Saturday, January 11, 2020

Review of Swinburne

My review of Richard Swinburne’s recent book Are We Bodies or Souls? appears in the February 2020 issue of First Things.  You can read it online.


  1. You seem to have much respect for Swinburne. Perhaps the most of slkthe theistic personalists. Is that because his work has so much breadth and depth he's like a modern scholastic.

    Also, have you argued that denying the self exists over time is incoherent in any of your books. Intro to philosophy of mind perhaps?

  2. Well, now I'm trying to imagine what Aquinas would've/could've made of the "putting half a brain into two separate bodies" example, and am having to commence drinking early.

    1. I wish Feser had gone into more detail on what he thought of these arguments.

  3. I enjoyed the book, but similarly found his treatment of Aquinas dissatisfying.

    The one critique I would have of your review is this: Swinburne establishes early on in the book that he aims for it to be readable for laymen and thus he presents many of the more complex philosophical points in footnotes. Thus it seems fair enough if he doesn't deal, for example, with all the potential positions that he could critique in his section on personal identity as an argument for the soul: I'm sure that he'll have responses, but he may have felt it best not to include all of them.

    I'm also slightly puzzled by your criticism of his formulation of Descartes' argument. You seem to be saying that he should look to the essence of the soul first and then proceed to investigate its very existence. True, he does do it the other way around, but his chapter, "We Know Who We Are", where he deals with the first question, could easily have been put before his chapter on Descartes' argument, without it's potency being removed.

    But I would reiterate your point at the end: Swinburne is always a philosopher from whom one learns much, no matter what one believes.

    1. @ James:

      Perhaps I don't understand what you're saying.

      Suppose I want to know if a dog could speak perfectly good French. Should I decide it is conceivable first, or should I examine a dog first? The order of operations isn't negligible; it makes all the difference in the world.

    2. You misunderstand me here: if you've read the book, you'll know that Swinburne first includes a chapter called "Descartes' Argument for the Soul" and then one called "We Know Who We Are", the former dealing with the question of whether the soul exists and the latter dealing with whether we know what the soul is.
      What I'm saying is that Feser could quite easily simply reverse the two chapters in his mind, as the order to me seems to have been purely Swinburne's own preference, and then used the argument without either chapter or any of the rest of the book losing any of its potency.
      I hope this clears this up.

    3. OK. Thanks for the clarification. I haven't read the book, but I agree Swinburne is an admirable scholar. From the review, it seems Feser is criticizing Swinburne's (and Decartes') argument for proceeding from conceivability (as a premise) to essence (as a conclusion). You seem to be saying the issue is something else.

      Perhaps I'll put the book on my list. Thanks!

    4. No, I think the argument's valid. What I'm saying is that it's easy to adapt to overcome Feser's criticism.

      Hope you enjoy the book!

  4. Are you coming to Thomas Aquinas College?

  5. The "I" that says "I do this" and "I want that" is the body-mind. What we read about in religion gives us the unexamined presumption that "I" is the spiritual entity, the soul, the conscious entity that exists independent of the body. But "I" is the whole and entire body-mind. And it can, at death, continue, as such. The bodily aspect becomes, temporarily, more subtle than the gross physical body, but the boy-mind, the ordinary psycho-physical entity, continues.

    The body-mind, the "I", the apparent individual that appears in the Realm of Nature, is a changing phenomenon. Ceaseless moment to moment change is what this Realm is all about. Thus, the born condition is a bewildered condition, a condition without understanding of the Real Condition of Existence.

    The soul is not like the body-mind that continues from life to life. What continues from life to life is the born entity , the psycho-physical being that is without the Intuition of its Real Condition and has not been Transformed into the very Existence of that Condition. The soul, the Radiant Conscious Being, precedes the psyche, precedes the mind, precedes the body, precedes all phenomenon, precedes all experience.

    The traditional view is that the soul is the psychic part of the born being. But the soul is not at all the psychic part of the born being. The soul is prior to the body-mind, prior to what is above and what is below, prior to Heaven and Earth, prior to the psyche, prior to the body, prior to all the sheaths or coverings of the soul - the physical the etheric, the astral which includes the lower mental and the higher or supramental, and the egoic which is the very knot of self, or the sense of separate consciousness. The soul is prior to all of that.

    The soul is the Radiant Reality behind the "I", behind the psycho-physical personality, behind the being that migrates from life to life. It is the Condition of "I". It is Radiant Consciousness. And, relative to bodily existence, it is associated with the right side of the heart region of the body.

    The soul is not the "I", the body-mind. The soul transcends the body-mind. And while the point of view of the body-mind still persists to some degree, the soul is felt to be atomic, smaller than smallness, infinitely small, and to be radiating from the position of the right side of the heart in the body. But when the soul fully Awakens it is Free in its Divine condition, the true Self, which is not within the body-mind. The body-mind does not enclose the Awakened or Free soul, Rather, the body-mind arises within the Free soul, which is without qualification. The soul is not even infinitely large. It is simply without qualification. It has nothing to do with time and space.

    1. Uh huh. "Born being", "psycho-physical being", "body mind", "radiating from the position of the right side of the heart in the body".

      Yeah. Maybe you could mix it up on a forum for sovereign citizens. It's different subject matter, but they won't notice. They'll hang right with ya.

  6. Quote from the review:

    "The second general difficulty with Swinburne’s position is that he fails adequately to deal with the 'interaction problem' that notoriously faces Cartesian dualism."

    (1) According to Thomistic dualism, is there any sense in which the will moves the body? It would seem that Aquinas believed so, for he wrote that "the will as agent moves all the powers of the soul to their respective acts, except the natural powers of the vegetative part, which are not subject to our will." (S.T. I, q. 82, art. 4) and again, "by his free-will man moves himself to act" (S. T. I, q. 83, art. 1, ad. 3).

    (2) That being the case, doesn't Thomistic hylomorphism face the same problem as Cartesian dualism?

    1. 2) No, it is the cartesian distinction that causes all the problems. Generally I agree that substance dualism is a very defensible position, but the cartesian version is what is the weakest. I´m not even sure that one could formulate the interaction problem against a rejector of the distinction without begging the question.

    2. Hi Dominik,

      But isn't it true that even for an Aristotelian-Thomist, non-bodily actions (acts of will) have to cause bodily ones (e.g. arm movements)? (And when I say "cause," I'm talking about efficient causality here. Aquinas evidently believed likewise - see my refs above.) After all, something makes my arm go up when I wave at someone. And if that "something" is purely sub-rational (e.g. neuronal firings), then there's no meaningful sense in which my arm movement can be described as voluntary. Cheers.

    3. Hi Vincent,

      I don´t think that free actions can be made sense of without hylomorphism. As I understand it, forms lie on different ontological levels and they are required as a link between the material and the mental, which can´t be made identical. What we are left with is the mystery as to how to classify the form linking the two, but that is not surprising, since qualitatively different forms are hard to understand. The biggest mystery, to me, is how to understand the "I" that I´m adressing and I think a kind of dualism is the answer.
      I disagree vehemently though when it is applied that CD and A-T are in the same boat here, I think due to the use of formal causality and due to the rejection of the cartesian distinction, the A-T and similar positions are vastly ahead and the interaction problem is not so pressing, at least not any more than in any other theory of mind. Though I wouldn´t say that it is fatal to it, the interaction problem is worse for CD than for any other kind of dualism that I´m aware of.
      To give a short idea for your example, perhaps it could be said that the way from the mental to the material is fluid, so that the free will action, coming from the purely mental, affects the material, because the human form, being fluid between the mental and the material links them both within the same body. The form could count as an accidental property of the simple soul/mind.
      Don´t take me as embracing it, but I think it illustrates quite nicely the main problem, namely that this idea would solve the mind-body problem, but it doesn´t get us one inch closer to actually understanding the issue.

    4. *I disagree vehemently though when it is implied...

    5. Might not the problem lie in the way Descartes - and moderns generally - see this as a question only of efficient causation. That is, in not seeing efficient causes along with final causes, and inherently so.

    6. ". . .doesn't Thomistic hylomorphism face the same problem as Cartesian dualism?"

      I agree with Dominik's explanation, but the short answer is yes, **if** by "the same problem" you mean hylomorphism fails to give us a complete account of how mental moves matter. In the end, no philosophical account does that because we just don't know. Hylomorphism just subsumes the issue under the blanket of "substance".

    7. "How the mental moves the matter" is a problem that I claim is impossible for us to solve, since we neither have a good idea of the nature of the mental, nor the matter. And I don´t believe that we will ever have. But it is hylomorphic dualism that, I claim, takes us the furthest and is thus probably correct. At the end of the day though, like with almost every problem in metaphysics, at some point we are forced to go mysterian, and that goes for every perspective. Our goal has to be to push this boundary as far away as possible while accounting for as much data as possible and provide ways for further investigation. I don´t believe that we will ever understand in this life.

