Saturday, February 8, 2020

Sandstad and Jansen on Aristotle’s Revenge


At the Bryn Mawr Classical Review, philosophers Petter Sandstad and Ludger Jansen review my book Aristotle’s Revenge.  From the review:

Feser’s book adds to a growing body of literature on neo-Aristotelian approaches in metaphysics and the philosophy of science.  However, Feser stands out from other analytic neo-Aristotelians with his in-depth knowledge and discussion of 20th and 21st century neo-Thomistic literature, and one can learn a lot from reading this book

The book is certainly written in an accessible style and language, which makes it readable also for undergraduate students, and even a popular audience could find much of the discussion valuable… Maybe professional philosophers will be interested in reading some of Feser’s polemics, for instance, against structural realism, reductionism, or non-presentist views of time. Finally, the book can serve as a reference point for metaphysicians and philosophers of science interested in learning about neo-Thomistic approaches in these fields… [I]t will certainly be exciting for scholars of Aristotle or Aquinas to see how these theories are used to elucidate the exciting discoveries of modern physics, biology and neuroscience.

On the book’s treatment of specific topics, they write:

Feser’s account is not a mere repristination of neo-Scholastic Aristotelianism but is also tailored to deal with current scientific ideas.  Some of Feser’s discussions are of particular interest.  For example, Feser’s mereological take on formal and material causation is highly original…

Another exciting topic… is that of potentiality.  One idea original to the new book is that kinds of natural substances can be ordered along a scale of potentiality, according to how many potentialities they have Highest on the scale is prime matter, which has the potential to become anything.  Lower on the scale are fermions, even lower is water, and very low on the scale are, e.g., cows and other higher forms of life.

End quote.  Unlike a couple of other recent reviewers, Sandstad and Jansen have no difficulty focusing on what the book is actually about:

The book is not a historical scholarly work on Aristotle; it does not discuss different interpretations of Aristotle; and it only references a couple of works by Aristotle scholars.  Rather, the book is a systematic work within metaphysics, philosophy of science, and what Feser calls ‘philosophy of nature’ – which is basically a more traditional term for what is currently called ‘metaphysics of science’.

End quote.  Sandstad and Jansen raise some interesting points of criticism as well.  For example, commenting further on what they call the “scale of potentiality” that I say exists in nature, they write:

Feser seems not to distinguish sufficiently between potentialities, possibilities, and dispositions...  In cases like the fermions, what has many potentialities has very few dispositions, while for cows or humans, it is the other way around.  

End quote.  This is a good point, and the distinctions Sandstad and Jansen are drawing here are very important and essential to a thorough and precise hylemorphic analysis of various kinds of substance.  In fact I do develop these distinctions myself in Scholastic Metaphysics, in chapter 1 on act and potency.  I do not deploy them in the specific passages on which Sandstad and Jansen are commenting, because my intention there was not to provide an analysis of cows, fermions, etc. per se, but rather to make other points. 

For example, when I describe the scale of potentialities in matter in the context of discussing quantum mechanics (at pp. 312-15 of Aristotle’s Revenge), the point is to note how as we descend down the levels of physical reality, including those that feature in the micro-level description afforded by modern physics, we arrive at ever closer approximations to the notion of prime matter.  When I describe the scale of potentialities in matter in the context of discussing evolution (at p. 426), the point is to note how one of the aspects of a transformist account of the origins of species might be said to be implicit in hylemorphism. 

I don’t think my neglect of the distinctions Sandstad and Jansen call attention to affects the specific points I was making in passages like these.  All the same, they are right to note that a fuller account of various kinds of substance would have to bring those distinctions in.

To be sure, they continue their criticism as follows:

This also points to a limitation of Feser’s idea of virtual existence: Saying that it is possible for a fermion to be part of a cow is not the same as saying that the fermion has a disposition to be part of a cow.  There is a further problem.  On the one hand, all ‘higher’ forms of being are already ‘virtually’ contained in prime matter – which means that there are powers in prime matter that allow for the generation of the other forms of being… On the other hand, Feser insists that substances (like fermions, copper or cats) bring with them new and irreducible powers.  It is not obvious how he can resolve this tension.

End quote.  I’m not certain that I see what the first problem is that Sandstad and Jansen are trying to call attention to here, but if I do understand them correctly, it seems to me that once again they may be ignoring the specific intentions I had in the passages on which they are commenting. 

For example, when I say that the parts of a true substance are within it virtually (such as a fermion being virtually within an ordinary physical object), what I am trying to do is to explain ideas like the difference between substantial form and accidental form (where the parts of a thing which has only an accidental form are in it actually rather than merely virtually).  I am not, in that context, offering a complete analysis of the active and passive potencies of fermions and the like in general, or of the ways that what is true of them in one context (e.g. as constituents of a cow) might not be true of them in another (e.g. outside a cow).  It is perfectly true that such an analysis is important, but it just isn’t what I am concerned with in the specific passages in question.  An account might be incomplete without being incorrect (as I am sure Sandstad and Jansen would agree).

Similarly, there is no conflict between the claim that various kinds of physical substance are contained potentially within prime matter, and the claim that higher forms of physical substance have powers that the lower forms lack.  For we have to keep in mind the complexity that a complete account of the efficient causes of a thing has on the hylemorphic story.  For a certain kind of physical substance to come into being, you need not only the presence of matter having the appropriate potencies, but also the presence of an efficient cause able to actualize those potencies.  For example, a rag soaked in gasoline has the potential to catch fire, but a momentary gentle cool breeze passing over the rag won’t actualize that potential.  You need another kind of efficient cause to do that.

In the same way, though there is a sense in which both copper and cats are present potentially in prime matter, different kinds of efficient cause are necessary in order to actualize those potentials.  This is precisely because copper and cats have different causal powers, and those causal powers are due in part to the efficient causes of these things, and not just to their material causes.  Now, in the specific passages that I think Sandstad and Jansen might have in mind here (e.g. the one at p. 426), what I am doing is, again, simply noting how part of a transformist story of the origin of species (though not the whole of such a story) lies in the hylemorphic notion of matter and the different potencies that different kinds of matter have.  But I am not claiming that an appeal to the wide range of potencies present in prime matter is sufficient for a transformist story.  It is not.  (I do say more about what the efficient-causal side of the story would have to look like, just a little later on in the book at pp. 428-32.)

A further objection raised by Sandstad and Jansen is the following:

Another problem is that Feser often confuses the metaphysical and the epistemological aspects of science.  For instance, the Aristotelian doctrines are often argued to be indispensable because the phenomena otherwise would be unintelligible… Similarly, the principle of sufficient reason is about intelligibility, rather than anything metaphysical.

End quote.  Here I would certainly plead not guilty.  For one thing, I simply reject Sandstad’s and Jansen’s assertion that the principle of sufficient reason (PSR) has no metaphysical significance.  Indeed, PSR plays such a central role in rationalist and Neo-Scholastic metaphysics that it is surprising that Sandstad and Jansen would make this assertion so flatly, without at least acknowledging that their opponents are bound to regard it as tendentious or even question-begging.

Recall that in the view of Thomists and other Scholastics, being and truth are both transcendentals, and thus convertible.  Truth is just being considered as intelligible, and given the convertibility of the transcendentals we can infer that anything that has being must accordingly be intelligible – in which case PSR has metaphysical significance.  It tells us the way reality is, not just how we have to think about it.  (For further discussion, see my treatment of PSR at pp. 137-46 of Scholastic Metaphysics.) 

Offering examples of my alleged conflation of metaphysics and epistemology, Sandstad and Jansen write:

[I]n his discussion of reduction in chemistry, Feser argues that the identification of the lower levels presupposes a prior grasp of the higher levels... Further, Feser accepts Locke’s point that “real essence, you might say, ‘piggybacks’ on nominal essence”… But, this dependence seems to be merely epistemological, namely to know the real essence of a thing one must first know its nominal essence.

End quote.  But in fact, the points I am making in these passages are by no means merely epistemological.  When critics of reductionism in chemistry note that the micro-level phenomena the reductionist focuses on are unintelligible apart from the macro-level description, the point is that the micro-level phenomena simply wouldn’t exist in the specific way they do apart from the macro-level facts.  It isn’t merely the epistemological point that we wouldn’t know about the former apart from the latter.  It is a deeper, metaphysical point to the effect that the former wouldn’t objectively be there in the first place apart from the latter.  Indeed, it is this deeper, metaphysical fact that explains the epistemological situation. 

Similarly, the point about Locke is that unless there really were something objectively out there that corresponded to the nominal essence (of gold, say), there just wouldn’t objectively be a real essence (the chemical facts about gold) of the kind that we in fact find to be correlated with that nominal essence.

All the same, the relationship between the metaphysical and epistemological considerations here is an important issue, and perhaps one that I should have addressed more thoroughly so as to forestall objections like the one Sandstad and Jansen raise.

Though it is not clear that it is meant as a criticism, Sandstad and Jansen also write:

[W]hile Feser occasionally criticises theories in the current literature (such as Ladyman’s ontic structural realism), he more often engages with older views, such as the early moderns, or logical positivism, or Russell and Quine; or literature from the 80s and 90s.

As a result, it is not easy to identify the intended audience

End quote.  Now, I don’t know why it would be mysterious who my intended audience is, because I think that should be clear not only from the content of the book, but from the preface and indeed the back cover copy.  The book is about the relationship between modern science and the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition in metaphysics, and it interacts with the literature in contemporary metaphysics and philosophy of science that elucidates that relationship.  Its intended audience, then, includes anyone who might be interested in this topic, such as analytic philosophers who are interested in the current neo-Aristotelian revival in metaphysics, Thomists who are curious about what is going on in analytic philosophy, or people working in ethics or philosophy of religion curious about how the metaphysical assumptions underlying ideas like traditional natural law theory or Scholastic natural theology might be defended in light of modern science.

I’m also not clear why it is odd that I would treat the “older views” referred to by Sandstad and Jansen.  For example, to understand the dispute between the Aristotelian and mechanistic conceptions of nature, you have to know something about the early modern origins of that dispute.  To understand why it is of great importance whether special relativity presupposes verificationism, you have to know something about the many grave problems raised against verificationism by critics of logical positivism.  To understand the nature and implications of epistemic structural realism, you need to know something about Russell’s version of that view and the debate it engendered.  And so on.  Everything I put into the book is meant to play some role in furthering its overall project.  Whether some of these issues and ideas are “older” or not much discussed by contemporary writers seems to me irrelevant.  Indeed, part of my point is that they should be more discussed.

But I don’t want to make more of this issue than Sandstad and Jansen themselves do.  And I thank them for their kind words about the book and for their thoughtful and stimulating criticisms.

