Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Johnson on Aristotle’s Revenge


At Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, Monte Ransome Johnson reviews my book Aristotle’s Revenge.  Prof. Johnson is an Aristotle scholar and historian of philosophy, which is relevant to understanding his review.  He says some nice things about the book, singling out my discussion of Aristotle and computationalism as “interesting” and writing:

Feser's book could be useful to those interested in defending anti-reductionist positions in various disputes in philosophy of science… Feser's impressive grasp of this anti-reductionist literature makes him a formidable polemicist, able to sift the avalanche of philosophy of science literature and find the concepts he is looking for

End quote.  The bulk of Prof. Johnson’s review is devoted to discussing how closely the views I defend do or do not correspond to those of either Aristotle himself or of later Aristotelian and Scholastic thinkers, and how closely the views I criticize as characteristic of the mechanical world picture do or do not correspond to those of specific early modern thinkers.

This is not entirely unfair, insofar as at least in the first chapter of my book I make some general historical remarks about the Aristotelian tradition and about the origins of the rival mechanical world picture.  Johnson’s emphasis is also understandable given that he is, as I have said, an Aristotle scholar and historian of philosophy – and, I should add, a scholar and historian whose work I have long admired.  I have profited from his fine book Aristotle on Teleology and often recommend it.  If you are interested in either Aristotle or teleology, you should read it.

All the same, I think Johnson has let his own interests and expertise, rather than the content of the book, determine the amount of attention his review devotes to these questions of historical scholarship and Aristotle exegesis.  And that has led him greatly to overemphasize these matters and to underemphasize others.  (For example, my chapter on “Space, Time, and Motion” – at well over 100 pages, the longest chapter in the book and perhaps the most densely argued – is referred to in a single sentence and in only the most general way.)

The trouble is that the book is not really about Aristotle himself and it is not even about the history of philosophy.  It is about certain ideas, considered more or less ahistorically.  And Johnson is aware of this.  As a result of his comparison of the claims and arguments I defend with those of Aristotle himself, he judges:

The true purpose of Feser's book, it seems, is not actually to avenge Aristotle, but to show how Aristotle affords concepts that can be adapted by neo-neo-Scholastics to combat certain metaphysical interpretations of contemporary science.

and

Given the lack of references to primary and secondary sources for Aristotle's views, the position defended in Aristotle's Revenge is better described, as Feser frequently does, as neo-Aristotelian or, more accurately, Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy.

End quote.  That is all quite true.  But it isn’t like I hide this.  Prof. Johnson is a bit like a detective who stands lost in thought before declaring “I conclude that the butler did it!” – when all the while Jeeves had been standing right there beside him trying to confess.

It seems that Prof. Johnson would prefer that I not describe what I am up to as “Aristotelian” – that I should stick to adjectives like “neo-Scholastic” or “Aristotelian-Thomistic” or even, if I must, “neo-Aristotelian.”  It seems to me, though, that this is to demand too narrow a usage.  Terms like “Platonic” and “Marxist” are commonly used to connote ideas that you won’t always find explicitly set out in Plato or Marx themselves, but rather are associated with the traditions they inspired.  Of course, it is true that in some cases this can lead to misunderstanding.  However, this loose kind of usage is so common that learned readers realize that it is intended only loosely.  Hence, especially in academic contexts, it is perfectly innocent, and clear that all that is meant is that the ideas in question are associated with a broadly “Platonic” or “Marxist” view of things, and not necessarily with Plato or Marx themselves.

In the present case, the label “Aristotelian” is frequently used in contemporary academic analytic philosophy to refer to ideas that are broadly Aristotelian in spirit, whether or not one finds them explicitly stated in Aristotle’s Physics or Posterior Analytics or wherever.  Consider, for example, Tahko’s anthology Contemporary Aristotelian Metaphysics and Groff and Greco’s volume Powers and Capacities in Philosophy: The New Aristotelianism – in neither of which will one find much in the way of Aristotle exegesis.  My book is intended as a contribution to this movement and literature, and I imagined that it would be taken in that spirit.