    8. A materialist will be unable to explain how consciousness comes from matter, and a dualist will be unable to explain how consciousness moves matter. All the variations in between have the same problem.

  7. Considering the aristotelian-thomistic philosophy of mind which Feser favors, I just thought of something.

    Let's bracket the issue of the immateriality of the intellect. Aristotelians agree that qualia and personal identity cannot be reduced to physical properties - they instead claim that we need a more robust notion of matter that allows for formal causes. This way, personal identity might be grounded in hylemorphic substances, and qualia might be qualitative forms which are present in physical things.

    This is still non-reductionist, and as a result, wouldn't we have a fairly straightforward argument for the personhood of the First Cause in cosmological arguments?

    Given the PPC, the First Cause must have all the effects it produces in at least the same level of perfection, or even higher. If the First Cause is the cause of qualitative forms and the power to experience these qualitative forms, then it must have these perfections in itself, eminently. But then the First Cause is itself conscious (actually something even greater than conscious, at least how we think of it, but still in that category). And likewise if it is the cause of persons (as hylemorphic substances), it has personhood in a perfect way. So even if personhood and consciousness are "material" for an Aristotelian, this still has the far-reaching consequence that the First Cause in cosmological arguments has to be conscious or personal (or something even greater, but still, not an impersonal unconscious being). Since these are perfections which are not reducible to unconscious and impersonal matter.
    (The same also goes for life, which is not reducible to inorganic matter for the Aristotelian).

    This would make for a very simple and powerful argument for stage 2 of cosmological arguments, without even needing to establish immateriality of the intellect or to argue that the first cause has all effects in itself the way a mind has them, etc.

  8. I just read that Sir Roger Scruton is dead.

    1. May God rest the soul of the greatest political philosopher of the last few decades.

    2. Very sad news. Along with C.S. Lewis, Chesterton and the host of this blog, he helped me on the way to traditional Catholicism. He also helped me see the difference between real conservatism and the classical liberalism that passes for it today. (I know he was a Kantian and a Burkean, and I'm an A-T reactionary today -- but it was still a massive step in the right direction away from libertarianism.)

      He was also humble. I went to a couple of conferences where he spoke, and he always made time to talk to everyone. He was interested in what you had to say, not just vice-versa.

      He spoke about half a dozen languages well, and knew a lot about everything (including aesthetics and musicology, two of the hardest subjects in the world IMO).

      Sad he never converted, but I bet he helped many people on the right way.

  9. Informative and interesting review. Thank you.

    Re: "But this is a travesty of Aquinas’s position. If I eat and completely digest half of an apple, the remaining half is an incomplete substance, but it doesn’t follow that the half I ate is also an incomplete substance. Rather, it is altogether gone. Furthermore, even if it were not gone—suppose I cut the apple in half and placed the two halves side by side—it wouldn’t follow that there are two substances there, albeit incomplete ones. Rather, there would be two halves of one substance."

    I'm confused by this because I think you're equivocating "substance" in your example. An apple isn't strictly a substance, it it? An apple tree is a substance, the substance being the unified organism that has an "apple tree" soul as its informing principle. The apple, once separated from the tree, is no longer part of the apple tree, no longer alive, no longer being informed by a unifying principle; it's dead and slowly decomposing, basically a collection of different substances (organic molecules on their way to elements, and so on). So, the apple separated from the tree is not a substance and each half of an apple when an apple is cut in half is not an incomplete substance. So, the analogy doesn't seem to work or at least seriously limps. I'm not sure there's an analogy that does work.The separated soul is a mystery. It's an incomplete substance because of a relation it maintains to the person and the now decomposing body. It's sui generis, and, thus, difficult to conceptualize what it is exactly. We know it has to continue to exist. We know it's severely limited in what it can do apart from the matter it once formed. But I think we quickly come up empty with useful ways to understand exactly what and how it is.

    1. "An apple isn't strictly a substance"

      Then what are you referring to when you say "apple"?

    2. A substance results from a substantial form informing matter. An apple doesn't have a substantial form, a unifying principle, like the apple tree that produced it does. What I'm referring to when I say "apple" is a collection of substances that make up the apple. Substances like water molecules, minerals, carbohydrates, etc. It's an important distinction in the argument. A living human being is a substance that results from a substantial form (the human soul) informing matter. A human corpse is not a substance since there is not longer a substantial form informing the matter.

    3. You seem to be using the word "substance" in a more modern sense. "Apple" is a substantial form. You know an apple when you see one because you know it's shape, size, color, etc. In other words you know the things that make an apple and apple. When you seen an apple you don't mistake it for a Toyota because you recognize the substantial form of an apple.

  10. Why there cannot be an infinite series of composites??? Don’t get neo platonic?? Thank u

    1. Due to causality. For the sake of argument we can assume an infinite line of composite beings from past to future. But now raise your hand and put it back on the table. The whole movement took one second. From that we can derive two simple arguments against an infinite series of composites in a hierarchichal line: 1. It would require an infinite amount of actualizations within a finite time. Those actualizations cannot be wholly instantaneous/happening at the same time, since the movement takes a second instead of no time passing at all. 2. Within the causal line something at the bottom is required which possesses the causal power to cause the movement of the hand. In an infinite series every member possesses this power in a derivative as opposed to an inherent way. Aquinas' example is my hand using a stick to move the stone. The stick derives its causal power from the hand using it in an instrumental way. You see, the hand, having the causal power in an intrinsically way is always needed to move the stone, even if the stick were infinitely long.
      Now we have a necessary ground. But why can't it be composite? Take a weak PSR: “Everything has its existence either by its own necessity or contingently by being dependend on something else.“ Composite objects are dependend on their parts and hence contingent on them. If something is necessary it cannot fail to possess the attribute of existence. But since what is composite is contingent, what is necessary must be simple. It is “pure actuality“.

    2. The Neoplatonic proof is based on the principle that everything that is composite (has parts) has an external cause that explains why its parts are united in the first place. After all, why are its parts connected to one another? There must be something that combined those parts into a whole.

      There cannot be an infinite series of composite causes, however. Because each composite thing can only be real (and therefore cause or explain anything) if it exists in the first place. So if you explain one composite thing by saying it was caused by another composite thing, and then another composite thing, etc., you'll realize that it makes no sense. Without a first non-composite thing that is self-sufficient, the conditions required for the activity of the series of causes will never be met. It will forever be "postponed": B will cause A iff C causes B iff D causes C iff E causes D... and so on.

      Another problem with an infinite series of causes/composites is that it is in fact impossible. An infinite series of causes would lead to all sorts of paradoxes and problems. So the most plausible position is that there cannot be any infinitely long series of causes. See this article for example:

      Finally, even if there could be an infinite series of composites, we could still ask why or how the entire series exists in the first place.

  11. Proof: there cannot be a never-ending series of composites for an existing composite

    1. U exist now as a composite
    2. Your existence CONTINUOUSLY depends on at least one series of composites which is a series of conditions that needs to be fulfilled in order for you to exist.
    3. U are existing now entails that that series of conditions have been fulfilled now.
    4. That means that series of conditions cannot be a never-ending series because it is impossible to fulfill a never-ending series of conditions.
    5. That means that series of conditions has an ending with a last entity.
    6. That means that series is not an infinite series.
    (extra step: 7. The last entity is either a composite or a non-composite. For the last entity to exist now, it cannot be composite because there is nothing after the last entity to hold its parts together to enable it to exist.)

  12. All of the above is true but even can be more simple. The argument is best made atemporally... You simply cannot have infinite composite things that are themselves composite without a first member. What are they composite of, then? Even atemporally. It doesn’t require someone to combine then or anything. It’s the most simple argument and need not even be muddled up with time.

  13. Then how does this argument work with atoms and quarks and then other things that are subatomic and not composed of parts?

    1. Even the simplest subatomic entity would be composed of these two parts:

      1) Essence
      2) Existence

      Note that parts are not referring to only physical parts, but are essentially referring to metaphysical parts. Every metaphysical part can be physical or non-physical. This is elaborated in Feser’s book Five Proofs of the Existence of God.

    2. The only non-composite entity in the whole of existence/reality would be an entity whose essence is identical with existence. Feser’s Five Proofs and also his Scholastic Metaphysics have demonstrated that it is impossible to have more than one such non-composite entity.

    3. Well, composition of essence and existence always strikes me as a bit odd.
      I mean, to say that there are essences that don't exist seems to amount to saying that there exist non-existing essences, which seems like a huge contradiction.

