Friday, February 21, 2020

Morgan on Aristotle’s Revenge

At The Imaginative Conservative, Prof. Jason Morgan kindly reviews my book Aristotle’s Revenge.  From the review:

In 456 very well-written pages… (followed by a treasure trove of a bibliography), Dr. Feser shows in Aristotle’s Revenge that, point for point, Aristotle got science right, or as right as he could given the limitations in instrumentation and communication with other researchers during his time.  Scientists since the so-called Enlightenment have been trying to detach Aristotle’s greatest insight, the telos of things, from the world around them.  But the telos is the linchpin of the material world, so without it, everything, as is apparent from most philosophy lectures one attends nowadays, or nearly any philosophy book one reads, falls apart

[T]he most compelling part of Aristotle’s Revenge is section six, “Animate Nature.”  Here, Dr. Feser goes a very long way toward restoring the life sciences to their proper relation to purpose and cause…

[O]ne of the greatest services of Aristotle’s Revenge, and of Dr. Feser’s work in general, is the clarity that Dr. Feser brings to discussions about terms and concepts.

End quote.  Morgan gives special attention to the criticisms of Intelligent Design theory that I raise in that chapter.

Morgan also offers a suggestion for improvement:

I think that Dr. Feser’s call for a return to a teleological view of the cosmos could be even stronger with a more clearly-defined deployment of, for example, the term “species.”  Dr. Feser goes to great lengths in part six of Aristotle’s Revenge to distinguish among various uses of the term, setting, for example, “logical species” off from the very different (but often conflated, to disastrous effect) “philosophical species.”  This is helpful and correct, but I would suggest that Dr. Feser’s readers seek out the works of Peter Redpath, John Deely, and Charles Bonaventure Crowley for even deeper insights into the work that genus and species – not the terms, but the Aristotelian-Thomistic realities – really do

Fair enough.  Aristotle’s Revenge interacts with an enormous body of literature, but so vast is the subject matter that there is much more I could have covered.  I thank Prof. Morgan for his suggestions and for his review.


  1. Must be another Papist. I didn't know we were so ubiquitous.

    1. The good Lord has planted them everywhere. You could well be one in the making too :-)

  2. Great review, spot and and with great feedback. I've been trying to save up some money to acquire "Aristotle's Revenge", it will be a well worth a read

    1. If I recall, Feser does explain that. In any case you might want to look at hierarchical series again and, with them in mind, notice that composition also ends up in that sort of series.

      Something can only cause/unify another insofar as it itself is real, and therefore (if it is a composite being itself) if it is caused/unified by another. The causal power of composite things will be derivative, so they fall into a hierarchical series.

      You don't strictly need hierarchical series, though. You could follow the Rationalist Proof (which doesn't require hierarchical causation) and then just ask yourself of the Necessary Cause - "is it composite or simple?" If it were composite it would not really be necessary, etc.

      Alternatively, you could also avoid an infinite regress in the Neoplatonic Proof by accepting finitism, or, more modestly, causal finitism:

      (Causal finitism is the idea that there can be no infinite series of causes for an effect)

  3. This is the next book I want to order to read. :)

    johannes hui

  4. What is it about the Neoplatonic proof that entails the causal series must be hierarchical? Feser just states it is hierarchical and doesn’t explain why in enough details

    1. For some reason my answer got posted to the wrong comment. Look above to read my answer to your question.

    2. I see. I think I understand a hierarchical cause And why that makes sense in feser’s first proof, but the second one he really does seem to just assume it. I guess the question is how come it’s a hierarchical series with regard to composition? Why not linear

    3. Again, because the same type of reasoning can be applied to the neoplatonic proof. Try reading the part about hierarchical causation in the aristotelian proof, just replace "actualizing" "potential" etc with the appropiate neoplatonic correlate (unify, parts, etc). It's the same thing. If something can only cause insofar as it is itself unified, it will be a merely instrumental cause, etc.

    4. To me it’s easy to understand the example of the infinitely long paintbrush not moving itself, or the earth being the foundation for the house, floor, desk,etc. Or the chandelier with infinite links not connected to anything... That all makes sense for pure hierarchical causality to me.

      I am unable to understand how that easily applies to a composite thing. Your appeal to the rationalist argument to make sense of it is valid to me and I agree with it due to that proof. I’m just trying to get it from this angle too. In what way is it the cause that we need something purely simple to unify the parts of everything else (by mention solely of hierarchical causation, I’m with you on contingency)? The parts of the desk are unified in such a way that permits the desk to exist, the wood that makes up the desk has its parts made up in such a way, and so on until we reach purely metaphysical simplicity of essence/existence or form/matter. What makes it the case that isn’t just a linear series? Just because the desk would fall apart if you took away the proper composites of the wood with screws, doesn’t immediately seem clear to me that tbat means whatever is the bottom floor of the desk must be purely simple in a hierarchical causal sense?

    5. Hi Anonymous,

      Feser did explain it in the chapter on Neo-platonic Proof. Pay special attention to his phrases “at any moment” and “at that moment”. I quote:

      “In fact, of course, the existence and arrangement of the chair’s parts at any moment does not depend on the chair itself, but on myriad other factors. For example, the chair legs are at any moment at which the chair exists fastened to the frame of the chair by screws, and friction ensures that the screws stay in place. The legs and screws themselves exist at that moment because their respective molecules exist and are combined in certain specific ways, and the existence of the molecules themselves is explained in turn by the existence of the atoms that make them up and those atoms being combined in certain specific ways. Then there are other factors, such as the temperature in the room in which the chair sits being within the right range. Naturally, if it were sufficiently hot in the room, the metal that makes up the screws would melt, the wood of the chair would catch fire, and thus the chair itself could not hold together. That the room is instead at a lower temperature is thus part of what makes it possible for the chair to exist at any moment. All of these factors (and others too) have, at any moment, to be combined in just the right way in order for the parts of the chair to exist and be combined in just the right way, so that the chair itself can exist at that moment.”

      “What is true of the chair is true of all the other composite things of our experience. At any moment at which they exist, their parts exist and are arranged in just the right way, and that is the case only because various other factors exist and are combined in just the right way at that moment.”

      “Composite things have causes, and this is true not merely in the sense that something brings them into being at some point in time, but also in the more fundamental sense that their continued existence at any particular moment of time depends, at that moment, on other things which exist at that moment.
      Notice that whereas the chair’s having being assembled by someone in a factory would involve a causal series of a linear sort, the chair’s continued existence at any moment being dependent on other factors existing and being combined in just the right way at that moment involves a causal series of a hierarchical sort (to make use of some jargon introduced in the previous chapter). This is indicated by the fact that the factors in question are simultaneous, all operating at the same moment; but remember that what is essential to the notion of a hierarchical causal series is not simultaneity per se but rather the way the causal power of members of the series is derivative (as the power of a stick to push a stone derives from the hand which pushes the stick). The chair exists only because its parts exist and are combined in the right way, the parts in turn can exist and be combined in the right way only insofar as certain other factors exist and are combined in just the right way, and so on. If the latter factors don’t “hold together”, neither will the chair hold together.”

      johannes hui

    6. Hi Anonymous,

      I would alternatively present it using the expression “CONTINUOUSLY dependent/conditioned on”.

      Premise (1) The chair (composite) is continuously conditioned on the continuous joining-together of other composites such as the composite arrangement of molecules (another composite).

      Molecules (composite) are continuously conditioned on the existence of an composite arrangement of atoms (another composite).

      The composite atoms are in turn continuously dependent on the continuation of the composite arrangement of other subatomic particles (also composite), and so on.