156 comments:

  1. When I was reading the chapter in question about chemistry, it was unclear to me that, if the causal powers of the microstructure could predict the causal powers of the macrostructure, whether or not that would be a failure for an Aristotelian view of nature. Could someone explain that to me?

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    1. Why would it? A substance is the most basic unit that possesses causal powers (I'm not sure if that's the correct lingo, but that's my way of saying it). An aggregate is a sum of parts and an artifact has the causal powers of the substances of which it's made plus the intentions of the designer. So water (H2O) is a substance which contains hydrogen and oxygen but only potentially because water doesn't exhibit the properties of hydrogen and oxygen separately (you can't light water on fire, for example).

      Is this on the right track with what you're asking?

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    2. Water contains hydrogen and oxygen *virtually*

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    3. I should clarify my question: if substance is defined as something with unique causal powers that is irreducible to those of its parts, is it a problem if something else can predict those causal powers, e.g. its parts?

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  2. Why can’t there be more than one necessary being

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    1. Suppose that there are at least two absolutely necessary beings, A and B. In order for A and B to not be identical, there must be something in one and not the other. Suppose A has some property or part that is not in B. This property or part must not itself be absolutely necessary because it is in A but not in B. Therefore, A is not an absolutely necessary being. This contradicts our initial supposition. Therefore, there must be only one absolutely necessary being.

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    2. Here's a different way to put it:
      A Necessary Being must exist because it has the property of Necessary Existence (N). So let's assume there are two necessary beings, A and B, and both have, as their nature, the property of necessary existence (N).
      There must nevertheless be some difference between A and B. Something that A has and B doesn't, and vice-versa, so that we can say A and B are two distinct beings.
      This difference cannot be some contingent property (like different location), since this is not sufficient to differentiate between two things. Something can have contingent properties only if it first exists. If there are to be two distinct necessary beings, A and B, their differences must be essential so as to really distinguish them and allow them to be different individuals: A has some individualizing feature X, and B has some individualizing feature Y.
      But then recall that they both share the same nature/basic property of Necessary Existence, N. If they then have these extra essential properties X and Y, then A is basically N+X and B is N+Y. This shows that N is by itself indifferent towards X and Y; N can be combined with X but it is not necessary that this be so, since N can also be combined with Y instead. But then if it isn't necessary for N to be combined to either X or Y, there should be an explanation for why N is combined to X in one being and to Y in another. No explanation can be given since the beings are supposed to be necessary. Therefore there cannot be distinguishing features for N, therefore there can be only one necessary being.

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    3. A different, easier argument would be to use Ockham's razor. There's no need to posit more than one necessary being. The theory is simpler if there is only one necessary being instead of several. And it avoids issues of "why is this necessary being different from that one?" etc. Besides, the world has an order and unity that suggests that it was made by a single cause. There's a very small number of basic kinds of particles, and they harmonize with one another. It is much simpler to think this is the product of a single cause, than to think this unity and order is the result of a bunch of different causes which somehow cooperate and don't each create different things, etc.

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    4. Thanks to both of you for the replies.

      Can we pause for a second here on one aspect, where you both state to the effect that if there are more than one, then there must be a distinguishing feature? Where is the basis for this claim? What if NB1 = NB2 in all ways (purely actual, noncomposite, not contingent) but is just a copy of NB1 in that it has nothing the other lacks. Why does being more than one have to entail being different from another? I have been googling this for a while now and I can’t find an answer besides just saying as a brute fact there has to be a feature to distinguish them.

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    5. In order for there to be two things, they have to be non-identical. If they are non-identical, then they have to be distinguishable. If they were identical, then you would have not two things, but one thing.

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    6. The problem is, of course that Thomism allows for a virtually infinite number of possible necessary beings.
      There is the necessary being N1 whose will is to create X and there is the necessary being N2 whose will is to create Y etc.
      Of course only one of those may actually exist, but the point is, there is a clear distinction between N1 and N2.

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    7. Cambridge properties, issues with de re de dicto fallacy, some notions of free will etc. might solve such worries.

      But one could nevertheless reject a strictly Thomistic view of divine simplicity and still adopt some other view (for instance, Duns Scotus's theory of simplicity).

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    8. Msu, why is it that they have to be non-identical? Why can't there be infinite (or 15, or 100, or 9,000,000, etc) copies of a thing which are all the same exact thing but not at all different?

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    9. In the "copy of the unactualized actualizer" objection it seems that there is an assumption of the Being existing in "space and time" where a differentiating feature could be "location" for example. Whereas if the Unactualized Actualizer is not in space or time it is hard to imagine an exact copy of them exosting separately from them.

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    10. @ Anonymous

      For there to be more than one such being there would have to be some differentiating feature between them, which would mean they would have some potential. But, by definition, there can be no such potential. Therefore, there can be only one.

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    11. To add to Kyle, people seem to not know the “Identity of Indiscernibles“, objects that cannot be differentiated in any way are the same

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    12. Atno,
      what also helps is to realize thst possible worlds-semantics are no wonder weapon clearing up any problem, rather it has limited use. It is clear, that it is useless when approaching the topic of immutabulity, since it presupposes knowledge about the nature of creation that has to be established before, but to which we don't have access.

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    13. @Anon
      It would be incoherent to say that A and B are identical but distinct. Identity means that they are the same in every respect (A is B), but distinction means there is some difference (A is not B). In your example, there is A and copy-of-A which is not-A.

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    14. How come there has to be some difference though? You are all saying that as if it’s a clear fact. There’s tons of people who have this same issue and don’t understand it, it isn’t just something I am making up to be annoying:

      https://philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/43087/why-can-there-only-be-one-necessary-being-as-opposed-to-two-or-thirty-seven

      https://www.shiachat.com/forum/topic/234918681-more-than-one-necessary-being/

      Why is it just assumed that if there is >1 of something, then it has to be different from each other? What if they are literally the exact same necessary beings but there’s just many of them? It doesn’t help to answer the question by saying if A and B are the same in all ways, then A=B. Why?? Why can’t there be two or more necessary beings that are exactly alike in all ways? Why do you immediately have to say, no it’s actually A and some feature B lacks? What if A doesn’t lack any of B feature and they’re just the same exact thing but multiple?

      Many people don’t get this I may not be the smartest person out there but I’m not the only one who is unsatisfied with the response that “well there must be a feature one has and one doesn’t.”

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    15. "if there is >1 of something, then it has to be different from each other?"

      If they're the same thing, how do you know there is >1?

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    16. Identity. Of. Indiscernibles.

      Remember it. Repeat it

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    17. “Notice that to show that the identity of indiscernibles is false, it is sufficient that one provide a model in which there are two distinct (numerically nonidentical) things that have all the same properties. He claimed that in a symmetric universe wherein only two symmetrical spheres exist, the two spheres are two distinct objects even though they have all their properties in common.”

      Isn’t that objection exactly what we’ve been talking about here? All the identity of indiscernibles states is that it is an indisputable fact that if X and Y share all of the same properties and are copies of each other then X=Y ... why is that the case???

      @T N -
      Because there are two... I’m confused sorry?

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    18. Imagine, Anon, you sitting in front of a computer. Now I'm asserting that in the exact same location at the same time there is a second, completely identical person like you, so there are actually two persons in front of a computer. If that strikes you as nonsensical, the same goes for the idea of two necessary beings that cannot be differentiated. If I cannot argue why there are two people in front of the computer, and if I cannot explain how to distinguish two purely actual beings, then why assume that there really areargument two beings? In both cases the beings are identical because they really ARE identical

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    19. @Anon
      The question is how there can be a diversity of things where there is no diversity, that is how can there be more than one identical thing. The question requests an impossibility.
      At the very least, when you talk about A and B being identical in every respect and yet not the same being, you are implicitly assuming for example they have different principles of individuation or acts of existence, that they are different beings.

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    20. Alternatively you could ask why 2=2

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    21. Anon,
      If two things can be absolutely identical to each other in every possible way, in every single property, in every single fact, and still somehow be distinct individuals (????), brutely and without anything that differentiates one from another, then the argument won't work.

      It is self-evident to me that there must be some kind of real difference between two things (other than "they are two different things", which begs the question and is only possible once A is somehow distinct from B). When I understand the idea and what it means, I see that it must be true.

      If you do not see it as self-evident, or even as intuitively clear in at least some sense, then the argument won't work for you. In this case, I suggest you to reflect some more on that idea - individuality, difference, multiplicity, how two things must have some difference to make them distinct. If you still find it that you cannot understand or see the truth in that, you'll have to use some other argument, such as the abductive one I presented there from simplicity and unity.

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    22. I woke up this morning and found that someone stole everything in my apartment . . . and replaced it with an exact duplicate.

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    23. So, to sum it up:

      1- if you do not accept the principle of identity of indiscernibles, the deductive argument we presented won't work. The principle is self-evident to me, and I find it quite strange that some people might not immediately grasp its truth. But sometimes it does happen. The Law of Excluded Middle, for instance, is self-evident to the vast majority of people, including mathematicians. But there are some people who (somehow) don't see it as self-evident. In this case I just recommend you to try to reflect and understand the principle, so that you might get to see its truth. If you don't, you can appeal to some other arguments.

      2- for instance, the fact that one Necessary Being is simpler than multiple, and thus favored by Ockham's razor, and that it best explains the apparent unity of contingent reality - we don't have lots and lots of very different, disparate objects, but a quite small number of kinds of particles which harmonize with one another, laws which seem to fit together in some sort of unity;

      3- there is also a different argument that goes like this: the only options are that there is only one necessary being; that there is a finite multiplicity of necessary beings; and that there is an infinity of necessary beings.
      A finite multiplicity of necessary beings seems entirely arbitrary. Suppose there are 4483 necessary beings. Why exactly 4483? Why not one more, or one less? Why must the fabric of reality necessarily include exactly 4483 necessary beings? Why couldn't there be 4484, or 4482? In the absence of a specific, necessary reason, it appears completely arbitrary and absurd, so we should reject it.
      So it's either 1 or an infinity. An infinity of necessary beings leads to many paradoxes, however (Hilbert's hotel, for example). If you think actual infinities are metaphysically possible and not even paradoxical, the argument won't impress much, though. But even then one might still argue 1 is simpler than infinitely many.
      So the most reasonable conclusion is that there is only one necessary being.

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    24. @Anon
      It might be helpful if you could explain what you don't understand. The above comments have not assumed there must be a difference but discussed from different perspectives about how it is impossible to have several identical beings.

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    25. The counter example to the identity of indiscernibles seems to require two material objects. It seems unclear how it would work with immaterial things or something omnipresent. What would saying that there are two or more omnipresent things identical in their omnipresence and every other property they possess even mean?