    4. A peculiar complaint. The essence is the nature of an object that is necessary for that object, e.g. rationality for a human being and whatever is necessary for us as individuals to be said individuals. Existence is what is needed for those essences to be actual. When humans weren´t living, let´s say a billion years agod, it is only rational to say that those essences were non-existent in the sense that they weren´t actualized. And certainly it would be strange to say that the essence of Abraham Lincoln would still be existing, especially in your atheistic worldview. I know that you once said that for you the idea of things going in and out of existence is incoherent, but that view of course leads to absurdities very quickly.
      So what is with the essence of a unicorn? I´d say that they are non-actual, but conceptualized in the unmoved mover, which would account for the possibility of such creatures living in the future. I think your mistake here is that you´re equivocating on the meaning of "exist" here and that mistake can be resolved by clarification, so that the apparent contradiction you are identifying is just not there.

    5. How does it necessarily follow from composition of essence and existence that there are essences that don't exist?

      and even if that claim does follow it doesn't seem implausible to me. It doesn't commit to saying that there exist non-existing essences, simply that there are non-existing essences.

    6. Red,
      I would limit non-existing essences in the strong sense to impossible essences, like a squared circle or human dog. Do you have an alternative?

    7. Dominik

      We have had this discussion before. If unicorns exist as non-actual concepts in the unmoved mover, they are potentialities. But a pure actual being cannot have any potentialities.


      So you claim there are essences that don't exist? In what way are they?

    8. Walter,
      that's a big misunderstanding, but it at least sheds some light on some of your rather strange positions when it comes to classical theism, e.g. when you said in the Feser vs. Oppy thread that the ground of being couldn't be pure actuality because that entails that reality would be unchanging. Of course this is wrong, but I now understand why you would reach such a conclusion.
      Short answer what you are describing can't be pure actuality for the simple reason that pure actuality is perfect by itself, by being existence itself. If the existence of unicorns would constitute a true potency in the divine then 1) what you are describing could not be PA, since PA is necessarily self-sufficient by it's own nature, 2) it would require a version of pantheism, since the unicorn would be divine in a very real sense, since on your view it is a part within the divine essence and 3) you must have shown that it is necessary for God to have created unicorns, since they would be part of his essence. It seems to me that on your view PA entails a pantheistic lewisian modal realism.
      Now you have done nothing yet to argue for 3). In fact I'd claim it is easy to show that 3) is false and that your concept of PA has nothing to do with the PA of classical theism. In CT PA is existence itself and thus self-sufficient and perfect. The essence is fully actualized and simple. The PAs knowledge of possible worlds is grounded within his essence which is his existence and this knowledge includes the essence of unicorns. Suppose there were facts about the essence of unicorns which the PA doesn't know. Then of course a potency is introduced within the divine essence, an imperfection which makes the essence's perfection dependend on something external to it. Thus the PA fails to be the PA.
      What you have done now is to have committed a non-sequitar. You conflated the potential existence (here: actualization) of the unicorns essence with a potency within the divine essence, the latter being concerned with the conceptualization of the unicorns essence (knowledge of every fact) within the divine mind. But since the PA is perfect by itself there us no potency that the actual existence of the unicorn would satisfy in the divine essence. The change would solely be on the side of the unicorn. Therefor there is nothing that necessitates the PA to actualize the unicorns existence in order for it to be the PA. Hence your assertion is false.

    9. Walter,
      to what you wrote to Red:

      He certainly has more to add, but I will answer, too. Essences that don't exist could be for one logical impossibilities like a squared circle or alternatively the essence of a deceased person like Abraham Lincoln. Coincidentally Vallicella has written a new blog post that fits this discussion quite nicely; the composites within a human being are dependend on each other, Lincoln being a composite of Lincolns existence and Lincolns essence, both being necessary to make the individual Abraham Lincoln, who ceases to exist if one part misses, for there being no essence of Lincoln, no existence of Lincoln would be and vice versa.
      But again it seems that you are equivocating on the meaning of “exist“ and “to be“ here. If I say that there are essences that don't exist I'm not committed to those having a positive reality. The same goes for the essences of deceased individuals, since, although they remain as possibilities/concepts/abstractions within the PA, their non-actual existence as living individuals after death has to be accounted for.
      So I don't see how we reach the conclusion that the composition leads to a contradiction other than through equivocation.

    10. Walter,

      I didn't necessarily claim that, I only think that that might be acceptable.

    11. and I don't get the problem of specifying the way they are.

    12. Dominik,
      January 15, 2020 at 12:13 AM "pure actuality is perfect by itself, by being existence itself"

      "Existence itself" is an incoherent term. Thus, further arguments that use this term as a basis are unsound.

      Things exist.
      If there were no things at all then there would be no existence at all, which would mean there would be absolutely nothing at all in existence.

      What is existing in "existence itself" if there is no thing being refereed to as existing?

      If there is a thing being referred to in "existence itself" then the term "itself" is incorrect because there is also that thing, and thus the "actuality" is not "pure".

      If there is no thing being refereed to as existing then there is no existence at all, not "existence itself".

      Classical theism has many such incoherent terms. The technique derived centuries ago was to join words into incoherent terms and then claim that by joining disjoint words a logical problem has somehow been solved.

      In truth, by stating "existence itself" the classical theist has only succeeded in uttering an incoherent term.

    13. Dominik

      I think you misunderstand my position. I am not describing Pure Actuality, my claim is that you are (implicitly) describing Pure Actuality as having certain potentialities, which is indeed a contradiction.
      I think your claim that "The change would solely be on the side of the unicorn" is telling, because if the essence of the unicorn is non-existent, there can be no change on the side of the unicorn. The point is, that logically prior to creation, unless there is an essence for a unicorn "somewhere", there cannot be anything on the side of the unicorn.

    14. Dominik

      I have no idea what non-positive reality could possibly mean. Either something exists (is real) or it doesn't (isn't real). Saying that there is some kind of middle ground seems to be a violation of logic, and even if it weren't, it wouldn't help the Classical Theist's case.

    15. In the Classical Theism, God, who is existence itself is a concrete entity. This refutes the gibberish you call an “objection“. That was easy.

    16. Walter,

      I have no idea what non-positive reality could possibly mean.

      Certainly you have already heard of the idea that evil is a privation of the good and that it is only real as long as a natural object isn´t fully actualized. The classical theists here don´t deny the reality of evil, but because it is a privation of the good, it has a non-positive reality. It doesn´t describes something that is there, but something that is lacking.
      It isn´t too important for the issue you brought up, since I merely toyed with the idea without embracing it.

      Either something exists (is real) or it doesn't (isn't real). Saying that there is some kind of middle ground seems to be a violation of logic, and even if it weren't, it wouldn't help the Classical Theist's case.

      This apparent contradiction is only due to terminological confusion on you behalf. When you say "existing essences" and "non-existing existing essences" you are obviously refering to potentialities and actualities. And this little clarification resolves already every supposed contradiction you are assuming to be there. The individual Harry exists as a potentiality until contraception. Up until this point the essence of him is conceptualized within the PA. At the point of contraception the potentiality for the individual Harry to exist gets actualized, so although he didn´t came from "nothing" his ontological status changes until death, at which point he becomes an unactualized potentiality again. The essence underwent change during the course, but at no point could it be said that he was non-actualized and actualized in the same way at the same time, which would constitute a contradiction.
      But this apparent problem here just isn´t there.

    17. Dominik Kowalski January 15, 2020 at 8:30 AM

      "In the Classical Theism, God, who is existence itself is a concrete entity. This refutes the gibberish..."

      So, by your words,
      "existence itself"="concrete entity"

      Concrete is a thing that exists.
      A "concrete entity" is, therefore, and entity that exists.
      An entity that exists is not existence itself, just as an entity that is blue is not blue itself (there is no such thing as blue itself, just as there is no such thing as existence itself, "existence itself" merely being one of various incoherent terms uttered in classical theism).

      Dominik, you contradicted yourself in a single sentence, thus uttering, dare I say, "gibberish".

    18. Dominik

      You claim the individual Harry exists as a potentiality within the Pure Actuality.
      That is not an apparent but a text book example of a contradiction.

    19. Walter,

      no its not, since you keep on confusing terminology. If it is possible for Harry to be actualized in the future, his potential existence is built in within the foundation of creation. So when Harrys potential actual/physical existence gets actualized, as opposed to staying as an abstraction within the foundation of creation which is conceptualized within the divine mind, then the change is purely on the part of Harrys essence and it doesn´t affect the PA, since Harry isn´t a potency within the PA. Harry is the composite of Harrys essence and Harrys existence, none can exist without the other, both getting actualized at conception. But this is a change on Harrys part and not on the part of the PA, from which perspective such an actualization is gratuitous and not for an actualization of a potency on part of the PAs own essence. Reality is not pantheistic.
      I even tried to make that point even clearer by distinguishing between potency and potentiality.
      So, as before, the contradiction you are hinting at is just not there.