If this broad use of the term “Aristotelian” is a foible, it is not a foible unique to me – in which case, I think Prof. Johnson should blame the common practice to which I’ve acquiesced rather than my book, specifically.  Anyway, I think that too much weight is placed on what is ultimately a minor semantic issue.

However, I do not want to fail to acknowledge the good points that Johnson makes in the course of discussing this issue.  For example, he cites a number of works of contemporary scholarship on Aristotle that I might have cited but did not.  I am indeed familiar with most of the things to which he refers.  The Max Delbrück article is something I’ve quoted from several times in previous work.  I reviewed the Armand Leroi book a couple of years ago.  Carlo Rovelli’s interesting article essentially went to the periphery of my mind as I worked on my book given that, as Johnson notes (with apparent regret), I explicitly declined to defend Aristotle’s physics and focused instead only on matters of philosophy of nature.  These materials simply got lost in what Johnson rightly calls the “avalanche” of literature I was interacting with, and I could mention yet other things that I kick myself now for not having included.  To be sure, I don’t think any of the particular arguments I give suffers much for the lack of these references.  All the same, Johnson is right that I should have included them.

Regular readers of this blog will find this much of Prof. Johnson’s review reminiscent of the reviews of Glenn Ellmers and Eric Wise, who also overemphasized questions of Aristotle exegesis.  However, there are crucial differences between Johnson’s review and theirs.  For one thing, unlike Ellmers and Wise, Prof. Johnson does not turn a review of a philosophy of science book into a verbose and irrelevant discourse about (of all things) modern politics and Christian theology.  For another, unlike Ellmers and Wise, Prof. Johnson does actually engage substantively with some of the arguments of my book.

So let me turn to that.  Johnson has a fair bit to say about my use of retorsion arguments, which I take to be a species of reductio ad absurdum arguments.  Some of Johnson’s remarks seem to me to rest on misunderstandings.  For example, he writes: “So Feser thinks that his retorsion arguments taken together undergird a positive doctrine he calls epistemic structural realism.”  No, that’s not correct.  Johnson is conflating two very different lines of argument from my book.

What the retorsion arguments to which he is referring are intended to show is the limits of what might be overthrown by either empirical science or revisionary metaphysics.  For example, I argue that the reality of change, the reality of efficient causation, the principle of sufficient reason, etc. cannot coherently be overthrown in the name of science.  The reasons for affirming epistemic structural realism are very different, and have to do with arguments concerning the nature of mathematical representation and considerations about what survives theory change in the history of physics.

Prof. Johnson also writes:

Although Feser is aware that "some have questioned the probative force of such arguments" (p. 80), he does not mention that Aristotle was chief among them.  Aristotle holds that indirect reductio arguments are inferior to direct negative arguments, which are in turn inferior to direct positive arguments (Posterior Analytics I.26); reductio arguments must fall far short of demonstrative knowledge (as defined in Posterior Analytics I.2), since its premises are not only not prior to, not better known than, and not explanatory of their conclusions, but they are not even true! 

End quote.  That’s all fair enough in the abstract.  However, which of these modes of argumentation are preferable or even possible depends on the subject matter.  In the Metaphysics, Aristotle famously remarks that it shows a lack of education to try to demonstrate something self-evident like the principle of non-contradiction, since it is presupposed in the very attempt at demonstration.  In the Physics, he says that it would be absurd to try to prove the reality of things with natures, since what is obvious doesn’t need proof.  So, direct positive arguments are out of the question when dealing with a skeptic who denies the laws of logic or the reality of natures. 