      This forms a series of continuous dependency with one composite’s ability to continue in existence CONTINUOUSLY conditioned on the continuation in existence of a certain kind of composite, which in turn is continuously dependent on another kind of composite, and so on. Call this CONTINUOUS derivation of existence, if you like.

      Composite 1 > composite 2 > composite 3 > ...

      Composite 1 (eg chair) can exist only when the condition of “composite 2 exists” is fulfilled. At the same time, composite 2 can exist only if the condition of “composite 3 exists” is fulfilled. This repeats down the series.

      Premise (2) In other words, Composite 1 (eg chair) exists only if all the conditions in the series are fulfilled. If the series is never-ending, then the task of fulfilling all the conditions would be a never-ending task, which entails Composite 1 cannot exist. Since the chair (composite 1) exists, that series is not never-ending but has an ending with a last entity. So a last entity exists if the chair exists.

      Chair > composite entity 2 > ... > last entity

      Premise (3) The last entity is either composite or non-composite. If the last entity is also composite, then it cannot exist because there exist nothing alter it in the series to hold its parts together. Since the previous point established that the last entity exists, it must be a non-composite. (This is the logic of Modus Tollens).

      Hence if a chair (composite) exists now, then a non-composite (simple) entity exists now. This simple entity is CONTINUOUSLY enabling the chair to exist while the chair exists.

      (All these are Stage 1).

      johannes hui

    7. I like your explanation with the conditions point. Regarding the hierarchical point, what is it that makes it so there must be a first member in the case of things being united together and depending on earlier members to exist and sustain existence? What about that means a first member that is itself noncomposite?

    8. @Anonymous

      Because every instrumental or derivative cause does not account for the "movement" or the "effect" of which it participates. No matter how many derivative causes you add, they can never explain the series. And so long as you have a composite as part of the hierarchy, it will of necessity require an explanation in terms of its composition. The ONLY way to account for the series is something not composed. A purely simple being needs no cause and is thus the only explanation for the series.

    9. Bill,
      "A purely simple being needs no cause and is thus the only explanation for the series."
      A "purely simple" being is incoherent, most obviously so since you then go on to attribute mind, will, knowledge, sustaining powers, and a host of other aspects to this "simple" being. Utterly incoherent.

      But, just supposing there were this purely simple thing, it is still a thing and it is in need of an explanation just like any other thing.
      "It is simple therefore it needs no explanation for its existence" is just a baseless and empty assertion lacking any reason.

      Why does this simple thing exist as opposed to absolutely nothing at all?

    10. Hi Anonymous,

      The answer lies in “continuous dependence” or “continuous derivation” of a composite’s existence on the existence of all its parts (and the manner the parts are combined),

      Continuous dependence or continuous derivation means that once any of those parts ceases to exist, the composite would also immediately cease to exist because it lacks intrinsic existence, and its existence is CONTINUOUSLY derived from all its parts.

      Think of the analogy of an image in the mirror being reflected from the image in a second mirror which in turn is reflected from the image in a third mirror and so on. Each image lacks inherent existence; each image’s existence is CONTINUOUSLY dependent or derived from a prior image in a prior mirror. Such a series is a hierarchical series. All these images have only an instrumental existence. For all these mirror images to exist now and to continue to exist, there must be a source whose existence is not further derived from ediewhere but instead is intrinsic to itself.

      In a similar way, each composite’s existence is CONTINUOUSLY derived from a prior composite’s existence which in turn is also CONTINUOUSLY derived from the existence of a prior composite and so on.

      Since each composite in the series lacks intrinsic existence and continuously derives its existence from moment to moment from a prior source, there must exist CONTINUOUSLY an ultimate source of for them (the last entity in the series).

      Chair > prior composite > prior composite > prior composite > prior composite > ... > last entity of series (ultimate source)

      If this ultimate source of composites is itself a composite whose existence depends on the existence of prior parts, then this ultimate source cannot exist because it is already the last entity and its parts do not exist after it in the series. Nothing exists after the last entity so those parts the last entity’s existence depends on do not exist. Since that is the case, this last entity cannot exist. If this last entity cannot exists, then all the composites in the series also cannot exist.

      But since a composite such as a chair exists NOW, then it entails that the last entity (ultimate source of existence of the chair) must exist NOW.

      The only possibility for the last entity to exist is when it is not a composite. In other words, its existence does not depend on parts. It exists as a Pure Simple entity. It exists as One. It is One. Or it is Pure Existence itself (and not Existence + something),

      Not sure if this explanation helps.

      johannes hui

    11. Assuming each level of a composite entity depends on two parts. Then a more accurate illustration would be:

      Chair depends on Composite(Part 1A & Part 1B)

      Focusing on Part 1A:
      Part 1A depends on Composite(Part 2A & Part 2B)

      Focusing on Part 2A:
      Part 2A depends on Composite(Part 3A & 3B)

      and so on...

      So a series of continuous dependency is formed:

      Chair > Part 1A > Part 2A > Part 3A > ... > last entity

      johannes hui

    12. reasonable,
      "In a similar way, each composite’s existence is CONTINUOUSLY derived from a prior composite’s existence which in turn is also CONTINUOUSLY derived from the existence of a prior composite and so on."
      ...until we logically arrive at the necessary composite, which is the only really existent thing, the other composites in the regression merely being logical abstractions that are in truth assemblages of the necessary composite at every level of abstraction.

      The necessary composite is just that, necessary, simultaneously co-dependent. Each of its aspects cannot exist independently by necessity, and each of its aspects has its own necessity.

      The necessary composite cannot not exist and all of its aspects cannot not exist, nor can any of its aspects exist without being an aspect of the necessary composite being.

      Your notion that only a simple can be necessary is, well, simplistic. If A can be necessary with its own necessity then B can be necessary with its own necessity, and an unbounded number of entities can be necessary each with their own necessity and each of those entities can have an unbounded number of aspects each with their own necessity.

      If there can be 1 thing that is necessary then logically there can be an unbounded number of things that are necessary. The only logical exclusion is that these necessary entities and aspects cannot prevent or rule out the other.

      Thus, if 24 quantum fields are the necessary beings then each necessary field has all of its aspects by necessary simultaneous co-existent co-dependence.

      You simply uttering that only a simple thing can be necessary is of no logical force.

    13. @Anonymous

      If anything is unclear in the explanations you've been provided, feel free to ask for clarification. We're happy to help.

    14. What's unclear to me is why infinite mirrors that have nothing to reflect carries over to a composite. I'm with you and Johannes with regard to why things like infinite hanging chandaliers need to be hanging "from something" or an infinitely long paintbrush needs a painter to move it, or the book you keep asking to borrow but nobody has the book ultimately.

      BUT, I simply (no pun intended) am not seeing how that carries over automatically to a composite series. I am not seeing how exactly it is that there has to be a first member in a composite series, other than to use other arguments like fulfilling infinite conditions being impossible, or using some PSR variant.

      I must just be missing a fundamental point here of how the examples used to understand per se/hierarchical causation immediately and clearly apply to composite things. There is nothing (to me at least) readily clear about a composite thing that says "hierarchical series" in the same way the examples both of you, or Feser, have, which are not examples of composites but are examples of hierarchical per se causation/act and potency (the paintbrush, the book, the mirror, the chandalier, etc).

      Thank you for the help

    15. write:

      There is nothing (to me at least) readily clear about a composite thing that says "hierarchical series" in the same way the examples both of you, or Feser, have, which are not examples of composites but are examples of hierarchical per se causation/act and potency (the paintbrush, the book, the mirror, the chandalier, etc).

