Thursday, September 26, 2019

Aristotle’s Revenge and naïve color realism


The American Catholic Philosophical Association meeting in Minneapolis this November 21-24 will be devoted to the theme of the philosophy of nature.  On the Saturday of the conference there will be an Author Meets Critics session on my book Aristotle’s Revenge.  It will be chaired by Patrick Toner and the speakers will be Robert Koons, Stephen Barr, and myself.

While we’re on the subject, I’d like to call your attention to a couple of very interesting responses to Aristotle’s Revenge, the first from Nigel Cundy at The Quantum Thomist and the second from Bonald at Throne and Altar.  Both writers know the relevant science and both are open-minded and knowledgeable about the relevant philosophical ideas too.  Both seem largely sympathetic to the book but also raise serious criticisms.  They cover a lot of ground (since the book itself does) so there’s no way I can respond to everything they say in one post.  So this will be the first in a series of occasional posts responding to their criticisms.

The general project

Let me start with some general remarks about the project of the book.  Its main thesis is that the fundamental notions of Aristotelian philosophy of nature – the reality of change, the theory of actuality and potentiality, hylemorphism, efficient causality, teleology, the intelligibility of nature – cannot be entirely eliminated from a coherent picture of physical reality.  They are like J. L. Austin’s frog at the bottom of the beer mug, or the whack-a-mole that pops up somewhere else just when you thought you’d knocked it down.  Even if you could banish them forever from this or that particular part of nature, you can never extirpate them from nature as a whole.  Certainly modern science has not done so, and cannot do so.  So I argue.

At the very least, I argue, they cannot be banished from any coherent conception of scientists themselves qua embodied subjects theorizing about the world and testing their theories via observation and experiment.  You cannot make sense of how all that works – of what it is to be a conscious subject with a stream of thoughts and experiences, representing the world theoretically and manipulating scientific equipment, etc. – without implicitly supposing that change is real, that it involves the actualization of potential, that efficient and final causality are real, and so on.  The scientist himself is, in effect, an impregnable fortress from which the Aristotelian cannot be pushed out.  That is the fundamental way, though by no means the only way, that science presupposes Aristotelianism.  And the reason it is not more widely noticed is the same reason why, as Orwell said, one does not notice what is right in front of one’s nose.  The scientist looks out toward the world described by physics, and Aristotle is nowhere to be seen – but only because he is sitting right there next to him.

Furthermore, physics in any case captures abstract structure rather than concrete content, so that the absence of the key Aristotelian notions from its description of basic physical reality by itself tells us precisely nothing about whether the notions really correspond to anything in basic physical reality.  Their absence reflects merely the methodology of physics, not anything about the inner nature of the reality studied by means of that methodology.  This epistemic structural realist account of physics is a second general theme of the book. 

A third general theme is the poorly thought through nature of the purported mechanistic alternative to Aristotelianism.  The mechanical world picture has always been more a rhetorical posture than a worked out alternative philosophy of nature.  Where it claims to offer alternative explanations to those of the Aristotelian, in fact it merely pushes back questions to which an Aristotelian answer will ultimately still have to be given, or simply offers no explanation at all.

So, this is the “big picture” vision of the book.  First, physics – and by extension the other sciences that take its account of the physical world for granted – couldn’t of their nature tell you one way or the other whether an Aristotelian philosophy of nature or a rival mechanistic position is true.  Second, the mechanistic alternative isn’t coherently worked out anyway.  And third, in any event there is no way in principle entirely to chuck out the basic Aristotelian notions.  They will stubbornly remain forever ensconced within the fortress of the scientist himself qua embodied, thinking, conscious subject.  These points, I argue, are unaffected by whatever we end up saying about the nature of time, space, and motion, whatever we say about reductionism in chemistry and biology, whatever we say about evolution, etc.

But the Aristotelian can in fact say much more about these details too, and that is the secondary thesis of the book.  If “the big picture” is about defending the fortress, “the details” concern questions about how much territory can be reconquered by the Aristotelian in the various regions of the philosophy of time and space, the philosophy of matter, the philosophy of biology, and so on.  And so I then go about developing lines of argument to show how territory in these different areas might indeed be reconquered.  For example, I defend an A-theory of time in general and presentism in particular, I argue against reductionism in chemistry and biology, propose an Aristotelian interpretation of evolution, and so forth.

Now, the main thesis or “big picture” of the book does not stand or fall with particular arguments having to do with the secondary theses concerning “the details” – with, say, what I argue concerning the presentist view of time, or my take on the metaphysics of evolution.  One could reject what I say about one of these secondary issues while agreeing with what I say about other secondary issues, or one could even reject everything I say about these secondary issues while agreeing with my “big picture” thesis.

I emphasize all this because some readers are bound fallaciously to suppose that if they can refute what I say about one of these secondary matters, they will thereby have undermined the general Aristotelian philosophy of nature.  Nope.  It’s not that easy.  If the Aristotelian has to fight on many fronts, so too does the anti-Aristotelian.  And if my “big picture” thesis is correct, the anti-Aristotelian could win almost every battle and still lose the war.

Now, back to Cundy and Bonald.  As far as I can tell, at least for the most part they don’t have a problem with what I am calling the “big picture” thesis, and even sympathize with it.  Their objections have to do with what I am calling “the details,” and even then only some of those details.  That is important context for what I will have to say in response.

Naïve color realism

In the remainder of this post I’ll focus on Bonald’s remarks about the physics and philosophy of color.  I’ll turn in later posts to what Cundy and Bonald have to say about other issues, such as presentism.  A standard reading of the revolution made by modern physics holds that it refuted our commonsense understanding of color (alongside other so-called “secondary qualities”).  The idea is that what commonsense regards as redness, for example, exists only as a quale of conscious experience and that there is nothing in mind-independent reality that is really like that.  What there is in mind-independent reality is instead merely a surface reflectance property that is causally correlated with the quale in question.  We can redefine “redness” so that it refers to this property, but the commonsense notion of redness applies only to something subjective, something existing only in consciousness.  And the same can be said for all other colors.  Common sense is committed to the “naïve color realist” view that something like color as we experience it exists in mind-independent reality, even apart from our experience of it.  But physics, it is claimed, has refuted this.

Endorsing arguments developed by contemporary philosophers like Hilary Putnam, Barry Stroud, and Keith Allen, I propose in Aristotle’s Revenge that something like naïve color realism can in fact still be defended.  (See especially pp. 340-51.)  And part of the background of the defense of this claim is the more general theme of the book that physics does not in any case give us an exhaustive description of matter, but captures only those aspects susceptible of mathematical description.  Hence we should not be surprised if its description of matter fails to capture color as common sense understands it.

Now, in response to this, Bonald makes the following remarks:

[T]he claim that physics necessarily leaves out information about the physical world is a radical one.

It does nothing against Feser’s claim to point to the astounding reliability of physics, because physics could be perfectly reliable in its own order while completely ignoring features outside this order. However, if claims of the limitations of physics are to be more than gestures of epistemic humility, we must have some independent source of information.  Feser sometimes thinks he can get this from our manifest image “common sense” experience/conceptualization of the world, but I find this questionable.

For example, in a section on secondary qualities, Feser rightly objects to claims that color is a mere subjective experience. Physics has clearly established that color is the wavelength of visible electromagnetic waves. But Feser dismisses this account of color as not being “color as common sense understands it”, so that the world of physics is still in some esoteric way colorless. I do not understand this at all. Common sense is not an understanding of light rival to that of optics; it’s not an understanding at all, but a bare experience of it. The qualia of colors (the only thing physics clearly does not provide) have no independent structure, which allows us to identify them simply as the experience of light at different wavelengths. The color of physics, meanwhile, explains all our experiences of color: the blueness of the sky, the order of colors in the rainbow, the red glow of a hot stove… What else is there?