    20. The term that causes the problem is "Harry exists within the pure actuality". This is false when taken on face value. An abstraction "exists" in a sense within the PA, since this grounding is required for there to be the actual individual Harry. The facts about him have their truthmaker within the divine mind. So written out the correct statement would be: Potentially Harrys individual existence gets actualized. In some sense the basic "existence" would be accounted for by the abstraction grounded within the foundation of creation. Hence one can say "Potentially Harry exists". What follows else and leads to the composition of essence and existence that leads to the individual we recognize as Harry is not a direct act of the PA anymore, since the PA has already provided the necessary and dependend ground that makes the whole scenario possible, but that isn´t identical to the essence of the PA. A further analysis would then lead us to see that Harry and his individual existence are related like a cambridge property to the PA. But that isn´t the topic here. The topic here was you claiming that there is somehow a contradiction when regarding essence and existence as a composite. I think we can now safely conclude this discussion by stating that there is no reason here to think that and you haven´t provided one, since the objections you offer can be dissolved quite clearly.

    21. Dominik

      I suppose by "the foundation of creation" you mean the Pure Actual Unmoved Mover.
      So, how exactly is a potentiality or a potential existence built in a Pure Actual Being?

      That's the contradiction I am hinting at.

    22. Dominik

      No, I don't claim Harry exists within the PA, but your claim entails that Harry's essence exists within the PA.
      But that can't be true, because there can be no potentialities within the PA.
      And you need Harry's essence to exist as a potentiality because otherwise there can be no composition. Two non-existing things do not form a composition.

    23. No, if "foundation of creation" were identical to the PA, it would be the PA. This is exactly what I was denying, since it doesn´t follow from any assumption. But I suppose due to my usage of abstraction within the divine mind and "abstraction within foundation of creation" I could have been clearer at what I was hinting at. The former transcends the latter and the following lines should make that clear. In future discussions I will reserve "abstraction/conceptualized" for the PA itself since those terms describe a mental item. For the "foundation of creation" I will use "virtually existent" to describe a non-actual existent object, like Harry before birth and after his death.
      Creation and the creator need to be distinct, a painter is also not identical to the painting. The comparison is faulty of course, since creation is more autonomous with free creatures, but the point should be understandable.
      The abstracted essence of Harry is conceptualized within the PA and hence he doesn´t have the actualized existence to him through which we recognize him as an individual. Nontheless some kind of existence is applied here, since through Harry being abstracted in the divine mind his potentially actualized existence is accounted for. Though the sentence makes it clear, I want to once again stress out that "existence" in the last sentence is not used in the same way especially if we look at the status of Harry himself. But his contingency must be accounted for.
      Suppose the PA creates two wrolds, Possible World 1 (PW1) which is our current world and PW2, which can only be inhabitated by chickens. Harrys actualized existence is only possible in PW1 and impossible in PW2. This possibility in a PW is what I described at "Foundation of Creation" since this is what differentiates the Possible Worlds.
      So the potentiality is not to be located in the PA, but in the foundation of those possible worlds. Of course those worlds are dependend on the PA, but that doesn´t change the point I´m making. This accounts for the possible, but non-actual existence of a non-logical contradictory essence, like those of unicorns, as well as the temporal contingency of individuals such as Harry.
      If Harry were a part of the PAs essence and his existence were a non-actualized potency, then your point would be correct. But that is a scenario that doesn´t apply to CT and isn´t entailed by the essence and existence distinction.

    24. Walter,

      No, I don't claim Harry exists within the PA, but your claim entails that Harry's essence exists within the PA.
      No it does not. Read more closely what I wrote. Harrys essence cannot exist without Harrys individual existence, hence Harrys essence is in that way only actualized in the time between conception and death.
      What resides in the PA is an abstraction of that essence, what accounts for there potentially being a Harry at all. Harry thereby is only so much existent like your dead grandmother is when you think about your memories with her. I really try to make cautious distinctions between the kinds of existence hence I write "potentially actualized, existent essence", whereby the actualization would bring the essence out of that abstracted status into a physical or rather "real" status.
      But that can't be true, because there can be no potentialities within the PA.
      Correct, potencies in the PA means it is not the PA.
      And you need Harry's essence to exist as a potentiality because otherwise there can be no composition. Two non-existing things do not form a composition.
      I need it to exist as an abstraction. This is not problematic, but rather it is what accounts for him to be a temporally contingent essence. Analogically, like I said, Harry need not exist anymore than in a memory. But this memory is necessary for him to be actualizable at all. This is also what explains the necessary non-existence (in all ways) of impossible concepts like a squared circle.
      So we have Harrys abstracted essence, but this is not what helps us when we want the living individual. Existence needs to be added to it. We now have the composition and can go on to explain what is happening with the essence and the individual existence. I paraphrase Vallicella to some degree here; Harrys essence can only be actualized as long as existence is added to him. Hence the individual Harry exists in virtue of Harrys essence and Harrys existence (his participation in existence) being composite. Harry derives his existence from the PA by being a participant within a world in which his actualization was possible. When the actualization happens at conception those two ingredients get mixed together to form the individual. They actually exist by being composed within the individual. Both cease to exist at the point of death, Harrys essence goes back to be an abstraction and doesn´t participate within existence anymore. So one could describe the act of being the individual Harry as Harrys essence being a derivative participant in being (Harrys existence), which thus describes a contingently necessary (not an oxymoron, because terms are used in a different way) composition in which all parts needs each other, since Harrys essence cannot be with Harry existing and Harry existing needs Harrys essence to be meaninful. Analogically, to understand the idea, one could say that a large aggreggate of H2O is necessarily wet and if it is not wet, the aggreggate cannot be H2O.

    25. Correction: / Harrys essence cannot be WITHOUT Harry existing...

    26. Dominik

      What do you mean by "a world in which his actualization was possible?"
      Harry's actualization is possible in every possible world, so your claim that Harry's actualization is only possible in PW1 does not make any sense.

    27. Of course it makes sense. If a Possible World would only consist of abstract objects or like in PW2 of chickens, Harrys actualization is impossible, since his potentiality is not built within the foundation of the PW virtually. In those PWs Harrys actualization is contingently impossible (because PWs are contingent), though, of course, not logically impossible (since his essence still exists as an abstract in the divine mind). He is not a part of that PW because the PA actualized a PW in which Harrys potentiality was not a part of the foundation.
      Analogically take the example of a machine that produces screws. Within this machine no potentiality of producing candy was built in, otherwise it wouldn´t be this machine anymore. This doesn´t exclude the possibility of creating a machine that produces candy, but it excludes the possiblity to actually produce candy with the machine that produces screws.

    28. I don´t want to expand this discussion to other topics like "impossible to actualize potentialities" like if we take the idea that Harry could only exist because of two specific parents, but both died in a car accident before conception, so that HArry, although his potentialitiy is built virtually within the foundation, is now never actualizable. So I only apply the simplest ideas in my replies, since we need to limit the discussion for simplicity reasons.

    29. Dominik

      Something that is possible is necessarily possible. That's standard logic. You seem to be confused about what a possible world is.

    30. Walter,

      you are forgetting the topic of this discussion. I try to limit it for simplicity sake, since it was originally about your assumption that essence and existence distinctions leads to contradictions. If you want to discuss modal logic I´m fine with it, since you certainly have failed to make a positive case for that.
      Let´s assume your complaint is correct. Does it affect my position? No, of course not, your whole case was built upon false assumptions and terminological confusion as well as a lack of clearity. Also, although you have been on this kinds of blogs for several years you still make basic mistakes when it comes to classical theism. OF COURSE Harrys existence is necessarily possible. He is abstracted in Gods mind and God couldn´t "delete" him from there. That doesn´t entail though that Harry is thus actualizable in every possible world, much less that he is a potency in Gods essence. God grounds Possible Worlds, not the other way around.
      What that means is that in PWa which only inhabots abstract objects and in PW2 where only chickens can live, it is completely consistent to say that contingently (PWs are contingent) Harrys existence is impossible, while still being possible simpliciter. The existence of Protons is necessarily possible, but not actualizable within a PW full of electrons. We could thus go ahead and distinguish between actualizable and non-actualizable potentialities and regard e.g. PWx as ticking some of those boxes and PWy as ticking other.
      This resolves the issue and is completely consistent with Axiom S5.