      But act/potency is the foundation of all composition, so any essentially ordered series illustrates derivative, compositional causation. I'm not certain if you're the same Anonymous I interacted with on the other thread (which is why you should never use an anonymous handle), but I clearly explained why a composite series cannot proceed to infinity. If you're the same person, what is it about my explanation that you're not getting? I don't want to repeat myself in the event I've addressed you before.

      If you're not the same person, recall that you are a composite being. In fact, everything existing in the universe, except God, is a composite existence. Your existence is concurrent with the existence of your bodily parts. "Your" existence is at this moment entirely dependent on your parts (head, arms, legs, organs, etc.). You could not exist at any time if they all disappeared. Your parts, in turn, owe their existence to their parts which are the particular molecules which compose them. The molecules, in turn, are dependent on the atoms that compose them, etc. All these dependencies form an essentially ordered chain for without the concurrent activity of every part, you would not exist.

      Every composite is posterior to its components and is in some manner dependent on them and is thus caused to be. Composition entails that the whole is a dependent effect that is in some sense becoming (by the continued actuation of its parts) and is thus a creature. Since every composite is dependent on its parts concurrently, you cannot appeal to composite after composite to explain your existence for the question will always be asked just what is holding up that composite without the question ever being answered. The "effect" of your existence cannot be kicked down the trail indefinitely, for all composite causes we appeal to must, by definition, owe their existence to their parts. The only stopping point is in a cause which does not owe its existence to anything other than itself. Such a cause would have to be simple, else we would be forced to appeal to its part for its existence, etc.


    16. Hi Anonymous,

      Let me try a different way.

      You wrote:
      “I am not seeing how exactly it is that there has to be a first member in a composite series, other than to use other arguments like fulfilling infinite conditions being impossible, or using some PSR variant.”

      Say, a chair existence continuously depends on two parts: 1A and 1B.

      Do u agree that if at the next moment 1A ceases to exist, then the chair would also cease to exist?

      Say, the existence of 1A itself is also continuously on two parts: 2A and 2B.

      Do u agree that if at the next moment 2A ceases to exist, then the chair would also cease to exist?

      By focusing only on the parts 1A and 2A, we have this series:

      Chair > 1A > 2A > ...

      Do u agree with the above series?

      Assume now that the whole series ends In this manner:

      Chair > 1A > 2A > last entity

      Now, note two information:
      1. There exist nothing after the last entity by virtue that the “last entity” is the last entity of the series.
      2. Part 2A is conditioned on the either a composite entity or a non-composite entity. That is, the “last entity” is either composite or not composite.

      If the “last entity” is a composite, say, a composite of two parts L(A) and L(B), then there is a contradiction in the series, because under the A-series, it would be L(A) that is supposed to be in the position occupied by the last entity, and so the last entity in the series ended up not being the last but instead it is its component L(A) which should be there. So we have the last entity not being the last entity in the series, which is incoherent or a logical contradiction.

      So if the last entity is a composite, then it cannot exist as a last entity in the series (its component should be there in the series instead).

      The only way for the last entity to be coherently the last entity in that series is when it is not composite but simple. So the only way to avoid any logical contradiction is for last entity to be not composed of any further parts. Then the last entity itself, and not any of its parts, would the the last entity in the series.

      •••••••think thru the above before continuing•••••••

      If the last entity is not simple but instead is composed of L(A) and L(B), then the series should instead be:

      Chair > 1A > 2A > L(A) > ...

      The question again arises: is L(A) composed of parts?

      If it is not composed of parts, then the series terminates in a simple entity, and it would therefore be proven that the last entity in such a series is non-composite.

      If L(A) is composite of two parts, say, L(AA) and L(BB), then the series becomes:

      Chair > 1A > 2A > L(A) > L(AA) > ...

      We would repeat the question again: is L(AA) simple or composite?

      If it is simple, the series would terminate there, because a simple entity depends on no other component parts.

      If it is a composite, then the series continues on.

      By now, do u notice that:
      1. Only when there is a non-composite entity at the end of the series, then can the series comes to an end?
      2. Only when there is a non-composite at the end of the series, then can each composite entity in the series begin to exist?
      3. Each composite entity lacks intrinsic existence and derived its existence from its parts?
      4. From point 3, each composite entity is “nothing until its parts started to exist”?
      5. Continuing from point 4, just as an infinite number of zeros is still zero (infinity multiplied by zero equals zero), an infinite number of “nothing its parts started to exist” is still nothing existing.
      6. So nothing exists if it is an infinite series of composites.
      7. Composite entities can exist only when there is a simple entity at one end of the series.

      So this is another reason why a series of composite entities must have a end if any composite entity exists. If it is a never-ending series of composites then it is impossible for any of those composites in the series to exist.

      Let me know if u have doubt on any part of the above explanation.

      johannes hui

    17. Correction of typo on my 7 points:

      By now, do u notice that:
      1. Only when there is a non-composite entity at the end of the series, then can the series comes to an end? (Otherwise the series continues on and on)
      2. Only when there is a non-composite at the end of the series, then can each composite entity in the series begin to exist?
      3. Each composite entity lacks intrinsic existence and derived its existence from its parts?
      4. From point 3, each composite entity is “nothing until its parts started to exist”?
      5. Continuing from point 4, just as an infinite number of zeros is still zero (infinity multiplied by zero equals zero), an infinite number of “nothing until its parts started to exist” is still nothing existing.
      6. So nothing exists if it is an infinite series of composites.
      7. Composite entities can exist only when there is a simple entity at one end of the series.

      johannes hui

    18. Hi Anonymous,

      Fundamentally, a composite entity X’s existence is continuously conditioned on the existence of its parts (and each part is not X, for X depends on something that is not itself).

      Only a simple entity’s existence is not conditioned on something else. Only a simple entity can exist through itself. Only a simple entity can have intrinsic existence.

      If the whole of reality comprises only composites, without any simple entity, then nothing exists in the whole of reality, because every composite entity’s condition for existence is ultimately unfulfilled.

      Hence any series of composites must have a simple entity in order for those composites to exist. This is an example of the general case of “any series of conditional entities must have an unconditioned entity in order for those conditional entities to exist”.

      The issue of composites and simple is merely one example of the general issue of conditioned and unconditioned entities.

      Every entity whose existence is conditional (eg conditional on existence of its parts) lacks intrinsic existence.

      Only an entity, whose existence is unconditional or unconditioned on anything, has intrinsic existence.

      johannes hui

    19. @Johannes

      Excellent explanation!

    20. Gentlemen/ladies - I got it now, thank you. Both of your Explanation helped a lot!

      I don’t think I was the same person you were talking to, Bill. Next time I will use a profile :)

  5. I started to get tired of this review pretty early on when I encountered statements like "philosophers have more or less given up on truth." I don't know anyone in any philosophy dept who has given up on truth, and of these, only a few philosophers are practicing Christians. And statements like this are so vague as to elude 'precisazione': "Truth exists. It galvanizes the cosmos, it suffuses creation throughout. Truth is not a subjective feeling or a random process, but real and knowable, at least in part, by the human mind." No one who even teaches Baby Logic is likely to say that truth is a subjective feeling or a random process; it's a property of propositions.

    So I didn't stick with the review to the end.

    1. Perhaps it should have included more pedantic and unnecessary exegesis of Aristotle or Aquinas? Or just confusion? Then it would have been more to your tastes perhaps.

    2. @ficino4ml I do agree with you. I think this guy has been around a lot of low-tier postmodernists, but I don't think even postmodernists believe in things like truth relativism. Postmodernists simply deny the existence of transcendentals or teleology, which isn't all that different from analytic philosophers tbh.

      @Anonymous Why bait, mate? He had a perfectly valid critique of the author, and you are just mocking him for it? What's wrong with you?

