals a lot. For Paul says God consigns all to sin so He can have mercy on all, but is Feser willing to say God consigns some to eternal damnation so He can...glorify Himself (whereas the hypothetical in Romans 9:22-23 is realize)? Hello Thomistic Calvinism. Now, I doubt Feser would actually try to say God consigns some to eternal damnation in the same way He has consigned all men to sin, but I don't know how he can avoid saying just that. Either God consigns some to eternal damnation because He cannot save them (which requires libertarian free will), or because He wishes to glorify Himself more than He wishes to save all (which seems to imply an active reprobation of men on God's part).
I would love to ask a question that I have had for months now and is my last struggle with the argument from motion.ReplyDelete
I have bought all your books and read every article I can get my hands on and still could not find one. My objection is really that the argument from motion or what you call the Aristotelian proof in the Five proofs of the existence of God does not make the leap successfully from an unmoved to an unmoveable or unchangeable mover. I have all the metaphysics rock solid in my head so here is my objection:
You say in your books that the essentially-ordered series dealt with in the argument from motion is one where the actualization of the potential to exist. I do see why the prime mover in such a series can not have any potentials for existence (because then if that potential for existence was actualized by another per the principle of motion then we would still require an ultimate explanation). However, and this is the crux of my objection. Why does a being devoid of any potentials for existence constitute a purely actual being? Why can not a being have no potentials for existence but have certain potentials unrelated to existence that are say actualized at later times by other beings or say their potentials that are unrelated to existence are never actualized?
This is my only real problem with the argument, the rest is pretty much undeniable.
Mr. Feser, I would really want to get your input on this.
One thing I would quickly point out is that any potential is a real potential for change. So if there is no way for a potential to be actualized, even in principle, then it is not truly a potential.
Now the only thing that could actualize that potential is an uncaused cause or a derived cause. Any derived cause will necessarily derive its actuality from the uncaused cause. Therefore, the potential can only be actualized by reference to the uncaused cause. But we are placing the potential in the uncaused cause itself, and it is a common axiom in Aristotelian metaphysics that “something cannot give what it does not have”. So the uncaused cause, in order to actualize its potential, must be already actual in order to have the ability to actualize its own potential. But also per Aristotle, something cannot be both actual and potential at the same time in the same respect. Therefore, what was thought to exist in a potential way in the uncaused cause in fact exists in an actual way. Therefore, the first cause must be Pure Act.
I hope this helps!
But if it has potencies, then it would be composite, and not perfect unity, and so not simple, but that means that its existence is not without potency either.Delete
And if these other proposed potencies, not toward existence, but to something besides, did exist in the prime mover, then it would really be within the series of moved things (and what would set it in motion?), and so it is not really the prime mover of which we speak: that part of it which is devoid of potency would have to terminate the regress of any actualization of motion within it, by being its ultimate actualizer, but then it (that part of it devoid of potency) would be the prime mover. And so the prime mover would just be devoid of potencies pure and simple.
But if this "part" is pure act, that it is is in some incomprehensible way also what it is, even if what this means is only known relatively. So if it is devoid of potency relative to existence, for it is existence, then it is devoid of potency in its essence, and so what would be left for it to have unactualized?
My questions, perhaps simmiliar to yours, deal with the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son and the procession of the Holy Spirit: if the Father is somehow their source, how can the Godhead be shared equally by them, since the Father seems, in some way, even more fundamental than they. Or if it does, how could the Godhead by simple.
Im not saying either claim is false, but asking how they can both be true. I have a dim surmise as to how, but no strong beleif in my solution, being content to wait for the answer, holding that both be true.
The quick answer to your puzzle is this:Delete
In a complex system, stability is proportional to complexity, i.e. the higher the complexity the higher the stability.
Therefore, an infinitely complex system would be infinitely stable.
If it were infinitely stable it would never change, i.e. infinitely simple.
Objectively an analogy in purely scientific terms would be using the Heisenberg world-picture where the universal psi-function never changes.
Hebrews 1-3 can be interpreted like this.Delete
so, according to Phillip, the best way to understand the Aristotelian argument is to throw out Aristotle... That might not quite satisfy someone who wanted to understand the Aristotelian argument.Delete
A complex object, the more complex it becomes, eventually becomes simple? Isnt that like saying that the more sides you add to the polygon youre just that much closer to making a circle?Delete
@Sean + @Scott, thanks for the interesting and helpful thoughts. Let me think on them.Delete
Why would anybody in their right mind consider Aristotle... when the logic, structure, knowledge & truth is contained in the Bible?
It's a no brainer...
Observe what you have written... estimate a circle with a polygon, i.e. squaring the circle.
Interesting as the question may be... a circle is not complex, now is it?
And it isn't simple is it? ,i.e. requires quadrature to estimate its area..
So, NO... it not anything like your circle analogy...
You are right enough: adding complexity to a thing to make it simple is not like increasing sides to a polygon to produce a circle. At least the latter produces something that looks like a circle, even if the circle is the limiting case it will never reach. But you only get further away from simplicty by adding complexity or composition to an object.Delete
Maybe you are using "simple" and "complex" in a different sense, or maybe you just think you can literally sqaure the circle.
It is possible that one could square the circle; for if the number π is the root of a quadratic equation the coefficients of which involve quadratic irrationalities only, in which case the continued fraction would be non-periodic, BUT a straight-edge-compass construction possible.
Potentials cannot actualise themselves. If they could, they wouldn't be merely potential, but already actual. If an actualiser had any potentials, this must either be actualised by some other aspect of the actualiser that is already actual or from something else entirely. Either way, it will be actualised by something actual. If it comes from the actualiser, then the actual part is technically a separate actual actualiser. If that part doesn't need actualising, then that part is the purely actual actualiser and the added potencies are separate.Delete
Ultimately, we will dig down to something purely actual that actualiser everything.
The root confusion within Theism stems from the legacy of Aristotle.
Aristotle's prime mover is an Absolute Unity (which is requires an appeal to potency).
Biblically the prime mover (just to use Theistic jargon) is a Compound Unity.
The concept of an Absolute Unity that is something purely actual and the actualiser of everything is not therefore logically possible.
Phillip, trying to discuss with you is difficult because you hardly ever say anything clear, you seem to equivocate a lot.Delete
Do you deny the act/potency distinction? If so, how else do you explain change?
I get the sense that you think you know more than you do Phillip. Or you're playing a pseudo intellectual game where you critique Aristotelian notions without any justification to do so. It's coming across as uninformed. Why do you think the prime mover is absolute unity? Moreover, why do you think this implies potentiality?Delete
Do you deny the act/potency distinction? If so, how else do you explain change?
Before you can answer that question one must determine what is the principle of individuation of the prime mover...
So, first tell me the principle of individuation you are using and I'll give you options concerning act/potency distinction...
Otherwise, you will just constantly insist that you don't understand...
Why do you think the prime mover is absolute unity?
That is Aristotle's/Aquinas definition of prime mover. The definition is important as it relates to continuity which of course relates to potency...
Concerning the Principle of Individuation … you answered it yourself when you stated:
If potential comes from the actualiser, then the actual part is technically a separate actual actualiser.
So, in fact you agree with me, i.e. a Compound Unity and NOT an Absolute Unity.
Therefore, you also agree that Thomism is incorrect.
Billy... this is interesting... I read Aquinas at the source... and according to him:Delete
Videtur quod Deus non sit simplex omnino.
He is stating that God IS NOT entirely simple.
This is a good thing... it would appear then that this Theist idea of divine simplicity is incorrect...or at least NOT Thomist...
Ergo videtur ibi esse aliquis modus compositionis. = Compound Unity ≠ Absolute UnityDelete
Strange how going directly to the source one usually finds how error creeps in...
However, Aquinas does not refer to anything resembling Potency.Delete
His treatise stumbles on composite this is where modifying his error makes the rest of his reasoning unwieldly. The manner in which he is thinking of a continuum is where is error stems.
>"going directly to the source"
>Doesn't understand the Latin subjunctive
Aquinas is saying "it would seem" God is not simple and lacks absolute unity; this is a standard trope in the Summa to outline an argument Aquinas subsequently argues against.