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    26. I think it is from Max Black (look at the I.o.I. wiki page), though I think it can be easily refuted and is no counterexample at all

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    27. Thanks for all the help folks. I'm not attempting to be a shit-stirrer here I really just am struggling to grasp this.

      Yes, it is the counter-example from Max Black. How do you refute that, Dominik? Black seems to make the point that if we control for everything that can be posited to be a difference, then there is no difference between the two spheres in his example. Why is it that they are different and cannot be the exact same thing? I guess the best response I've seen to it is that it's question-begging in favor of the identity of indiscernibles being wrong (because Black states that there are two exactly the same things, the supporter of the identity of indiscernibles would say from the beginning that it isn't 2 and it's just 1, thus making it moot) - but of course that has its own problems as an objection to Black.

      Dominik, I agree with your example using people, because people are composite and made up of parts. In order for there to be two of me, or two of another person, there would need to be a second set of bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, brain matter, etc. etc. in order for there to be two. I think with material composites it's clear enough why there cannot be two or more of the same thing composite C1 because any given "thing" such as composite C1 would be made up of parts and dependent on those parts. A necessary being is not made up of parts or contingencies, therefore I don't see how that's a relevant way to explain why there cannot be two.

      Michael, when you say principles of individuation, what are you referring to? If there's two things that are both not contingent and are necessary beings, like people in the links above I mentioned discuss, why do they need any principles of individuation, other than the fact that there are two of them? (Or three or infinity).

      T N, sorry to hear about that. I hope the duplicate items are just as good as your previous items.

      Breadroll, that makes some sense to me. I think that fundamentally, I'm not able to see why it's logically apparent that if NB1 has all the same properties as NB2, it is therefore the same exact thing. What if C1 is standing there as an observer and as the third "being" in this strange universe and is looking at two exact copies of the same thing which share all the same properties and have ZERO distinguishing properties or characteristics? Why is that fundamentally impossible?

      Now, I think I can see that there are issues when if you posit there be two necessary beings (or more than one in general) which are omipresence, omnipotent, omniscient, etc? That's where I think it runs into issues I guess. What do you guys think? Can there be two of those things?

      Thank you again for helping with this to all of you.

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    28. Can there be two? I don't think so if they can't be differentiated. It wouldn't follow from any argument I'm aware of and a simple substance that is indistinguishable I don't see how or why that could be two.
      But it is really hard to argue for such a basic principle without begging the question. Alternatively I would recommend Occams razor.

      For the Max Black argument, I will come back later

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    29. @Anon
      I would still ask that you explain what you don't understand the aforementioned contradictions. A is A is what identity means. If A is identical to B in this sense, then B is just another name for A and not something other than A, like the morning and evening stars. A multiplicity of identical objects is like a round square, it is an impossibility because of what each of the words means.

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    30. Atno, thank you for your points. They are very helpful. I will do as you suggested and try to reason it out in my head. I’m hoping I don’t fall into the category of someone who just doesn’t get it...!

      Dominik, thanks. I think there can’t be two omnipotent beings because then you couldn’t have both sharing unlimited power. I think that probably goes for omniscience as well but not as clearly. Why do we understand the necessary being in the contingency argument to be omnipotent? Feser’s 5 proofs relies on the fact that he established as such in the first proof and by the time he gets to the fifth, he doesn’t explain in any detail why if you detach his 5th proof from the rest, the Rationalist necessary being has to have omnipotence.

      Michael, I think we just are going in a circle. I still sort of fall in with the other people who made those posts on stack exchange phil section and that Shia forum. I don’t understand why it can’t just be two identical copies of the same thing with no properties one lacks and the other doesn’t.

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    31. And just to be clear, "not getting" a self-evident or intuitive principle doesn't mean the person is dumb or anything. To mention the Law of Excluded Middle again, the majority of people take it to be self-evident, including most mathematicians and logicians, but (for some reason) there is a small minority of people that don't, and that includes a few very brilliant mathematicians (who therefore insist on finding proofs that do not use LEM).

      Sometimes people just don't properly understand a principle, or they somehow don't adequately "see" the principle in their mind's eye. Maybe because of some unknown mistake; a confusion; a previous incorrect inference; or anything else that might be affecting their logical sight and thinking. Lack of this kind of insight doesn't mean the person is stupid or anything.

      But yeah, I do recommend you to reflect some more and try to understand the principle better, then you might come to see (as I and many others, anyway) that it is true. Until then, you can try other arguments for unicity, such as my 2 and 3. There are also some that move from omnipotence (if NBs are omnipotent, there can be only one since an omnipotent being cannot have its power overridden by any other being, etc).

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    32. An argument for omnipotence could be made based on the principle of arbitrary limits. That principle is defended by Joshua Rasmussen and can be used to argue many interesting things. Basically, the idea is that a limit is "arbitrary" if it has a specific quantifiable "degree" which could conceivably be higher or lower. Similar to what I said in my argument 3.

      For instance, suppose a Necessary Being has the power to produce 2789 beings. Why can it only produce 2789 beings? Why not one more or one less? It seems like a completely arbitrary cut-off. In the case of contingent beings, their powers are limited precisely because their being and existence are limited and they can be explained by causes (and they cannot exceed the energy and power their causes had, for instance). But for a necessary being, a being that is supposed to be entirely self-sufficient, necessary, it seems weird. The same would go for any limit - for instance, if the NB were to have a circumference, why should it have an exact size/circumference of 27837 meters? Such limits call out for an explanation.

      Someone might insist that there can be some principled, specific necessary reason why the NB only has the power of causing 72847 things. But the burden of proof is on that person to provide some plausible candidate for such a reason. So that is one way of arguing for omnipotence without unicity.

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    33. If you can distinguish them, they have potential. Pure actuality has no potential.

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    34. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    35. Let me see if I can take a crack at this. I see where the problems is here. If someone fundamentally, like Max Black, thinks that there can be two identical things that don't have different properties, this doesn't work.

      Now, you recognize that whatever is omnipotent cannot be multiple. That is very, very intuitive. If there were more two omnipotent beings, or any more than one, then none are omnipotent, because then the power of each being is in some way limited by another. Two beings cannot "share" unlimited power. What if one being wants to do X, and the other being wants to do Z? Who wins? Thus, there cannot exist two omnipotent beings.

      Moving forward, if we contend that omnipotence can only be held by one being, we can press on. Powers are properties held by a being. The President of the United States has the power to veto legislation passed by the United States Congress. The King of Spain does not have that same power. Therefore, if both the President of the United States and King of Spain are alike in EVERY SINGLE WAY EXCEPT the President of the United States can veto legislation from the US Congress and the King of Spain cannot, they are different by nature of having distinct properties of power. That is a very real-world example that I hope can help (I am Spanish, so I figured I would weasle that in there :)

      The same could apply if we look deeper and more philosophically. If you agree that at least one necessary being which is purely simple, not composite, and not contingent is required, then we can again move forward. Let us take Necessary Being (NB) 1 and NB 2. These are the two necessary beings in our imaginary cosmos made up of many other contingent beings.

      We already stated, and you agreed, that omnipotence cannot be shared, and that only one being can be omnipotent. Therefore, NB 1 and NB 2 cannot both be omnipotent. One of the two beings must not be omnipotent, otherwise the premise is logically invalid.

      Both beings must have some powers that one possess and the other does not, otherwise both are omnipotent. The ability to execute a power is just a property of a give being. Therefore, the beings are distinct and are not the same thing, nor can they be the same thing.

      Now, in order to prove that there exists one omnipotent necessary being, one simply has to look to the divine attributes that are articulated under classical theist arguments. Dr. Feser argues that power is just the ability to actualize a potential, i.e. to do something or make something occur. If you hold to act and potency, then there must be a being which is purely actual, and if it is purely actual, it is omnipotent, because it has all possible power and is the source of all power.

      The same analysis can be applied to composite beings. A being must exist that is non composite. If only composite beings exist, then no beings exist at all. If there is at least one non-composite being, then for the reason we detailed above with regard to power being a property, then that non-composite being must be omnipotent or completely and totally devoid of power. It cannot by simple logic be devoid of power, because then it cannot even create one single composite being after it existed ontologically.

      I know this is very long winded, but it is essentially a back-door way to showing that only one NB or purely simple thing can exist. We essentially just did the analysis backwards here.

      I hope this helps you, and God Bless to all.

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    36. I guess the best response I've seen to it is that it's question-begging in favor of the identity of indiscernibles being wrong (because Black states that there are two exactly the same things, the supporter of the identity of indiscernibles would say from the beginning that it isn't 2 and it's just 1, thus making it moot) - but of course that has its own problems as an objection to Black.

      Frankly, I don't think the objection HAS problems. Black has defined it as a situation where there are two such (and why not three, or 7,198?) If you rule out different locations, how are they two?

      It is essentially the same sort of situation as Hume's claim that we can conceive of something coming into being without a cause. It posits the conclusion as a premise. We can frame a sentence so describing the situation, but does it actually have the meaning intended?

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    37. @Anonymous

      Hi! Pure Act cannot be multiplied because that would necessitate it being an instance of a kind (genus/species composite) which is a caused being. Since Pure Act cannot be caused, it cannot be an instance of a kind. Hence, your "multiple copies" objection cannot work.

      All composite beings are caused beings. Since Thomist arguments infer an uncaused being, any appeal to a composite is irrelevant. Consequently, it is metaphysically impossible for there to be more than one Pure Act.

      What others have been trying to argue with the identity of indiscernibles (IDI) is that it is impossible to be identical in EVERY way and be multiplied. Two identical spheres contain different portions of matter and occupy different spatial coordinates, so they are NOT identical in every way. And since they are not identical, they cannot count as a defeater for IDI. Moreover, each instance stands in potency to what the others have, but Pure Act has no passive potency and, hence, cannot be more than one.

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    38. Thank you Atno, Hark, El Gerente, George And Bill for your help with this. It makes sense to me now. I like the omnipotence argument because that made sense to me, that two beings can’t be omnipotent both.

      Thanks again to all of you. I understand now. Thanks so much.

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    39. The different gods would be distinguished by individuality. They are all perfect and so there wills are in accord

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    40. In what ways are a noncomposite being the same as the necessary being? How can you equate the two to be the same thing? Thanks all.

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    41. There are some ways. For instance, the thomistic account of existence is that things are composites of essence and an act of existence. If they're not composite like this, then their essence is the same as their existence, but in that case we're dealing with a necessary thing.

      (But to be honest, in my view Simplicity isn't super important for establishing theism. I mean, it is important, but one doesn't need to prove simplicity in order to establish theism. A necessary first cause, omnipotent, immaterial and personal, is sufficient for theism).

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    42. In what ways are a noncomposite being the same as the necessary being?

      Comboxes are inadequate for extended dialog along this line, so please give Feser's Aquinas a read for elaboration.