End quote.  Now, if I correctly understand Bonald’s criticism here, what he is saying is that it is a kind of category mistake to suppose that the qualia that physics leaves out of its story about color have anything to do with color as an objective feature of physical objects.  Suppose we distinguish between RED (in caps) and red (in italics) as follows:

RED: the qualitative character or qualia of the color sensations had by a normal observer when he looks at fire engines, “Stop” signs, Superman’s cape, etc. (which is different from the qualitative character of the sensations had by e.g. a color blind observer)

red: whatever objective physical property it is in fire engines, “Stop” signs, Superman’s cape, etc. that causes normal observers to have RED sensations

What Bonald seems to be saying is that while physics tells us nothing about RED itself, it does tell us everything there is to know about red, including what it is about red objects that makes them generate RED sensations in us.  To be sure, physics tells us nothing about what it is about the brain that accounts for our sensations being RED, but that’s a different question – one for psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy of mind.  In any event, it is (Bonald seems to think) a mistake to think that RED has anything to do with red.  RED has to do with the mode in which the human mind perceives color, but red has to do with color itself as an objective feature of things.  What we know about RED tells us no more about red than what we know about the structure of the eye or the optic nerve does.  Like the eye or the optic nerve, RED is something in the perceiver, not something in the world the perceiver perceives.  And something similar could be said about other colors.

A comment Bonald makes in response to a reader seems to me to confirm this interpretation of his position.  And what he seems committed to is essentially Locke’s version of the distinction between primary and secondary qualities.  To be sure, Bonald evidently rejects some versions of that distinction.  But Locke’s way of putting it is to acknowledge that both primary and secondary qualities are really in physical objects themselves, but then to hold that whereas primary qualities produce in us sensations that resemble something in the objects, secondary qualities produce in us sensations that do not resemble anything in the objects.  Hence, Locke would agree with common sense that physical objects really are red.  But he would identify red with red and say that common sense is mistaken to hold that there is anything in physical objects that resembles RED.  And that seems to be pretty much Bonald’s view (again, if I understand him correctly).

Now, if that is indeed what Bonald is saying, then what I would say in response is this.  First, we need to distinguish two issues:

(1) Is there good reason to believe that physics does not in fact capture everything there is to red, and that common sense is (contra Locke) after all correct to suppose that there is in red something that resembles RED?

(2) Exactly what is the ontological relationship between this something-that-resembles-RED that is in red, and what physics tells us about red (e.g. surface reflectance properties)?

Now, in Aristotle’s Revenge, what I focus on is question (1).  In particular, with Putnam, Stroud, Allen, et al., I set out some considerations that support an affirmative answer to that question.  But I do not really have much to say there about question (2).  Now, Bonald, as far as I can tell, does not really address what I have to say in support of an affirmative answer to (1).  Rather, I think he is essentially expressing doubt that the naïve color realist could provide a good answer to (2), and is skeptical of naïve color realism for that reason.  He doesn’t try directly to show that the arguments for the affirmative answer to (1) are wrong, but rather merely suggests that it is hard to see how the affirmative answer could be true.

If this diagnosis is correct, then Bonald has not really answered the heart of my case for naïve color realism.  But it is only fair to acknowledge that he nevertheless raises a very important question, and a difficult one.  And question (2) is difficult precisely because our experience of color is indeed to a considerable degree contingent upon the nature and condition of the nervous system and the sense organs, and on the circumstances of observation.  If the arguments I defend in the book are correct, that does not suffice to refute naïve color realism.  But it does make it difficult to disentangle the aspect of RED that is objectively there in red itself and the aspect that is contributed by the mind.

But that brings me to the second point I want to make in response, which is that it is a mistake to suppose in the first place that we need to disentangle such aspects in order for RED to correspond to something in red.  What I have in mind might be made clear by considering some parallel cases.  I present these tentatively, and regard the analogies only as suggestive and not perfect.

First, consider the problem of universals.  According to the Aristotelian realist approach to the problem, humanness exists as a universal only insofar as it is abstracted by the intellect from particular individual human beings.  Outside the intellect, there is the humanness of Socrates, the humanness of Alcibiades, the humanness of Xanthippe, and so on, but not humanness as a universal divorced from these particulars.  There is a sense, then, in which humanness qua universal depends on the mind, but not because it is the free creation of the mind.  It is not.  What the intellect abstracts is something that already really exists in the particular things themselves, but it exists there in an individualized way.  It is only qua universal and thus qua abstracted from the individuals that it depends on the mind.  So, a universal like humanness is both dependent on the intellect and grounded in mind-independent reality, and it is a mistake to think that it has to be the one to the exclusion of the other.

Now, in an analogous way, I would suggest, the something-that-resembles-RED that is in red can both be grounded in mind-independent reality and at the same time depend in part on the mind for its existence.  It might really be there in red objects and be irreducible to what physics has to say about red, even if it is only actualized when a perceiver perceives it.  (That is not to say that this something-that-resembles-RED that is in red is to be thought of as a universal.  I’m not saying that naïve color realism is the same as the Aristotelian realist approach to universals, but merely drawing an analogy between the two.)

Here’s a second analogy.  Thomists take transcendentals like being, truth, and goodness to be convertible with each other, the same thing looked at from different points of view.  Hence truth is being qua intelligible, and goodness is being qua object of appetite.  But that truth and goodness are to be characterized by reference to the intellect and appetite doesn’t make them the creations of intellect or appetite or imply that they don’t exist in a mind-independent way.  Similarly, though the something-that-resembles-RED that is in red is to be characterized by reference to the mind that perceives it, it can still exist in a mind-independent way.  (That is not to say that this something-that-resembles-RED that is in red is to be thought of as a transcendental.  Again, I am simply drawing an analogy.)

Putnam sometimes liked to say that “the mind and the world together make up the mind and the world.”  I certainly would not endorse everything Putnam associated with that slogan.  But it is a colorful (as it were!) way of summing up the point that it is a mistake to think that every aspect of reality must be characterizable either in an entirely mind-dependent way or an entirely mind-independent way.  Characterizing some aspects of reality might require reference both to the mind and to the mind-independent world, without the relevant components being separable into discrete mind-dependent and mind-independent chunks.  Color would seem to be an example.

Here’s a final and different sort of consideration that might help clarify the relationship between what I am calling the something-that-resembles-RED that is in red, on the one hand, and what physics tells us about red on the other.  The version of essentialism associated with contemporary analytic philosophers like Putnam and Saul Kripke tends to identify the essence of a thing with the hidden microstructure uncovered by science.  But Aristotelian-Thomistic essentialists regard this as a mistake.  The essence of a thing is not reducible to its microstructure, even if specifying the essence requires reference to the microstructure.  (See e.g. David Oderberg’s discussion at pp. 12-18 of Real Essentialism.) 

In light of this, we might say that what physics tells us about red is its microstructure, but that red isn’t reducible to that microstructure.  There is in red, in addition to its microstructure, something-that-resembles-RED.

79 comments:

  1. Why do I get this notion that red is the material cause of RED?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Perhaps you're right. I don't know if anyone has worked out the causes of the human mind on anything more than an efficient level. The way I could see that working is, if your perception is in your eye, then the matter associated with your perception would be a light wave. It is an interesting thought though to think of non-particulate matter in such a way.

      Delete
    2. I think that might be right. Red as physics describes it is an intensely abstract entity. Even though my mother is perfectly susceptible towards a purely physical analysis, describing her in terms of her material structure, I know she is more than that. Moreover, even though everything I know about her is filtered through my material senses, I do not doubt that my mother is an illusion or subjective imposition on an otherwise motherless structure. That is, I believe my material senses interacting with material causal properties are concomitant with something that outstrips mere matter. And these material interactions are merely an abstract dimension of a much more holistic epistemic process of knowing my mother.

      A quote for meditation from Plotinus I believe:
      "“Never did an eye see the sun unless it had first become sun-like"

      Delete
    3. *I do not THINK that my mother is an illusion

      Delete
  2. Oh boy I'm looking forward to this series of blog posts.

    A quick question if anyone can help out, but does anyone know if the conference Ed mentions with Koons and Barr on the panel is going to be recorded for YouTube or podcast?

    You can't have Koons, Feser and Barr clash horns and not show the world what goes down! Expect a good deal of sympathy from Koons and pushback from Barr.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really hope someone will record it. Probably will happen.