Does that mean we can say nothing to convince such a person?  No, because we can instead deploy retorsion arguments.  And it is precisely when defending rock bottom or basic assumptions about reality, of the kind Aristotle has in mind in passages like the ones I’ve referred to, that I deploy such arguments.  Aristotle would hardly object to that, and I think that Prof. Johnson would agree that Aristotle does not question the value of reductio arguments full stop.  Rather, he simply denies that they are the best arguments to use in some contexts.  But those contexts don’t include the specific kinds of context in which I deploy them in my book.

Commenting on what I say about teleology, Johnson writes:

The fact that the early modern figures did apply final causality to human beings, to God, and to their accounts of the laws of nature, while readily acknowledged by Feser (p. 50), is not discussed much by him, except in order to assert that "an atheistic version of the mechanical world picture is incoherent" (p. 51). Feser's position is not argued but rather expressed in a series of rhetorical questions, such as: "If there is no God and no substantial forms either, how can we make sense of the operation of laws of nature?" (p. 51).

End quote.  It seems to me that this is not at all a fair representation of what I say on this subject.  As I argue, the mechanical world picture characterized matter in such a way that, if that picture is consistently spelled out, neither intentionality nor consciousness can be found in it.  Dualist proponents of the mechanical philosophy like Descartes thus locate these phenomena outside the material world – in God and in human souls – but since atheists deny the reality of God and the soul, such a relocation of intentionality and consciousness are out of the question for them.  But their characterization of matter, I argue, makes a reduction of consciousness and intentionality to matter impossible; nor can an eliminativist position vis-à-vis consciousness and intentionality be made coherent.  Hence an atheist version of the mechanical philosophy itself cannot be made coherent.  (This is why atheists are well advised to go the Thomas Nagel route of considering a neo-Aristotelian position – though of course, in my view this ultimately promises to pose other problems for atheism down the line.) 

This is one of the lines of argument I give for the incoherence of an atheistic mechanical philosophy, and of course I develop all the relevant subsidiary points in detail.  I also develop other arguments, such as an analysis of laws of nature that notes that the notion was originally a theological one and that alternative accounts of laws face insuperable problems (unless one opts for an Aristotelian account – but that would entail giving up the mechanical philosophy).

Hence, to characterize my view as defended by nothing more than a few rhetorical questions is unjust.  I don’t think Prof. Johnson is knowingly being unfair here – I suspect he is simply too hastily and carelessly trying to summarize arguments he does not find persuasive.  But the summary is very misleading.

Anyway, as I say, Prof. Johnson makes some fair points too, and I thank him for his review and once again recommend his own work to all students of Aristotle -- and indeed, to all students of Aristotelianism too.

40 comments:

  1. Monte's always, and has always been excellent, on Aristotle. I too found the review somewhat limited, though. Two things, in themselves minor but I think representative of the review's limitations, I found particularly odd was (1) his failure to note, despite its being relevant to comments actually made in the review, that the book makes explicit that the title is not (for lack of a better description) a direct reference to Aristotle, but is actually drawn from an article by Ross, which at least suggests the possibility of a more indirect relation to Aristotle himself; and (2) the complete and total refusal to recognize that 'Aristotelian', like 'Platonic', has an extant broad and loose sense as well as a stricter sense in ordinary discourse in academic philosophy. Being a historian of philosophy myself, I can understand being a purist about the term; I don't understand not recognizing a common usage as a common usage.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Prof. Feser,

    Do you think--and I mean this quite seriously--that in some cases those who choose the reviewers for your book are purposely choosing people who will not focus on its main points, while undermining its credibility by complaining about things it does not even argue or really focus on. This might be conspiracy-minded, but many academics are petty people (as is the case in other professions as well), so I would not put it past them, especially with a culture war going on where your book might be viewed as intellectual ammunition for the "wrong" side.

    Rad

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think this is what is happening. I think editors and reviewers are just for the most part judging the book by the title, so the people who end up agreeing to review the book tend to be Aristotle scholars.

      Delete
  3. "Aristotle's Revenge" is a good title which is unproblematic in itself, but in retrospect you might have saved yourself a lot of grief if you had picked a less snappy title such as "Neo-Aristotelian Perspectives on the Philosophy of Science".