      Briefly, every composite is the sum of its parts. The whole is actualized and sustained by its parts. If the parts of the whole are themselves composites, then they too are explained by their components. Even if the composite were eternal, its existence would still be explained by its components. So, every composite is a caused existence and exists concurrently with its composite parts. But the explanation cannot proceed to infinity, for that would not explain anything. It's explanation must rest on something not composite. If something is absolutely simple, then its explanation is not in its components because it has no components. Its explanation is in itself and not another and is thus the ground for everything else.

      The composites we observe are all related in some way to two fundamental principles of being: act and potency. To be in act is to exist, and change in act is explained by the potential or capacity to change which is effected by an actual cause. Thomistic arguments infer God from the change we observe all around us. Every being capable of change is composed of act and potency. And every essentially ordered causal series leads necessarily to a First Cause (Pure Act -- God). Since Pure Act has no passive potency or capacity to change, it alone can explain the change we observe, and it (He) alone is simple or not composite. Being devoid of potency, He cannot go out of existence (have the capacity not to be). He is thus absolutely necessary. Again, please refer to Aquinas for greater elaboration.

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    43. So would you say that under the contingency argument principles, a necessary being is noncomposite?

      Thanks both of you for the answers. Atno what is your way to get theism without simplicity.

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    44. So would you say that under the contingency argument principles, a necessary being is noncomposite?

      Not necessarily (pun intended). Under Thomism, angels are "necessary" in that they neither undergo generation nor corruption. They are, nonetheless, composites of act/potency, essence/existence, so though necessary, they are not absolutely simple. Absolute necessity entails simplicity, and if that's what you're getting at, then the answer is yes.

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    45. I see, thank you. Basically what I’m trying to understand is if a noncomposite being can in some way be contingent. In other words, can a noncomposite being depend on some factor to exist? I know they wouldn’t depend on a composing cause. Could they depend on something else, or then how is a noncomposite being somehow by default same being arrived to at the end of Feser’s rationalist proof?

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    46. @Anonymous

      A non-composite being is Pure Act, which means that it is devoid of all passive potency. In other words, potency is not a principle of its being which means that it has no capacity to change. Since it cannot change, it cannot go out of existence, for that would be a instance of change. Since contingency includes the capacity to change, Pure Act is by definition non-contingent and is thus truly independent---it depends upon nothing for its existence.

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    47. My way of getting to theism without simplicity is to just to follow a number of arguments which give us the conclusion that the necessary being, NB, has God-like properties such that we can properly call NB "God". These include omnipotence, personhood and intelligence, infinity, etc.

      Omnipotence: again, I provided an argument for omnipotence up there that does not require any notion of simplicity. Basically, NB (which could by the way refer to a committee of beings at this point, doesn't matter much) is the ultimate cause of *all possible contingent things*. And if NB could create 1 trillion contingent things, it should also be able to create 1 trillion and one things. Otherwise there would be a completely arbitrary and unexplained limit - "why can it only create 1 trillion things, not even one more?".
      This goes for members of NB (if it's a bunch of beings) as well. Basically, an upper bound on any NB's power would be arbitrary and unexplained.
      So, NB is omnipotent.
      There is also Richard Swinburne's point that a limitation on power makes a theory more complicated. Complexity lowers the probability of theories. A maximally powerful NB is way simpler than an NB that can somehow only cause 92839474 contingent things.

      Personhood and Intelligence: there are different arguments for that.
      We can appeal to PPC and note that the total cause must always have at least the same degree of reality as the effect. You can't get blood from a turnip, etc. So NB must have all the perfections/real properties that contingent reality has (indeed, that any possible contingent reality could have). Contingent reality includes intelligence, consciousness, reason, personhood, etc., and these perfections arguably cannot be reduced just to material configurations. So NB must have intelligence, consciousness, personhood, etc., or something even greater. As a bonus, it also unites these powers to the world. But all this shows that NB is personal.
      Another argument would be to combine design arguments with the cosmological argument. NB creates in an orderly manner, and it has made a reality which has regular and simple natural laws, sustains life, beauty, science, etc. This strongly suggests that NB is intelligent.
      And once we know there is some intelligence and knowledge in NB, we can pretty much run the same arguments for omnipotence but for omniscience. Any limits on NB's knowledge would be arbitrary and unexplained; it is also simpler if it is omniscient instead of just knowing a limited and mysterious number of things, etc.

      Goodness: there are different arguments, but I follow Samuel Clarke in thinking that if a being is omniscient, then it must already love what is good, otherwise it would be, well, stupid. And being morally imperfect is caused by being weak in some way, or ignorant in some way, etc. If a being knows all, and has all power, there is no way it could fail to be good.

      Uniqueness: again, there's the different arguments I presented for that. And in any case, Occam's razor favors a single necessary being, as does the apparent unity of contingent reality.

      But if there's an omnipotent, personal, intelligent, good, eternal and necessary Creator of contingent realities, what's stopping us from recognizing that this is what all men call "God"? We could surely add arguments for simplicity, etc., but this is not necessary to make the relevant inference. Surely atheism cannot be compatible with the existence of this being.

      Perhaps one can make it even simpler and reduce it all to a few intuitive sentences:

      There is a Necessary Foundation behind all reality. It is immensely powerful, since it is the cause of all contingency. And the contingent reality it created is orderly, has regular and harmonious natural laws, life, consciousness, intelligent beings capable of engaging in moral action, as well as doing science. There's order, consciousness, intelligence, love, emotions, drama, meaning.
      This strongly suggests theism. The rest is sorting out details.

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    48. T N February 9, 2020 at 2:40 PM
      Q1
      "if there is >1 of something, then it has to be different from each other?"
      Q2
      "If they're the same thing, how do you know there is >1?"
      A(Q2)
      Because they are not co-located. They are identical in all intrinsic properties, but they are separate beings, distinguishable by their different locations.
      NecessaryBeing1 has Necessity1, namely, the necessity to be an individual being with a particular set of attributes, the attributes and the being are inseparable in structural reality, the attributes have no structural reality independent of the NecessaryBeing, the NecessaryBeing has no structural reality independent of the attributes. The being and the attributes are mutually and simultaneously co-dependent by necessity.

      NB2 has N2
      NB3 has N3
      ...
      NB10^1000 has N10^1000

      There is no upper bound on the number of individual necessary beings that have identical intrinsic attributes or different intrinsic attributes that necessarily include the inability to co-locate with any other being.

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    49. Anon,

      George has done my work pretty much when attacking the criticism against IoI. but I want to add some more. First of all the criticism cannot be applied when we take about if there could be two Purely Actual beings, since in Blacks symmetric universe, the two spheres have all the same properties, but they do not occupy the same space, hence they still have the potential to change their position. I think that this hasn´t been too clear is also a mistake on my part, since what is criticised here is a weaker idea of identity than applied in the act/potency-distinction.

      I still want to add for everyone else though, that Vallicella uses Blacks possible world to make a pretty common sensical argument for the essence-existence distinction. The two spheres have all the same properties, granted. But if they would now also have the same existence, then if one would go out of existence, the other would also have to, which is nonsensical. Hence existence is something added to the essence.

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    50. Dominik,
      What is it that has essence if there is no existence? Without any existence whatsoever there is absolutely nothing at all, right?

      William Lane Craig, and juat about everybody else, says your notion of essence and existence is incoherent.

      How are terms such as "pure actuality", "existence itself", and "his essence is his existence" anything other than simply incoherent terms?

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    51. @Dominik

      You write:

      First of all the criticism cannot be applied when we take about if there could be two Purely Actual beings, since in Blacks symmetric universe, the two spheres have all the same properties, but they do not occupy the same space, hence they still have the potential to change their position.

      That's true, but as I noted above, they would also contain different portions of matter, so though similar, they are not identical. It is impossible for two different things to be alike in every way.

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    52. Good point Bill, I haven´t thought about that yet. Same would be with a perfect clone of mine. Who could claim that the clone and I were completely identical?

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    53. It not "impossible for two different things to be alike in every way." They are distinguished by their individuality

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    54. It not "impossible for two different things to be alike in every way." They are distinguished by their individuality

      I assume this "Anonymous" is a different person than the one I was replying to.

      If they are distinguished by their individuality, then they are NOT alike in EVERY way. One "thing" has something (an individualizing factor) the other "thing" doesn't have.

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    55. The original anonymousFebruary 13, 2020 at 3:13 PM

      Thank you all for your help. I get it now a lot better. From the points about omnipotence, to the examples of Max Black’s objection, this all makes sense now thanks to the exhaustive responses from a collective of you guys helping me make sense of it. Also, to the other anonymous poster, if you contend they’re different by their individuality, then that means that’s a difference of them...?

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    56. I think the Anon meant that if the objects are distinguishable then they are individual. I think this is reasonable, especially if individuality is the sum of properties+matter+location (and time). This is a further affirmation of what has been said here.

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    57. Dominik,
      "if the objects are distinguishable then they are individual. I think this is reasonable,"
      Ok, I agree, that is reasonable.

      Let
      NB = Necessary Being
      NPS = Necessary Property Set

      Consider that in a property set it is logically possible that all properties are mutually and simultaneously and ontologically co-dependent in structural reality. That is, rather than essence being ontologically prior to existence it is logically possible for essence and existence to be ontologically co-dependant such that essence cannot be in structural reality without existence, and existence cannot be in structural reality without essence.

      Thus
      NB1 has NPS1
      NB2 has NPS2
      NB3 has NPS3
      ...
      NBn has NPSn

      With n as an integer with no upper bound it is logically possible that there is no upper bound on the number of necessary beings that exist in structural reality.

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    58. I don’t see how this is any different than positing a bunch of contingent beings with no purely simple necessary being, which is an impossible assertion. You’re just calling contingent beings necessary beings here and then making up some kind of a set. In this case you’ve failed to explain how the set exists and how this all could possibly occur.

      Let’s put aside the fact that by distinguishing them with property sets you’ve shown they are no longer simple and noncomposite things. The fact of the matter is, no matter how many things you want to say are making up the reality in your hypothetical, the analysis doesn’t change if you say it’s 2 or infinity. Any such analysis requires 1 purely simple thing which has a property of omnipotence and various other divine attributes. I’m not catholic myself so don’t take this as me trying to convert you or Godsplain you here. Your objection is simply just a convoluted way at someone saying you could just have infinite composite beings.

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    59. Hi señor,
      "I don’t see how this is any different than positing a bunch of contingent beings with no purely simple necessary being, which is an impossible assertion."
      I agree that a continggent being without a preceeding being of some sort is impossible, since a contingent being having a predecessor being is tautologically true, that is in the definition of the word "contingent".

      So, the difference is that I am not asserting a number of contingent beings, rather, a number of necessary beings.