If you had read literally a sentence ahead you would have seen an "on the contrary" paragraph where Aquinas begins to challenge all of those views. Tellingly, at this point he begins to use the indicative to describe God, which means he holds these to be more accurate theological truths.
You are incorrect.
Aquinas is clear concerning God NOT being SIMPLE:
3. Item, de quocumque praedicatur aliquid quod non est de substantia sua, illud non est simplex. Sed quidquid praedicatur de aliquo postquam non praedicabatur, illud non est de substantia sua, cum nulli rei substantia sua de novo adveniat. Cum igitur de Deo praedicetur aliquid postquam non praedicabatur, ut esse dominum et creatorem quae dicuntur de ipso ex tempore, videtur quod ipse non sit simplex.
This conclusion concerning God not entirely being simple is in no way modified.
However, he is clear about God NOT being COMPOSITE:
Ergo Deus non est compositus. Et hoc simpliciter concedendum est.
Aquinas's last sentence is:
Unde relinquitur ibi tres esse res et tamen nullam compositionem. Ex hoc patet nomina personalia nullam in Deo compositionem significare.
Which means that Aquina's position is that God is NOT ENTIRELY SIMPLE and NOT COMPOSITE.
His argument hinges around two things:
1/ God is not simple.
2/ God is not composite.
I'm not going to reply to this thread any further, but the first argument you quoted is, again, an "it seems that" paragraph. videtur... sit is a subjunctive clause in Latin, which means it expresses a view of conjecture or dubious credibility; the second paragraph you quote is from Aquinas' reply to those views. The first paragraph is the equivalent of quoting a robust form of an argument with which you disagree to critique it.Delete
There is no contradiction in Aquinas' views according to the text.
You can't find any Aquinas text that states:
1/ God is simple.
2/ God is not composite.
That is because, Aquinas never stated the above propositions.
Aquinas propositions are:
1/ God is not entirely simple.
2/ God is not composite.
This is what the text says.
If you are a theist...then, yes I can observe why you must insist that God is simple and read the text the way you do...i.e. you figure:
Aquinas does not mean that...
Aquinas is a Trinitarian therefore his propositions must be:
1/ God is not simple.
2/ God is not a composite.
He is being consistent with his negative theology approach.
a book on ModernismReplyDelete
Is this a more extensive critique of modern philosophy? I was hoping that Dr. Feser might turn to doing books on Hume and Kant, after the book on Catholicism. If so, this is all to the good.
I'm a bit worried though that Dr. Feser might venture into history and sociology, where he doesn't have much expertise. In particular, I'm kind of doubtful of the story that Scotus's and especially Occam's philosophical arguments led to the Reformation and then on to Descartes, Hobbes and Hume etc. I agree that trends in modern thought have been very consonant with Occam's nominalism, but there has to be some further explanation for why those particular ideas got picked up by the culture rather than Aquinas's.
"Is this a more extensive critique of modern philosophy? I was hoping that Dr. Feser might turn to doing books on Hume and Kant, after the book on Catholicism."Delete
Afraid not. Modernism with an upper case 'M' is a particularly insidious heresy that is traced back to the 1870s, and perhaps a little earlier. It is unlike other infections in the Church's past (eg Arianism and Protestantism) in that it is:
a) difficult to define exactly
b) will not expel itself from the Church
c) not only undermines Catholicism in particular, but all religion in general
Such a plan for a book makes perfect sense; it follows logically after a proof of the truth of Catholicism. It is great error (or rather series of errors) scourging the Church today, so it deserves to be treated rigorously by a Catholic intellectual as c capable as Feser is. Certainly, no Catholic can choose to ignore its existence and influence in good conscience.
I for one am super keen for such a treatment, as I still have many questions about it myself.
Modernism is a specific heresy condemned by Pius X. that is rampant in the Catholic world today. It dominates most theology faculties. Feser is probably quite mad about that and the whole Francis situation and few things motivate one to write as good as anger.Delete
Hegel did try to defend Christian faith in the light of developments in philosophy--along with others of the German schools of idealism. They were ignored or turned upside down. He agrees that knowledge has an aspect that is immediate and another that is mediate. But Feser takes a different approach saying the answer to berkeley and Hume was already contained in AquinasDelete
Well I hope being keeps being. Great blog, I have only been trolling it for five years.ReplyDelete
The Lord be with you.
Sounds fantastic!!! Can't wait for them all. Love your work Dr Feser.ReplyDelete
Of all of them, I'm most keen for the book on Modernism, which I really hope you do eventually write. I've long wondered as to your exact position on the life and practices of the Church since the 1960s. Everyone can agree Vatican Ii onward have been very troubling times in the Mystical Body
Folks, it's more likely that Feser is writing about the heresy of modernism and not just modern philosophy.ReplyDelete
I also have to say thank you. I regard this as among the most important and educational blogs on the internet, and I've been sending your children to college by hoarding multiple copies of your books ever since. They disappear quickly as friends want to borrow them. :)ReplyDelete
I still remember being recommended TLS back in the days. I opened the not-very-aesthetically pleasing cover of the book, expecting some crude, flippant remarks against Dawkins & Co.
Boy, was I wrong.
I'd like to see Dr Feser justify infallibility as a respectable philosophical doctrine. If it is respectable, it is an incredibly powerful philosophical tool, because it supplies everything at a stroke: Once one has proved that the Church is infallible, all Church teachings labelled infallible are proved without need for further discussion, from the existence of God to the literal Bodily Assumption of the BVM.ReplyDelete
But I don't think infallibility is philosophically respectable. It is, however, very useful as a polemical device in theological politics. If it were respectable, then 1) more philosophers would accept it; 2) those philosophers who already accept it would make it the center of their work; 3) those philosophers who already accept it would agree on who and what has it. But they don't.
P.S. I hope I don't sound like a village atheist in the above comments. If I do, I have obviously more penance to do for my former Dawkinsism.
Infallibility is not a philosophical doctrine, respectable or otherwise, and "The pope has declared p infallibly; therefore p" is not a philosophical argument. If it were, then the truths of faith proclaimed infallibly would not be truths of faith, as faith is of things unseen. Faith doesn't furnish new philosophical demonstrations.Delete
There are other ways in which one could find infallibility philosophically disrespectable. One could raise objections to the intelligibility of very idea of infallibility. In his paper "Infallibility, authority, and faith," John Haldane considers the worry that infallibility would require some person, the pope, to experience a special kind of incorrigibility in connection to the truths of the faith, but (for Wittgensteinian reasons) no such experience could warrant one in believing something. I think Haldane's right that the doctrine of infallibility requires no such thing.
One might also have more general worries about faith, about believing specifically with a certainty which exceeds the evidence. Some philosophers think this is actually impossible, others think it is irresponsible. Aquinas seems to be what is called a direct doxastic voluntarist; he holds that you can sometimes choose what to believe. That is an extremely rare position in contemporary epistemology, and it does require some explicit defense for that reason. I don't think it's indefensible though.
Greg, good points.Delete
I liked Josef Pieper's (a thorough-going Thomist) account of faith. For me, when you point out that a good husband has faith in his good wife's fidelity (i.e. a certainty that harbors no room for doubt), it is a belief that (a) technically exceeds the evidence, (b) since there are, manifestly, SOME unfaithful wives, potentially in error, and (c) still an upright and proper human interior act. Certainly, when a wife asks "you trust me, right?", we do not seem to think that the good husband's technically correct answer is "yes, with 99.995% confidence level" but simply "yes" without reservation. That "without reservation" is an (entirely human-driven) faith that is morally AND INTELLECTUALLY proper. If we can do it there, we can do it on God's revelation as well, where the interior act is driven by grace rather than by purely natural causes.
Lara Buchak's work on faith discusses these issues. Check out her paper "Can it be rational to have faith?" where she explains when it can be rational to stop looking for evidence and make a commitment.Delete
Might be philosophically defensible... but, it's certainly (certain used in the Wittgenstein sense) not Biblical.
Scratch that... it is possible that it can work... however, it is entirely dependent on the manner in which Aquinas thought of time...Delete
Interesting results using a direct doxastic voluntarist approach on three cases:
It would appear that it works (assuming the correct interpretation of time)...but, in a weird way... and even weirder, does indeed support a Wittgenstein view...