    3. He's never made a valid critique in his life.

    4. It does seem somewhat disrespectful to Feser to dismiss the review on such terms. Apparently Feser is a fool who couldn't tell this was a worthless review....

    5. You guys are free to like the review and express reasons why. I didn't like it and gave some reasons why not. What is the deal?

    6. Probably the condescending tone, as if this guy is an idiot. Actually, if he has in mind post-modern philosophers, it's pretty accurate, pace Mister Geocon.

    7. Unfortunately, there actually are quite a few philosophers and academics working in the humanities that hold extreme relativist views. The reviewer might have had more contact with them, or he just wanted to single them out because of how terrible (and traumatizing) they are.

      Moreover, I think it's completely unfair and unreasonable to ignore the rest of the review just because of that. After all, what is more important is the philosophy of nature and what the reviewer has written on that. And it was a nice review, and he even made some fruitful suggestions regarding logical species and so on.

      So it's a nice review, and I think it's unreasonable of you to write it off just because of those comments about relativistic philosophers, ficino.

    8. @Atno: I agree with Morgan that Feser brings clarity to many terms and concepts. And it was helpful of him to point to passages like Feser's criticism of Dembski for equivocating on "information," and Feser's calling attention to the distinction between logical and philosophical (or ontological?) species.

      Who is "the Sicilian" whom Morgan mentions in his last paragraph? Aquino is in Lazio, and Morgan couldn't be referring Empedocles or Gorgias. ??

    9. @Anonymous

      Have you ever read any of the Postmodernists at any length?

    10. Mister Geocon, has anyone?

    11. I have. They don't come across as relativists though. Interestingly enough, I consider them to be following the logical implications of denying the existence of formal and final causation. Postmodernism, at its core, has two main ideas: that there is no essence of what it is to be a thing, that there is no final cause to anything, and that the appearances of those things in nature is actually an ideological illusion. The core premises are no different from analytic philosophers, even if they take them in a different direction.

      The only way they could be read as relativists is if one were to universalize their historicism. Postmodernists often make arguments along these lines: "people nowadays believe X is self-evident, but in fact, people used to believe Y instead of X, so we don't have to believe in X." X here being something that the postmodernist wants to deconstruct, like property rights. Postmodernism is all about destroying what exists now so as to replace it with some new order of things on the basis that what exists now is not a result of "nature" but of the current cultural paradigm. This could be right or wrong, but it doesn't strike me as particularly relativistic in nature.

    12. @Mister Geocon

      To be fair, from what i get, a postmodernist would deny that we got any Truth with a capital t, since they don't think that ours points of views are more that just the product of ideology. This is enough to Morgan to be right.

      From what i understand about them, they pretty much follow Nietsche in his perspectivism, and he thinked that the idea of a objective truth was nonsense. Even his genealogical method was a inspiration for Foucault and others.

      But this point of view really is consistent with their premises, way more that the positivist one. Not only the naturalist deny formal and efficient causes, but by denying God he falls prey to Plantinga Evolutionary Argument(a thing Nietzsche saw and just accepted lol), so a naturalist HAS to not believe in objective truth if he is smart enough to be consistent.

    13. *formal and final causes


  6. Who are these Anonymous people who post BS? Go away, troll.

    1. Your comment wasn't baiting?

    2. ficino, you have a point.

  7. "Dr. Feser shows in Aristotle’s Revenge that, point for point, Aristotle got science right, or as right as he could given the limitations in instrumentation and communication with other researchers during his time." (Morgan)


    The atomists did far better. They deduced atoms moving in the void before any modern scientific tools were available.

    Aristotle nearly had motion in the void in his grasp, as he briefly refers to a feature of inertial motion by correctly stating with great insight that objects in the void would not stop moving once they were started moving.

    Unfortunately, Aristotle failed as he had convinced himself of the impossibility of the void, and instead considered all motion to be in a medium, failing to realize that motion is never lost he made the profound mistake of arguing for a first mover to account for what he perceived as motion in a medium that would otherwise be lost.

    Aquinas compounded that error in his First Way, a clearly false argument. Dr. Feser carries on with these failings that have been repeated and decisively refuted uncounted times for centuries, yet the false Aristotelian assertions persist.

    1. Anon,
      Do you realize that you are in the motion functional equivalent of the void, space, the vacuum?

      You, like everything else in our observable universe, are in space. Did you know that?

      Are you aware that motion proceeds unimpeded in space, and thus, everywhere in our universe, because all motion in our universe is motion in space?

      Since motion is never lost in space, only transferred, there is no call for a first mover at all, invalidating the First Way, and with it the foundation of Thomism, the necessity of the first mover.

      Or are you only able to place your index fingers in your ears while reciting nah nah nah go away?

    2. Or are you only able to place your index fingers in your ears while reciting nah nah nah go away?

      Resorting to anklebiting because you can't prove your point.

      But motion is not never lost or gained in space. This is the Einsteinian universe which treats space and time as interchangable, when in reality Dr. Feser provides proof that time cannot be converted to space and modern physics has failed miserably in explaining why time is asymmetric while space isn't. Both of those taken together are conclusive reasons to believe that motion can be created.

    3. Balanced,
      "But motion is not never lost or gained in space."
      Interesting, can you provide an example? Recall, Aquinas used "motion" in a broad sense, as do I.

      My assertion is that motion, collisions, and interactions in space are net lossless. Can you provide a link to a verified experiment that shows my assertion to be false?

      "Dr. Feser provides proof that time..."
      Did you have a chance to read the post on Cundy and the B theory of time about a couple months ago? Indeed, the reasoning of Dr. Feser was excellent in that case, but does nothing to support any notion of motion being lost somehow.

      "Both of those taken together are conclusive reasons to believe that motion can be created."
      Interesting. Can you provide a link to a verified experiment wherein things just started moving on their own?

      Sorry Balanced, you have a few things kind of mixed up about space, time, and motion. There is no such thing as friction at the sub-microscopic level. Motion through space is lossless. Space is transparent to the propagation of material.

      Motion in our universe is perpetual, which is why the First Way fails, besides its structural defects. Motion, in the broad sense of the term, is never lost or gained in the aggregate, thus there simply is no call for a first mover at all.

    4. Don't feed the troll.

    5. Anon,
      Which of these descriptions of the underlying reality have been shown to be the more accurate and insightful?

      Matter is composed of atoms. Atoms move in a void without resistance. Macro objects come and go as these atoms either join together or repel each other. All change is due to a change of place, motion at the smallest level of matter.

      Atoms are not real. There is nothing like a void. All matter is composed of just 4 elements, Earth, Wind, Water, Fire. All motion is in a medium such that a series of movers are required to sustain that motion, else motion would cease.

      Morgan claimed "Dr. Feser shows in Aristotle’s Revenge that, point for point, Aristotle got science right, or as right as he could given the limitations in instrumentation and communication with other researchers during his time."

      Is Morgan's claim true or false, and why?

      Can you offer any analysis on Morgan's apparent ignorance of how realistically those two Greek philosophers described the underlying reality, or can you only place your index fingers in your ears and chant "nah nah nah go away"?

    6. Actually, I'd score it a draw given QFT. The vacuum is not really an empty space waiting to be filled, but the habitation of multiple, ubiquitous fields. Modern theories even seem to make the space-time continuum itself a result of other primordial interactions rather than a receptacle. A true or absolute void seems incompatible with these ideas.

      As for moving without resistance, the Higgs Field, as I understand it, is modelled akin to a source of resistance, and is the reason subatomic particles not like the photon travel at less than the speed of light. The "size" of subatomic particles appears to be an artefact of their interaction with their own fields, if I remember correctly.