      "you’ve failed to explain how the set exists and how this all could possibly occur."
      How could god, or any necessary being occur? The Thomist, and indeed Dr. Feser has said, that question makes no sense, since in asking that question you are asking about a necessary being.

      I disagree, that it is perfectly fine to ask why god is necessary as opposed to absolutely nothing at all existing. So you are quite correct in saying that I did not specify a mechanism by which any necessary being is necessary, but then, no human being ever has published generally such an explanation, I don't know, and apparently nobody else knows either.

      "Let’s put aside the fact that by distinguishing them with property sets you’ve shown they are no longer simple and noncomposite things"
      I did not put that aside, although you may wish to, up to you. For myself I assert there is no need for the simplest thing in structural reality to be absolutely simple, rather, I specifically asserted that the essence and existence of these minimally simple beings are simultaneously mutual and co-dependent, and that unlike in a linear regression analysis, my regression analysis terminates finitely in mutuality.

      "the analysis doesn’t change if you say it’s 2 or infinity"
      I don't agree, which is why I did not use the word "infinite", rather, I said "unbounded". 2 is not at all like infinity. 2 is a particular real number, whereas infinity is not a number at all, rather, a concept.

      The estimated number of subatomic particles in our universe might be on the order of 10^90. While the particles in the standard model are unlikely to be minimally simples the term "unbounded" allows for some particular finite number of necessary beings without having to address the difficulties of asserting a real infinity of anything.

      "Any such analysis requires 1 purely simple thing which has a property of omnipotence and various other divine attributes"
      Unless you can prove the impossibility my my asserted set of necessary beings it stands in opposition to your assertion of the necessity of a single absolutely simple being.

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    60. B/c you’re calling contingent beings necessary beings dude lol. What you described are all contingent. Your examples is No difference from me looking at my toilet and saying that it’s a necessary being. You peddle the same stuff all day and night why don’t you just leave everyone alone?

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    61. Stardustpsyche, there are so many things wrong with what you’ve written. You seem like a prototypical person who believes science can explain all reality. I would suggest checking out the work of Dr. Nigel Cundy, an Oxford educated quantum physicist who has written on the intersection between quantum physics and Aristotelianism. www.quantum-thomist.co.uk/home/about.html

      Perhaps that will at least expose you to the fact that people who know and understand quantum physics understand also that it does not explain all of reality and existence. Have a great day and God bless you.

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    62. Don't feed the trollFebruary 14, 2020 at 3:25 PM

      Please stop feeding the troll. He's banned. He's also perpetually confused and is utterly pointless to engage. Many have tried, none have got anywhere. That, and his logorrheic nature, are why Feser has banned him. He also has a dishonest streak.

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    63. Anon
      "Your examples is No difference from me looking at my toilet and saying that it’s a necessary being."
      Is your toilet plausibly the most simple thing in structural reality?

      Is it possible that your toilet has an essence and existence that are mutually simultaneously co-dependent?

      No, you have not presented a viable disproof of my assertion, only a poorly constructed offhand attack that does not hold up on examination.

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    64. Meaf,
      "Stardustpsyche, there are so many things wrong with what you’ve written."
      Yet you name none. You make no counter argument, only a vague assertion that a counter argument is out there someplace.

      "go read an article" is not a viable counter argument.

      Besides, Dr. Feser already did a find job showing some of the errors of Cundy in his recent post on the unreality of the B theory of time.

      Can you present an actual counter argument?

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    65. Hi (blank), always good to hear from you.
      "Many have tried, none have got anywhere"
      Indeed, it is extremely rare for anybody to post a valid counterargument to my assertions.

      Like you, for example. You don't post any arguments at all. I have not seen a single post from you that addresses the topic of the OP or even Thomism in general.

      The above two responses were almost as empty, both containing no arguments at all, just a couple vague unsupported assertions.

      It is true that vague unsupported assertions and ad hominems will get nowhere with me. You have no demonstrated capacity to present any better.

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    66. @Don't feed the troll

      Of course he's dishonest. That's why I will not again make the mistake of replying to him. In fact, it's a waste of time to even read his posts because he proves every time he pounds his keyboard that he either doesn't understand what he criticizes or he is purposefully distorting it. To me, it is clearly the latter.

      We should all send requests to Feser to change this site's format in order to enable him to really ban the trolls. That's the only way this madness will stop.

      Delete
    67. ...and I say that's the only way it will stop for the obvious reason that people keep replying to him.

      Delete
    68. Bill,
      "Of course he's dishonest."
      Interesting. Would you care to share how you are estimating my voracity exactly?

      "he either doesn't understand what he criticizes or he is purposefully distorting it"
      Thomism asserts at least the following:
      1.That a first mover, or first changer, or first causal agent that is not itself moved or changed or caused can be logically and definitively proved starting with what is "manifest and evident to the senses" and by then using a hierarchical regress argument centered on a dichotomy between an infinite regress or a first hierarchical mover.

      2.This first mover is by logical necessity absolutely simple, eternal, unchanging, pure act, existence itself, and such that his essence is his existence.

      3.The PSR is true, the PPR is true, and free will is real.

      4.Teleology is real.

      5.The asserted first mover is also a first sustainer that continuously actualizes material into existence else it would simply blink out of existence.

      6.Moral absolutes are real and the source of these absolutely true moral propositions is the first mover, god.

      Bill, can you tell me in what way exactly I have distorted the assertions of Thomism above?

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    69. Don't feed the trollsFebruary 16, 2020 at 1:21 AM

      Bill, Grodriguez has the full details, but one of the most glaring examples of his dishonesty is his praise for Feser now, when he was previously bad-mouthing him around the internet, when he was first banned. Another recent glaring example was he was just talking about how Feser welcomes a sorts to his blog and therefore other posters should welcome him, SP, when he full knows Feser has specifically banned and told him to get lost. I suppose you have to admire the hutzpah!

      Delete
    70. Hi (blank), always cheery when you are about.
      "his dishonesty is his praise for Feser now, when he was previously bad-mouthing him around the internet,"
      Is it dishonest to praise that which one agrees with and criticize that which one disagrees with? You seem to suffer from an us versus them mentality. I don't.

      I can see that in some respects Dr. Feser has a superb mind, and the best example I can find for that is his post on Cundy. But that is one of my points I don't usually get into here, since here I focus on Thomism primarily.

      But more generally religion can be highly corrosive to the intellect, the post on Cundy being a classic example, because it had almost nothing to do with religion, Thomism, or any sort of theology. That post was almost entirely on the subject of time and structural reality, as opposed to abstract models.

      Without the corrosive influence of theistic reasoning the post on Cundy was a fine piece of rational argument.

      So at least that's a start, at least there is some degree of intersection in the Venn diagram between us.

      You also seem to be a bit of a permanent Grinch, not having been noticeably affected by the spirit of the Christmas season.

      Do you ever reconcile with those you had conflicts with or does time and aging never lead you to find at least some common ground?

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  3. With respect to prime matter virtually containing all substances and the proper efficient causes being necessary to actualize those substances, I have the following question:

    Is it possible on Dr. Feser’s analysis that before the first seeing animal existed (say, assuming a standard theory of evolution is true) you would have a blind sensitive animal. Now this animal breeds with another and produces another animal that is similar but has some minimal visual powers (with phantasms to go with it). Now it seems this new animal, given its new irreducible powers, is a new species. Now obviously the principle of proportionate causality would state that two blind (by nature) animals cannot by themselves produce a sighted animal. However, that does not mean that you HAVE to have a sighted animal to produce another sighted animal, correct? The total efficient cause could in fact be the two blind animals and some extra energy (say gamma radiation) to cause the new mutation that allows for minimal sight. Or it could even be direct causation by God (though it need not be). Does my analysis agree with Dr. Feser’s here? It seems that the total set of efficient causes must at least contain the efficient cause virtually or eminently, but it need not contain it in the exact way that the effect does. This why God can directly create a sighted creature even though God does not see in a creature my way (since that would involve change and God is immutable on a Thomistic account).

    Therefore, it seems like a Thomistic metaphysical grounding of new species is perfectly in line with modern evolutionary theory (where new species are created by their parents plus something else, say a mutation or something). The only discrepancy would be if an evolutionist denies species altogether. But I think it is pretty hard to deny irreducible powers. And even the vagueness objections raised to delineated species cannot get over the discontinuous jump from sight to no sight, or something similar.

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    Replies
    1. I think "prime matter" is a difficult thing for us to conceive because of our scientific presumptions: I think people kinda assume that prime matter must mean quarks and gluons and crap, but it doesn't. It just means whatever matter is, that's what matter is. I mention this because when you say an animal is close to seeing and then does, it seems like you may be assuming that it gets closer and closer and then transitions. But that need not be the case: water is hydrogen and oxygen where some efficient cause (magic really) makes them into water. There's nothing about hydrogen and oxygen individually that resemble water.

      So it just seems that what's really being said is some efficient cause causes sight. And it's true that it can't be reverse engineered back to it's precedents.

      I know we have scientific explanations and all, but when it comes down to it it's just magic really. We can describe the world with math, but it's really just magic described with math. People who think otherwise must be bored to death.

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    2. I would be hesitant to call it “magic” because it is a natural cause. But your example is a good one. However with regards to PPC it could be that water should not be able to produce hydrogen and oxygen by itself (without additional causes) and not the other way around. However the scientific details work out, it seems like there do need to be sufficient details to explain the situation, but that does not mean all water (or any water) has to be generated by water.

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    3. I think the intent is to defend Aristotle against reductionism: water is not reducible to hydrogen and oxygen because it has new properties that don't exist in hydrogen and oxygen. However its also true that water only comes from hydrogen and oxygen--it doesn't come from boron and lanthanum--so there is some sense in which reduction to those elements in particular is true. That's why it is said that hydrogen and oxygen are in water in potential (lanthanum is not potentially present in water).

      It's also true that the reductionist must appeal to the macro-level reality in order to explain the micro-level, which is another argument against reductionism.

      But natural processes are magic: Gravity is magic; hot and cold are magic; the ability to say "please pass the butter" is magic. The universe is one big magical playground.

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    4. If by “magic” you mean not reducible to mathematical formulae, then I would agree. That would simply be a strange way of arguing for Epistemic Structural Realism. But again, magic tends to mean occult or not natural or not intelligible, or by preternatural forces. But I do not believe any of those phrases apply to Aristotelian causality. So I would agree with the thrust of what you say but object to the use of the word “magic”.

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    5. It's a veiled way of saying that reality is not exhausted by the mathematical descriptions of science. Life is so much more than the codifications of philosophy.

      Delete
  4. I love the book because it gives us so many tools for communicating to people that mathematical abstractions are not reality (not all there is to reality, anyway).

    Yes, many "smart" people are confused about this. They're so confused about this that it takes a while to red-pill them.