Thanks for replies.Delete
@Greg -- yes, infallibility isn't a philosophical doctrine, but one can try to justify it philosophically. I don't think any attempt will be successful. You seem to agree with me, tho' you might be going over my head with what you say.
@Mikhail -- yes, I accept that belief can be rational, but the Church goes beyond that. She claims infallibility and therefore offers absolute certainty. I find that impossible to accept, partly because there are contradictory claims to (and disputes about) infallibility, even within the Church.
It is the biggest possible epistemological claim, afaics. But relatively little is made of infallibility, even by those who accept it. An odd situation, or a suspicious one, to me.
Laudator Temporis ActiDelete
Regarding Church infallibility...
I suggest you read Christ's Letters to the Seven Churches...
Does that mean that Aristotle has conjectured in his writings that revenge is a virtue?
Was it Aristotle who wrote:
Revenge is best served cold?
Was it in his Nicomachean Ethics?
If it was, I missed it...
Does that mean that Aristotle has conjectured in his writings that revenge is a virtue?Delete
The why is he out for revenge?Delete
Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.Delete
What belongs to the Lord is good, for all that the Lord has made is good.
Therefore, vengeance is a good thing.
More likely it's just a snappy title. In fact, the title itself may well have been thought up by marketing and sales people to maximise profit, rather than by Prof. Feser himself.Delete
The title is a nod to James Ross' paper "The Fate of the Analysts: Aristotle's Revenge".Delete
That paper was fairly interesting...
His main insight (though he is not aware of its import) is this "factoid":
‘emergence’ we have,62
Thanks for this open thread!ReplyDelete
1) TLS was excellent and Aquinas to accompany it deserve all of the attention they receive or received.
2) Very pumped for Aristotle's Revenge and perhaps a book on Catholicism which Dr. Feser has hinted at in a couple of places. I find that Feser is creating a timeless body of work that will repay study for decades to come. I look forward to following this blog closely.
Is the Banach-Tarski paradox a metaphysical possibility?ReplyDelete
The paradox basically shows that, given a solid ball in 3‑dimensional space, there exists a decomposition of the ball into a finite number of disjoint subsets, which can then be put back together in a different way to yield two identical copies of the original ball.
Now, one reason why this can be done in mathematics is because the pieces of the ball aren't actual solid pieces but are infinite scatterings of points, and the volumes of the subsets are also impossible to define, which is why the end result has a different volume from the start.
However, there is a stronger form of the theorem which states that, given any two "reasonable" solid objects, the cut pieces can indeed be reassembled one into the other. The results of this is that it would be possible to take a pea and chop it up and reassemble it into the sun.
But is the above actually metaphysically possible, given at least a different formal nature of matter; to clarify, Aristotle's view of matter was very much different from the view of matter we now have, so it seems there could be different types of matter that are metaphysically possible, and so there could be a type of matter with such a nature where the pea-Sun paradox could actually be physically accomplished? Or can an argument be made against the above being an actual metaphysical possibility given any possible nature matter can have?
It's fractals JoeD … fractals...Delete
JoeD: Is the Banach-Tarski paradox a metaphysical possibility?Delete
Matter could have all sorts of different properties from the secondary-matter that exists in the actual world. B-T is, like the simpler puzzle of Hilbert's Hotel, something that depends upon an infinite number of objects, or parts. Now, it's impossible to traverse an actual infinity; but I don't think that the existence of an infinite number of objects entails traversal: God could have created them all at once.
So if God created an infinitely big hotel with an infinite number of guests filling each room, they could indeed rearrange themselves to leave every other room empty. (Or a suitably-sliced ball of infinitely divisible matter could be rearranged into two balls.) It's a paradox to our finite imaginations; but our intellects can determine that there is no contradiction, so I'd say it is possible.
Well, in the actual world, matter has a definite volume, which is not the case with the balls in the B-T paradox. It's also impossible to do this with a defined volume and with the nature of matter as we know it.
So this would require a completely different type of matter altogether in order to work, and not just matter that is infinitely divisible.
As to the Banach-Tarski it is probably worth it to mention that its proof is unavoidably non-constructive -- non-constructive in a technical mathematical sense, but that does translate in a few more "practical" senses, such as there being no effective constructive procedure for the partition of the ball, etc. Here is another way to state this: in models of ZF where all subsets of the real line are Lebesgue measurable (this is a result of Solovay), you cannot prove it, since the subsets into which you partition the ball are necessarily non-measurable.Delete
There are also models of ZF + DC (*) where every subset of the real has the Baire property (BP for short), and in fact a string of results of Solovay, Shelah and Stern proved, among other things, the stunning results that ZF is equiconsistent with ZF + DC + BP but ZF + DC + "all subsets of the real line are Lebesgue measurable" (LM for short) is equiconsistent with ZFC + "existence of an inaccessible cardinal", this despite the formal similarity of BP and LM (see Oxtoby's book for this).
At any rate, many such non-constructive results like Banach-Tarski cannot be proved in ZF + DC (**) which, in a very rough way, is the "constructive" core of ZF. What is the impact of these purely mathematical results on metaphysical possibility, I do not know, but one should be wary of reading too much into such results as they can fail in models of set theory or in even "weaker models" like topoi -- e.g. there are topoi where every real function is continuous, topoi where every total function in the natural numbers is recursive, topoi where complex numbers lack square roots, etc. What looks like a pathology to one mathematician is the everyday bread and butter to another.
(*) DC is dependent countable choice and is the minimum necessary to make analysis work. Under ZF it is equivalent to Baire's theorem, from which some of the more spectacular analytical theorems follow.
(**) Banach-Tarski is not provable in ZF + DC but *is* provable in ZF + Hahan-Banach as shown by Pawlikowski, Things get weirdly complicated with different non-constructive principles, what with them being independent of each other (under ZF).
1) Would a chemical element that can radiate an unlimited amount of heat when heated up to a finite amount be metaphysically possible? Or does this violate the Principle of Proportionate Causality (i.e. the element is finitely hot and thus cannot give more heat than it has?)ReplyDelete
Would the element's formal causality or some other concept in metaphysics be sufficient to explain it's radiating an unlimited amount of heat despite it itself only being finitely hot, or would this require creatio ex nihilo to accomplish, which belongs solely to God?
2) Is it also metaphysically possible for there to be a coin of such a type that it naturally splits itself into two coins, and then those two coins could also split themselves into 2 and thus multiplying themselves without bound? Would formal causality or something else in metaphysics explain the operation of such a substance, or would this also require creation out of nothing as well?
2/ That is how time works...
Chemical elements radiate nothing. It is particular "bodies" that do radiating etc.Delete
JoeD: Would a chemical element that can radiate an unlimited amount of heat when heated up to a finite amount be metaphysically possible?Delete
To continue from the previous thread, it depends on the nature of the object and what it means to "give off" heat in that world. In actual physics, "giving off heat" means that an object loses as much energy as it radiates (or convects, etc.). But a horse "gives" its horsey form to a baby horse without losing any of its own horseness, so it's conceivable that different laws of nature could allow for heat-sources that do not lose heat. Or, as in your response to me, something that is not formally hot (the Mediaevals would say the Sun; we might say a microwave-oven), can have heat or heating-powers virtually, without losing anything in the process.
So I would say it's metaphysically possible; just as there is no "law of conservation of horseness", there need not be conservation of energy in this sense.
Is it also metaphysically possible for there to be a coin of such a type that it naturally splits itself into two coins, and then those two coins could also split themselves into 2 and thus multiplying themselves without bound? [...] Perhaps by transforming it's prime matter and adding more quantity to itself (since quantity is a type of actuality and prime matter is pure potential).
I'm inclined to agree that quantity's being a form would allow for that possibility.
"Heat" and "energy" are concepts that are defined in physics. They must be used, in order not to lapse into sheer nonsense, in ways consistent with physics.Delete
And these concept of energy involves the necessary conservation of energy, subject to some provisos. Energy is how physics does its bookkeeping. It is not something directly perceived,
Since we're talking about finite objects having unlimited or even infinite effects, I would like to ask about the possibility of there being contingent objects that can bring other contingent objects into existence, or are effectively omnipotent in power.