      Is all change due to spatial motion or redistribution of particles? Nope. Transformations can be much more interesting than that. Are macro-objects reducible to particular configurations of otherwise independent atoms? Nope. The sum is greater than the parts in potentiality because each of the atoms is modified by the presence of its neighbours, such that, for example, electrons' energy levels become only fully understandable as a "Fermi Sea" which is a consequence of the macro-configuration.

      How "real" are atoms in modern theory, at least if conceived in the rigid, indivisible and particle-like idea of Democritus? Given the zigzag picture of the electron and the general analysis of particle interactions in terms of perpetual particle-field exchanges of energy, it would seem, as I understand it, that what Artistotle got wrong was not the presence of the "medium" and its receipt of energy, but not considering that the medium could give it back.

      Also, the classical law of inertia only pushes back an argument from change ("motion" meaning change more generally for an Aristotelian-Thomist) to the level of accelerations, if just considering material-dynamic processes, since these changes in physical motion do require external forces. However, as noted, "motion" is not just about mechanics in this context anyway.

      Where Aristotle further overtakes a reductionist Democritus is the perception of categories not reducible to particles in motion or combination. To use more modern terminology, the qualia, abstracta, quantum fields, etc. find a home far more easily in the Aristotelian worldview than the reductionist, "mechanics-is-all" one.

    7. Don't feed the trollsFebruary 26, 2020 at 1:03 AM

      Be please be minded that SP is a banned and noxious troll. It is utterly useless engaging him, and it will only cause his posts to spread. Please don't feed him.

    8. Fr M. Kirby
      "Actually, I'd score it a draw given QFT. The vacuum is not really an empty space"
      Space is, for moving objects, the functional equivalent of the void, so Democritus was far more accurate than Aristotle.

      Democritus went in the correct direction, as did, for example, Dalton.

      Aristole went in the wrong direction in physics and had to be unlearned by scientists before real progress could be made.

      The Atomic Theory is far superior to Aristole's notions of 4 elements and all subsidiary motion being in a medium.

      All motion is in space, not in an impeding medium, and that space offers no resistance to motion, just as the void of Democritus.

      "the Higgs Field, as I understand it, is modelled akin to a source of resistance,"
      No, the Higgs Field does not comprise a resistant medium such that a mover is required to continue the motion of an already moving object.
      Aristotle was wrong.
      Aquinas was wrong.
      Feser is wrong.

      "Is all change due to spatial motion or redistribution of particles? Nope."
      Yet you give no examples.
      All the examples of change Dr. Feser cites are clearly the result of the motion of material. Change of quantity, change of temperature, change of color are all due to motion of material, there are no exceptions, or can you provide at least 1 counterexample?

      "what Artistotle got wrong was not the presence of the "medium" and its receipt of energy, but not considering that the medium could give it back."
      Indeed Aristotle got wrong the notion of an impeding medium which in which motion would be lost without the continuous assistance of a mover.

      That's one of the more obvious reasons that Aristotle, Aquinas, and Feser all fail in their attempts to argue for the *necessity* of a hierarchical first mover in the present moment.

      Dr. Feser's fallback position is that the observation of inertial motion does not rule out a first mover, but neither does it rule out fairies or demons, or submicroscopic unicorns moving things from place to place. One can dream up fanciful and superperfluous speculations such as a first mover without upper bound, but such speculations that cannot be disproved are irrelevant to his central claim, for the *necessity* of a first mover. *Necessity* of the first mover is in fact ruled out by the observation that space is transparent and the motions at the submicroscopic level are net lossless.

      "since these changes in physical motion do require external forces."
      Not to each other, no. Changes in motion are due to mutual interactions. Considering the mutual interactions as a whole then no external forces are required.

      Mutual interactions, or mutual causation, terminates the hierarchical regress of movers finitely.

      "To use more modern terminology, the qualia, abstracta, quantum fields, etc"...are all reducible to material in motion, such as the electro-chemical processes of the brain and oscillations of quantum fields.

    9. Why does everyone say StardustPsyche is a troll? He/she is maybe a little prickly but I find a lot of what he/she is saying is interesting and challenging even if I don't agree. Smarter than me anyway.

  8. I see that Jason Morgan (not to be confused with Jason Morgan Ward) earned his doctorate in History from Wisconsin in 2016. So his training is not in a philosophy program. I can better understand, then, why he writes things like this in his review of Paul Robinson's The Realist Guide to Religion and Science (Gilsoniana 8 [2019] 187-94):

    "I had not been in graduate school in the United States for too long before I discovered that intellectual faddishness had taken the place of being fastidiously intellectual, and that the pursuit of political correctness had won out over the pursuit of truth. Most people in the American academy, regardless of what they profess to study, are little
    more than makeshift sociologists, nervously checking to see where the surrounding herd is headed before making any pronouncements in their own field. Anything judged not in keeping with the ever-shifting standards of conformity to received opinion is rejected as unscientific or anti-intellectual and ignored.
    Frustrated with this state of affairs, I remarked one day during seminar that in the Middle Ages universities had been places where truth was sought. I said I wanted to return universities to their medieval orientation of honest, freewheeling debate. Needless to say, the professor assumed a pained, frozen smile while the other graduate students
    snickered and sneered ... Paul Robinson’s The Realist Guide to Religion and Science is therefore a very welcome addition to the growing, and increasingly
    activist, remnant of truth-seekers who want to do more than fritter away their intellectual dhimmitude on the margins of post-modern and Marxian anti-scholarship."


  10. Just got the book and super pumped to read it!

  11. Hi Feser Excellent as always. I greet you from Mexico; I am a first-timer in regard to the Thomistic pathways and I would like a question to be resolved (same, if this is not the right space, I ask you to help me contact, brother)

    Regarding the accusations that Thomas Aquinas commits "free affirmations" in his 5 ways (for example, that he does not justify why an infinite regression of causes is not possible and why the first engine should be God), how do we respond ? Since apparently these free statements are present (although he heard that not all free statements are fallacies). Blessings!

  12. can someone help me understand why Zeno's paradox of infinite divisions of space is solved by saying there are only potential spaces instead of actual? Wouldn't standing in one spot actualize the whole of the area around you (the whole earth) because that particular piece of matter that holds you is in its particular place due to other matter holding it up and and so on, so you standing would actualize all of space, even its possible divisions.

    1. Hi Paul,

      No matter how many divisions you managed to divide between two points, the quantity of those divisions you successfully achieved is always a finite quantity. You can never manage to divide the distance between two points into an infinite quantity of divisions. In this sense, an infinite divisions can never be actualised.

      (Aside: Conceptually, infinite quantity is something unachievable. To have successfully actualised an infinite quantity is like saying you have achieved what is impossible to be achieved, which is an intrinsic contradiction.)

      johannes hui

    2. And Paul, the action of your foot standing on the whole area between the two points is not the action of creating divisions between the two points. If you use a pencil to mark up one hundred equal parts between those two points, that would be an act of making divisions between the two points. Imagine that you try achieving an infinite divisions that way and you should be able to see why it is impossible. For every quantity of division you managed to achieve (eg 3000 equal divisions created), you can think of creating a even greater quantity.

      johannes hui

    3. Thanks Reasonable, it makes so much more sense the way you state it. But now I have another question, if matter has the quality of extension then it would mean that in theory it is composed of infinite parts because everything that is extended can be divided, so do we just say that because it is impossible to actually divide matter infinitely it must not be infinite?

    4. Hi Paul,

      Glad you found my explanation helpful.

      A material entity is never “ACTUALLY” composed of an infinite number of parts, because an infinite quantity is impossible to be actualised. Every actualised quantity, no matter how large, is always a finite quantity.