    ReplyDelete
  4. I agree with Anon above, it seems that the title itself is problemtic.
    But to be honest, who could have seen all this coming?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This may be true regarding the title, but I absolutely love it.

      Delete
    2. True, one would also think that the subtitle makes the topic of the book clear, but we haven´t yet gotten a review that is concerned exclusively with the arguments, instead we are treated with exegesis after exegesis. So I just try to come up with an idea

      Delete
    3. Another way to look at it is that the book would not have garnered the number of reviews or attention that it has without such a bold title.

      Delete
  5. The claim that there is "nothing in Aristotelian philosophy of nature to orient one to the study of contemporary physics" is odd. As mentioned above, there is plenty of work in the history and philosophy of science relating Aristotle's philosophy not only to contemporary physics, but to the larger history of science. Whereas Feser would have students of physics and of Aristotle oriented to each other's fields through Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics, I would rather have them oriented through the history of science.

    I find this statement annoying. Of course he would rather take this approach - it is his focus of study after all! It is almost as if he considers any other approach to this topic out of bounds and useless.

    He also appears to be unaware of the major schools of Thomism, which Ed addresses at the beginning of the book, which talk about the best way to characterize philosophy of nature. Ed makes his point of view pretty clear, but also states that he thinks the question is mostly semantic in nature.

    Going back to his preference for philosophy of of science, I'd like to quote from Ed's Aquinas, chapter 1:

    One approach to the study of the history of philosophy is to situate the great thinkers of the past within the historical contexts in which they worked and determine what social, political, cultural, and philosophical circumstances influenced their ideas. This approach certainly has its value, especially insofar as it can help us correctly to understand what a philosopher meant in saying this or that. If pursued too single-mindedly, however, it can distract us from what the thinkers themselves considered important. The philosophers of the past did not write in order to reflect their times or to provide future historians with something to do. Their work was intended to point beyond itself to something else - to the truth about things - and what matters ultimately is whether they succeeded. As Aquinas himself once wrote, "the study of philosophy is not about knowing what individuals thought, but about the way things are...The main value of studying what Aquinas or any other thinker said about God, science, or some other topic is to find out whether what he said is true, or at least likely to lead us closer to the truth.

    For my part, I prefer Ed's approach to these topics.

    Cheers,
    Daniel

    ReplyDelete
  6. "Aristotle's Revenge" is a great title, and I think it fits the book well, but I guess when you're an Aristotle scholar or something and you read it you just can't help but set your mind into the historical Aristotle and exegesis of his works. This is not the first time it has happened. Reviewers should focus more on the content of the book and its arguments.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I've yet to read Aristotle's Revenge, but I can highly recommend William Wallace's "The Modeling of Nature", which covers similar ground, although with a different emphasis.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Is there any way for an Aristotelian philosophy of nature to avoid theism?

    The last time I perused through the book, I think I found some mentions of qualia, perhaps related to the discussions about matter. Does Ed discuss consciousness there?

    The thing is that someone might argue the Aristotelian proposition doesn't quite solve the hard problem, since it just adds qualitative accidents to material things, but that in itself doesn't seem to explain how a subject can experience these qualitative accidents in a first person, conscious point of view. Or how this process could be material.
    But if we grant that consciousness is somehow material, wouldn't Aristotelians still regard it as a perfection? And therefore irreducible to organizations and changes of unconscious matter? (And also capable of being achieved in immaterial means, perhaps in a greater form). If that is so, then conscious animals or forms must be created by God (or some other being which possesses consciousness in either a formal or eminent way, ultimately requiring a theistic explanation). But this pretty much entails theism; conscious beings and their power could not have emerged naturally from unconscious, "zombie" materials, even in complex arrangements. Consciousness must come from consciousness.