On one hand, magic objects that can grant anything would have to be truly omnipotent, which is impossible since they have existence only derivatively, and also that to be omnipotent requires grounding all potencies, and since potencies are necessarily preceeded by actuality, only what is purely actual could be truly omnipotent.
On the other hand, since you yourself have already admitted the real possibility of finite objects having infinite effects, it would seem that the possibility of omnipotent objects is the next step we would have to investigate. What's interesting is that even if we grant for the sake of argument that omnipotent contingent beings / wish granting objects are possible, their existence and thus their power would still be contingent, and since self-causation is incoherent, they would nevertheless require a purely actual cause outside themselves to operate, even if we ascribe to them a full power of omnipotence.
Would the above scenario of there being contingent / composite / finite things which are omnipotent and can actualise all potentials be metaphysically possible, since these omnipotent objects would still not be their own cause of existence and at every moment would require a divine cause outside of themselves to continue existing and thus to continue to have the infinite power they have?
Or is this where metaphysics officially draws the line with regards to what is actually possible in any nature / object?
Gyan: "Heat" and "energy" are concepts that are defined in physics. They must be used, in order not to lapse into sheer nonsense, in ways consistent with physics.Delete
They're ordinary English words. They may be used in accord with strict scientific jargon. Or they may not. Since heat is something directly perceived, it has a pretty obvious non-nonsensical meaning even when applied to (hypothetical) substances that have natures different from the ones we know.
JoeD: Since we're talking about finite objects having unlimited or even infinite effects, I would like to ask about the possibility of there being contingent objects that can bring other contingent objects into existence, or are effectively omnipotent in power.Delete
I would be wary of saying a finite object can have infinite effects. Something can be infinite in one way, but not in another, depending on what we're measuring, and how, and why. If a hypothetical object can "give off" (cause) unlimited heat, then it is unlimited, un-finite in that respect; so if we want to call that "infinite", then we might rather say that it is an infinite cause producing an infinite effect. (Or we might conclude that it's better to call neither one "infinite".)
only what is purely actual could be truly omnipotent.
Yes; God could surely create an object that was extremely powerful, insofar as being able to cause a very wide range of effects, but it could still cause them only materially and secondarily. It could not cause anything to come into being that is not caused that way, such as a new human soul.
Would the above scenario of there being contingent / composite / finite things which are omnipotent and can actualise all potentials be metaphysically possible
I'm not sure whether "all potentials" is a well-defined concept, but I'd tentatively go along with a physical object that was capable of causing any physical substance to come into being, or of actualising any potential in another physical object. What potentials exist to be actualised are still restricted by the natures of whatever objects there are, i.e. this super-object couldn't cause miracles. The mediaeval heavenly spheres would be an example of (supposed) highly-powerful substances in this vein.
Quote: "but it could still cause them only materially and secondarily."
What I was refering to was an object literally having the ability to actualise all possibilities, including bringing things into existence simply ex nihilo and sustaining them as well. This would include new human souls, as well as material substances coming into existence ex nihilo.
So this object isn't causing things materially and secondarily, but actually ex nihilo. We would say that the object's nature is such that it can cause anything to exist from nothing ex nihilo and sustain them in being, but it would still be a contingent object and would require God to keep IT in existence, even if it actually can cause other things to exist out of nothing as well and keep them in existence as well.
Quote: "but I'd tentatively go along with a physical object that was capable of causing any physical substance to come into being, or of actualising any potential in another physical object."
To come into being is key here. I'm not refering to a wish-granting object that could manipulate the prime matter and enform it, but literally create and sustain out of nothing anything that is possible to exist.
Quote: "What potentials exist to be actualised are still restricted by the natures of whatever objects there are, i.e. this super-object couldn't cause miracles."
Well the nature of the wish-granting object would be that it can bring anything (including immaterial things) into existence ex nihilo, so it would be omnipotent in this sense of doing anything that God could do, but in a restricted fashion such as being required to spell out the wish before using it.
The object would have the capacity to actualise anything and everything according to it's nature, and would be infinite in this respect.
But it would still be contingently existing, and as such would require a purely actual cause to sustain it in being, even if the object's nature includes omnipotence and creating things out of nothing and sustaining them in being as well.
Is such a nature metaphysically possible?
Also of note is the question of whether or not magic is metaphysically possible. Fantasy and science fiction differ in that the wondrous effects in science fiction are produced in a way that is completely explained by scientific explanation and physical analysis.
While in fantasy the wondrous effects are produced in a way strictly not susceptible to scientific analysis (since explaining the mechanics of magic would ruin the fun and wonder of it).
The question here is: Is such magic that is not scientifically explicable possible?
Let's take a look at various examples of magical power and objects from fantasy: A powder that can transport anyone to anywhere in an instant without travel. A magic stick that spontaneously changes color and glows and causes sparks around itself. A potion that can make someone invisible. A magic combination of words that turns things into other things, or makes things come alive. A magic wand that can change the shape and composition of a thing without changing the substance. A magical crown that gives it's wearer power over the elements, but can also grant some wishes.
Keep in mind that the effects of all of these are accomplished in a non-physical, or non-scientific way.
Now it's obvious that in all cases of supposed magic in fantasy, the objects in question are obviously meant to have the power to pull these feats off.
The powder really does have the power in itself to transport people anywhere. The magic words really do have the power to cause things and effect the world. The liquid in the glass bottle really does have the power to make a man invisible, but in a non-scientific manner (i.e. it doesn't manipulate the light waves around the object like a non-magical object would).
The magic wand really does have the power of changing the way things look, but in a manner not amiable to scientific analysis. The magic stick really does have the power of changing color and causing fireworks, but not in a way amenable to scientific analysis. The crown really does have the power of changing it's wearer and giving him powers.
Would any of the above effects be metaphysically possible by appealing to their formal causality? The forms of any object are the immaterial aspect it has, and perhaps we could say that these material-but-magical things have forms which can actually cause effects in the world in a non-physical manner as well.
What do you think?
Is it metaphysically possible for there to be contingent & concrete beings that are immaterial, but aren't personal?ReplyDelete
That is, does immateriality in a being necessarily entail personality / rationality, or can there be immaterial things that can act on the world, yet aren't personal?
Or are all immaterial beings necessarily personal / angelic in nature?
An immaterial material thing is a contradiction in terms.Delete
A thing that acts but is not personal is material. Can't be otherwise.
If I were to cease existing right now, and were to suddenly pop into existence again a few seconds later, would that person still be me?ReplyDelete
Or to put it differently: Could God have created me without my parents? On one hand, he could have created me with my DNA which points to my biological parents, and done so without my parents being temporally prior to me. But on the other hand, my history with my parents is one of the things which co-operated in causing me, so it would seem weird to say that I could exist without my parents.
And what would the two possible respective answers to the above 2 questions entail vis-a-vis the essence / existence distinction as well as conservation in existence at every moment?
If the answer to the questions 1 and 2 is that I would remain the same person and that I could have been created without my parents, this then means that my essence / abstract eternal possibility is unrelated to my causal history. On the other hand, if the answers to 1 and 2 respectively is that I wouldn't be the same person and that I couldn't exist without my parents, the conclusions would be that if I were to cease to exist I couldn't be brought back into existence since the person brought back couldn't be me, and also that it is metaphysically impossible that the person created without a preceeding causal history could possibly be me since it is metaphysically necessary that I have the causal history that I have in order to actually be myself.
Can a Thomist hold any one of the above two positions regarding identity and history (either that my causal history is metaphysically necessary for my identity, or that I could exist fully without my causal history), or does Thomism strictly entail one opinion over the other?
That would violate unitarity….Delete
You don't define "cease to exist," but I'll give it a shot. If a terrorist blew you to a million bits with his homemade bomb, you would cease to exist, but if God reconstituted your parts, it would still be you. If you died of a heart attack, you would cease to exist because you would then be a decomposing body devoid of the soul. If God resurrected you (like He resurrected Lazarus), you would be the same person. If God willed your "disappearance," in effect, willing you out of existence and then brought you back, you'd be the same person. To bring YOU back includes bringing back all your memories, so there wouldn't be anything missing.