    31. Dominik

      You confuse a possible world with a world that is actualizable.
      For the rest, I maintain that the essence existence distinction is contradictory because even if an essence exists as an abstraction in God's mind, they are still potentialities that are (or are not) actualized. That you somehow add a step in which the potentiality for something virtually existing is within the PA, it is still a potentiality, no matter how many steps you add, won't change that.
      The only way out of this is a radically different view, on which, instead of compositions of essence and existence, there are different modes of existence.

    32. I maintain that the essence existence distinction is contradictory because even if an essence exists as an abstraction in God's mind, they are still potentialities that are (or are not) actualized. That you somehow add a step in which the potentiality for something virtually existing is within the PA, it is still a potentiality, no matter how many steps you add, won't change that.

      I don't see how that would show the distinction itself to be contradictory.

      Which is the claim that you haven't really defended since first few posts in this thread.

    33. Red

      The contradiction is in the fact that every created being is said to be composed of two "elements", essence and existence.
      But either essence exist, in which case it makes no sense to say it needs to be combined with existence in order to exist, or essence doesn't exist, in which case you end up with a composition of two "things", one of which doesn't exist. That is not a composition.
      So, a composition of essence and existence is impossible.

    34. But this exact argument is what is engaged with earlier.
      But either essence exist, in which case it makes no sense to say it needs to be combined with existence in order to exist,

      But this does make sense. at least you haven't shown why it doesn't. Like I remarked earlier simply asserting that essence is not identical with existence doesn't seem to imply this conclusion.

    35. Red

      It is textbook logic that something that exists doesn't need to be combined with something else in order to exist.
      I really don't know why I have to show that this doesn't make sense, or do you also want me to show why a square circle doesn't make sense?

      I honestly think we should agree to disagree here, because I don't see us making any porgress.

    36. Then I guess you have picked up the wrong text book. For any composite object that exists , it needs all its existing parts combined to exist.

      "I really don't know why I have to show that this doesn't make sense"

      Because like I said it doesn't follow from the fact that essence isn't identical to existence that essence itself must necessarily be combined with existence.

    37. "I honestly think we should agree to disagree here, because I don't see us making any porgress."

      Sure, but it is because you've made this claim multiple times without substantiating it much.

    38. Red

      "For any composite object that exists , it needs all its existing parts combined to exist."

      That's obvious and that's precisely where the problem lies. Because this implies that there are existing objects that are non-composed.

    39. Because obviously the parts composing the composite have to exist.
      So, in order for something that is composed of essence and existence to exist, both its essence and its exsitence need to exist.
      But if essence exists, it would have to be composed of existing proto-essence and existence. But if proto-essence exists, it would have to be composed of proto-prooto essence and exsistence etc.
      You end up with an infnite regress.

    40. Wait I don't know what this has to do with there being objects which are non composed.

      And why we need to posit that essence is itself a composite object? or an object at all.

    41. You confuse a possible world with a world that is actualizable.

      Huh? Possile worlds are grounded in God, so they are actualizable by him. Possible Worlds describe how it could have been. Being actualizable is pretty much the only requirement for the possible world to be really possible. It seems like you are ascribing a kind of reality ot non-actualizable, hence IMpossible worlds. But what are impossible worlds any more than a contradiction and thus don´t have any reality? So it´s not me confusing anything here, but you having a bizarre view.

      For the rest, I maintain that the essence existence distinction is contradictory because even if an essence exists as an abstraction in God's mind, they are still potentialities that are (or are not) actualized. That you somehow add a step in which the potentiality for something virtually existing is within the PA, it is still a potentiality, no matter how many steps you add, won't change that.

      You can maintain a lot of things, but you have merely proven to still not having understood the idea, because I especially answered this objection. Worse still you misrepresent what I wrote. I reserved the term "virtual" for potentially existent ín the creation itself, so that the actualiozation of the essence there reserves the change to be exclusively on the part of the essence, so that we have distinguished between God and the created being, Harry. I have gone long ways to illustrate this and since you keep repeating in the following comments to Red exactly those objections I explicitly adressed in my comments, you show your inability to understand my answers and the whole doctrine.

      The only way out of this is a radically different view, on which, instead of compositions of essence and existence, there are different modes of existence.

      I also illustrated that in my comments.

      Because obviously the parts composing the composite have to exist.
      So, in order for something that is composed of essence and existence to exist, both its essence and its exsitence need to exist.
      But if essence exists, it would have to be composed of existing proto-essence and existence. But if proto-essence exists, it would have to be composed of proto-prooto essence and exsistence etc.
      You end up with an infnite regress.

      Non-sequitar. Harrys essence exists, because it is composed with Harrys existence into the individual Harry. Harrys existence is what enables Harrys essence to be dependend on existence. If Harrys essence ceases to exist, so does Harrys existence, because there is nothing to which the "Harry" in "Harrys existence" refers to. It enables nothing to be dependend on existence. And if Harrys existence ceases so does Harrys essence, since it stands in no relation to existence, so it cannot be actualized.
      Although necessarily composite when the individual Harry exists, it can be distinguished the same way the existence of an aggreggate of H2O can be distinguished from the property of wetness, although both are necessarily there and both cease if one ceases.
      The infinite regress you are describing also doesn´t turn up, since the essence, if not actualized doesn´t exist, it is abstracted like memories of other persons, but noone would claim that therefor the person needs to exist.

      But this is the third time we are at this point and I don´t have any hope, that you will understand it this time.

    42. Red

      "And why we need to posit that essence is itself a composite object? or an object at all."

      Read my comment again, but more carefully and you might understand why, or maybe you still won't understand it, but I don't think there is anything more to say here.


      I have explained why your use of virtual existence doesn't remove the problem. If you don't understand that, there is nothing more I can say.

    43. Again I really don't see how your remarks show the problem. Maybe I am just not getting your point but that seems unlikely to me.

  14. Yup, or form and matter also. But you don’t even need to accept those metaphysical components... Ultimately, even a particle physicist will tell you that the smallest possible subatomic particle is itself a composite of something physical/material...

  15. ok if i dont believe in form or matter and science finds a more fundamental subatomic particles than how are those not non composite

    1. Even strings aren´t non-composite. Non-composite means necessary, which can´t be the case here, because 1) strings (if they exist) are vibrating and thus changing, something every material object does, even if it is something so little like a change in location, 2) they aren´t purely actual and thus by the argument I gave you in the comment above, cannot be the necessary ground. Further more, matter is treated as contingent, not only because science finds little reason to regard them as something else, but also because a material necessary ground leads to necessitarianism, which means fatalism. This can only be avoided if the necessary ground of being is an agent with intellect and will.
      There is very little that could be said in favor of ontological materialism.
      On another point, science couldn´t in principle find something that is more fundamental than form, since it is the material world that science is concerned with at all. And I´d argue that it is the form itself that makes the attributes of the material objects intelligible. This only becomes more apparent if we encounter irreducible properties, like wetness which appear after aggregating six H2O molecules, but which cannot be reduced to the single molecule, let alone to the atomes making them up. Other examples would be the inherent tendency of mass to attract each other, protons to attract electrons or, to take a higher example, the inherent tendency of the b-cells in your Pancreas to produce Insulin. Without those tendencies, regularities could not be made sense of. And this is what the formal cause can account for.

    2. Even fundamental particles will have some kind of composition. They'll have a structure, a form, and the matter that is properly structured by that form (hence why they are quarks instead of some other kind of fundamental particle). They are not completely without parts.
      Moreover, fundamental particles and such also have temporal parts.

      Something that is entirely without parts will have to be only One, since things are distinguished and multiplied by parts. A is different from B because A has some parts which B doesn't, and so on. For instance, again with fundamental particles, this quark is distinct from that quark because this one has some part (a particular parcel of matter) that the other one doesn't.
      If something has no parts whatsoever, and is just purely and completely unified, a complete unity, then it can be only one. Because there couldn't be two perfect unities, as they'll have no parts to be distiguished from one another and thus won't be different at all.
      That which is a perfect unity is therefore called the One. It cannot be anything material, since material things are always composite (even at the very least of a certain form/structure and a parcel of prime matter, or of an essence/what it is and an act of existence/that it is, they are also composed of temporal parts). Besides, material things can always be multiplied into different individuals, because of their parts. The One is only one thing. It is beyond space and time, its essence just is the same as its existence, its power, etc. It is the cause of every other thing, every composite thing.

      Read Ed's book if you're interested.

      The Neoplatonic proof is fascinating, but it can be a bit harder to understand at first if you're not familiar with metaphysics. Perhaps you should first try to grapple with, and understand, the Leibnizian argument (Feser calls it the rationalist proof in the book), which is about contingency.