    It seems the situation is similar to life (does Ed discuss that in the book, too?). Life is also a perfection irreducible to inorganic transient causality. It involves immanent causality and you cannot get that from non-life. In his article about "Synthetic Life", David Oderberg argues that abiogenesis is impossible, as you cannot get the immanent causality associated with organisms from non-living, transient causality. Ultimately requiring a theistic explanation for life.

    Consciousness, the ability to experience the world and all its qualitative features and accidents, and also an internal life (emotions and such) also clearly seems to be a perfection. If this is so, then our evolutionary history has at least 3 points where a theistic explanation is required: the emergence of life; the emergence of consciousness; and the emergence of rational thought, the grasp of abstract and universal ideas, the will.
    Each soul must have been (at least initially) created by a being with the required perfections. Vegetative soul, the animal soul, and finally the rational soul. This would have to follow from an anti-reductionist, Aristotelian philosophy of nature.

    But then an Aristotelian philosophy of nature pretty much entails theism. I wonder how atheistic neo-aristotelians would react to that. Even without going into traditional proofs for God, an Aristotelian philosophy of nature would entail non-reductionism about life and consciousness (not to mention reason). Life and consciousness didn't always exist; but then vegetative and animal souls must initially have been created by some being that had their perfections, and it seems a theistic explanation is the only viable one here.

    John Haldane also mentions that the origin of replication/reproduction might also require a theistic explanation.

    I wonder because some neo-aristotelians are atheists. But it seems inconsistent.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Is there any way for an Aristotelian philosophy of nature to avoid theism?

      My guess is that the answer is YES: by being gravely incomplete - by not carrying through from principles and prior conclusions, out to the issues you raised. If you always studiously avoid going that far, you can avoid such conclusions.

      Famously, Aristotle's proof for the existence of God did not depend on God being the originator of the universe in the sense of creating it as of a moment in time, X years ago. (The proof works even if the universe always existed.) I don't know how that plays out in regard to life and consciousness, but it does seem difficult to live with either the hypothesis that life and consciousness "always existed" and therefore are not to be accounted for as having a "first" instance, or that they came to be from lesser perfection full stop (as opposed to coming to be from lesser being in respect of the material cause only).

      Delete
  9. Hate to be picky, but Jeeves was not a butler. He was a gentleman's personal gentleman, or valet.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, the historical Jeeves was of course a valet. However, the tradition of Jeevsianism extends far beyond gentlemen’s gentlemen to butlers and — well, basically just also to butlers. But it is a well-established and widely-recognised looser sense in both casual discourse and specifically academic studies of Superior Menservants.

      Delete
    2. Oh great! I think he meant Jeevesianism in the broader sense (just joking).

      Delete
    3. Fair enough. But I'm too much of a Plum purist not to say it.

      BTW, I can think of only one (1) mystery in which the Butler Did It. Obviously, I cannot name it - that would be spoiling - but I will say that GKC knew the author.

      Also, that it was enough of a cliche that John Dickson Carr cited it in one of his mysteries as a solution that was out of bounds. (But he did break his own rule in that one, but elegantly told the reader he was doing so, if read carefully enough. I confess I missed it.)

      Delete
  10. I think you're going to have to stop putting historical terms in your titles Ed. I think that whoever request reviews of books or something like that doesn't understand the best people to send your work to. It happened a little bit with scholastic metaphysics, but it's way worse this time around from what I'm seeing.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Do you think that there is a bias in academia to want to force you to label all of your ideas as strictly Thomist or even Christian so that they can be dismissed? Hence the neo-neo-Scholastic label. It’s just Scholastic. There are no major differences between neo-Scholasticism and Scholasticism. At least none to justify a different name (unless we want a new name for every single philosopher Joe Schmoe our there).

    It’s almost as if the exact same book written by an atheist would have avoided this whole semantic debate.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Granted the “Christians can’t use Aristotle” debate has been going on since Aquinas’ day.