Your counter that this would somehow interrupt your "causal history" fails because in every one of the above scenarios you are the same person whose existence was only temporarily "interrupted." If God wasn't bringing YOU back (only something resembling you), then by definition it wouldn't be you. In every instance, God is simply reassembling something that had fallen apart. I therefore see no metaphysical issues with essence/existence.
So what this means is that my essence will always be a possibility that can be actualised?
But doesn't that entail that my essence is distinct from my causal history, such that I could exist without my parents?
If God were to create me in an empty void with all of my physical characteristics intact, and did so ex nihilo without my parents being causally prior to me, would that person still be me, or would this metaphysically be a different person than me, since it's origin is different from the one I have in the real world?
All essences are possible, even a unicorn’s, so perhaps you’re getting at something I’m not comprehending.
As to your essence being distinct from your causal history, “YOUR” essence is a composite of the genetic package provided by your parents, so by definition, you cannot be separated from your causal history.
As to God creating you ex nihilo, I believe I answered that when I said, “If God wasn’t bringing YOU back (only something resembling you), then by definition it wouldn’t be you.” What if God, right now, created a carbon-copy of you? Zing! There’s a living human who looks exactly like you and who has your identical genetic makeup. Are you the copy? No, because your soul wouldn’t inhabit the new body. If “you” didn’t exist, and God created “you,” like Adam, then God is the efficient cause of your being, so you would by definition be causally related to God. And as I stated previously, if God willed you out of existence and willed you back into existence, He is merely reassembling the parts which constitute you. In that instance, you’re still causally related to your parents.
So if God were to erase me and then bring me back, that would still be me? But wouldn't this mean that my essence is distinct from my causal history in such a way that God could have created my essence without my parents causal history?
Wouldn't this also entail that, since my essence at any moment of my being is an abstract idea in the mind of God, God could bring me into existence as I am right now but without my causal history containing my parents?
So how exactly is it the case that I am causally related to my parents if God erased me and brought me back, since at that point I would have the exact genetic makeup and memory a carbon copy distinct from me would have if God had created it ex nihilo?
If you create a jigsaw puzzle and put it together, its causal history is not eliminated if I disassemble the puzzle and put it back together. You're still the proximate cause of the puzzle's existence. If I disassemble my Ford and put it back together, it's still a Ford.
JoeD: So if God were to erase me and then bring me back, that would still be me?Delete
I agree with Bill that this would just be a "temporary interruption". In fact, rather than ceasing to exist, it sounds as though you would simply skip ahead into the future by some length of time, and thus would clearly still be you.
But wouldn't this mean that my essence is distinct from my causal history in such a way that God could have created my essence without my parents causal history?
Well, sure. Your essence is human; all men have the same essence, that is, human nature, because that is our species. What makes you this particular man is your matter, with its unique accidents.
Wouldn't this also entail that, since my essence at any moment of my being is an abstract idea in the mind of God, God could bring me into existence as I am right now but without my causal history containing my parents?
God could bring someone who looked and acted just like you into existence, but he couldn't bring you into existence without your parents, because you already have parents, and you can't have and not have them at the same time. And the real you is causally related to your parents because they actually did cause you (regardless of whether God later miraculously moves you across time).
Or to put it differently: Could God have created me without my parents?
But He didn't, so I think the question is meaningless. I'm very suspicious of attempts to identify the "same" object across different possible worlds, since possible worlds do not, in fact, exist. We can talk about some possible person who looks just like you, sounds just like you, has the same(?!) DNA as you, etc., but it doesn't make sense to say it's the same individual as you — individuals are distinguished by their matter, and the imaginary "you" does not have the same matter (in fact, it has none at all).
that I could have been created without my parents, this then means that my essence / abstract eternal possibility is unrelated to my causal history.
Not being uniquely related doesn't mean it's not related at all. If God creates you ex nihilo but bases the pattern of your DNA on that of your "parents", there is still the connection of a shared formal cause. But since God is omnipotent, then of course he is capable of directly producing the same effect as any other cause could have. So you still depend on your causal history, but any history has two possible sources: a chain of natural causes, or the supernatural one.
Of course, the answer would be different if you accept Scotist haeccesities....
@ Mr. Green,Delete
Quote: "I agree with Bill that this would just be a "temporary interruption". In fact, rather than ceasing to exist, it sounds as though you would simply skip ahead into the future by some length of time, and thus would clearly still be you."
First, I wouldn't exactly call it time skipping; it's clearly meant to be me ceasing to exist and then starting to exist again.
Also, so this means God could legitimately erase me from existence completely and then bring me back, right?
Quote: "But since God is omnipotent, then of course he is capable of directly producing the same effect as any other cause could have. So you still depend on your causal history, but any history has two possible sources: a chain of natural causes, or the supernatural one."
So God could have actually created me without my parents, because my DNA represents my causal history and formal causality?
Quote: "Of course, the answer would be different if you accept Scotist haeccesities...."
So wait, Thomism by it's nature entails that God could have created me without my parents, while Scotism by it's nature denies such a thing?
Does this mean a Catholic and Scholastic can hold both options, namely either I could not have been created without my parents (Scotism), or that I COULD have been created without my parents (Thomism)?
JoeD: First, I wouldn't exactly call it time skipping; it's clearly meant to be me ceasing to exist and then starting to exist again.Delete
It's clear that that's what you want it to mean; but it isn't clear that any sense can be made out of that meaning. Surely the very definition of the word "cease" requires that if you exist at time t₁ and you exist at some later time t₂, then you have not ceased to exist.
So God could have actually created me without my parents, because my DNA represents my causal history and formal causality?
Yes, in the sense that God could have created a person ex nihilo that had the same DNA-structure as you (in reality) actually do; and with the same set of memories that you actually have acquired; and the same personality, and so on. (We could loosely speaking call this "creating you without your parents", although I'd still argue that it doesn't really make sense to call a hypothetical person the "same" as a real one in any strict sense.)
So wait, Thomism by it's nature entails that God could have created me without my parents, while Scotism by it's nature denies such a thing?
Scotus and Thomas would both agree that God could immediately create someone with all your exact characteristics. But when I referred to matter's being the principle of individuation, that's the normal Aristotelian view; Scotists claim that there is a form of "thisness" that each thing has that individuates it in some way. So, for example, while St. Thomas taught that each angel must be a separate species (since they have no matter to individuate members of a single species), Scotus believed that multiple angels did share the same species. Unfortunately, I don't know enough about haecceitas to say much about it, other than it might affect the answers as to what counts as the "same person as you".
Just before the moment you were conceived by your parents, God could have decided to create the very same you ex nihilo that he instead decided to make in that cooperative venture called human generation with your parents. The created person whom you are now would be the same as if he had done it with your parents instead of without your parents.Delete
Once you have been created and have human nature in individual act - i.e. an essence individuated in a given instantiated form-matter composite - and once you operate in even one single instance of acting, there is no possibility God could first annihilate you, Joe, into absolute non-being, (not just kill you by separating body and soul) and then re-create the same actual you, Joe, that he annihilated. To call it "the same you" is metaphysically nonsensical. He can make someone, say Bill, else who has all the same characteristics (right down to copies of every DNA and RNA molecule, and every temperament and personality feature) as you EXCEPT the lack of the same individuality and the same history of individual acts. He cannot make something ELSE, i.e. Bill, that had performed the same individual acts that YOU had performed. That too would be metaphysical nonsense.
"And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. "
God can raise up a new human being not using the ordinary process of human reproduction - after all, he did so with Adam and Eve, so he could do it again. This is not metaphysically nonsensical, so it is not beyond God's omnipotent power. But it is metaphysical nonsense to say God can now make the very same individual through extraordinary means that He already made through ordinary means. He could have arranged a different sort of causality to some event than the causality He actually decided to use, but He cannot NOW go back and re-write the very same events - in their historical individuality - that already happened by having them happen instead through a different causality than actually took place. He doesn't have the ability to make not happen what did indeed happen - he cannot make reality be non-real.