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  5. Oh good, you finally got an *actual* review!

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  6. Replies
    1. I don't know. If it's Catholic it's biased, and if it's non-Catholic it's not biased?

      Delete
    2. BTW, has Ellmers ever published his refutation? He said he had one, but couldn't format it for this site. Is it somewhere else?

      Frankly, that exchange reminded me of the Kurt Eichenwald meltdown.

      Delete
  7. I'd like to give it a shot too, but I'm not super smart, so take it for what it is.

    If I have two completely identical things, identical in all ways, I have this one, and that one. How can I tell which is which?

    Well, you could say this one is over here, that one is over there. But then they are not identical in all ways, because at the very least, this one has the property of being over here when it could have been over there, and the other one has the property of being over there when it could have been over here. So it was a sloppy use of the term "identical".

    The other possibility is you say "You can't tell them apart." So at this point, we are basically saying, it's impossible to tell two identical things apart. So then what is the difference between "two things that are completely and utterly impossible to tell apart", and "one thing alone?"

    The first thing has this size, this weight, this colour, this age, these powers and it is exactly at this location at exactly this time.

    The second thing has the same size, the same weight, the same colour, the same age, the same powers and it is exactly at the same location at exactly the same time. But it's not the same thing? Does that make sense to you?

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  8. Just to let everyone know, Miguel Cervantes has taken to pretending to be other posters, those who use the name function to post. If you are one of these posters, be on the look out for this creep pretending to be you. Who knows what he could say.

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    1. Cervantes is a creepFebruary 11, 2020 at 11:04 PM

      And right on cue, see the very suspicious Anon and Name/URL comments below.

      Delete
  9. There is nothing to prevent "being potential" from flowing out of eternity into "being actual". There is no need for some personality out there is order for this to happen. Feser is wrong

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  10. As long as the avenue is open for the potential to flow into actuality, the potential will actualize. In physical mechanistic theory, this would be time starting from motion. There is nothing behind the first tick of the clock (motion) so the universe is a self-contained unit. It doesn't matter if you call this something from nothing or something ahead of nothing. I don't think many physicist consider the difference there, but it doesn't matter. What they are TRYING to say is what is important. Not how Thomist want to see that

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  11. Why is the avenue open for them to “flow”? Why is the thing that are in motion in existence as their current state? What a clown show these objections are. These kids in their mom’s basements watch one YouTube video or read one atheist Reddit post and suddenly think they’ve cracked the code to 2000 years of rigorously debated philosophy.

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  12. I flow with the windFebruary 11, 2020 at 6:42 PM

    And wtf does “flow” mean?

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  13. You think one philosophical tradition is the only deep one and that you guys are the only people capable of philosophy. I am not a kid and I am not in my mom's basement. Philosophy is like silly puddy. You can put it into any shape you want, as all along we a "thrown" towards death. Your philosophical speculations won't help you when you die, and I doubt your sacramentals will help either. I am just offering an alternative to theism. 2000 years of rigorously debated philosophy? As Descartes pointed out, nobody agrees with each other in that camp. The world simply is. Asking why why why like a kid is not philosophy, it's psychology. HOW is the question. I provided the how above. It's super easy and only biased people won't get it

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    1. Who what when where why HOWFebruary 11, 2020 at 7:03 PM

      How are the things in existence which are in motion? How are they “flowing”? How are they in their current state? Have a good night dude.

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    2. You're biased. Read something besides Thomism, trying to see another perspective. That's being an objective thinker. You Thomist just read your side, trying hard to make it work. And then you say your rosary and think your such an adult

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    3. I don’t have a rosary nor do I pray the rosary because I’m Orthodox, but thanks. Not everyone who subscribes to or understands these arguments are Catholics. Many of these arguments originated with Muslim thinkers. I think your main issue is that you simply parrot the same old objections that Reddit And YouTube atheists posts all the time thinking they’re crippling or effective in some way. Then you have the gall to say that Thomists don’t listen to opposing philosophical mindsets. however, those very opposing philosophical mindsets you mention do not parrot your tired old objections nor the ones found on Reddit. That should tell you something, friend. Best of luck.

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    4. There are many atheists with degrees like Fewer has. Why are you better than atheists who post videos. Chinese ancient thought has the universe flowing from the Tao of potentiality through yin and yang. Yet you dismiss an ancient concept off hand by putting Thomism on a pedestal

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    5. It's a matter of starting from rock solid first principle and building a worldview from it. There are some things that simply cannot be rational denied.

      For instance, it doesn't matter what any ideology says, you simply cannot rationally deny the principle of non-contradiction. If an ideology tries to claim otherwise, then that's a pretty good indication that the ideology should be abandoned.

      My point is that different ideological systems can say all sorts of thing, but if they have no rational foundation, it's a bit of a shot in the dark. Thomism can be argued for from rock solid foundations, though.

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    6. Thomist say that the whole is actualized and sustained by its parts, but when it comes to Zeno suddenly the parts don't exist! That's a contradiction. Thomist say the will is a power of reason, but the will loves and this is greater. Another contradiction. Aquinas was a kid in his mom's basement no less then youtubers.

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    7. Billy, if you read carefully, doesn't it strike you that most of these anonymouses and randomly named fellows in the lower half of this thread have a very strange posting manner. I would put money on them all being the creep Cervantes. For some reason, after Feser banning him again, he has taken to this kind of thing. He clearly has mental issues.

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    8. My name is Greg. I post on here sometimes. My point was Aristotle said things both have parts and don't have actual parts, violating his LEM. Aquinas said, since the cause is greater than the effect, the reason is greater than the will. Is this because the joy of the intellect is more actual than the cause, which is love? What a convoluted mess Aquinas gets in. Also, God has knowledge of his will to exist. Since his knowledge is himself, then God changes eternally because he created!

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    9. Some posts around here by Georgiy Mancz (David Y, Mr Green etc, etc). Seems to be easily spooked when one of his many aliases comes back to haunt him. Here he is talking to himself again, about thirteen comments back. Even when you want to be spiteful, Georgiy, it pays to be yourself. One personality will do. Hard to see what motivates all this. Things not going well? You don't need to make up stories, or other identities, or talk to yourself, to have a discussion on-line. Try.

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    10. Shut up,Cervantes. None of those people are aliases, except when you impersonate them. You are a moron. Any longtime poster or lurker will just chuckle when you suggest Mr. Green is just an alias for some new poster. You're a creep and mentally unstable. Get lost.

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    11. Shouldn't tell lies Georgiy. Didn't your mother ever tell you? Projecting your own issues onto other people with regard to making up personalities and mental instability is the mark of the subject. Those who know you are in no doubt.

      Becaause of your irrational phobia, you are now the silliest and most compulsive troll on this blog. Anyone can consult comboxes going back months and read your hundreds of efforts. Nobody is chuckling here Mancz. They all wish you would be quiet or talk sensibly for yourself. If you want to play the distinguished philosopher elsewhere (using your name) while doing a fine imitation of a rude adolescent schoolgirl (several) here, the danger is that the truth will come out, as it has. Some dignity might be in order. Think of your career as a philosopher...

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    12. Haha. No long time commentor seriously thinks Georgy Mancz, the calm, articulate Russian lawyer, is sockpuppeting multiple accounts, or even bothering himself with accusing someone else of doing so.

      Delete
    13. It is sad that such a great name as "Miguel Cervantes" is in this blog now forever associated to an obnoxious maniac.

      Delete
    14. Wouldn't it be nice if that were true, anonymous/Greg S/ David XYZ etc (Georgiy Mancz)? If any court of law had allowed you to practice, they would have been madder than you are, but in real life, it takes more than inventing personalities doesn't it? How strange you spend so much time accusing people of things that you rely on in real life to get sympathy. Anyway, try not telling so many fibs and give the frantic insults a miss. Bad for the image.

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  14. Lol, like any debate between an atheist and a theist, ultimately it comes down to the former saying “stop asking why” and positing a brute fact.

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    1. That's about the only thing I like about, for example, presuppositionalist apologists, they keep asking "why, why, why" and "how do you know, how do you know, how do you know". Their reasoning is crackpot but I like their radical skepticism.

      God is the ultimate brute fact. Why does god exist as opposed to absolutely nothing at all? Because, I am told, god is necessary. Why is there anything that is necessary as opposed to nothing at all? That is, I am told, not a valid question.

      It seems a certain sort of theist is not so very different from a certain sort of atheist in that respect.

      Time was, not too long ago I would ask the atheist what came before the big bang? That is, I was told, an invalid question.

      Some people are just not comfortable having their most fundamental suppositions challenged and denied. For a certain sort of person, atheist and theist alike, those sort of people respond with indignation, self righteousness, anger, shunning, ad hominems...any sort of mud they can grab and sling, anything to silence the skeptic who puts their most cherished beliefs at risk with his questions they cannot answer and his answers they cannot rationally refute.

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    2. Don't feed the trollsFebruary 12, 2020 at 11:06 PM

      Okay, folks. Looks like we have a full-scale SP infestation on our hands. It's imperative to stop feeding him or he will spread.

      Delete
  15. some dude named "gunlord" made a 23 minute video ranting about Feser's book:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qx0VlDXbDNo

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  16. The linked video is from January 2019. It is not about Aristotle's Revenge.

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  17. Hi ficino4ml
    "The linked video is from January 2019. It is not about Aristotle's Revenge."
    True, the link refers to "5 Proofs", but on the other hand, the Aristotelian reasoning is at base the same, just reworded with moderately different emphasis from book to book.

    A fundamental core error of Thomism is limiting thinking to a linear regress. At base our universe acts by mutuality, just as the Earth does not cause the moon to orbit the Earth, and the moon does not cause the Earth to orbit the moon, rather, the Earth and the moon mutually cause each other to orbit a common center of mass.

    That mutuality follows all the way to the bottom, as it were, with prime matter interacting mutually with other prime matter, thus making an uncaused first cause unnecessary.

    Also, there can be an unbounded number of necessary beings, each with its own necessity to not co-locate with anything else, and each with the necessity to have existence and essence as ontologically mutually co-dependent, neither being ontologically prior to the other.

    Any thoughts?

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    1. It doesn’t reduce thinking to a linear regress. Why do you do what you do? I’m very curious. You just spam blogs of theist philosophers (I’ve seen you all over) and retort the same objections and points. Then when people reply you are gone and no where to be found.

      Do you hold out hope that someone who just read part of Feser’s book and isn’t super concrete enough to object to your retorts would read and suddenly become an atheist too? I really don’t understand you. You seem like more than a troll as others call you but certainly less than someone who wants to get into engaged debates (I’ve tried with you all over this blog and you just disappear).