    3. ok. Making more sense now., so how about if the subatomic particle or smallest part doesn’t have differing features from another and it is exactly the same in every way as other ones?

    4. How could that fundamental particle be both exactly the same in every way as the others, and also be a distinct individual, NOT having any differentiating features? If there's nothing that differentiates it from others, then it's not a different individual.
      If A is exactly like B in every way, then A = B.
      If there are to be two individual fundamental particles, they'll have to differ in some way. In the case of particles and physical things, they will share the same form/structure (they are both quarks, say), but then they'll have different parcels of matter. One will be this matter structured into a quark, the other will be some other parcel of matter structured into a quark. In short, they will be composite. They'll be composites of a form/structure and matter. And so they won't be simple/non-composite at all.

      The non-composite One is perfectly unique, there can be only one. Every physical entity is always open to multiplicity; it is always a composite of a certain form and some particular parcel of matter; it is also always a composite of temporal parts. Physical things are composite, even fundamental particles.

      The One, which is the source of all unity, must be entirely unique, beyond time, beyond matter, etc.

    5. What do you mean by different parcels of matter? Why can’t there just be many fundamental noncomposite parts that are literally all the same thing and all have the same features? Exact carbon copies of each other but no differences or parts between each other

    6. If they are literally all the same thing and have all the same features, exact carbon copies of each other and with no differences or parts between each other, how are they distinct individuals?

    7. Anon,

      perhaps we should illustrate it in a different way. As Atno correctly pointed out, the idea of copies, which cannot be differentiated doesn´t work, since they would become one then.

      But I should try and show another reason why those material objects couldn´t be the foundation, at least not if we don´t want to commit ourselves to the most eccentric metaphysics.
      The Principle of Proportionate Causality (PPC) states that the effect must in some way be present in the cause (simplified). So when a billard ball causes the movement of another ball this is due to the already present movement within the first ball, which transfers the movement through the kinetic energy.
      This issue becomes a lot more interesting when we look a hierarchichal causation, where the man is made of organs is made of cells is made of molecules is made of atoms is made of Protons, Neutrons and Electrons is made of quarks is made of...strings.
      Now we have the interesting case where you seemingly, in order to avoid the following argument, must embrace some kind of strong reductionism and/or eliminativism. Everything has to be reducible to physics.
      But if what we find in psychology, sociology, biology and chemistry with all the newly introduced properties (wetness, physical intentionality, life, mind and consciousness) is not reducible to the fundamental particles, then we are faced with emergent properties. In order for those properties to be expressed, they rely on the matter making the object up. But if the matter cannot account for it, then those properties/attributes are on a different ontological level from which there is no direct and fluid way from the lowest particle to the highest mental act. Then the idea of the matter being the fundamental grounding of those properties becomes absurd, something else has to account for their expression and existence. This is also by the way a quick argument for accepting formal causality, since forms are able to integrate emergent phenomena within nature.

      Further more with the material non-composites you would once again face the problem of fatalism, since they would be necessary without the attribute of agency.

    8. Also let´s be clear, non-composite material substances are impossible, since they would need to be simple. If they are simple they would have to be their own reason for their existence, since they are necessary. As non-composites they would have to lack the ability to change due to the lack of act/potency-composition. But now we completely left the realm of the material and returned to the unmoved mover

    9. Can you guys further explain how the fact that multiple of something mean it’s not composite? That’s all that’s confusing.

    10. how the fact that multiple of something mean it’s not composite?

      I don´t quite understand. Multiple of somethings are composite, since if there are multiples of them, they can be differentiated. If you add a simple substance to another simple substance you are adding what is identical to another, hence you don´t have 2 of the same kind at all. The point becomes clearer when we keep in mind, that a fully actual simple needs to be infinite, so that it also cannot be changed with regard to the spatiol location. At this point two identical infinities just are one infinite substance.

    11. Dominik KowalskiJanuary 16, 2020 at 3:55 AM
      "Multiple of somethings are composite, since if there are multiples of them, they can be differentiated."
      False, "they" cannot be differentiated.
      The collection of "them" can be differentiated.

      There is no need for a single simple. The universe can be comprised of, say, 10^100 simples, each one cannot itself be differentiated, but the universe is composite and therefore can be differentiated.

      "fully actual" is another incoherent term, like "existence itself" and "pure act". This "pure act" is asserted to not actualize X at t1, but to actualize X at t2. Thus, PA had the potential to actualize X at t1,, which means it is not "pure act".

    12. Anonymous,

      Multiples of something are composite. That's they differ from one another.

      If A is absolutely the same as B, in every aspect, then A = B. In other words, there would be no A and B, just a single substance, since A and B are not different after all.

      How are you different from a lion? There are some spatial and temporal differences, but your primary difference from a lion is your form; your body is structured as a human body, with human powers. The lion, obviously, has the form of a lion, its body/matter is structured as a lion, which is different from humans. So humans and lions have many parts, and the different parts is what distinguishes them - primarily and most obviously the forms. The lion has lion parts, you have human parts. The lion is matter structured into a specifically lion form, you are structured as a human.

      But what would distinguish two individual lions? Not their form/structure, since they're both structured into a lion. They have lion parts and lion powers. What distinguishes them is that lion A has *this* parcel of matter, and lion B has *that* other parcel of matter. Hence hylemorphism. Every physical and material object is a composite of form and matter. Prime matter cannot exist without some form (there is no sense to be made of a completely abstract matter, without any shape, structure, etc). Lion A and Lion B both are structured like lions, both share the form of Lion, but they're different because A is structured into this parcel of matter, and B into that other parcel of matter. They have different parts; they are made of different parcels of matter, which then leads to all sorts of other differences (spatial and temporal location differences, for example, some differences in shape, size, etc).

      Now, even the most fundamental physical thing is also a composite of form and matter. Which is what allows them to be differentiated from one another. This particle is a quark, that other one is an electron, primarily because the quark has the form/structure of quarkness. Its prime matter is structured as a quark. The election's stuff is structured as an electron.
      How are two quarks different from one another? By having different parcels of matter. Quark A is this stuff structured as a quark, Quark B is that other stuff structured as a quark. So they're different; and likewise they will have different spatial parts, different temporal parts, and so on. They are composite.

      Now, if a being is NOT composite in any way, but completely simple, then it cannot be a composition of form and matter. It must just be its form, just be what it is. It cannot be physical. And it cannot be multiplied, because it would have no parts and no possibility of having parts to distinguish it from another.
      Assuming A and B are in the same category, and have the same nature (that of being a simple being, let's say), how could they be different individuals? Only if A has some part which B lacks. So A would actually be SIMPLE BEING + X. But then A will be composite and not really simple.
      There is no way to have two perfectly simple beings, because they will have nothing to make them different from another, nothing to make them distinct individuals, since they can have no parts whatsoever.

    13. I think this maybe is going over my head? If something is totally simple and noncomposite, using your example A, and A is exactly the same as B, but A and B are as Stardusts said just 10^1000 and everywhere in all beings, how is it composite?

      I’m failing to see how A being the same in every way as B means that by default then that A=B. Are you taking into account spatial location or something? What are “parcels of matter”?

      Also, if is the foundation for everything, isn’t the argument pantheism then instead of theism?

    14. I’m interested to see replies from Atno and Dominik here. I’m a theist but I have trouble seeing exactly how the Neoplatonic proof or Argument from Composites doesn’t just turn into a thomistic argument dependent on essence and existence.

      Thanks in advance guys.

    15. Parcel of matter refers to primary matter, that which individuates forms and allows for different spatial location and whatnot in the first place.

      Notice how a thing's spatial location is purely accidental and contingent, it cannot be what distinguishes an individual from another. A cannot be different from B simply because of spatial location, since something can only have a spatial location once it first exists. So a difference between A and B must be due to some part which one has and the other one lacks. If both A and B have the same nature (so, the same form) how could they be different from one another? Only through some part which the other lacks.

      Again, how can one quark be different from another quark? If A is exactly the same as B in every respect, then A just is B, and they're not distinct individuals. So, assuming they are distinct individuals, what differentiates A from B? It can't just be spatial location, because 1) something can only have a specific spatial location if it exists, so it presupposes that A (or B) is an individual; 2) in that case we would still have to explain why they'd have different spatial locations, and that will presuppose a metaphysical principle like prime matter (or something else if you fancy, but then it will be something additional to the nature, and it will therefore be a composite of the nature + that difference)

      To sum it up again: if A is to be distinct from B, A has to have something (X) which B doesn't have. But this will make A a composite being; it will be its nature PLUS X.