Quote:"here is no possibility God could first annihilate you, Joe, into absolute non-being, (not just kill you by separating body and soul) and then re-create the same actual you, Joe, that he annihilated. To call it "the same you" is metaphysically nonsensical. "
Wait, so if God were to erase me from existence, he couldn't "bring me back" again so to speak? The individual appearing after my annihilation simply couldn't be me?
What about the fact that my essence and individuating characteristics are an abstract potency that in principle could be actualised? Doesn't this entail that my essence is always eternally present in God's mind, such that any annihilation of me can't destroy my essence which is what is combined with existence in order to make me?
Can metaphysics accomodate magic?ReplyDelete
Imagine if you had a stick called the Red Stick, which had the ability to turn any corporeal thing red upon you saying "Make it red!" and waving it in front of the object in question. Such a stick is clearly metaphysically possible, and it's potency to turn anything red would flow from it's formal nature as the type of magic stick it is.
But imagine if it instead was an Existence Stick, which had the power to bring into existence anything you command it to, would this be a legitimate metaphysical possibility or not?
I can immediatly see some reasons why it shouldn't be metaphysically possible:
a) The stick would be a contingent existent that would be trying to bring other contingent existents into being, but since existence must be derived in contingent creatures, it is impossible for the stick to bring contingent things into existence full stop in the same way that it is impossible for a man to give away more money than he has.
b) Furthermore, even if the Existence Stick actually was omnipotent and could bring anything into existence, even a copy of itself with the same powers, it would obviously be a contingent being itself, and couldn't be it's own cause since self-causation is incoherent, which means it still requires a non-contingent cause outside of itself for it's own existence, even if we decide to ascribe to it the power of omnipotence.
However, what exactly would be the difference between the Red Stick and Existence Stick that makes all the difference? The Red Stick is an omnipotent master of potencies when it comes to making any material thing red, while the Existence Stick is omnipotent full stop. The Red Stick isn't even red to begin with yet can make any possible material thing red, and we can also define the Red Stick's formal power by saying that no force can counteract it's power to make a material thing red. That is still metaphysically possible. Yet the Existence Stick itself does have the quality of contingent existence, so it should in principle have the formal causality required for bringing other things into existence.
The Red Stick has redness present within itself virtually or eminently, while the Existence Stick should have existence present within itself virtually or eminently.
Where does my reasoning above go wrong, if it does? What do you think?
The stick concerns relations; it has no empirical consequences...Delete
Can metaphysics accomodate magic?ReplyDelete
Is magic as seen in the popular imagination and fantasy fiction metaphysically possible? Especially since it's supposed to be something completely distinct from science-fiction (whereby the wondrous effects are produced through entirely scientific / quantitative / physics means)?
a) For example, usually common are certain combination of words that can have an impact on reality, such as to make water turn into orange juice, or to rile up a rainstorm, or to make plants grow anywhere, or to seemingly stop time for a few moments, or to make non-living things become living beings, or to change the look or shape of anything etc.
b) Also of note are magical objects such as flying carpets, magical crowns that give their wearer powers over the elements, magic potions that make people look like other things for disguise or grant them immortality, or things which can make other things invisible or instantly transport people anywhere and all sorts of other things with eccentric causal features.
c) There is also the common story trope all over fiction of magical wish-granting objects that can act upon reality. Obviously, wish-granting on the level of omnipotence is metaphysically impossible, but this still leaves open the question of the metaphysical possibility of limited wish-granting objects, which can manipulate reality short of creating something ex nihilo or doing something only God can accomplish.
But I guess such things would actually belong in category a) above because the effects are manifested through verbal commands and word combination.
So what do you think? What is the relationship between magic and metaphysics? How much belongs to the realm of metaphysical possibility, and how much to fantasy? Especially since the above effects aren't accomplished through science as would be the case in science-fiction?
Because it looks like, at first blush, that many, or at least some, of the things mentioned above are indeed metaphysically possible, since one can easily understand such eccentric phenomenon by refering to their formal cause and nature as being the explanation of their causal effects upon reality, even if their causality is distinct from the causality of scientific explanation.
After all, Aquinas himself leaves open the question of how much nature can accomplish on it's own, only explicitly stating that rational souls and non-corruptible heavenly objects are directly created by God Himself and are His prerogative since they don't come from any substrate that can be acted upon.
I seem to recall Hillary Putnam once commented on this (about whether witches were possible in the possible world sense).Delete
As long as one admits the possibility of immaterial on material causation, either in the context of a spirit acting on matter or something akin to telepathy, then it appears metaphysically possible.
Metaphysics is magic... metaphysics is the bewitchment philosopher's are under with words...Delete
Quote: "As long as one admits the possibility of immaterial on material causation, either in the context of a spirit acting on matter or something akin to telepathy, then it appears metaphysically possible."
What I'm asking about is:
1) The possibility of certain words when said in a certain combination yielding effects on reality but without physical intermediary or physical mechanics (fantasy isn't science fiction)
2) The possibility of certain physical objects having properties or powers which can be exercised and are actualised without physical intermediary (fantasy isn't chemistry)
3) The possibility of limited wish-granting objects ( though they could plausibly be assimilated to the 1st category above )
It isn't immaterial beings acting on material reality, or immaterial things interacting with each other, but rather material things generally speaking acting on the world in a way that is immaterial.
A true metaphysics follows reality. Metaphysics of middle earth with wizards, elves and dragons will differ from our metaphysics. There can't be a metaphysics such that all possible worlds must conform to it. Rather the metaphysics must conform to the world it is devised for.Delete
Or, rather, since metaphysics is about the natures of things, metaphysics in effect simply describes how any thing can behave given it's nature.
The natures of things in our world are different from the natures of things in middle earth. As such, middle earth if it existed would have a different metaphysics precisely because it would have different natures.
Metaphysics is about any and all natures, it's not about saying all natures must behave in a certain way. That there can be different natures and metaphysics only says that things will behave, act, have properties and qualities in a way in accordance with their natures.
"There can't be a metaphysics such that all possible worlds must conform to it. Rather the metaphysics must conform to the world it is devised for."Delete
This is obviously false, as of course there is a metaphysics of possibilia.
Though, that might be considered a "meta metaphysics."Delete
The problem with statements about "all possible worlds" is that it is not a well-defined term. I mean that mostly in the mathematical sense, though I think it carries over to other senses. I suspect that in order to be able to say anything truly valid along those lines, you would have to explicitly spell out, by a long list, exactly what KINDS of possibilities you are allowing, and what kinds not allowing, in saying "possible". For example, do you want to assume as "possible" that PSR does not hold? For some people, that is NOT "possible". For others, it is. So you will build in an equivocal construct unless you specify. And more likely than not, there is simply NO FINITE LIST of all the things you have to specify. So it is impossible to FULLY specify a given "possibility field", if you will.
The only CERTAINLY "possible worlds" are THIS world with some or all of its contingent events coming out different. So: where God creates something that he did not (yet) create in this world, but is possible to create. But even there, we might think something is possible to create, where we are mistaken: maybe unicorns AREN'T possible in THIS world. So the contingencies could only be regarding contingent events of instances of beings whose kind is or was actual in this world, in order to be fully certain such an event is a "possible". And even that could lead to metaphysical difficulties: although God can allow evils into a world (including, manifestly, this actual world), it is arguable that he cannot willingly make a world that harbors more evil than good overall. So, contingent events that could only actually take place in a world that must necessarily harbor more evil than good might not be "possible" after all. And do you KNOW X event that didn't ever actually happen might have happened without having the world turn out more evil than good? Do you for certain?
"Possible worlds" is not well defined.
I do not know if you are replying to me, but just in case you are, your first paragraph just makes the case for me -- and I never committed myself to this or that view of possibilities or even of the status of possible worlds. My point is the very tame, very underwhelming, assertion that there is such a thing as having a definite position on the nature of possibilia, what grounds them, etc. and this *just* is doing metaphysics. To assert that possibilities must be grounded on the actual world is a metaphysical assertion like any other that needs justification, not something one passes off as a self-evident truth.
You have not read what you have written...
You last statement is: "Possible worlds" is not well defined.