      Also, Koons has a very soothing voice. This has nothing to do with anything else, but I had to add it

      Delete
    2. Barr and Feser will unite in their criticisms of the Kalam argument cf. www.classicaltheism.com/barr

      Delete
  3. Glad to see you are going to address Dr. Nigel Cundy. I highly recommend his book, which has many excellent points (and thoroughly refuted mechanism).

    As for naive color realism, would you say that a naive color realist would answer affirmatively to the question, “Does your RED look like my RED (assuming neither of us have defective vision)?” Similarly, would someone who rejects naive color realism necessarily have to respond with a no or at least an “I don’t know”? I have thought about this quite a bit, and have come to realize that our subjective experiences are much more objective than might be thought at first glance. For example, one could make a fair argument that prima facie that your BLACK is my WHITE and your ORANGE is my BLUE, that is, we see each other’s negatives. However, one cannot say that if your WHITE is my WHITE, your YELLOW can be my BLACK, for YELLOW and BLACK have different levels of contrast with WHITE and thus must be as subjectively different as they are objectively different. So it seems that COLOR (at least in healthy observers) is just as objective as color, and this may because there is more to color than what science says. This is not to affirm panpsychism which would say that COLOR is always actualized in any light wave. What I would say is that COLOR exists in potency in any light wave, waiting to be actualized by the observer. Of course, there may also be other COLORS in potency in the color red waiting to be actualized by differently by different observers (such as the eccentric vision of a snake or the vision of someone who is color blind).

    I think a healthy analogy is the ideal of efficient and final causality. To say that billiard ball A causes billiard ball B to move is not to say that there is nothing in billiard ball B that makes it move the way it does. The causes are not loose and separate but linked up. Similarly COLOR in potency combined with color in act is the efficient cause of COLOR in the observer. These are not loose and separate phenomena but linked. Therefore, the subjective experience of color is actually objective. I believe this lends credibility to naive color realism.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As for naive color realism, would you say that a naive color realist would answer affirmatively to the question, “Does your RED look like my RED

      I also wonder what naive color realism would say about the experience of other animals (or even alien beings) that are able to distinguish red wavelengths from other wavelengths--does it require that their experience of the color red is the same as ours? Similarly one might ask about other sensations, for example if a tone that is near the upper range of the frequencies we can detect would sound equally high-pitched to a being that has a significantly higher set of upper frequencies it can detect.

      Delete
  4. Thank you, was really waiting for a post like this.This would generate some very interesting discussion.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Especially because this post affirms the ground of your existence, Red? :-)

      Delete
    2. But Tony, "Red" is neither all caps (RED) nor italicized (red). Does that mean Red is a Third Man - uh, excuse me, a Third Red?

      Delete
    3. Oh, come on, didn't anybody think to say "better Red than dead"?

      Delete
    4. Not the sort of interesting discussion I had in mind but, cool.

      Delete
  5. Hello Prof. Feser,

    I'm honored by your close reading of my review! Also, that's good news about the ASCP theme. I'm sure we're both glad to see the philosophy of nature getting more attention in Catholic and scholastic circles, thanks in no small part to your work.

    I also appreciate your reformulation of the problem. In your terms, I would say that both the claim that red and RED resemble each other and the claim that they do not resemble each other are hard to make sense of. Ordinarily, one would establish a resemblance by noting features of two things and finding that they have some in common. But if we strip away the connection to red, with red's known properties, what is there left to say about RED? I know what it is, in that I have a clear picture of it in my mind, but I can say nothing about it. Anything I could say about it to a person blind from birth would be not about it, but about red.

    I would have have called my own position "naive", but I won't fight you for the word. If RED is just the experience of red, then our talk about color usually is talk about objective color, and we needn't find anything alien about the discourse of optics. There may indeed be more to light than is know to current physics, but I am not sure that our experience gives evidence of this. I'll admit though that philosophy of mind issues, which this subject approaches, easily confuse and intimidate me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Bonald,

      Thanks for your reply. You write:

      In your terms, I would say that both the claim that red and RED resemble each other and the claim that they do not resemble each other are hard to make sense of.

      It seems to me that that’s not quite the right way to frame the issue, at least if you are identifyingred with what physics tells us. I was using red (in italics) to refer to whatever it is in mind-independent reality which causes us to have RED sensations – which certainly includes what physics tells us but isn’t (according to naïve color realism) exhausted by what physics tells us.

      So what is at issue is not whether RED in any sense resembles what physics tells us, but rather whether there is some factor in red, a factor that is additional to what physics tells us, that RED resembles. The claim is precisely that there is something in red itself that the person blind from birth does not know even if he knows everything that physics says about red, something about red that is known only to people who know RED. On this view, red = what physics tells us + something-that-resembles-RED.

      Delete
  6. I didn't think these analogies to other Aristotelian topics would be helpful, but I've warmed up to it. I'll even propose another. It is sometimes the case in metaphysics that two things must be extremely unlike in order to be closely related. The best example would be substantial form and prime matter. To account for the unity of substances, it is often thought that forms must be utterly immaterial in themselves, and matter can have no intrinsic form.

    If RED, the experience, had some intrinsic structure, we would have to ask ourselves if this structure is isomorphic to that of red, and every time the physics of light advanced, we would have to worry that the isomorphism might be found not to hold, and that our experience has perhaps deceived us. But, in this analogy, the purely subjective piece of RED plays the role of matter, asserting no structure in itself.

    ReplyDelete
  7. The mechanistic foundation of cosmology, at least, is legit. It is founded on gravity. We humans think there must be something before gravity takes affect. This is a misconception. Nothing can be said to exist before gravity kicks in its pull. All that exists is matter and its forces. Time starts at the moment that gravity starts its affect. That is key. As Heidegger speaks of, time is the lens we see the world through as conscious energy in this material world. There is no evidence of anything "simple". We humans start life at birth, actually coming out of someone, with our father out there as an efficient cause. So it might seem natural, as Feser says, to believe in God. But we can rise in wisdom above this, and realize who we really are

    ReplyDelete
  8. @Gregory - Do you think gravity has always existed or did it begin to exist? Can you please expound on your thoughts regarding the nature of gravity? Do you ascribe to any of the following?

    1) Regularity theory
    2) Platonic view
    3) Instrumentalist view

    ReplyDelete
  9. Imagine a ball on the edge of a board. It eventually falls to one way because of gravity. This represents the first motion in the universe. Time and all the moving parts of reality started once the momentum starts, instantaneous with the fall. So gravity is causing time. There is no way to think of what comes "before" this in any real *understandable* way. That's my view. Thank you for asking

    Greg (something buffering with my gmail account)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Greg. I'm still not sure what you are caching gravity out to be in your scenario. Is it something that exists independent of the material universe or is part of the universe? Do you think the universe, including time, began to exist, or did it alway exist, contra big bang?

      Delete
    2. Greg, time is only tangentially relevant to the arguments for God that Feser defend.

      Delete
    3. Gregory here. I think gravity is part of nature, and time only starts the moment gravities force starts. That would be the first moment. Trying to say what the universe was doing before this first motion is non-sensical, although it might take some understanding of Heidegger's existentialism to grasp my point here. Stephen Hawking had his attempt at an answer that is interesting. I think he is saying the singularity was like a black hole, where time acts as space: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJ88kC2Nx8M&t=13s

      Delete
    4. Greg, the arguments Feser defends have very little to do with the first moment.

      It's simply not relevant to what Feser defends, and it certainly isnt relevant to this blogpost.

      Delete
    5. It's certainly relevant to the First Way. Philosophical color debates are fine, but the elephant in the room is that Feser thinks he can prove to the whole world that there is a God and he cannot. The world cannot be proven to be contingent in a philosophical sense, requiring a necessary being or whatever it is. Things change, but it all starts from motion from the first movement. Objects are just there in there original state and change through the motion. The intelligibility of the world is not based on God. We simply try to understand our surroundings. Even theists have times when things don't make sense to them, so believing in God is no guarantee that things will be intelligible

      Delete
    6. It isn't "the elephant in the room", Dr. Feser has several posts on this subject and defends his positions readily.

      This, however, is not one of those posts.