      Hence a material entity, even though extended in space, should not be described as “actually composing” of an infinite number of parts. Its ability to “ACTUALLY existing” as a composite of infinite number of parts is impossible, because an infinite quantity is impossible to have “ACTUAL existence”.

      johannes hui

    5. That also makes sense, thank you for your explanations and time Reasonable. So then, what would we make of the first level in the organization of material entities, does this even exist? And if it does can this be further divided? But I do understand what you explained, you can never have an infinite quantity because it is impossible to actualize it. So then there must be a first rank of matter that cannot be further divided? Or maybe I am missing something else in order to complete this picture.

    6. Hi Paul,

      I am not sure if I understood you correctly.

      Let’s use a table as an example.

      There are different ways to think of a table as a composition of parts:

      one top and four legs and eight screws (5 parts)
      iron part and wooden part (2 parts)
      a thousand horizontal parts after it has been sliced horizontally

      As long as it is matter, it can be divided up in many different ways.

      And each part itself can be further divided in different ways, and so on.

      johannes hui

    7. I guess I am having a hard time reconciling the idea that an infinite quantity is impossible to actualize (which I do understand after you explained it) and the idea that if this impossibility is true then it means that we should be able to find the smallest physical entity that makes up the material universe (smaller than a quark). But if this "smallest physical entity" is still matter then it can be further divided.

    8. Hi Paul,

      I made an error in adding the number of parts in dividing the table into 4 legs, 1 top and 8 screws. I put the total as 5 parts. It should instead be 13 parts. :D

      On your latest comment:

      Well, whether or not the “smallest physical entity” can be divided further PHYSICALLY, it can certainly be further divided NON-PHYSICALLY.

      For example, it can be divided between essence and existence, because its essence is distinguished or different from its existence.

      The only entity that cannot be further divided is a non-composite entity, ie an entity that does not comprise parts. This entity’s essence is existence.

      johannes hui

    9. Yes that is very true, contingent entities point to the existence of a necessary being whose essence is existence, and everything, even angels, are contingent entities (I learned that from Dr. Feser's book "Aquinas"). I don't doubt the fact God exists (a proud traditional Catholic here; by the way, happy first Sunday of lent Reasonable!). I was just wondering about the qualities of material things (having extension, capable of being divided and counted, and by nature finite since matter is potentiality and as such it limits the entity's existence and perfections) and if there is a smallest physical entity.

    10. Also about Zeno's Paradox but you really gave me a very good explanation to understand that infinite divisions are impossible

    11. Hi Paul,

      Quantum Physics or some undiscovered law of physics in our world, or a different set of physical laws in a different logically possible universe, may point to a physical limitation in how small certain physical entities can be divided into, but metaphysically there should be no limit on how small a physical entity can be cut into.

      johannes hui

  13. has anyone read this critique of the last superstition? do you guys think it holds water? he essentially says feser is dishonest..

    1. I wish people would stop pasting these trash "refutations" of Feser's work here.

      Of course it's ridiculous to call Feser dishonest. He is intellectually honest and his arguments are sincere and reflect much of current discussions in academia.

      And there is no knockdown "refutation" of his arguments, which for the most part are classical arguments with a tremendous pedigree that have been defended by brilliant minds throughout history. You can avoid his metaphysical conclusions, but it will come at a price - for various positions, that price will include rejection of PSR; of realism and all the neat solutions it allows for many philosophical issues; opening a bunch of skeptical threats and issues by rejecting forms and final causes; etc.

      Anyone can avoid his arguments, but they gotta pay the price. It's just a matter of how much they're willing to pay.

    2. Atno,
      "Of course it's ridiculous to call Feser dishonest. "
      Considering how often Dr. Feser employs techniques such as proof texting and selective citations, given his education, dishonesty is certainly on the table, although nobody can really be sure of the motivations of others, so how do you know he "of course" is honest?

      "And there is no knockdown "refutation" of his arguments"
      Of course there are. All Aristotelian arguments for the existence of god are riddled with false premises and invalid logic while they employ a host of incoherent terms.

      "classical arguments with a tremendous pedigree that have been defended by brilliant minds throughout history."
      Defended yes, successfully no.

      "that price will include rejection of PSR"
      On the PSR free will is ruled out.
      Randomness is by definition an effect without a reason at all, much less a sufficient reason, so the PSR mandates a strictly deterministic universe.
      On a deterministic universe free will is ruled out.
      Dr. Feser holds the incoherent position that both the PSR and free will are real.

      "Anyone can avoid his arguments"
      I have decisively refuted his arguments on multiple occasions. The fact that the PSR rules out free will is one of the more obvious examples of the incoherent positions of Thomism as expressed by Dr. Feser.

    3. Please, end your sophistry, StardustyPsyche.

      Your characterization of randomness, for one thing, doesn't violate the PSR, and, if you've actually, you know, read Feser, you'd know what he has to say about vague terms like "deterministic" or "indeterministic." To summarize for you (because I'm not convinced you've read the man at any length or depth), "randomness" i.e. indeterminate causes do not disprove the PSR. Indeterminate causes are still causes. You also assume that Feser holds your view on free will when (again, if you've read him), you'd know he doesn't.

      Just because you say you've "decisively refuted his arguments" doesn't mean you actually did so. As I've demonstrated, all you've done is try to redefine terms so that he's incoherent, which is uncharitable. Given your lack of charity, I see no reason to take your wild and unproven accusations with any kind of seriousness.

    4. Mister Geocon,
      Why did you write him a reply? Don't make him more confused than he already is. Stardusty clearly doesn't know what he's talking about, and he doesn't care; dude might have issues or something, as he keeps writing the same things and misrepresenting everything in the same exact way every time. He won't understand the issues, or if he does (???) he doesn't care and just wants to make a speech. He's not open to being corrected, or to study the matter, or to change his mind. He just likes the sound of his own voice (or, more aptly, just likes his own texts) or enjoys practicing his speeches here.

      How many times do people have to ask to not feed him? Stardusty is NOT open to the possibility of being wrong, he just likes to write speeches and try to organize his own muddled thoughts in a combox to himself. He does the same thing in every big theist blog out there.

      There are anonymous skeptics that you can argue with. There's Walter, who has some ridiculously crazy views, but that you can also argue with. There's ficino. There's a bunch of people here who don't subscribe to thomistic metaphysics that you can have a fruitful discussion with. Stardusty is not one of them. He really doesn't care. Stop feeding him, honestly.

      Stardusty, Cervantes, Counter-Rebel, these are people who are not open to rational discussion. They're only interested in pontificating and sharing propaganda of their own idiosyncratic views. And it takes up space and messes up with the combox.

      So please refrain from feeding these people. Stop reading their posts, if you can't help yourself.

    5. Don't feed the trollsFebruary 26, 2020 at 2:31 PM

      Apart from what Atno has said, it is also the case that each of those three posters have been specifically banned by Feser and we have been told explicitly not to feed them, or any like that. Alas, blogspot doesn't allow actual bans, so the only way to stop them posting is for Feser to delete their comments or to put on comment moderation again. If we wish to avoid either of these necessities, we need to stop feeding them.

    6. @Atno

      Atno, you seem very knowledgeable about A-T metaphysics and Prof. Fesers defense of it. I was wondering if I could have your email or something of that sort (social media or something like that). It can often be difficult to find in depth answers to the questions I often have, and being an amateur philosopher with a lot of reading to do, it would be immensely useful if I could have direct contact with a fellow philosopher who is knowledgeable in the Thomistic school of thought. Otherwise I often become stuck on simple questions that can take weeks to resolve. I understand if you're generally busy and don't have the time though. Let me know, thanks.