      In the case of quarks or fundamental particles, they are composites of their form (that which structures matter into quark, quarkness, and is common to all quarks and different from the structure of an electron) and the matter (the metaphysical principle or stuff which is structured into different physical forms). Quarks are different from one another because their matter is different. It is this matter, that other matter, etc. But they share the same form (the structure of being a quark).

      A simple thing just is what it is. It has no parts. If A and B are both purely simple things, there is no way one could have some part the other one lacks, no way to differentiate them from one another.

      It's not pantheism because God or the One in this case is distinct from the universe. The point is precisely that physical things are composite, but the One is not. The One is that which combines every part, and is responsible for the existence of every composite thing.

    16. @Mina

      It could use essence and existence. But could also use form and matter. Or some more general understanding of parts - there must be an One which is purely simple and not composed of any physical or metaphysical parts, whatever these might be.

      It's general, so the compositeness can apply to many analyses (including essence and existence), kinda like act and potency, contingency, etc.

    17. I’m just not getting it idk. How can there not just be an infinite or some other very large number of purely noncomposite things which lack no parts and do not differ from one another?

      I understand what you’re arguing metaphysically but I don’t understand how this argument works if you don’t subscribe to form/matter or essence/existence metaphysics.

      Just say for the sake of argument here we can get a microscope and look at a collection of a bunch of fermions which are not composed or anything. Say there is nothing in the universe smaller or more fundamental than them - it’s just 10^100 fermions like the ones under our microscope. How is it that fermion A is any different from fermion B under our microscope? They’re both noncomposite like the other 10^100 in the universe. The only difference is that they are two complete carbon copies of the same exact thing with zero differentiating factors. Why does that mean A=B and is therefore impossible? Why, without resorting to essence/existence, must A be composed of different parts than B?

      Thanks for sticking this out. I’m genuinely just lost by this argument.

    18. Hi Anonymous,

      What problem(s) do you have with the ideas of these composites
      1) Essence and Existence
      2) Potentiality and Actuality

      (form and matter are not as fundamental as the above two types of composites, because there can be composites who lack any matter)

    19. Amend on form and matter:

      (form and matter are not as fundamental as the above two types of composites because there can be different entities that are not composed of any matter, but there can be one and only one entity whose nature is purely actual without any potentiality, and one and only one entity whose essence is existence.)

    20. This comment has been removed by the author.

    21. I should say it this way instead:

      (Form and matter are not as fundamental because there can be composite entities who has only pure form without matter, whereas an entity whose essence is pure existence is necessarily non-composite, and an entity who is pure actuality without potentiality that needed to be actualised is necessarily non-composite.

    22. "The only difference is that they are two complete carbon copies of the same exact thing with zero differentiating factors"

      But that's just complete nonsense. Now I'm the one who's lost here. Are you trying to say that A can be absolutely the same as B in every way, an exact carbon copy, with no differentiating factor whatsoever, and STILL be a different individual from B? But how is this possible?

      Let's make it simpler.

      If A is different from B, A must have something which B lacks. There must be some differentiating factor that makes A one thing and B another thing.

      Do you agree or disagree?

      If you agree, how do you think each individual fermion is distinct from another individual fermion? What do you think accounts for the fact that one is fermion A, and the other fermion B, instead of there just being one single substance (one fermion only)? They are both fermions, so they are both Fs. So, what individuates these two distinct Fs?

    23. Ok Atno. It’s making a bit more sense now. I guess where I’m still struggling is that I can’t see how there can’t just be infinite copies of the same thing. What if the only differentiating factor between A and B is their spatial location at t1 or t2, (depending if you’re a or b theory subscriber, it doesn’t really matter here..) But they are otherwise completely and totally the same thing. They are different individuals insofar as simply they are performing different functions or are occupying different spatial locations, but otherwise are completely and totally the same subatomic, elementary particle. How must they be composite? As for whether I agree or disagree, I guess the only way I can say I agree is if you posit them existing at different spatial locations to be significant enough to say it’s composite. Thanks again for sticking along witn this. I’m not trying to be a troll and I’m not an atheist. I just genuinely don’t get this lol.

      @Johannes I’m not saying I have a problem with essence or existence or form matter concepts or that they don’t exist. I’m just trying to get it from the material side, because Feser holds that it is true for material things and of metaphysical ideas both.

    24. So your answer is that what differentiates the Fs is their spatial location. There are at least two problems with this answer, as I've pointed before:

      1) spatial location is something entirely contingent and accidental. I need sleep right now, and the point I'm trying to present here is an intuitive one that might be a bit difficult to express right now, but try to follow it: if A and B are to be real, existing different individuals, they must have differences that are intrinsic to themselves. A difference in spatial location is not something intrinsic to either of them. Something can only occupy a spatial location once it exists! But we're trying to find out IF A and B can even exist in the first place. To say they are different because of spatial location is like saying "okay, first, there are two distinct things, these two things can exist, and they're different because they occupy different spatial locations...". It doesn't work. Something can only occupy space if it can exist in the first place, but if B does not have a difference from A then it cannot exist (there will be only A), so this difference cannot be the spatial location. Two things must first be two things before they can ever occupy any different spatial locations. Did you get it? It's an intuitive idea that is a bit hard for me to describe right now. So spatial location doesn't cut it, it cannot be the reason why A and B are different: rather, it presupposes that they are different, so that each can then occupy a certain spatial location.

      2) we'd still need an explanation for why A occupies location 1 and B occuppies location 2. It cannot be the form, since they both share the same structure; they are both Fs, they are both fermions. What accounts for this difference in spatial location, then? The hylemorphist will argue that prime matter will be required to make sense of the difference in spatial locations. The nature Fness is compatble with both locations 1 and 2 and does not entail any location; the reason F A has location 1 is due to its having the parcel of matter located at 1, and F B having the parcel of matter located at 2. So, they are composites of form and matter in this case

    25. Ok, I think I’m half way there now. Thanks again for sticking this out. So is it essentially that in order for two or more “units” of a material thing to exist, it has to be composed of different parcels of “source,” otherwise it would just be the same thing and not be 2? Does that kind of lead towards where you’re going with this?

      Is it also true that something is not truly noncomposite unless it doesn’t dependent on something else for it existing as its current composition? Feser uses temperature in his book as an example for something not melting.

      I guess you can say just logically that if there’s more than 1 of something it is somehow composite because otherwise it can’t be more than 1? If you had to play devil’s advocate what’s your best objection to that, and the theist’s response to it?

    26. Mina,
      I´ll keept it short; at some point of course the arguments become identical, when it comes to the conclusion. The differences are how we arrive at that and here all arguments can be independend from another, such that if the aristotelian and the thomistic proof were wrong, the platonic proof wouldn´t be affected by the refutations. This is because all the arguments rely on different fundamental premises.

    27. Pretty much. Because there must be a difference between A and B. There must be a property that one has and the other one lacks, if A is going to be distinct from B. If A and B have exactly the same properties, absolutely all of them, then A is obviously the same thing as B. This is supposed to be obvious. It follows quite straightforwardly from the law of identity. If A and B are alike in every single way, they are the same entity. And if there were C, and C were exactly like B, then A would also be C since B = C and A = B so A = C.
      If two things are really gonna be two things, and not one, they will need some difference between them. A will have to have some property which B lacks, or vice-versa.

      A different spatial location wouldn't be an acceptable property to make a difference here, because two things can only have different spatial locations once they actually exist and can be located. Different spatial locations presupposes that there are two things already instead of one, so it cannot be the root of the distinction between A and B. (And besides, the difference in spatial location would itself require some explanation, which could then lead us to hylemorphism).

      So in order for two fermions to be distinct individuals, there must be some metaphysical principle or "stuff" which individuates them, something distinct from their form (since they share the same form or structure) and which doesn't follow from the form. This "stuff" or "source" would be prime matter for hylemorphists. (Which is also why for Aquinas matter is the principle of individuation).

      The two fermions, A and B, will have to be composed of different parcels of "source" so they can be distinct individuals. But then they will be composite: a composition of their form (Fness) + the parcel of "source" or "individuating matter". So they won't be simple.

      If something is dependent on something else for its existence, then it is composite, because to be dependent on something would entail having parts that are being combined (essence and existence, or form and matter, etc). A being that is entirely simple and non-composite just is what it is, just is its nature, and so must be completely independent. (At least for concrete beings, this is how it is. It might be different for abstract objects, like a number might be dependent on a mind but I don't know if that would involve parts. But abstract objects are of no use here, since we are concerned with the existence of concrete entities).