      Delete
    2. I think in this situation it is a matter of academic jockeying for position, and claiming to have the best approach. And perhaps some of the more over the top expressions can be explained, if not justified, by envy or arrogance.

      Delete
    3. Yes in this particular instance, I feel you are correct. But I have noticed the pattern of no Christian Aristotelian allowed a few times before.

      Delete
    4. There is no doubt that both of the terms scholastic" and "neo-scholastic" are employed within certain circles specifically to denigrate the thinking of that tradition as being lesser, and even wrong-headed, without having to do the work of actually addressing the substance of any scholastic teaching, or of pointing out specific errors or failings. This has been true to a degree since Descartes began his works by (effectively) throwing the existing work before him into the trash bin and deciding to start from scratch, but much more pointedly since modernism reared its ugly head, and still more pointedly from the time the Nouvelle Theologie came along to try pulling a Descartes within Catholic theology circles (i.e. to throw prior scholarship in the trash bin not because they could point to fundamental errors but because they didn't want to be saddled with it). I fear that "Aristotelian" has suffered along with "Scholastic" some of the same fate, naturally because of the association of Aristotelianism and Thomism. Given the latter, the fact that there had been something like 500 years of Aristotelians without a TRACE of Christian "poison" in their thinking no longer matters to critics who let prejudice do their "thinking" for them. For them, being a Christian and an Aristotelian pretty much seals your fate.

      But as far as I can tell, there is not a shred of justification for all that at the level of argument or established facts. Moderns insist that Aristotle's philosophy has been "dis-proven" by modern science without being able to articulate why. It's just "one of the known truths", like the "fact" that Columbus proved that the world was round - never mind that my kid's geometry text book relates that the Greek Eratosthenes established its (round) circumference back in 240 BC.

      Delete
  12. “since atheists deny the reality of God and the soul, such a relocation of intentionality and consciousness are out of the question for them. But their characterization of matter, I argue, makes a reduction of consciousness and intentionality to matter impossible; nor can an eliminativist position vis-à-vis consciousness and intentionality be made coherent. Hence an atheist version of the mechanical philosophy itself cannot be made coherent.”
    False.

    For example, a self-drive car exhibits rudimentary intentionality and consciousness. The car “sees” the road ahead and “intends” to drive along a particular path in the future. The car is “conscious” both of itself and its surroundings and adjusts itself to “fulfill” its “intentions”. The car is “self aware” of deviations between its “intended” path and the path that actually occurs at that distance along the road, so it “self-consciously” notes these deviations such that it “learns” and will apply that “knowledge” to future “intentions”.

    When AI surpasses HI we can and will eliminate the above scarequotes as machine consciousness and intentionality surpasses human consciousness and intentionality.

    Intentionality is perhaps the easier process to comprehend as purely mechanistic, especially when applied to basic motor functions. Say, I intend to walk up a flight of stairs, so I mentally mark in 3 space coordinates that I plan to move along the stairs until I am located at the intended coordinates. I then move a series of force actuators (muscles) and levers (bones) using negative feedback sensory pathways (sight, touch, hearing) until I arrive at the target location.

    Existing walking robots do the same sorts of things already.

    All the other functions attributed to the soul or god also reduce to purely mechanistic processes, but are not as easily described as motor intentionality.

    Thus, soul and god occupy an ever-shrinking corner of scientific ignorance and technological limitations. Those with the conceptual capacity to understand that, in principle, this corner immediately shrinks to zero, call themselves atheists. Those who cling to the ancient imaginary supernatural call themselves theists.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't feed the trollsJanuary 17, 2020 at 10:52 PM

      Remember, SP's a banned and noxious troll. Don't feed him.

      Delete
    2. please don't conflate intentionality with intention.

      Delete
    3. I wonder what my robot in my mechatronics class in college was thinking when it decided to spin on its axis uncontrollably at full speed.