      Delete
    7. "It's certainly relevant to the First Way."

      No it's not. If you think it is, then you simply don't understand the First Way and should probably go learn about it before trying to hijack a discussion on a different topic.

      Delete
    8. So the first way, in your position, is just about one of the aspects of the world. But "motion" meant many different things back then. So motion includes the second and third way. I think its you who doesn't understand this stuff. Why just motion, parenthood, and change? Well there is beauty and symmetry, which is what the 5th way is about. But all four of these arguments are about saying these things can't be explained in themselves, and I've provided ways that they can on this thread. You're welcome. The book is Aristotle's REVENGE, as is there are airtight arguments in his works (not). Everything can be materially based, even the simple soul. There has never been an argument that proves that the simple comes before the material

      Delete
    9. A/T's whole argument can be expressed as follows: you can do things to the universe, so there must be something you can't do something to. This is clearly not a demonstration. If Aristotle said "there is black, therefore there must be white" you guys would believe him. As if an universe lacking white is absurd. See, I can write on color too! Gregory R

      Delete
  10. The Lonely ProfessorSeptember 29, 2019 at 7:19 PM

    There is a certain aspect of the "details" that may be "reconquered" by Aristotelianism, but there is another that won't be.

    " Common sense is committed to the “naïve color realist” view that something like color as we experience it exists in mind-independent reality, even apart from our experience of it. But physics, it is claimed, has refuted this."

    I'll grant that physics can't say whether or not "redness" is reducible (e.g. identical) to a certain range of wavelengths of visible light, because that is a philosophical, and not a natural science, question. Nevertheless, there is no proof that "color as we experience it" isn't the same thing as "light with a certain wavelength as we experience it". All "color realism" can argue is that there is no proof to the contrary either, but Ockham's razor argues that entities should not be increased without necessity.

    What physics does claim however is that the wavelength is determinative of whether the light is red or not, and that, therefore, even if "redness" is not reducible to a wavelength, it nevertheless is of the very essence of "redness" to be that wavelength, for whenever you have that wavelength you have redness. In other words, for all intents and purposes "redness" is that wavelength. Aristotelianism simply cannot explain this entailment relation. That's ground it won't get back.


    "And part of the background of the defense of this claim is the more general theme of the book that physics does not in any case give us an exhaustive description of matter, but captures only those aspects susceptible of mathematical description."

    But physics claims all aspects are susceptible of mathematical descriptions at least mediately, meaning that even those aspects such as "redness" with no direct mathematical description lie in a one-to-one relation with those that are (e.g. the wavelength of light).




    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @The Lonely Professor,


      Quote: "Nevertheless, there is no proof that "color as we experience it" isn't the same thing as "light with a certain wavelength as we experience it". All "color realism" can argue is that there is no proof to the contrary either,"

      We can say that the wavelength of red has the property of being the color red. Or even that "to be a certain wavelength" just is what the color red is. There really is no difficulty in saying that the color red is a certain wavelength.

      The problem comes in when one says the color of redness is itself illusory or not a true aspect of the wavelength of red - making it entirely subjective.


      Quote:"What physics does claim however is that the wavelength is determinative of whether the light is red or not, and that, therefore, even if "redness" is not reducible to a wavelength, it nevertheless is of the very essence of "redness" to be that wavelength"

      Aristotelianism wouldn't disagree at all. Color itself is also material, and so it's material basis also being explicable via wavelengths is not a surprise.

      There really is no difficulty at all in saying that whenever there is the color of red, it is necessarily of a specific wavelength.


      Delete
    2. The Lonely ProfessorSeptember 30, 2019 at 5:23 AM

      @JoeD,

      Then I suppose I'm not understanding something. Isn't Feser arguing for more than what you are saying, namely that to be a certain wavelength just is what the color red is? After all, if being red simply is being a certain wavelength, then being red is identical to the "microstruture", but Feser says:

      "But Aristotelian-Thomistic essentialists regard this as a mistake. The essence of a thing is not reducible to its microstructure, even if specifying the essence requires reference to the microstructure. (See e.g. David Oderberg’s discussion at pp. 12-18 of Real Essentialism.)

      In light of this, we might say that what physics tells us about red is its microstructure, but that red isn’t reducible to that microstructure. There is in red, in addition to its microstructure, something-that-resembles-RED."

      It seems there are not two, but three options:

      1) The wavelength is the only thing objective; "redness" being something merely subjective.
      2) The wavelength is identical to "redness", so what is experienced as "redness" simply IS the wavelength being experienced. (My position, and apparently yours if I'm not mistaken)
      3) There is an additional objective thing, "REDness", in addition to the wavelength, and it is that which is experienced (Feser's position, if I understand correctly).

      What I am saying is there is no good reason to prefer 3) to 2), even though it is not logically impossible.

      Let's just take light in general. Does anyone say what is experienced as light, or as brightness, is somehow different than an electromagnetic wave? That there must somehow be this mysterious thing called "LIGHTness" in addition? If not, then why conclude, that for a specific wavelength, there a must be a mysterious thing called "REDness"?








      Delete
    3. @TLP,

      I may have worded myself wrongly. Rather, the color of a wavelength is an objective feature of it. It may not be a feature or property that can be detected by physics and math, but it belongs to the wavelength nonetheless.

      The fact color has an underlying microstructure doesn't mean color isn't a real objective property of light.

      In that case, the REDness of red light is distinct from it's wavelength because mere mathematical description doesn't capture that aspect of it, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

      IOW, the color red is necessarily of a certain wavelength, and that wavelength has the property of being a certain color by it's nature. But this property of the wavelength is not captured by the abstract physics.

      Delete
    4. The Lonely ProfessorSeptember 30, 2019 at 5:35 PM

      @JoeD,

      I agree it is possible for "redness" to be some entity independent of wavelength (even though it always appears in a certain band).

      But you haven't provided an argument as to why I should think that is the case. Yes, IF redness is distinct from wavelength than a mathematical description doesn't capture that aspect of it. But if isn't, then a mathematical description obviously does.

      Delete
  11. TLP: "What physics does claim however is that the wavelength is determinative of whether the light is red or not, and that, therefore, even if "redness" is not reducible to a wavelength, it nevertheless is of the very essence of "redness" to be that wavelength, for whenever you have that wavelength you have redness. In other words, for all intents and purposes "redness" is that wavelength. Aristotelianism simply cannot explain this entailment relation. That's ground it won't get back."

    A couple of problems here: 1) That's not ground Aristotelianism ever claimed, so there's no question of getting it back. 2) Physics doesn't claim what TLP claims it does. In fact, apart from RED-ness physics would have no concept of redness, and thus would in no way be able to specify any particular wavelengths of light as determinate of redness. Thus it should also be clear why redness is not reducible to microstructure.

    In addition, redness is clearly not simply identical to a particular wavelength of EMR. Consider white light, which includes those 'red' wavelengths but is entirely white, not at all red. Consider also dreams/hallucination/memory/imagination of redness (apart from any presence of relevant EMR).

    ReplyDelete
  12. The Lonely ProfessorSeptember 30, 2019 at 5:53 PM

    @David McPike:

    1) Aristotelianism does claim that the "microstructure" or "arrangement of matter", if you will, is the way it is because it is fitting for the reception of the particular form. Thus it is explicable why humans have a brain, due to the cognitive operations fitting for their nature as rational animals. But there is not, and obviously cannot be, any explanation of why a particular wavelength and no other is fitting for redness. That's why I say it cannot explain the entailment relation. Some part of physical reality is therefore inexplicable under Aristotelianism, and that's the ground it won't get back.

    2) Physics claims exactly what I said it does: namely, that the wavelength of light is determinate of redness. And I didn't claim that redness is reducible to microstructure, or that physics can have anything to say about it. In fact, I said just the opposite.

    But I am saying in order to posit that redness is not reducible to microstructure, there must be some good reason to believe it to be the case that doesn't beg the question. Yes, we experience what we call redness, but how do you know that is not identical to experiencing a given wavelength of light, just being called under another name?