And yet, earlier in the text you gave a simple definition of the constraints involved in possible worlds...when you stated:
The only CERTAINLY possible worlds are THIS world with some or all of its contingent events coming out different.
MEANING the defining constraint of "all" possible worlds is that they have the same boundary conditions as this world which permits various contingencies.
So, why are you disagreeing with yourself?
Is it perhaps because... without you realising it, you do understand that the search for a good argument is a fantasy?
Prof Feser- you are going to get me in trouble. My wife wants me to shrink my library-not expand it & I purchase all your books. Between you and Peter Kreeft I will need more bookshelves. I can hardly wait...ReplyDelete
Thank you Ed for providing a venue to discuss your work and to more widely publicize analytical Thomism. Looking forward to Aristotle's Revenge and works on the soul and the truth of the Catholic faith.ReplyDelete
If you try to raise the alarm that they are helping give an abuser and bully a platform in one of their foreign shows (without naming names) and the comments are constantly deleted is that a cover-up or do you think someone will actually investigate it?ReplyDelete
There is a something sinister going on in lay circles too that allows abuse. Beware people who want to always be in the public eye.Delete
Was talking about a Catholic news organization, who know about an abuser and haven't taken steps to remove them based on their past.Delete
Ten years! Having been here more or less from the beginning, it seems so much shorter than that. The blog in all that time has been filling an essential niche -- one of the best places for informal discussion for those who are, for whatever reason, interested in issues related to scholastic philosophy.ReplyDelete
There is the classical theism forum, started by a few folks from here, but it doesn't seem to have much activity. (I admit I hardly ever stop by it either.)Delete
It gets at least one new post a day. That isn't too bad. There is also the Thomism Discussion Group on Facebook, which is good if you are looking for Thomism. Judging from my email notifications before Facebook changed their system, it is really active.Delete
They need to rework their format. Looks horrible.
Ed -- congratulations on keeping this blog alive all these years and at the highest intellectual levels!ReplyDelete
I'm reading "By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed" right now (the details on the murderers from 2012 are horrific...and serve your argument well) and just bought "Five Proofs."
I can't get enough Feser in my life :-)
Long live Feser! Long live Feser!ReplyDelete
Thomism for Life!!!!!!!
It's all about the moderate realism Bitc.....I mean boyz!;-)
I love Thomism.
Favorite Feser moment of all time: April 23, 2012. During Easter Season no less . . . . and fitting perfectly in context, as atheist Victor Stenger had leaped to the defense of atheist Lawrence Krauss. And here it is:ReplyDelete
"If only the other philosophically incompetent New Atheists had such a knight in shining armor! O Dawkins, where is your Stenger? O Coyne, where is your Victor?"
- Simon James
@ RomanJoeSeptember 24, 2018 at 11:54 PMReplyDelete
Wouldn't the idea that basic material constituents can be "plant-wise" hint at a presumption of some sort of holistic metaphysical principle like the AT form?
Correct. A specific molecular arrangement is just a necessary for a plant to be a plant as its atomic material constituents. Even individual atoms require such an ordering or arrangement; and presumably e.g. protons must be of the right material to give a positive charge and differntiate them from neutrons as well as be united correctly (protons can be broken up into quarks, which again are not protons. Presumably then quarks too could be broken up).
Personally, I still don't believe we fully understand atomic matter fully. I just don't see how you can really get the fullness of life from atoms and not only consciousness or the intellect.
a critique of Hume...
I don't think a book is necessary for that. Hume is a sceptic and like all sceptics necessarily contradicts and refutes himself: if we 'ought not derive an ought from an is,' as he says, then we ought not follow his advice because we'd be deriving an ought from an is; that is, by following his rule not to derive conduct or morality from facts we are changing our conduct because of an alleged fact of Hume; namely, not to derive an ought from an is. It's amazing that so many modern philosophers and thinkers don't see this.
An historical heresy that was pretty well crushed by St. Pius X I believe. The problem with it is that contemporary life tends to constantly incline people to something like it (e.g. toward moral or religious relativism), just like in historically Protestant countries we tend to some form of individualism and, in a sense, materialism (from what remains of the Protestant work ethic, which elevates secular work to being equivalent to or even greater than religious work).
@Philip RandSeptember 25, 2018 at 7:50 AMReplyDelete
Metaphysics is magic... metaphysics is the bewitchment philosopher's are under with words...
Just because you don't understand something doesn't make it magic. Metaphysics is rational and scientific; the first principles, for example, are undeniable and expressly anti-magical (e.g. the principles of identity, non-contradiction and causality [every effect has a cause]). Indeed, denying metaphysical truths is exactly what opens a door to entertaining magic as something real and rationalizing actually anti-scientific beliefs and practices (superstitions).
Ultimately, to be any kind of realist you need some metaphysics to justify your world view. As has been poonted out many times, you can't defend a scientific world view or the legitimacy of science without employing philosophic arguments, otherwise you end up begging the question.
Actually, if theism is false, then there is no difference between magic and science.
The world acts in a rational way for no reason. There is no explanation for why things don't magically pop into existence. There is thus no reason to prefer chaos over order.
Thus the very concept of magic is muddled and confused under atheism, and makes no sense.
In fact, if anyone wants to believe in magic, then one must accept metaphysics in order to do so.
you can't defend a scientific world view or the legitimacy of science without employing philosophic arguments, otherwise you end up begging the question.Delete
I blame Socrates...
The text of your blog was over 23MB in a textfile back in 2012, so it's probably about 30 times the text of the Bible about now.ReplyDelete
Do a detailed review of of Nielsen's Ethics Without God (2ed 1990). Prior independent criteria is the future of atheism.
Long time lurker here.ReplyDelete
I just want to say congratulations for 10 years of this blogs existence. Of all the Catholic blogs I go to this one is one of the blogs that I go to the most. I admire the lucidity and sanity of your writing when others have descend into uncharitableness and wrath. I also admire how you insert pop culture references in your blogposts.
I can't wait for your upcoming books on said future topics (and more!). God bless!
I'll add my thanks and congratulations for this blog, Dr Feser. Not only for your own work but because through it I found out about other writers like Bill Vallicella, David Bentley Hart, John Searle, Brian Davies...ReplyDelete
I'm currently enjoying Neo-Scholastic Essays, and hope to see many more works in future.
Does anyone know of a place where Feser discusses the evolution of his moral/social/political views or principles? His account of his gradual conversion from atheism/naturalism to classical theism, found in TLS and in this blog, is very abstract and intellectual; it seems to be all about finding the correct metaphysics. Of course he derives his moral principles, those of Catholicism, from A-T metaphysics, but there is no mention of what his moral, political, etc, beliefs were when he was an atheist. Was he a conservative then? After all, not all atheists or secularists are liberals as Feser conceives liberalism. There are surely atheists who condemn homosexuality and abortion and otherwise overlap considerably with conservative Christian principles. If that was the case, his renunciation of atheism would not have been much of a shake-up, much less traumatic, in a practical sense as it would be for a person of liberal moral/social/political beliefs, who, say, embraced and defended women's reproductive rights, legalization of homosexual unions, and so on. I'm curious about this because I find the phenomenon of converts doing a 180° flip in their ethical convictions extremely bizarre, but there are such cases. It would not surprise me if Feser is one such case. Perhaps he'll address this in one or more of his planned books on sexual morality, Catholic apologetics, and Modernism. In the meantime, is this out there somewhere and I've just missed it?ReplyDelete
I think he has only sparadoic comments about the things you ask of. I think, for instance, He mentions that he though homosexual acts were immoral when an atheist.Delete
Thank you Sean. This does not surprise me. Atheists come in many varieties after all. I think it must make the atheist-to-classical Christian theist conversion much smoother if starting from a conservative position.Delete
Thank you, Dr. Feser!ReplyDelete
Both conventional institutional religion and secular scientism are magic-paranoid and altogether anti-ecstatic traditions, rooted in fear of the magical-power potential of the individual human being. Both have for many centuries been actively instructing or propagandistically coercing humankind to disbelieve and to dissociate from all modes of association with magical, metaphysical and even Spiritual ecstasy producing ideas and activities.ReplyDelete
Western culture has for many centuries collectively suppressed and repressed the natural ecstatic urges and potentials of humankind, including the magical urges of the human psycho-physical body mind complex.