      Delete
  13. Gee (blank), is it anger, fear, groupthink, or some other problem you have engaging those who fundamentally disagree with you? Or is it something less dark, say, just the warm fuzzy you prefer of only speaking within an echo chamber?

    Can you provide any arguments at all in support of Dr. Feser's (false) assertions that intentionality and consciousness cannot be reduced to matter and therefore the materialistic worldview is incoherent?

    I provided clear arguments against those positions stated in this post by the owner of this site. Can you use any rational arguments to identify what you consider to be flaws in my arguments here?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Say there, Daniel, are you aware that simply calling names is merely an example of the ad hominem fallacy?

      Did you read the post written by Dr. Feser and did you note that the quote I cited January 17, 2020 at 2:03 PM is in fact from that post? How exactly does making rational arguments in response to a quoted passage from the post on this thread constitute the actions of a "troll"?

      Perhaps the self-drive car illustration is a bit too techy and inaccessible for you.

      You agree, I assume, that animals other than homo sapiens sapiens have no soul, and therefore their capacities can only be accounted for by matter acting mechanistically, correct?

      Well, other animals exhibit intetionality, for example a cat stalking a mouse intends to jump on it and eat it.

      Animals other than ourselves also display self awareness as indicated by the mirror test and other behavioral studies.

      The literature on animals other than ourselves displaying intentionality, self awareness, and consciousness is vast and conclusive. Just search on a few key words I have mentioned here and you will begin to discover it for yourself.

      Since animals other than homo sapiens sapiens conclusively display and therefore posses and act according to the traits Dr. Feser says cannot be reduced to mechanistic matter, and we all agree that such other animals have no soul and therefore are simply mechanistic matter in motion, the assertions of Dr. Feser I quoted are falsified.

      Delete
    2. Stardusty,

      I shouldn't be answering you, but everyone here (including dr. Feser) knows animals are conscious and display at least some level of intentionality. Feser thinks consciousness is a material process, and that animals do not have immortal souls. He just thinks consciousness etc. cannot be reduced to MECHANISTIC matter, which is quite a different conception from the Aristotelian matter with accidents and forms.

      If you're actually interested in the topic, go do some reading (including Feser's blog, he has some posts on animal consciousness, etc). You're making some huge confusions and it's clear you're not very familiar with the subject.

      Delete
    3. SP, did you read the post(s) where Feser told you to get lost and that you're banned?

      Delete
    4. How can an animal not have an immortal soul?
      Isn't a soul, in Thomist picture, just the form of the animal? How can a form be mortal?

      That is, the term mortal or immortal can not apply to soul, considered in Thomist picture.

      The so-called question of immortality of the soul is a Christian preoccupation.

      Delete
    5. Gyan,

      The human form is a special case because it carries out an operation that is intrinsically independent from the body (the acts of intellection, reason, etc), so it subsists beyond the death of the body.

      Delete
    6. Atno,
      "The human form is a special case because it carries out an operation that is intrinsically independent from the body (the acts of intellection, reason, etc),"
      Reason is clearly a brain function.

      Injure the brain and reasoning is likewise damaged.

      Drug the brain to change the operation of brain cells and reason is likewise altered.

      As the brain grows from infancy to adulthood reasoning also grows.

      When a person dies the ability to reason ceases, or have you had success reasoning with a dead person?

      Delete
  14. Atno,
    "I shouldn't be answering you,"
    Well, I appreciate you taking the risk of catching my atheistic koodies :-)

    "Feser thinks consciousness is a material process, and that animals do not have immortal souls."
    That's a good thing then, we agree that consciousness does not arise from a soul, rather, from a material process.

    "He just thinks consciousness etc. cannot be reduced to MECHANISTIC matter,"
    Unfortunately, Dr. Feser in Aristotle's Revenge strawmans the modern mechanistic view of the regular progressions of material and what is meant by the "laws" of physics. He does this as he similarly did with Russel in 5 Proofs regarding causality, by employing proof reading to construct strawmen and from this declare certain named views incoherent.