    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @TLP:
      1) But there was never any Aristotelian claim that there could/would be any such explanation from function to form, either from cognition to brain, or from redness to wavelength. For an Aristotelian, although there must be a fit between form and function, these are both just humbly and happily empirical correlations, not explanations of unique entailment relations. So still, no ground lost, no ground to get back that I can see.

      2) If physics claims that wavelength of light is determinative of redness, isn't that the same as saying that redness is reducible to wavelength of light? And wouldn't that just beg the philosophical question about what redness refers to? Or do you mean to say just that physics has noted the causal correlation between the sensory perception of RED and the stimulation of the sensory organs by a particular frequency and concentration of EMR? That narrow claim is fine.

      When we experience REDness, that may be also an experience of a given wavelength/frequency of EMR, insofar as that is what causes the experience of REDness (if that is what causes it). But the sensory experience is still of REDness, which is definitely different from and exclusive of an experience of EMR of a given wavelength as such, the latter being something we obviously cannot experience directly through our senses at all, but only indirectly through the use of special instruments. Those are definitely different objects of experience, and there seems to be no reason/explanation for reducing one to the other.

      Delete
    2. To put this another way: The physicist as physicist would claim that there could be a universe with the EMR that causes REDness but no actual REDness. He can talk about the physical cause of RED-ness but has no physical theory of what RED-ness is. OTOH, if he thinks that REDness is a fundamental part of the universe, this shows that he is (wittingly or unwittingly) on the side of the Aristotelians; it doesn't follow from any theory of physics.

      Delete
    3. >The Lonely Professor:2) The wavelength is identical to "redness", so what is experienced as "redness" simply IS the wavelength being experienced. (My position, and apparently yours if I'm not mistaken)

      But wavelength is a quantity, and what you experience when you see something red is a quality (unless you are (colour-)blind). So the reason to prefer (2) is because that is exactly what (almost) everybody actually sees, from which "wavelength" is a mere extrapolation. The quality of redness is not mysterious — it is literally self-evident. It is the quantities like wavelength (which we do not experience directly) which are mysterious (though, naturally, less mysterious the more physics one studies).

      The REDness of light is fundamental, the starting point; it is the wavelength-stuff that is up for grabs. If you accept the physics, then you are acknowledging that light has quality and quantity (just as, quantitatively, a photon has wavelength and polarisation, which are two different things). Now obviously, a quality is not just a quantity under a different name (even moreso than frequency is not polarisation under a different name).

      >But there is not, and obviously cannot be, any explanation of why a particular wavelength and no other is fitting for redness. That's why I say it cannot explain the entailment relation.

      As David said, there's no ground there for Aristotelianism to get back. The entailment is and is not arbitrary. It is arbitrary in that God could presumably have created a completely different universe with different laws of physics in which red light had a different wavelength (or nothing corresponding to wavelength at all). It is not arbitrary in the real world in that you could not simply stipulate that red light would be associated with a different wavelength and keep everything else about our actual laws of science the same (e.g. if you changed one wavelength, you would have to change the wavelengths of the other colours to make room, and the wavelengths of all non-visible frequencies of light as well, which means you would have to change how the atoms in our retinas work to detect light, which means changing how biology works, etc., etc.).

      So a certain wavelength might be part of the essence of red light, as it exists in this particular world; but it is nevertheless a distinct property, which might be associated with a different qualitative colour in some other world; or conversely, a different wavelength might be also associated with the same quality of REDness — again, as David points out, these are the questions that physics investigates.

      Delete
    4. The Lonely ProfessorOctober 2, 2019 at 5:34 AM

      @David McPike:

      1) If the relationship between the arrangement of matter and form is just a pure coincidence under Aristotelianism (just an "empirical correlation") then something about the physical world is inexplicable under it. Therefore it is not a complete philosophy of nature. Again, that's the ground it won't get back.

      2) "If physics claims that wavelength of light is determinative of redness, isn't that the same as saying that redness is reducible to wavelength of light?" No. An entailment relation is not the same as an identity relation.

      "Or do you mean to say just that physics has noted the causal correlation between the sensory perception of RED and the stimulation of the sensory organs by a particular frequency and concentration of EMR? That narrow claim is fine." Yes. But Aristotelianism has no answer to the question of WHY this correlation exists, and yet insists all of this is part of the material world, and doesn't admit the sensory perception of red is something subjective (qualia) as in modern philosophy.

      "When we experience REDness, that may be also an experience of a given wavelength/frequency of EMR, insofar as that is what causes the experience of REDness (if that is what causes it). But the sensory experience is still of REDness, which is definitely different from and exclusive of an experience of EMR of a given wavelength as such, the latter being something we obviously cannot experience directly through our senses at all, but only indirectly through the use of special instruments. "

      Our senses cannot give us the degree of precision that special instruments can give. That doesn't mean our senses aren't directly perceiving things which can be measured to greater precision. We see something as "big" or "small" despite the fact we don't have an exact measurement of size. We hear something as "low-pitched" or "high-pitched" despite the fact we can't directly read off the number of Hz from our inner ears (although people with absolute pitch can get within a certain accuracy). And the same argument can be made for redness vs. wavelength. Is there a similar argument for "pitch realism" as there is for "color realism"?

      Delete
    5. The Lonely ProfessorOctober 2, 2019 at 5:41 AM

      @Mr. Green:

      I'll reply more in detail later, but I'll just say for now that when you have to take refuge in the inscrutable will of God to explain something in nature that is exactly the chink in the armor that the truck was driven through in the Middle Ages (e.g. nominalism, voluntarism, occasionalism).

      Delete
    6. Lonely Professor —
      Well, I’m not worried about taking refuge, because I see no storms coming. I don’t think anyone is going to argue that God had no choice at all in how to create the universe or what sort of laws and natures He would choose overall. And I explicitly stated that the nature of light is not arbitrary given the constraints of the rest of the universe as it is.

      Delete
  13. I just listened to an interview of Sabine Hossenfelder on her book "Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray" on Econtalk by Russ Roberts. Hossenfelder argues that the stagnation of the physical sciences (particularly particle physics) can be attributable to defects in the philosophical presuppositions of scientists, and the mechanisms that inform how science is done. Obviously, the reason I'm posting this here is because I think Hossenfeld's insightful thesis (which has made her somewhat of a pariah in her field, apparently), would be well complimented with a copy of "Aristotle's Revenge". It's good to see these insights popping up now and then.

    ReplyDelete
  14. So, i guess i can understand somewhat the Aristotelian view on colors, but there still this difficult to me: If colors are intrinsically in the objects, how can different animals see diferent colors looking at the same thing?

    Like, a horse see less colors that i do, but some insects see way more of they, so how do we know that a apple, say, is red and not whatever a insect sees when he looks at it?

    The relation about RED and red could be like the relation that form has with matter, but this difficult of mine turns the Aristotelian view hard to me to see.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If I close my eyes, I see even fewer colours than a horse! Or if I look through a filter, or suffer from some defect like colour-blindness. If horses don't have vision as good as humans, then will simply see less than we do.

      Conversely, a bee might see more than we do (just as I see more than a colour-blind man sees). But, on Aristotoelian view, the bee will see more only if there is more (in the apple) to be seen; it will still be there when I look at the apple, even if I'm not able to distinguish it.

      Delete
  15. Hi Ed,

    Re your defense of naive color realism, I'd like to cut to the chase. It seems to me that what Locke was getting at, with his distinction between primary and secondary qualities, was that objects of a certain color all possess certain intrinsic properties relating to light (e.g. a tendency to reflect red light and absorb other wavelengths, if they are red), but they share no intrinsic qualities relating to conscious observers - be they animals, humans or Martians. In fact, they don't even share intrinsic properties relating to sighted animals - e.g. a tendency to pass through the corneas of these animals' eyes. Rather, we should say that the light reflected by red objects has a tendency to pass through certain objects, depending on their molecular structure. Only inside an animal's brain do red wavelengths of light give rise to the phenomenal experience you refer to as RED. Thus on a Lockean account, as I understand it, the only physical objects with observer-relative properties are brains.