    7. Mister Geocon February 26, 2020 at 12:02 PM
      "Indeterminate causes are still causes"

      You are saying that no reason is the reason. That makes no sense. You are simply uttering an incoherent statement.

      Chaos is deterministic, although it is too complicated for humans to predict precisely. Every event happens for a reason, but because the system is too complicated to analyze precisely it is possible to at least analyze the chaotic system using a probability distribution. The reason a chaotic system exhibits a particular probability distribution is that the process is not random, rather, deterministic.

      Intrinsic randomness, the concept, the notion of true randomness, requires events without causes. A term like "random cause" is incoherent.

      A truly random event cannot be predicted even in principle. Even with unlimited analytical capabilities a truly random event has no causal mechanism to be analyzed and happens for no reason at all.

      If an event can in principle be analyzed such that it can be predicted by virtue of careful examination of the structure of the causal mechanism then that event is not a random event, rather, it is a caused event.

      A random event is by necessity an uncaused event. If there is a cause to an event then in principle we could analyze the structure of the causal mechanism to predict the outcome of the event, in which case the event would not be random, rather it would be a caused event that happened for a reason.

      A truly random event must be uncaused and must occur for no reason. If you or Dr. Feser or anybody else uses a term such as "random cause" then such an individual is uttering incoherently.

      Clearly, any element of randomness in the universe violates the PSR, because a truly random element necessarily has no cause and no reason for that element of the event transaction.

      If the PSR is absolutely universal then there cannot possibly be any element of randomness in the universe, ruling out free will in humans, god, or any other conceivable being, even in principle.

      But by all means, please do post a link to any writing by Dr. Feser that proves me wrong on this subject.

    8. Atno, you left out the greatest of all trolls - that troll than which no greater can be conceived - Santi, the Hugh Hefner of Bonobos.

    9. Crash February 26, 2020 at 5:47 PM
      "in the Thomistic school of thought. Otherwise I often become stuck on simple questions that can take weeks to resolve"
      That is not because you are uneducated or in need of expert Thomistic assistance.

      The reason you continually get stuck is that Thomism uses regression analysis that begins with false premises and erroneous concepts dating back thousands of years.

      All Thomists always get stuck, so their basic technique is to then invent incoherent terms by combining fundamentally disjoint words. Here are a few examples:
      Existence itself
      Pure act
      Absolutely simple first mover
      Indeterminate cause

      In each case one of the words in the term satisfies some aspect of a regression analysis, the other word satisfies some other aspect of an analysis, so the Thomist simply combines these words, and declares eureka.

      Being a stuck Thomist is like getting to the end of a math problem and arriving at 5=1. You, being a ration person, feel stuck at that point, but the Thomist "solves" the problem by simply insisting that 5 really does equal 1 and 5 must equal 1 because of the long work of regression analysis that preceded and led to the conclusion that 5=1.

      For example the term
      indeterminate cause.

      Firstly, the notion of a cause which is then followed by an event is false at the most fundamental level of existence. All causality is mutual and interactive. It is impossible to meaningfully designate one object as the cause and one object as the effect because all entities interact mutually over time. Mutuality of causal interaction is how the universe works at base, and is easy to understand on large scales as well, say, the way the Earth and the moon mutually cause each other and themselves to orbit a common center of mass.

      It would make no sense to designate, say, the Earth as the cause and the moon as the effect.

      But, we have the illusion of designating causes and effects in our daily lives. We also have the illusion of an "event". An event is actually a period of time wherein multiple entities mutually interact without any cause or effect that can be meaningfully designated, since all interacting entities in the "event" are mutually interacting with each other.

      Nevertheless, humans do designate a cause and an effect, typically by approximating one macro object as having imparted something onto another macro object, like person A stabbing person B in the heart caused the death of person B. Those sorts of designations, while ultimately illusory at the fundamental level of physics, are how complex organisms make sense of the world and function day to day.

      If there is a cause then in principle, given unlimited analytical capacity, the mechanism of that causal process could be analyzed and thus the outcome could be predicted, meaning cause is inherently deterministic.

    10. Crash, An "indeterminate cause" as a literal term is thus incoherent, and can only be taken as an indication of a lack of knowledge such that the cause, even though there is one, cannot be determined by a limited being. The cause must still be deterministic, but we lack the capability to determine it.

      But what if, in principle, an effect is unpredictable, intrinsically random? That means that even with unlimited analytical capability no causal mechanism could be discovered to be analyzed, in that case there is no causal mechanism and thus no cause. Since there is no cause then there is no reason, the random effect necessarily happens for no reason by no cause because that is what it means to be a truly random effect.

      Yet, Crash, Thomists insist that all events occur for a reason, and not only a reason, a sufficient reason, even a proportionate reason. Therefore, perhaps without grasping its consequence, the Thomist requires that the entire universe always proceeds deterministically without any element of randomness.

      Since universal determinism rules out free will, it is obvious that the PSR rules out free will.

      But the Thomist asserts both free will and the PSR are true and real. To "solve" this problem the Thomist does what the Thomist always does when he, like you, gets stuck, he invents an incoherent term and then declares eureka.

      In the case of the PSR and free will the Thomistic incoherent term used to "solve" the problem is an assertion of a true "random cause" or "indeterminate cause".

      So, Crash, to get unstuck I suggest you identify all the incoherent terms in Thomism and adopt a rational philosophy instead of the irrationality that is Thomism.

    11. StardustPsyche:

      I'm curious why you think that PSR rules out free will. You mention randomness right after that. Do I understand correctly that Free Will and Random Choice are synonymous or at the very least closely related?

      I ask because I think that Random Choice is basically never treated as an instance of Free Will. A coin doesn't choose which side it will land on. If people made decisions completely randomly, we would call them insane, not "free willed".

      I see Free Will as proximaly uncompelled choice. Where the proximal causes of my choices are mostly in my mind, as opposed to imposed on me by circumstance or some other will.

      I do think Feser argues that mental processes are deterministic. (At least sometimes)

    12. I find it a bit "trollish" when someone calls my views "ridiculously crazy".

      If people want a genuine discussion, that kind of language isn't going to help.

    13. Hark,
      "Do I understand correctly that Free Will and Random Choice are synonymous or at the very least closely related?"
      Free will is not the same as randomness, but there is a relationship.

      Randomness does not by itself require free will, but a lack of randomness rules out free will.

      Consider what free will would mean, if it were the case that it existed in our universe in any being. Free will requires that one has the ability to chose otherwise as time progresses.

      To have free will it must be the case that at any particular time, say t1, a decision between choices, say c1 and c2, has not yet been made. So, at t1 it must be existentially possible, the structure of our universe must be such that, a being at t1 has the option to choose between c1 and c2.

      If at t1 the structure of our universe is such that the being in fact can only choose one of those options, say c1, and that it is physically impossible for that being to have chosen c2 then that choice cannot have been free.

      Therefore, if the universe is strictly deterministic then free will is ruled out.

      The PSR rules out any element of randomness in our universe, therefore the PSR rules out free will and it is incoherent to assert both the PSR and free will are real.

      The PSR rules our any element or randomness because randomness is by definition an uncaused effect, an effect that occurs for no reason.

      One can rationally speak of an undetermined cause, a cause that humans have not yet been able to identify. It is incoherent to speak of an indeterminate cause, meaning a random cause. To say "random cause" is to say "no cause cause", or "no reason reason", and simply makes no sense.

      If an effect happens for a reason then in principle, given an unlimited analytical capability, we could identify that reason and understand its causal mechanism. Having identified the causal mechanism of that reason prior to the effect, in principle, we could then predict that precise effect, indicating that the effect had no element of randomness and was therefore strictly determined.