      If there is more than 1 of something there is composition involved, because composition is the only way of allowing for a difference among things that are of the same kind. If A and B are both Fs, how can they be distinct individuals? Only if A is F+X and B just is F, or F+Y. If they are both just F, then A = just F and B = just F, so A = B. There must be some composition of properties of whatever kind to allow for a multiplicity. F+X and F+Y, etc.


    28. I do not quite know how to play devil's advocate for this specific position. I guess I could try to say something like this:

      "There are actually many different simples, they just have completely different natures. So there are A and B, and they are really distinct because they are completely different natures. It's not like fermions, in which fermions share the same nature, Fness. Rather, A and B are completely different things, and non-composite. A just is the nature X, and B just is the nature Y."

      The theist could respond that the problem here is that this appears completely impossible. If A and B are both simple, it seems they would have to share some common nature (that of being One, or Simple. Or that of being a Necessarily Existing Thing). And it seems there is no way that "being One" or "necessary existence" could have completely different properties such as "being One1" and "being One2" to the point where there would be no common nature, no common property.
      To use necessary existence as an example, how could a nature of "NECESSARILY EXISTING AS AN X" be completely different from "NECESSARILY EXISTING AS AN Y"? It seems "necessarily existing" is the same property in both cases, just in different modes. The same would go for "BEING SIMPLE/ONE LIKE X" and "BEING SIMPLE/ONE LIKE Y". It appears "being simple/one" is a common property, so they cannot be completely different.

      An atheist could also try to make the One a material thing. By rejecting hylemorphism (but I think that is a big cost already), by accepting that it is somehow only one thing (which is another big cost, since material things seem always capable of multiplicity), with a weird conception of matter. Then you could have a "natural" first cause. But then there are all the different arguments for saying the first cause is God the atheist will have to deal with.

    29. Perhaps the atheist can ask: “What if one day we discover a one and only one field that is spread throughout the whole of space-time? It exists as one and only one, and so a distinction between two entities each constituted by different parcels of matter is not applicable. So if anonymous does not want to subscribe to form and matter, essence and existence, potentiality and actuality, then what can be said about this field in terms of it being composite?”

    30. Johannes,
      Perhaps not one, but rather multiple fields spread throughout space, perhaps one field for each particle and force in the standard model.

      For a lecture on the subject:

      Quantum Fields: The Real Building Blocks of the Universe - with David Tong
      youtube dot com/watch?v=zNVQfWC_evg

      There is no logical necessity for a single entity that is absolutely simple.

      There can be multiple entities that are minimally simple. There is no logical necessity that the universe cannot be comprised of a multitude of separate minimally simple entities.

      "Form" is not a composite aspect of material, rather, form is of material.

      "Essence" is not a composite aspect of material, rather, essence is of material.

      Terms such "existence itself", "pure actuality", and "the unchanged changer that has no potentialities that actualizes everything in the universe while existing outside of time and outside of space" are all incoherent.

    31. Johannes,

      But I think a field, as a whole, would have an extension in space, and that wouod involve parts. Moreover, it would bite the bullets I mentioned before: that the field somehow not a composite of form and matter; and that this field really is absolutely unique (which is bizarre, since it seems every physical thing could be multiplied).

      Besides, I don't think fields are good candidates at all. They appear to be mere abstractions, not real entities. And they cannot do the work a first cause has to; fields change, they go through excitations, and they themselves do not cause or explain those excitations.

    32. And if the atheist somehow insists on biting the bullet and saying the One is (somehow) a physical thing, we just move on to Stage 2 of cosmological arguments and argue why the One/First Cause is better understood as God.

      This would include the fact that the First Cause/One must be qualitatively infinite. It cannot have arbitrary limits or boundaries, since those limits would themselves call for an explanation, and would lower the probability of any hypothesis with complexity. See Rasmussen's work on the problem of arbitrary limits for details, as well as Swinburne's discussion of the superior simplicity of God against competing explanations.

      It would also include the issue with the Principle of Proportionate Causality, which Dominik has already mentioned. The One or First Cause must contain within itself the perfections/realities of all the effects in at least the same degree. Some perfections we observe are life, consciousness, intelligence, personhood, etc. So the One must be personal, intelligent and omnipotent.

      Then there are teleological arguments and the fact the One creates a universe that is fine-tuned for life, has minds, etc.

    33. This all makes a lot more sense to me now. Thanks for bearing with me and explaining all of this.

      As for the idea of a “field,” I think such a field would be composite, would it not? Whether one field or multiple fields.

    34. Wow very good points all here. Concerning field, or extend to string theory, are string composite?

    35. 1- Yes, a field would be composite; surely would be for a hylemorphist, since it would be a composition of form and matter. And since fields can be multiplied, that would also imply compositeness. And they appear to be extended in space, as a whole, plus they cannot seem to do the work a first cause has to do.

      Strings would also be composite for a hylemorphist, as would be any physical entity (composite of form and matter). But even without hylemorphism, afaik string theory posits multiple strings, so they have to be distinguished through composition (one is S+A, the other is S+B) and so on.

      Plus, when we reach the conclusion of any cosmological argument, we also want an explanation for why the First Cause (the necessary being, or the purely actual actualizer, or the simple One, or any similar metaphysical concept) created an orderly reality with simple regularities and natural laws which allow for the development of life and complex structures. And also an explanation for how life and intelligence are among the things that exist. To answer these issues, we have to conclude the First Cause is personal. So fields, strings and the like are not adequate first causes even if they (somehow) could be simple or whatever.

  16. "In the history of Western thought, two conceptions of the soul have competed for dominance..."
    False dichotomy.
    Third alternative: The soul is a figment of the human imagination and is not structurally realistic, it has no existential reality.

    "...For example, suppose a person’s brain is divided in half and each half is placed in some new body, ..."
    Jokes about "with half my brain tied behind my back" not withstanding, this is a rather deadly hypothetical thought experiment, but let's continue.

    "...with each of the resulting persons having bodily traits, personality traits, and memories that are continuous with the original person... "
    This shows a fundamental oversimplification of how the brain is organized. The self is not duplicated in each half, nor is the self localized in any easily identifiable region of the brain. Rather, the brain is a network of networks, broadly distributed over the whole brain and intermingled with each other, which is why one could not ever simply cut a brain in half for a transplant, even in such a naive thought experiment such as described by the reviewer.

    "...In this case, the two new persons cannot both be identical with the original person, because then they would have to be identical with each other, which they are not. Hence there must be more to the continuity of the self over time than merely the continuity of certain bodily or psychological traits."

    The nominal continuity of the self is due to the nominal continuity of brain structure. In fact, the self is continually changing. What comprises each of us is not static, rather, we all, each of us, gain and lose aspects of the self every day, even every second.

    That nominal self is the concatenation of highly complex and dynamically changing networks of cellular interconnections.

    It simply makes no sense to suggest one could sever these networks and draw from that some conclusion that the continuity of the self cannot be accounted for by the structure of the unsevered networks.

    Of course the self does not continue when the brain is cut in half any more than a land line telephone conversation can continue if the line is cut in half. If the network is cut in half then it is no longer the same network and the two halves can no longer do the same things they could do when they were connected.

    In the case of the telephones you could have the telephones on each end but no communication would be possible between them.

    In the case of the brain halves perhaps there is some example of a person who unfortunately suffered some injury in accident or war such that half the brain was in fact removed. I doubt such a case would lead to a living person thereafter at all, and certainly not a person with half functionality such that two such people could somehow be combined into one whole person.

    Summarizing, the soul is a figment of the human imagination. Brain function is sufficient to account for the nominal continuity of the self. The split brain argument is poorly constructed and of no rational value.

    1. Don't feed the trollJanuary 14, 2020 at 3:19 AM

      Remember, SP is a banned and noxious troll. Please don't feed.

    2. Gosh (blank), I was hoping this season of good will would have a more positive and lasting effect. Christmas is actually my favorite time of year, you know, god and sinners reconciled, peace on Earth good will toward men, it is better to give than to receive, it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness...

      Did you read the review Dr. Feser linked?
      Can you explain to me why my third option does not provide a viable third option to the asserted dichotomy?
      Is there something about the nominal continuity of self that the physical brain is not sufficient to account for?

      Can you provide any arguments at all for the structural reality of the human soul?

  17. Hi Anonymous,

    What problem(s) do you gave with the ideas of these composites
    1) Essence and Existence
    2) Potentiality and Actuality

    (form and matter are not as fundamental as the above two types of composites, because there can be composites who lack any matter)

  18. Johannes,
    "there can be composites who lack any matter"
    Can you provide an example? By "matter" I assume my mean the word in its most general sense of "material", correct?

    I have never observed a composite that lacks material, have you? Can you describe this immaterial composite?