    Now, if you want to say that there is some objective physical property in red objects, which you call red, that causes normal human (and animal) observers to see RED, that's fine by me, and I think Locke would agree as well. But naive color realism says a lot more than that. What it says is that red is a human (or animal) observer-relative property. In other words, naive color realism imputes psychic properties to inanimate objects. Can you now see why scientists would find such a proposal mind-boggling, and react with an incredulous stare? What it means, for instance, is that red supergiant stars that existed billions of years before conscious observers nevertheless possessed certain intrinsic properties that were observer-relative. That's a proposal which I, for one, find extraordinary. Cheers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. >Vincent Torley: Now, if you want to say that there is some objective physical property in red objects, which you call red, that causes normal human (and animal) observers to see RED, that's fine by me, and I think Locke would agree as well.

      Everyone agrees with that; the question is whether REDness exists only in subjects, or in apples and firetrucks as well. I don’t really understand what you mean by “observer-relative” — I think perhaps you are taking the Lockean position for granted and then saying that since REDness is (by definition) something that only applies to observing minds, then to say that this mental quality inheres in apples entails that apples somehow have minds. But of course the Aristotelian is arguing precisely that this definition of colour is wrong in the first place.

      >What it says is that red is a human (or animal) observer-relative property. In other words, naive color realism imputes psychic properties to inanimate objects.

      “Naive” realsim is just how ordinary people think of the matter, without special philosophical or scientific training. And ordinary people decidedly do not think that coloured objects are psychical. Ordinary people do usually tend to think that they see RED because apples (etc.) actually are themselves RED. The Aristotelian view is that this natural instinct is on the right track, and that colour of an apple is (fundamentally) not relative to any observer, but a feature of the apple itself. That is, Locke thinks that minds deal in qualities and quantities, but physical objects have only quantity; Aristotle thinks that physical objects have both quantities and qualities.

      Delete
    2. Hi Mr Green,

      I think perhaps you are taking the Lockean position for granted and then saying that since REDness is (by definition) something that only applies to observing minds, then to say that this mental quality inheres in apples entails that apples somehow have minds. But of course the Aristotelian is arguing precisely that this definition of colour is wrong in the first place.

      No, I'm not saying that apples have minds if (i) they possess the property of REDness (as you appear to think), or even if (ii) their redness is a tendency to directly cause human observers to see REDness (as Ed seems to think). Rather, what I'm saying is that if apples DO possess the property of REDness, or even if their redness directly causes us to experience REDness, then apples must possess certain dispositions with respect to creatures having minds (like us). And that's what I find extraordinary. I'm fine with apples having dispositions with respect to light, and I'm fine with light having dispositions with respect to molecules, but I don't believe either apples or light have dispositions with respect to people as such. That would mean that we can't properly define apples (or light) without mentioning people. And since both apples and light existed for millions of years before human beings, that would mean that the first apples and the first light had properties directed at the distant future. Surely that's preposterous.

      Ordinary people do usually tend to think that they see RED because apples (etc.) actually are themselves RED.

      Ordinary people think the way they do because they're used to working with paints, rather than light beams. That's why they naively tend to think of an object's color as something inhering IN that object, when instead it is an object's reflective properties which inhere in that object. Ordinary people are also shocked to learn that all colors added together produce white, and they still think that red, blue and yellow are the primary colors. Ordinary people think of black and white as colors. I could go on, but my point is a simple one: don't trust folk physics.

      Delete
    3. @Vincent: I like your word choice. Surely it is preposterous to think that in the universal ordering of the cosmos human beings are teleologically prior to apples! On the other hand, what makes you think an apple's color is part of its definition (given an Aristotelian account of color and apples like Ed's or Mr. Green's)?

      Delete
    4. >Vincent Torley: No, I'm not saying that apples have minds if (i) they possess the property of REDness (as you appear to think), or even if (ii) their redness is a tendency to directly cause human observers to see REDness (as Ed seems to think).

      I think Ed and I are both saying that apples really are red, which includes REDness. But that doesn’t mean apples are disposed to do anything to minds per se; just that they have certain dispositions, some of which have certain effects on minds (as of course they would). An apple has mass, which you can describe as a disposition to “fall down”, and when an apple is “falling” against the palm of my hand, I feel that as weightiness. But it’s the same disposition being exercised when you put the apple on a scale, or on a countertop. My palm also has a disposition to be able to feel masses; and when you put the apple’s and my hand’s dispositions together, they cause a mental effect in me. But the apple is not disposed towards my mind any more than my hand is disposed (specifically) towards apples.

      >That would mean that we can't properly define apples (or light) without mentioning people.

      We could just say: they are red and heavy. Which is of course just what we do say.

      >and they still think that red, blue and yellow are the primary colors. Ordinary people think of black and white as colors.

      Black and white are colours (in the qualitative Aristotelian sense, which is the one closest to common sense, and the one which is most relevant); physicists and painters are of course entitled to their own technical jargon as suits their particular needs. Likewise, red, blue, and yellow are as primary as RGB if you are dealing with pigments instead of light. The only reason to privilege a particular technical sense would be if common sense can’t work; but in this case, happily, it can.

      Delete
    5. Hi Mr Green,

      I think Ed and I are both saying that apples really are red, which includes REDness. But that doesn’t mean apples are disposed to do anything to minds per se; just that they have certain dispositions, some of which have certain effects on minds (as of course they would). An apple has mass, which you can describe as a disposition to “fall down”, and when an apple is “falling” against the palm of my hand, I feel that as weightiness.

      Hang on. Here's how Ed defined the terms:

      "RED: the qualitative character or qualia of the color sensations had by a normal observer when he looks at fire engines, “Stop” signs, Superman’s cape, etc. (which is different from the qualitative character of the sensations had by e.g. a color blind observer)

      "red: whatever objective physical property it is in fire engines, “Stop” signs, Superman’s cape, etc. that causes normal observers to have RED sensations."

      End of quote. Now you're proposing that red includes REDness. Sorry, but I'm afraid that won't work. According to Ed, red is an "objective physical property," while RED is a subjective property: the "qualia of the color sensations had by a normal observer when he looks at fire engines." By definition, a first-person subjective property cannot be "included in" an objective, third-person property, as you propose - unless you espouse reductionism, which Ed emphatically rejects.

      If you merely want to argue that red apples have a disposition to reflect red light, which we experience as a sensation of color, then I won't disagree with you. But that's basically Locke's position.

      Delete
    6. Vincent Torley: According to Ed, red is an "objective physical property," while RED is a subjective property: the "qualia of the color sensations had by a normal observer when he looks at fire engines.” By definition, a first-person subjective property cannot be "included in" an objective, third-person property, as you propose

      You’ve got a false dichotomy in thinking that something can’t be subjective and objective at the same time. That mistaken notion is precisely the modern/Lockean view, so it is definitely not an accurate representation of Ed’s position. The whole point is that for Aristotle, for a subject to “subjectively” have something is to have the very same thing that is in the object (though of course, it is “in” the subject in a way appropriate to the subject, and is “in” the object in a mode appropriate to the object).

      The heat of the hot water-bottle is in the water-bottle, and, when I touch it, it is also in me — my hand actually becomes hot. Both the quantitative aspects of heat as well as the qualitative aspects are in the hot water-bottle, according to Aristotle. (Of course, inanimate objects do not have any awareness of these qualities.) When I also become hot (by touching something that has heat), I become hot; and since I have a mind, I not only possess the qualities and quantities of hotness but I am also aware of them.

      That is why sight requires a medium: the one and same form of heat can be in the hot water-bottle and in your hand because you touch it. Similarly, light has to touch your eye to see colour; the colour that is in an apple across the room cannot be seen unless that colour somehow gets “into” your eye. The modern view is that qualities are “mind-only” and therefore cannot inhere in the object — you seem to take this view as a matter of definition, but what did you think was different about the Aristotelian view if not that it rejects this definition?

      Delete
    7. Hi Mr Green,

      The whole point is that for Aristotle, for a subject to “subjectively” have something is to have the very same thing that is in the object...