    For example, modern scientists have not "banned" teleology from the practice and formulations of science, they simply find no evidence for it or need of it. That isn't a "ban" as Dr. Feser falsely claims, it is a finding of teleology being superfluous.

    Nor are "laws" of physics generally considered to be somehow pre-existing or somehow imprinted upon the universe as Dr. Feser describes, rather, so-called "laws" are understood in modern science to be descriptive (not prescriptive) to the best presently available accuracy of how material progresses moment to moment.

    Dr. Feser also tries to make even that view somehow an acquiescence to Aristotelian teleology, which it most certainly is not. Purpose, working toward an end, or as Aquinas said "act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result".

    The so-called "laws" of physics do not fit that description, rather, the most fundamental entities (standard model or whatever is in truth below the standard model level) have structures and properties such that they interact and progress moment to moment by particular functional relationships. Material exhibits no evidence of having predictive capabilities to somehow act toward a purpose or an end or to achieve some kind of "best result".

    So no, it is wrong for the Aristotelian to attempt to co-opt the differential expressions of physics as somehow an acquiescence to teleology.

    "You're making some huge confusions and it's clear you're not very familiar with the subject."
    Well, I confess that my main areas of interest WRT Thomism are the 5 Ways of Aquinas (especially the 1st Way), plus Aristotelian physics (especially concerning sublunary motion in a medium and motion in the void).

    But thanks for taking the time to point out some distinctions, which helped me focus on a bit more investigation into the points you raised.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't feed the trollsJanuary 18, 2020 at 7:20 PM

      You're so dishonest, as well as an ignoramus. You know full well no one is particularly exercised that you're an atheist. It's the fact you are a troll is what people object to and why you were banned.

      Now, can we all stop feeding him.

      Delete
    2. “You're so dishonest, as well as an ignoramus.”
      Ad hominem.

      “You know full well no one is particularly exercised that you're an atheist.”
      It’s called a joke, that’s what the little smiley face is for.
      It’s a human thing, a conversational and rhetorical device.
      Like when Dr. Feser tells the folks to “set your Feser for fun”. Get it? Feser/Phaser? Fun/Stun? See how that works? No, I don’t suppose you do, as you seem in your posts here to be lacking that sort of sense of humor. Listen to Dr. Feser’s lectures, he commonly injects a bit of mildly self-effacing humor in his introduction, it’s a human thing that builds connection with a potentially hostile audience. I have one word of advice for you, chill (that’s a So Cal thing).

      “It's the fact you are a troll is what people object to and why you were banned.”
      The unexamined life is not worth living.
      There is a tradition in philosophy; you don’t seem to be aware of it.
      Engagement with those who disagree with you, most especially with those who adamantly disagree with you.
      If you don’t feel comfortable with that then you are a candidate to be a feminist, or Muslim, or social justice warrior…those who have zero tolerance for opposing views and feel compelled to build a safe space bubble around themselves so they can feel bliss within their unchallenged echo chambers.

      Have you ever watched The Atheist Experience? Have you noticed that they never (in my viewing experience) take calls from atheists? Every single caller is adamantly opposed to the position of the hosts.

      So, which is it for you (blank)? Meet those who oppose you in the marketplace of ideas, or hide in your safe space behind a banning wall?

      Delete
  15. I read Aristotle's Revenge and I understood what it was about. I didn't get confused because it wasn't an intellectual biography of Aristotle, or why there wasn't an exhaustive amount of Aristotle exegesis. I didn't get confused on where or how the retorsion arguments were applied or what the function of structural realism was.

    IMO Feser's books are in the minority in that they are actually about something; most books (and their reviews) are filled with fluff. The idea of books and reviews is valid enough I suppose, but it doesn't seem to work well in practice since the information age made saying more things to more people so much easier.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Feser is exposing how much bias is there against theists(specially christian) and their arguments.

    ReplyDelete