      Delete
    2. Hi "Nope",
      "It doesn’t reduce thinking to a linear regress."
      Thomism suffers fatally from linear thinking. The classic rock-hand-stick is an example. The First Way is the model for the rock-hand-stick by referring to a staff and a hand. In the First Way Aquinas asserts "this cannot go on to infinity", the "this" being a linear regression of movers or changers or causal agents.

      In "5 Proofs" Feser cites another author who cites Russell as Russell addresses the fallaciousness of such a linear causal regress, but the citation is merely proof texting which takes a single sentence out of a long paper and absurdly attributes to it an inane interpretation that anybody reading the who paper by Russell would recognize as a ham handed strawman. Yet Dr. Feser reprinted the strawman of Russell on mutuality, reinforcing the linearity of Thomistic regression analysis.

      " Why do you do what you do? I’m very curious."
      I don't usually comment on motives because there is no independent means to verify them. Anybody can get on a blog and claim whatever motives they wish.

      But, you asked, so you can take my answer for what it is worth to you, perhaps nothing at all. The unexamined life is not worth living. I am unlikely to discover any flaws in my thinking by posting me-too comments among those who already basically agree. I don't hope or expect to have a major influence on anybody or anything before I die, any more than a single voter can hope to decide a major election, but a vote is a non-zero positive fraction of the whole, and that is enough for me, so I do vote.

      "I really don’t understand you...(I’ve tried with you all over this blog and you just disappear)."
      When you post under various names such as "Nope" continuity of engagement is made more difficult.

      Conversations come and go. About the longest for me was on Victor Reppert's blog some years ago when he linked the First Way in syllogistic form adapted by David Haines from Francisco J. Romero Carrasquillo. That went on for over 3000 posts, but even that eventually ends. Conversations come and go, sometimes it seems the other person refuses to engage on the technical points only repeating invalid unsupported assertions, sometimes other more interesting conversations arise, sometimes one just becomes busy with other aspects of life.

      Delete
    3. @SDP with a thought: as you doubtless know, Aristotle in at least two important places speaks of a mover that moves without its being moved/affected in return. He uses two oft-discussed metaphors: that of moving "as (a) beloved" in Metaphysics Lambda, and that of moving as someone who grieves you and who suffers nothing in return from you, in De Generatione et Corruptione 323a25ff. The latter represents an unmoved mover, which moves the moved without contact. Aquinas of course adopts this picture. So although he allows with Aristotle that moved movers undergo some reciprocal effect from the moved, because of some contact, he denies that in cases where the mover has no perishable matter (like the sun, which doesn't suffer from changes that it produces on earth) or an unmoved mover.

      My experience with Thomists is that they are fine with pitching out what they will allow is the fuzzy Greek science that Aquinas was given by his tradition, but they will insist that without a first unmoved mover, you cannot account for change because change occurs, not only as the outcome of a series of accidentally ordered movers, but also at the end of a hierarchically ordered series. And the latter cannot be infinite.

      I think I remember that in the past, you said that hierarchically ordered series of movers collapse into accidentally ordered series because of propagation delay. Then there were arguments over whether there is propagation delay in, say, the playing of a clarinet by the musician. I don't remember how the dispute unrolled after that.

      Delete
    4. Don't feed the trollFebruary 14, 2020 at 3:17 PM

      Stop feeding the troll, please. He is banned here. If you have any respect for the blog, you will knock it off.

      Delete
    5. ficino,
      "He uses two oft-discussed metaphors: that of moving "as (a) beloved" in Metaphysics Lambda, and that of moving as someone who grieves you and who suffers nothing"
      Those are both cases of things that move themselves. If X is dead, and Y grieves for X then clearly X has not moved Y, rather, Y has moved itself.

      I often feel moved, in a positive way as opposed to the pain of grief, by looking at the night sky in wonderment of our vast universe and my tiny place in it. Did the stars move me without themselves being moved? No, to the extent I was moved I was moved in my own internal metabolic functions, and for the star to be visible to me it had to move itself to emit the light I saw.

      "like the sun, which doesn't suffer from changes that it produces on earth"
      Clearly Aristotle got that wrong, since the sun clearly moves itself and changes itself in order to produce changes on Earth.

      " they will insist that without a first unmoved mover, you cannot account for change because change occurs, not only as the outcome of a series of accidentally ordered movers, but also at the end of a hierarchically ordered series. And the latter cannot be infinite."
      Right, which is a false dichotomy and due to their linear thinking. The hierarchical regression terminates finitely with mutuality of causation.

      "I think I remember that in the past, you said that hierarchically ordered series of movers collapse into accidentally ordered series because of propagation delay. "
      That is also true in all real world examples. To his credit Dr. Feser is increasingly engaging in reductionist arguments but they still suffer from linear thinking when in fact causality is mutual and fundamentally circular with no need of a hierarchical first mover because at base everything moves everything else.

      Delete
    6. SDP: "I often feel moved, in a positive way as opposed to the pain of grief, by looking at the night sky in wonderment of our vast universe and my tiny place in it. Did the stars move me without themselves being moved?"

      Yes, how wondrous. Anaxagoras said that this was the very reason why he existed. Lucretius speaks at the beginning of the De Rerum Natura of the "divine pleasure and shuddering" of our contemplation of the universe.

      As to Aristotle's images of the effect wrought by an/the unmoved mover, I think you misconstrue. If you are interested, I suggest you go back to those passages. If on further reflection you have thoughts about their contemporary application, I am interested to hear them. So far, unless I am missing something, it seems that you are asserting that there are no cases of movement in which the mover is not reciprocally affected by the moved. But that's the point at issue. Of course, I know virtually nothing about modern physics.

      Delete
    7. Been reading Stardust's rambling polemics on this blog for a while now. Based on what I've observed, my best guess on why his misunderstandings are so impossible to get through is either:

      A) He doesn't understand the Aristotelian philosophy of nature as much as he thinks he does, which is why some of his comments are completely nonsensical headscratchers for anyone who does have a deeper understanding of the concept's nuances. Not that this stops him from ending every post with 1-3 paragraph long polemic about the foolishness of Thomistic thought, though.
      B) He doesn't actually accept the Aristotelian philosophy of nature at all, and is just dressing up a more mechanistic understanding of causality with the language of act and potency, etc. thus making the whole conversation more confusing for everyone.

      It's definitely not worth arguing with him regardless. His aggressive, arrogant tone and polemic style does not make for the kind of atmosphere where a fruitful discussion or disagreement can take place, and all I've ever observed from past discussions here between him and others is that it'll ultimately boil down to him making an Argumentum Ad Lapidem every time his opponent shows that something he rejects follows.

      As someone who is *not* yet a Thomist and has not yet been convinced of the arguments, I should thank him though. His failures across the various arguments here have certainly made me see Thomism in a more and more positive light.

      Delete
    8. yup. the guy posts all over pretty much all the top classical theist philosophers' blogs and reiterates the same stuff over and over. It's just not worth engaging with him. I wish he were a serious debater because it would sharpen all of our skills to have informed and intellectually honest debates.

      Delete
    9. Don't feed the trollsFebruary 14, 2020 at 10:18 PM

      It's not simply a matter of misunderstanding. It's a matter of wilful ignorance and breathtaking, deliberate obtuseness. He pontificates on subjects like Thomism despite explicitly declaring he doesn't need to educate himself on them in even the most basic sense. He is completely content to arrogantly declare on topics he must know he doesn't understand. He has a dishonest streak that often shows. For example he previously bad-mouthed Feser in very strong ways and then came back here declaring how much he'd always admired Feser.

      Delete
    10. ficino,
      "As to Aristotle's images of the effect wrought by an/the unmoved mover, I think you misconstrue. If you are interested, I suggest you go back to those passages. "
      Well, I was only responding to what you had quoted, what do you suggest I have misconstrued?

      The quotes you provided drew analogies of human emotion and the sun, both of which fail to demonstrate an unmoved mover.

      Yes, I see that in some poetic and non-rigorous way one might think that say, reading a book might in some sense move a person without, for example, the author being moved by that individual's reaction to the book. That hardly constitutes a sound argument for the hierarchical unmoved mover.

      "it seems that you are asserting that there are no cases of movement in which the mover is not reciprocally affected by the moved. But that's the point at issue. Of course, I know virtually nothing about modern physics."
      That's ok, Richard Feynman said that nobody actually understands quantum mechanics, and by that he meant that nobody could account for an underlying mechanism for QM.

      I am pretty sure you know that the moon orbits the Earth, and perhaps one might say the Earth causes the moon to orbit the Earth. But is that right?

      You don't have to be an expert in modern physics to realize that the Earth and moon mutually orbit a common center of mass, and that it is arbitrary to select either the Earth or the moon as the cause of the other's motion. You can realize that the Earth and the moon are equally causes and effects upon each other.

      That's why physicists don't typically work with cause and effect anymore. Cause and effect is arbitrary and not how physics is formulated. Physics is described as interactions, mutual processes wherein the designation of a "cause" and and "effect" is arbitrary and therefore pointless and considered generally to be unrealistic and archaic thinking that has no place in modern thought.

      Yet we all, each of us, have stong senses of cause and effect, so I don't think the notion of cause and effect can be dismissed quite so easily as is typical in modern physics.

      In my view a better way to express things is to consider mutual causality, such as the Earth/moon example, and that mutual causality is the case all the way to the bottom, as it were.

      Thus, there is no need for a hierarchical first mover, since at base submicroscopic entities are all in motion and all moving each other, with causation being fundamentally circular, not in a linear hierarchy.

      A line segment has a beginning and an end. A ray (in geometery) has an end and goes to infinity. A circle has no beginning and no end.

      Consider the molecules of gas in a closed jar. Is their motion hierarchically linear or fundamentally circular in the present moment? For the Thomist one molecule must be moved by another until we regress to an unmoved mover, but is that realistic?

      You don't have to be an expert in modern physics to realize the the molecules are all simply bouncing off each other and that there is no first mover right now, or even in the recent past. Motion, at base, is mutual and fundamentally circular so that no first mover is called for at all.

      Recently, to his credit, Dr. Feser has employed reductionist arguments in favor of the rock-stick-hand sort of argument. But each time we peel another layer from the structural onion, as it were, we find mutuality still.

      Delete
    11. ficino,
      So what would a minimally simple be and how would it move? There is no reason to think it will not turn out to be a composite of what the Thomist would call essence and existence, or properties and material.

      Thomists seem convinced that the simplest thing they can imagine must necessarily therefore be the simplest thing in structural reality, but that does not follow.

      About 10 posts back Dr. Feser did a truly terrific job writing about some of the errors of Cundy. Dr. Feser very clearly argued for structural reality being different than abstraction, and that just because one has a logical model that in no way requires their to be a corresponding structural reality.

      So, while it might suit the personal sensibilities of the Thomist that an absolutely simple thing exists, nature is not obliged to conform to those human notions.