      Then Aristotle is clearly wrong. Experiments have shown that light can enter my eye, and be converted into electric signals which travel all the way up to my brain, but until they reach the association areas of the cerebral cortex (where the level of neural inter-connectivity is very high), they simply won't register in my conscious awareness. (In particular, if the signals reach the sensory and motor regions of my neocortex, but stop there, I will be completely unaware of seeing anything.) The problem here is not my "having the form" of the colored object. The problem is that the information about the colored object has to travel to the right part of my brain. And by the time it gets there, it's not light any more; it's electrochemical signals.

      Both the quantitative aspects of heat as well as the qualitative aspects are in the hot water-bottle, according to Aristotle. (Of course, inanimate objects do not have any awareness of these qualities.) When I also become hot (by touching something that has heat), I become hot; and since I have a mind, I not only possess the qualities and quantities of hotness but I am also aware of them.

      It's not just inanimate objects that are not consciously aware of the world around them; so are plants and most of the major groups (phyla) of animals. And it's far too simplistic to claim that receiving the form of heat plus having a mind equals being aware of heat. As the scientific data shows, the information has to travel to the appropriate regions of the brain - and by the time it gets there, it's not "heat" any more.

      You’ve got a false dichotomy in thinking that something can’t be subjective and objective at the same time. That mistaken notion is precisely the modern/Lockean view, so it is definitely not an accurate representation of Ed’s position.

      Well, let's hear what Ed himself has to say on the subject, in his blog article, "Churchland on dualism, Part II" (December 26, 2009) at http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/12/churchland-on-dualism-part-ii.html :

      "Now what seems to common sense to be very different from “a matrix of molecules reflecting photons at certain critical wavelengths” is RED. And sure enough, what science has shown to be identical to “a matrix of molecules reflecting photons at certain critical wavelengths” is only red, not RED. Indeed, part of the reason for distinguishing red and RED is precisely that RED seems clearly not to be identical to something like “a matrix of molecules reflecting photons at certain critical wavelengths,” since the “matrices of molecules” etc. are what they are regardless of who is looking at them while qualitative character is observer-relative."

      Well, there you have it. According to Ed, the subjective, observer-relative property called RED is quite distinct from the objective physical property studied by physics, called red. Cheers.

      Delete
  16. That the first way of Feser and Aquinas was refuted by Heidegger in his book Being and Time in 1927 is commonly understand. Kant merely provided the beginning of such thinking. Russell understood this doctrines. Hume pushed them the furthest, and did as much as most to prepare for a full proposal of non-theism as a logical alternative

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Russell, as great of a logician as he was, never showed any sign that he has understood the doctrines at all, and his texts on the philosophy of religion are useless. And if the quote from Heidegger below shows anything, it was certainly not about the first way, since the first way doesn´t deal with the notion of existence, but with causality. So you´d better fare with providing the exact argument Heidegger gives to supposedly having refuted the first way. I doubt that he has written as such, the continental philosopher that he was.

      Delete
    2. It's a common expression that Heidegger "demolished metaphysics". He was early on a Catholic. From my reading of his book so far, Being appears when you believe it does. But belief in primordial. We don't always know what we really believe, and there is belief in fear. Hegel says logic is at the bottom of the ladder of being. The Germain romanticists say emotion is. I am enjoying Heidegger immensely

      Delete
    3. Didn't Mr. T demolish Heidegger? That's what I heard.

      Delete
    4. Heidegger gave us a vision of time that, when combined with Hawking's no boundary hypothesis, gives a non-theistic alternative to Thomism

      Delete
  17. "The only peculiarity of seeing which we claim for the existential meaning of sight is the fact that it lets beings accessible to it be encountered in themselves without being concealed." Heidegger
    We see by sight with our souls, but the substratum of everything could be material in principle. Heidegger proposes we see being itself in things and want them infinitely. I don't think he necessarily believed these could ever be fulfulled. Though he lived in contradiction, his thesis is not in contradiction. Kant's argument is that the soul could, in reality, be in union with the brain such that when the brain dies the soul disappears. There are questions of energy too.

    ReplyDelete
  18. The Lonely ProfessorOctober 2, 2019 at 5:01 PM

    Rather than try to individually respond to everyone upthread, I'll continue here, because I think the question can be distilled down to this.

    I agree that "redness" is an accident, and therefore an objective property, of both the object and the light. This is all that Aristotelianism demands, it seems to me - everything is in a proper Aristotelian category.

    But surface reflective properties, and wavelengths, are also accidents. The question is whether a surface reflective property or a wavelength is the same accident as "redness". My answer is that there is no good reason to believe it not to be the case, for entities should not be added without necessity. That is not a strong a claim as saying it is certainly true.

    If "redness" is not identical to wavelength, then the correlation between the two is ultimately inexplicable in nature and the explanation must ultimately appeal to the inscrutable will of God, whereas Aristotelianism has it that things in nature are explained by the nature of things. It doesn't help to say that "redness" must be a particular wavelength in this universe, because essences don't change across universes.

    The counter-argument appears to be that "redness" and not a wavelength is what is experienced. When asked how this is known, the answer is that "redness" cannot be measured whereas a wavelength can. I find this unsatisfactory, because all it says is that our senses can't reach the precision that instruments can. Would anyone really claim that "hotness" is not identical to temperature? That seems absurd to me. Just because our hands can't measure temperature as accurately as a thermometer doesn't mean "hotness" is separate from temperature.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @TLP:
      "If "redness" is not identical to wavelength, then the correlation between the two is ultimately inexplicable in nature and the explanation must ultimately appeal to the inscrutable will of God, whereas Aristotelianism has it that things in nature are explained by the nature of things."

      I think you're posing a false dilemma here. It's both true that 1) things in nature are explained by the nature of things, and 2) that the nature of things are explained by the inscrutable will of God.

      The physicist is right to say that (roughly) the wavelength and the surface reflective property are identical to redness. But again, that seems to be only because, as a good Aristotelian, he recognizes that these real (quantitative) properties/accidents are the material cause of (qualitative) RED-ness, as Mr. Green pointed out. He also recognizes (hopefully), as a good Aristotelian and physicist, that this identification is wholly dependent upon the sensory power which makes RED-ness as such identifiable in itself in the first place, such that it is possible subsequently to empirically identify RED-ness with the quantitative properties investigated by physics.

      Delete
    2. [To say that "the natures of things are explained by the inscrutable will of God" is tantamount to saying that our knowledge of the specific natures of things is necessarily based on empirical investigation. We have to take them as they're given to us in experience and we are not seeking some moment of epiphany where we realize, "oh, now I see why everything (and every kind of thing) had to be exactly the way it is!"]

      Delete
    3. The Lonely ProfessorOctober 3, 2019 at 9:04 AM

      @David McPike:

      I don't disagree with anything you said.

      I suppose I could have stated what I was getting at better: It is unreasonable to believe that the correlation between wavelength and redness is a miracle. These are both natural things and therefore the correlation should have a natural, secondary explanation, even if God is the ultimate, primary explanation.

      So the only two possibilities are:

      1) Redness is identical to wavelength; or
      2) Redness is a separate thing, whose nature it is to have that wavelength.

      I find 2) problematic in a way that I don't for other examples of non-reductionism. For instance, I don't have a problem with water being not reducible to H2O. But it is of the nature of water to have the chemical properties it does, but to have those chemical properties this precise atomic composition is required. IOW, there is an explanation for the particular microstructure with respect to water. There isn't for redness.



      Delete
    4. Certainly the correlation is natural, and therefore not a miracle, but I don't see why you think that's relevant. Can you explain?

      Delete
    5. (That was me qua Unknown above...) And I also don't see the contrast with water. Water has chemical properties and sensible properties, just like red things (and red light) have physical properties and sensible properties. In both cases the sensible properties are different from and first ground the possibility of investigating the chemical/physical properties.

      Re. your two possibilities I would suggest:

      1) The material ground of redness is identical to wavelength/surface reflective properties; and
      2) Qualitative redness is another thing from (is more than just) the quantitative material ground of redness identified by physics, namely wavelength/surface reflective properties.

      Delete
    6. The Lonely Professor: The question is whether a surface reflective property or a wavelength is the same accident as "redness". My answer is that there is no good reason to believe it not to be the case, for entities should not be added without necessity.