      The PSR asserts that all effects in our universe happen for a reason, a sufficient reason, so the PSR rules out any element or randomness in our universe, making our universe strictly deterministic, and thereby ruling out free will.

    14. Walter, I meant no offense man. I was just emphasizing the fact that one can have good discussions with someone with crazy views, so long as the person is reasonable and actually interested in the substance of the arguments and open to being proven wrong. I think you have some crazy views, but my point was to make it clear that the problem is not with the person's views, but their attitude. Stardusty has terribly crazy views too, but he is not open to being refuted, he doesn't even take any challenge seriously, and just condescendingly writes the same speeches over and over again.

    15. Stardust, you said:

      "Randomness does not by itself require free will, but a lack of randomness rules out free will."

      You're going to have to explain that one to me, because as I said before, it seems to me that when we observe randomness, we explicitly not only rule out free will but any kind of will at all. We would in fact call randomness "mindless". So can you cite a example of randomness that a reasonable person would not characterize as "mindless" ? I can't think of anything.

      " Free will requires that one has the ability to chose otherwise as time progresses."

      Indeed it does. It means that for any given choice, there were possible alternative choices. If I am in handcuffs, the choice to scratch my nose is not available to me. It could rightly be said that my "choice" to have my hands behind my back is no choice at all.

      If I am not in handcuffs, and my nose is itchy, and I am not otherwise impeded, I *will* scratch my nose. But I could have chosen otherwise. I will pretty much scratch my nose every time. But my choice was nonetheless free.

      By the way, neither Feser nor any A-T minded people I have spoken to would argue that the universe is strictly deterministic. Quite the contrary. In philosophy of mind, the disconnect between undeterministic conjunctions of physical states and a pretty darned deterministic conjunctions of mental mental states is central to the hard problem of consciousness.

      PSR, in my opinion, does not imply a deterministic universe. I'm not sure where you are getting that.

      I also don't know why you equate randomness with uncaused effects. Why can't a random event be directly due to another random event? Or why can't some cause have as its possible effect a constrained set of random effects? If I throw dice in the air and they land on a table, you could arguably say that the numbers displayed by the dice are random, but there is a finite set of numbers that *could* be displayed. (The dice won't turn into butt plugs.) And the cause is clearly that I threw the dice in the first place, no?

      What is the explanation for the displayed being what they are? The explanation is that I threw the dice and they had a random chance of showing the numbers they showed. Is that not an explanation? (PSR preserved)

    16. Atno,
      "Stardusty has terribly crazy views too, but he is not open to being refuted"
      How would you know? You certainly have no displayed capacity to even engage on the arguments I raise.

      Perhaps you have some very strong refutations of all my arguments, but you have not displayed them in the form of any refutations of my arguments.

      Sam Harris for a while would often lament that those he was debating would never admit how wrong they were in real time. I wrote him a posted comment to say that is just not how people interact realistically.

      People change their minds in small increments over time, to the extent that even the strongest arguments can ever change anybody's mind.

      It is completely unrealistic to think the other person is just going to reverse their whole worldview on a dime, people aren't like that.

      Now, a large number of the good folks here seem to think that they can just toss out a few lines of offhand attacks and perhaps if only I were a sane and honest person I would be so overwhelmed by their argumentation greatness I would just say "wow, gosh, I never thought of that, you are ever so right, what a big dummy I have been my entire adult life". And when that doesn't happen, why of course the only reasonable explanation is that I am insane or dishonest. How childish.

      If you have some arguments, fine, let's hear them, so far you have presented no rational refutations to my arguments and I therefore stand unrefuted by you or anybody else here.

    17. Hark,
      “I said before, it seems to me that when we observe randomness, we explicitly not only rule out free will but any kind of will at all.”
      Agreed, but that is another argument I was not focused on here.
      Determinism rules out free will.
      Randomness cannot be the engine of free will.

      Free will is an incoherent notion in general, but to make that case takes more argumentation, and I try to stay somewhat focused in the space of a combox.

      The argument for determinism ruling out free will is short, clear, and well established, so that is what I have been focused on here.

      “By the way, neither Feser nor any A-T minded people I have spoken to would argue that the universe is strictly deterministic.”
      Right, not explicitly, but they do hold that the PSR is real, so without A-T folks realizing it they hold a view that requires the universe to be deterministic.

      “And the cause is clearly that I threw the dice in the first place, no?”
      No. It seems that way from a human perspective, but there is no identifiable cause versus effect in how things interact. All interactions are at base mutual, like the Earth and the moon mutually orbiting a common center of mass, or two electrons mutually repelling each other. The designation of one object’s motions as “the cause” and another object’s motions as “the effect” is artificial, arbitrary, meaningless, and illusory at base.

      Yes, molecules in your muscles attracted each other so your arm moved and the dice went up into the air and the Earth and the dice mutually interacted gravitationally, and the dice and the air molecules mutually interacted as the dice spun in the air, and the molecules of the dice mutually interacted with the molecules of the table upon landing and the sum of all those mutual interactions led to some orientation of the dice when they came nominally to rest on the table.

      If I throw a knife across the room it would seem random as to how it smacked into the far wall. But a skilled person can impart just the right motion to make the knife stick in the wall. What seems random is actually deterministic, but so complicated that we lack the capability to control to a sufficient resolution to produce humanly predictable results. But in principle those results are predictable as evidenced by those who have the resolution in their motor skills needed for predictable results.

    18. Hark,
      “PSR preserved”
      In every case that the PSR is preserved the outcome of a process is in principle predictable and therefore not random.

      You are correct in saying that a truly random event is in some sense mindless. There is no will at all in a truly random event, as you correctly stated. To assert a will one must assert that an agent is causing a specific event. But if the event is truly random there can be no causal link between the will and the effect, rather, the effect just happens unpredictably even in principle, even if the agent with will had unlimited analytical capabilities. Say you will X to happen but P happens, so you try again to will X to happen but K happens and every time you will X to happen something truly random happens then even if you had unlimited capabilities to analyze the causal mechanism as to why all these truly random events keep happening you never could, because in a truly random effect there is no cause at all, an no reason at all, that’s what would make the effect truly random.

      If there were an identifiable cause then you could, in principle, understand the reason why things are happening as they are and you could predict what was going to happen before it did. But with a truly random effect you can’t do that even in principle because there is no cause and there is no reason for the truly random effect, it just happens, well, randomly, any old which way without rhyme or reason or cause or predictability.

      So, if the PSR holds then there can never be any effect anywhere in the universe that has any element of randomness, because true random effects happen for no reason at all, not a sufficient reason.

      Therefore the PSR mandates that the universe must be strictly deterministic, and that rules out free will of any sort in the universe.

    19. Atno

      I didn't take what you wrote as an offense, but it is not a good way of discussing things if the other party starts calling his opponent's view crazy.
      It doesn't matter if you think they are crazy, but you cannot use that term if you want to have a good discussion. That's also a matter of attitude.

  14. @Crash Atno and some others from this blog post here

  15. I have a question: can we use Putnam's "no miracles" argument against non-realism about time? Also, is this explanation against the claim about the unreality of time: Time cannot be unreal because the Aristotelian regards change as a real feature of objective, mind-independent world. And if change is real, how can that which we use to measure change be any less real? Time is real because we use it to measure real changes, just like rulers are real because it measures real lengths.

    1. Matthew,
      Did you have a chance to read Dr. Feser's post of a couple months about in response to Cundy?

      Dr. Feser does an excellent job discussing the unreality of the B theory of time as compared to the reality of the A theory of time. The discussion about the difference between an abstraction versus structural reality is also very good.

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