This process of negative indoctrination to which humankind has long been subjected by its "sacred" and secular "authorities" has, actually, been a magic paranoid political, social, economic, and cultural effort to enforce a gross "realist" or thoroughly materialist - and, altogether, anti-ecstatic, anti-magical, anti-metaphysical, and anti-Spiritual - model of life upon all individuals and collectives. But, also, and profoundly more importantly, this anti-ecstatic, anti-magical, anti-metaphysical, anti-Spiritual, and altogether gross materialist "realism" enterprise has deprived humankind of its necessary access to intrinsically egoless Truth Itself.
This borders on demonic parody. You are right that secular institutions indoctrine people; however, they do it unwittingly and clandestinely: the Church tells us straight-up she is indoctrinating us. Science is for the most part just covert naturalism and largely propaganda: it closes the human mind to God. The Church opens our minds to the metaphysical, the transcendent and the mystical. If you were to convert, you would undergo mystagogy (ironically a word spell check doesn't even recognize on my computer!).Delete
Magic is either the irrational or dabbling in demonic influences; however, religion and in particularly the Christian religion is open to a broader dimension (the miraculous). It's bizarre you equate religion and secularism, frankly.
Dr. Feser, please help Jordan Peterson out or tell Shapiro to tell him about you. It's so frustrating not to be able to shout through the screen "Sweet Moses if you only knew about AT teleology then you and Sam Harris wouldn't be so baffled by the 'is-ought problem'". Also, it's exciting to hear about all these books that will be coming out and I plan on getting every one of them.ReplyDelete
What's the difference between objective truth and absolute truth?ReplyDelete
truth(absolute) = truth(ideal)Delete
truth(objective) = truth(ideal) + error
So, the difference is error ...Delete
Dear Isabella: Absolute truth is necessarily true--for example, A equals A. Objective truth is true but does not have the quality of necessity--for example, my name is Craig (true, but it could have been something else).Delete
Proposition: Absolute truth is necessarily true.
What type of truth would you call the above? Absolute or Objective?
Could it be this?Delete
Absolute truth is necessarily an objective truth; relative to or valid for all persons / circumstances.
Objective truth is not necessarily an absolute truth; could be relative to or valid for some only, rather than all, persons / circumstances.
I'll answer the question for you...Delete
What type of truth is it? Incoherent.
And this is why:
1/ A = A
2/ A = truth
3/ Absolute(A) is Necessarily(A)
Let, AA=Absolute(A); NA=Necessarily(A)
4/ From (AA) infer (AA = NA)
5/ From (AA = NA) infer (NA)
C/ Since (AA = NA) infer (NA)
The conclusion is incoherent; therefore the proposition:
Absolute truth is necessarily true
Incoherent....Hmmm...No, I forgot what I was going to write.Delete
Anyway, Isabella, if you are still out there, my answer to you is correct. Ignore Philip Rand, as the rest of us are rapidly learning to do.
Under your description of truth your forename is an objective truth (true but not necessary).
What is particularly interesting is that your surname, Payne is true and a necessary truth…it could not be otherwise...
Proposition: Absolute truth is necessarily true.Delete
The above is an example of an objective truth.
It conforms to:
truth(objective) = truth(ideal) + error
Since, the conclusion of the proposition is incoherent. It means that the "error" in the proposition is great.
So, it diverges greatly from an Ideal truth, i.e.
It's not right... it isn't even wrong!
And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God
Now, is the Mark 10:18 an Absolute truth or Objective truth or is it both?
Is Mark 10:18 a qualitative truth or a quantitative truth?
You see, you should have recognised the problem with your proposition:
Absolute truth is necessarily true
Because linguistically it isn't saying what you believe:
1/ Absolute -> Noun
2/ Truth -> Noun
3/ Necessarily -> Adverb
4/ True -> Adjective or Adverb or Verb
So, the anomaly in your proposition is flagged up linguistically...
1/ Absolute -> NounDelete
Wow. What genius! What precision! What gobbledygook!
One would get farther along with this:
1/ Absolut -> Vodka
That at least is true and coherent, even if it isn't necessary.
Vodka is the objective truth, right?
Now, Vodka is a distilled beverage from water and ethanol, BUT sometimes with traces of impurities and flavorings.
Vodka is made through the distillation of cereal grains OR potatoes that have been fermented, some even use fruits or sugar.
So, vodka comes in many shapes and sizes, right?
But, what is the ideal vodka?
You have just given me a single brand, i.e. an objective truth.
truth(objective vodka) = truth(ideal vodka) + error
The above relation gives you: Absolut vodka.
If this was not true, in blind tasting one would not be able to discern the type of vodka...they would taste the same...
Can anybody recommend any good books arguing for (preferably Augustinian) Neoplatonic metaphysics against the metaphysical views usually adopted by modern philosophers.ReplyDelete
What is the most thorough thomist treatment of the Kantian criticism of theology available? Especially with respect to the reduction of the arguments to the ontological argument.ReplyDelete
Congratulations, Prof. Feser.ReplyDelete
I remember the first blog post of yours I read:
I was immediately hooked and have read every single new post since then (and have since caught up on the older ones that I missed).
I need to start writing questions down as I think of them: I always forget what I had wanted to ask when one of these open threads pops up.
Anyway, thank you, and may you continue blogging for many more decades! I look forward to your future books.
This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyDelete
God bless you, Ed. Looking forward to the last two of your projected books.ReplyDelete
Has anyone read Vladimir Lenin’s Materialism and Empirio-criticism? I hear it was considered a philosophical masterpiece in the Soviet Union.ReplyDelete
You may be interested in this.Delete
Theistic arguments and Marxist dialectical materialism
Do you have any plans to write a book on Thomistic/Scholastic epistemology and its relationship to contemporary ideas on the subject?
Dear Mr. FeserReplyDelete
I am an occasionly reader of this blog and have read TLS and your Aquinas book aswell.
I would be delighted if you could write something about the number of genders that exist - is it only two or are there various genders?
Female to Male
Male to Female
And finally: Gender Neutral
This is the problem using the universal quantifier All… there are as many All's as there are ones
Phillip, please go away.Delete
"Phillip, please go away."
I am firmly convinced that Phillip, like all the other crackpot kooks and self-unaware frauds that come and go through this blog, has been given to us as punishment for our sins as all that occurs, occurs by divine providence and for the salvation of the saints and the greater Good. We must bear our cross, thanking the Lord for giving us the privilege to bear it, in silence (and this is crucial, silence, in imitation of Christ) and with much thanks and prayer for his, and our, souls. This is our intellectual Golgotha. In truth, we are not worthy of Phillip as he is a wondrous gift; so praise be to the Lord! For His gentle discipline and His sense of humor, beyond all human comprehension.
What you stated here:
We must bear our cross...in imitation of Christ
Is extremely interesting...
Where did that thought come from?
When you wrote it... why did you choose these words... or did you choose these words, i.e. were they a free choice?
I figure you will know the answers to these questions as you are self-aware...
BUT, I would be extremely interested if you would be kind enough to answer my question.... thanks
I think there is a systemic copy error in Wittgenstein's works.ReplyDelete
Every occurrence of the word "language" is supposed to be "language of my own claims about language".
With apologies to H. D. Lewis: Clarity is enough.
Every occurrence of the word "language" is supposed to be "language of my own claims about language".Delete
Therefore, there is not enough regularity for us to call it "language".
Yeah, most people are too stupid to realize the self-reference problem with supervisory reductionist claims like that. which assume unmentioned regularity sufficiency standards in the language used to assert them.Delete
Shout out to seminarian Joshua Peralta. He's a fan of Ed Feser!ReplyDelete
Has anyone here read Dr. Nigel Cundy’s book, what is Physics? It looks at Quantum Field Theory from an Aristotelian-Thomistic perspective. His blog is quantum-thomist.co.ukReplyDelete
He is asking for peer reviews of his book. I would love to hear Dr. Feser’s thoughts on his work.