      Well, things should be as simple as needed — but no simpler. There is a very good reason to believe in a distinction here: one is a quality and the other is a quantity. Even if you argued that frequencies are relatively objective — that is, that orange, say, objectively comes “between” red and yellow in a way that parallels the numeric frequencies — that doesn’t nail down any specific number as the One True frequency for light of that colour. Why couldn’t God create a very different world wherein light — or if you prefer, something that acts like kind of like light in that world but does not share the physics of real photons — comes in red, green, or blue? (Or conversely, a world wherein there are pseudo-photons which have frequency and wavelength, but have no qualitative colour?)

      Would anyone really claim that "hotness" is not identical to temperature?

      I’m not making any claim about precision. I just say that quantitative “vibrations” are not logically equivalent to qualitative “heat”, even though it turns that that is how heat is “implemented” in our world.

      It is unreasonable to believe that the correlation between wavelength and redness is a miracle. These are both natural things and therefore the correlation should have a natural, secondary explanation, even if God is the ultimate, primary explanation.

      I’m not sure I would call setting the initial laws and conditions of the universe a miracle, apart from the miracle of creation as a whole. It does seem that given the nature of quantum electrodynamics and human biology, colours have to work out the way that they do in the real world. But “colour” and “wavelength” are different forms/accidents in themselves, and thus not necessarily linked. Which is to say, you couldn’t derive particle-physics merely from having a visual experience alone.

      >But it is of the nature of water to have the chemical properties it does, but to have those chemical properties this precise atomic composition is required. IOW, there is an explanation for the particular microstructure with respect to water.

      But that explanation has to bottom-out eventually (somewhere at the subatomic level for the parts of water; at the quantity/quality divide for colours). Otherwise, it would seem to follow that we could do physics by sitting in our armchairs, thinking until we hit the epiphany (to borrow David’s phrase) of "now I see why everything had to be exactly the way it is”.

      Delete
    7. Having thought about this some more, my demand for some absolute mapping is a misguided challenge. Of course “nanometers” are a human convention, as are our models of “wavelength” and “frequency”. The Lonely Professor is making a more interesting point: that whatever our models are about cannot arbitrarily marry up qualities with any old random quantities. The colour-space (which is not really a spectrum, but for the sake of simplicity I’ll pretend it is one) situates orange between red and yellow. Doesn’t orange qualitatively fit between red and yellow? But if colours have an ordering, then they have a quantitative aspect, because an ordered metric is a quantitative thing.

      Still, I’m not sure what to make of the idea that quantities and qualities go together that way. Could orange go between green and blue if God made a world that way? Maybe that seems nonsensical only because we are creatures in this world, and in this world it just so happens that orange “comes” next to red. I’m not sure how to argue against that without seeming to beg the question.

      Delete
    8. The Lonely ProfessorOctober 7, 2019 at 5:35 AM

      @Mr. Green:

      Aristotelianism is committed to the following things (relevant to the discussion regarding color):

      1) Physical laws derive from the nature of things
      2) Subjective experiences derive from the nature of things

      Deny either of these, and it's all over.

      If 1) is false, things only act according to physical laws because God specifically wills it in each and every case. Which means, everything that happens in the physical world (even according to those laws) is a miracle, and therefore nominalism and occasionalism are true, at least as far as the physical world of inanimate matter is concerned.

      If 2) is false, Kant is right and we have only access to the appearances and not the underlying reality.

      Therefore, it must either be the case that redness is equivalent to wavelength or it is the nature of redness to be that wavelength. Sure, there is another possible world in which
      sentient beings experience something similar to redness at a different wavelength. However, that "redness" is essentially different from our redness, that "light" is essentially different from our light, and those beings are essentially different from ours.

      OTOH, Aristotelianism does not have the capacity to choose between different possible scenarios each compatible with 1) and 2). That's the role for natural science.

      You argue that redness and wavelength should be distinct, since redness is a "quality" and wavelength a "quantity". However, you do not provide a clear definition of the distinction between "quality" and "quantity". If you cannot do so in a non-question-begging manner, then I suggest the principle of parsimony would mean that is it more likely that redness and wavelength are one and the same thing.





      Delete
    9. @TLP: Two points:
      First, Kant would not deny (2), that subjective experiences derive from the nature of things.

      Second, Aristotelians agree with Kant insofar as not having any direct experience of the essences of things (we come to knowledge of the essences of things indirectly through their effects) and thus that physical laws (or philosophy of nature) and subjective experiences derive not only from the natures of things but also from the activity of the cogitative power and intellect (and this really isn't something anybody could plausibly deny, is it?).

      Delete
    10. David, my understanding is that Kant would reject 2). We perceive a table as "flat" not because there is any intrinsic "flatness" in the table but because the way our consciousness is structured, we must perceive things at least in part in terms of shape in order to perceive them at all. We do not and cannot know if there is anything intrinsic to the table that causes us to perceive it as flat or if there is, if that cause in the table is the same as the flatness we perceive with our senses.

      Delete
    11. Hi Fred, I'm no Kant expert, but I'm pretty sure this much is true: Kant thought that we could not know things in themselves, we could only know them insofar as they impinge upon our senses (i.e., through "intuitions") and are conceived through the categories of the understanding (concepts). All of our cognition depends on combining intuitions and concepts. "Thoughts without [intuited sensory] content are empty, [sensory] intuitions without concepts are blind." But Kant thought that the intuitions are caused in us by the things themselves, hence he would agree that subjective experiences derive from the nature of things. (Critics quickly pointed out Kant's inconsistency: his own account of transcendental idealism was in fact applying the concept of causality to things in themselves (things cause intuitions in us), something he had been at pains to claim we cannot legitimately do.)

      Delete
    12. So it seems that Kant was ambiguous and that whether his thought at least implicitly rejects 2) above is a matter of interpretation. Seems to me though, that even if he did believe the ding an sich caused intuition when it impinged on our senses, he would reject the notion that RED is an intrinsic feature of an apple but is put there by our consciousness when the apple impinges on our sense of sight.

      Delete
    13. No, I think Kant clearly accepts 2) above, for the reasons I've given. But why think that when the thing (say, apple) in itself causes our intuitions, this means that "our consciousness puts the intuition there"? I'm not aware of Kant saying that. Are you? Or do you think it follows from something he does say?

      Delete
  19. @Mr. Green

    Yea, i was thinking in something like that. Just a matter of seeing all the colors in the apple.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Mr Green asks: "Why couldn’t God create a very different world...?" That's an interesting question. If we are talking about worlds of experience, then he did -- think of the old "what's it like to be a bat" question, or even just "what's it like to be colour-blind," or maybe "what's it like to be autistic." We might also ask: "Why can't man create (roughly speaking) a very different world?" And we might say, he can -- that's what man qua physicist has done, for example. "The world" is an objective thing, but that strictly just means it is the object of some power of some subject. So the Aristotelian (dare I say?) world of ordinary experience (primarily based on the senses) and the world of the physicist (as restricted to descriptions in the mode of abstract quantifications) are equally objective. So is one metaphysically prior? And is one reducible to the other? Clearly the (Aristotelian) world of experience is epistemically prior. And clearly the world of the physicist excludes the powers of the soul, which are epistemically prior. So doesn't that also tell you that the Aristotelian/common-sense world of experience, which includes the powers of the soul, as well as the objects of those powers (including RED-ness), is also metaphysically prior? And certainly it is not reducible to the world of the physicist.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. David McPike: And we might say, he can -- that's what man qua physicist has done, for example.

      That’s a good point — the models that the physicist creates are fictional worlds; they are of course meant to parallel the real world, but they leave some things out, and simplify or flat-out change details (e.g. the mythical frictionless plane may be a useful model although, even because, it does not correspond exactly to reality).

      Delete
  21. I am reminded of this xkcd comic https://www.explainxkcd.com/wiki/index.php/1818:_Rayleigh_Scattering about alternate explanations of why the sky is blue. One explanation involves quantum physics, another that, in a certain sense, the atmosphere is blue, and the resolution that there is not a real contradiction between the two explanations.

    ReplyDelete