      There is no reason why the simplest thing in structural reality cannot be a composite of essence and existence with essence and existence being mutually co-dependent, meaning that the essence set by necessity cannot be real without the existence of material that manifests those essences, and the material by necessity cannot be real without having essences that it manifests.

      Furthermore, there is no logical reason forbidding multiple such minimally simple necessary entities, each one with its own necessary existence and each one with an essence set that includes that it necessarily cannot co-locate with any other similar minimally simple.

      No logical reason bars these multiple necessary minimally simple beings from moving each other in motion that is fundamentally circular and does not require a hierarchical first mover.

      All the ad hominem protestations of the good folks here notwithstanding, not a single person I have yet encountered has demonstrated any capacity to show my assertions are either logically or materially impossible.

      Delete
    12. @SDP: out of respect for the rest of the community on here, I'm not going to engage further at length, at least not now. But I suggest that you deepen your grasp of A-T if you are to motivate others to engage your posts as I think you hope that they will. In particular:
      1. stop talking about causal series ordered temporally.
      2. if you haven't done so, work through De Ente et Essentia. It is a difficult though early work. A good translation is that of Gyula Klima. What you say above about essence and existence as mutually dependent makes me wonder whether your grasp the Thomist's contention that the first unmoved mover is identical to a being in whom essence is identical with existence - so no "composition."
      3. when you talk about minimally simple necessary entities, be very precise about how "necessary" is working, since I imagine that any one of your simple entities can either exist or not exist, so that each one ontologically is contingent not necessary.

      I'd like to see criticisms of Thomism from you that make it clear that what you are attacking is in fact Thomism.

      Delete
    13. ficino
      "out of respect for the rest of the community on here, I'm not going to engage further at length"
      I have no communal respect for people who only hurl ad hominems and fail to engage on the topic of the OP while doing little more than expressing vacuous virtue signaling.

      "1. stop talking about causal series ordered temporally."
      First, you clearly have not read with clarity what I have been writing with clarity. I refer to the notion of a hierarchical series frequently. If you re-read my words you will realize you have made here a baseless charge.

      "What you say above about essence and existence as mutually dependent makes me wonder whether your grasp the Thomist's contention that the first unmoved mover is identical to a being in whom essence is identical with existence - so no "composition."
      Yes, I am fully aware of that contention. I am not the only person to assert it is incoherent, William Lane Craig is another, for example.

      But even if the Thomisitic notions of essence and existence of the asserted first mover were somehow coherent (they aren't, but let's just say for a moment) their claim to being the exclusive solution is also false, as I have demonstrated above by example.

      "3. when you talk about minimally simple necessary entities, be very precise about how "necessary" is working, since I imagine that any one of your simple entities can either exist or not exist, so that each one ontologically is contingent not necessary."
      No, not contingent, necessary, each necessary being cannot not be real. I am using "necessary" very clearly. I stated that each necessary minimally simple entity has its own necessity. More details can be found above on this thread where I posted in response to Dominik and then clarified further below.
      https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2020/02/sandstad-and-jansen-on-aristotles.html?showComment=1581694637276#c2723951336269174059

      "I'd like to see criticisms of Thomism from you that make it clear that what you are attacking is in fact Thomism."
      I find your objections here to be, frankly, unjustifiably patronizing.

      Clearly I am attacking the core of Thomistic thinking. Thomism asserts the necessity of a hierarchical first mover, whereas I provide the alternative of mutual causality that is fundamentally circular. Thomism asserts that there can be a pure act, or existence itself, or an essence that is its existence, or an absolutely simple. I assert that the minimally simple real is composite of an essence set and material existence with each necessarily being co-dependent and inseparable from the other and structurally incapable of being real independent of the other.

      Elsewhere I show that the Principle of Sufficient Reason rules out free will, and that the Thomistic assertion of both simultaneously is incoherent, but to be fair to you, ficino, that argument is not present in this section of the thread. Simply put, on the PSR everything happens for a sufficient reason, ruling out any element of randomness in the universe, because randomness is by definition an uncaused effect, an effect for no reason at all, much less a sufficient reason. Since all elements or randomness in the universe are ruled out on the PSR then in that case on the PSR the entire universe is strictly deterministic. If the universe is deterministic free will is ruled out, because free will requires that things can be otherwise as time progresses, but on determinism things cannot be otherwise, our human perceptions notwithstanding.

      Therefore, on the PSR free will is ruled out.

      The same argument follows for the Principle of Proportional Reason.

      It is incoherent for the Thomist to assert the PSR/PPR and free will.

      Delete
    14. Ficino4ml said: @SDP: out of respect for the rest of the community on here, I'm not going to engage further at length, at least not now.

      “Not now”? You mean you plan to disrespect the community in the future — not to mention ignore Prof. Feser’s explicit wishes? What’s wrong with you? Oh, and you’ve already replied again, so apparently “not now” meant “not for a few hours”. I guess SP is not the only one with self-control issues. Look, if you want to waste your own time on your own website, I can’t stop you. But if you insist on posting here, then grow up and show a little maturity, man.

      Delete
    15. Whatever, Georgiy,or is it Mr. Green, Greg S, David Y. Joe, etc)

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  18. @don't feed the troll: if SDP is banned, why is he able to post? And why should we adhere to what you say? SDP is no troll. He disagrees with the Thomist party line, but that is not the action of an internet troll. Trolls simply hijack and derail threads. SDP posts substantive, thought-out content. if you disagree, then it's on you to take up the argument and refute. otherwise, don't pretend to be a mod on here. If Edward Feser sets the settings so that SDP cannot post, that's his choice, but it is not yours.

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    1. I don't think there is a mechanical way to ban people using Blogger software.

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    2. Don't feed the trollsFebruary 14, 2020 at 8:45 PM

      Ficino, he doesn't post thought out substantive and thought out posts. He posts confused nonsense and has proven utterly pointless to engage. He's also logorrheic and dishonest. This is why Feser banned him and told us not to feed him. As anon said, you can't literally ban people on blogspot. Feser has to delete his posts or instigate post moderation. This is why he has repeatedly told us not to feed logorrheic trolls, like him. If you have any respect for him or the blog, you will comply. It isn't because he isn't a Thomist. Note that you or Walter don't get the same treatment.

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    3. @Ficino At this point Stardusty is at least 85% troll; he has been posting the same largely unvarying content and arguments for literally years now (and across a range of theistic blogs). Little fruitful discussion emerges from his contributions because as well as being polemical and sometimes offensive he doesn't like discussing metaphysics. This is why Feser told him to go away, everywhere else he just gets banned.

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    4. Ficino, I appreciate you trying to engage him but truthfully we’ve all tried before. It just is the same circle over and over with him. He posts in multiple theist blogs all over the internet and it’s just the same constant things in every post and he never addresses anything.

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  19. @SDP: as for temporally ordered series, your example of molecules bouncing off each other sounded as though it is temporally ordered.

    As to incompatibility of free will and other Thomistic positions that imply its negation, agreed.

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  20. ficino,
    Yes, when considering molecules in motion it is almost inevitable to quickly consider a temporal regress, the notion of a hierarchical regress of motion quickly breaking down in real world examples due to propagation delays.

    But, suppose we take a freeze frame right at the moment 2 molecules are bumping into each other. Which is the cause and which is the effect? Neither, or both, but certainly not only one or the other. Clearly both are the causes and effects of each other, or in science the notion of cause and effect is not even considered as such, there is only the mutual interaction.

    The Thomist reasons:
    Z was moved by Y
    Y was moved by X
    X was moved by W
    But this cannot go on to infinity therefore
    some predecessor in this hierarchical linear regress was moved by a first unmoved mover.

    I say:
    Z was moved by Y
    Y was moved by X
    X was moved by W
    W was moved by X
    Terminus.
    The rock is moved by the stick.
    The stick is moved by the hand.
    The hand is moved by the muscle.
    The muscle moves because molecules in the muscle move each other.

    Recently, to his credit, Dr. Feser has been going deeper in his regression analysis.
    What is below the molecular level? Atoms.
    And below atoms? Particles.
    And below particles? Simples, or prime matter, or some similar idea of "the bottom".

    Ok, fine, let's look at the bottom then, to the extent we can, given nobody really knows what that will turn out to be.

    The Thomist asserts that the bottom must be a single absolutely simple such that its essence is its existence, and it is pure act, and it is existence itself, yet the supposedly absolute simple also has a host of attributes or properties such as various powers to sustain material existence, it has a will, it acts upon our material world, and on and on, yet it is simple, so already there is in Thomism an incoherent assertion set.

    But aside from Thomistic incoherenceies, consider an alternative simple, not absolutely simple, rather, minimally simple.

    There is no logical reason why there can not be an unbounded number of necessary simples, each with its own necessity, that necessity including the structural reality that its essences are co-dependent with its material existence, that is, the essences by structural reality necessity cannot have a structural reality separate from the existent material that manifests those essences. Simultaneously, by structural reality necessity the existent material cannot exist without having its essences that it manifests.

    Each such simple has its own necessity and is in no way contingent.
    Necessary Being 1 has its own necessity and its own necessary essences.
    Also Necessary Being 2, and so forth to Necessary Being n, each with its own necessity and its own necessary essences, with n being a specific integer for which there is no logical upper bound.

    Now, many of the good folks here are capable of ad hominem attacks, they can point vaguely off into the distance and claim a counter argument is out there, they can shout and stomp their feet about how "obviously many things are wrong" with my statements, yet they specify none.

    I would think that if my arguments were so obviously defective it would be a simple matter to shut me up once and for all by just pointing out my specific errors, yet no such rational refutations have yet been offered. Go figure.

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  21. Stardusty, I’m new here and everyone calls you a troll, but I’m going to take a crack at engaging you and if it goes no where, so be it. At least I tried... anyway, simply saying a being is necessary and not contingent doesn’t make it so. You’re essentially taking the contingency argument and then just changing elements of it without any basis because you say so. You can’t just say a being is necessary and not contingent and then proceed to use the same arguments a theist would. I’m not trying to be ad hominem here, but you’re accepting many assumptions that particular argument makes and then not somehow ending up elsewhere.

    When you say the simple being has its “own necessity,” that doesn’t mean it is so. If there are multiple necessary simple beings, they must be composed of features or parts in some way to distinguish them from each other. That requires a cause. Otherwise, they are distinct, and thus not simple. It’s really no more complex than that. If you add powers to the analysis (which I find particularly powerful, pun partially intended) it makes it even more crippling to try to posit multiple non simple beings, since there cannot be multiple omnipotent beings.

    Let’s say with your necessary simples and you posit them as the same makeup - what happens if you destroy one or remove it from existence somehow, or damage it or what, does it affect all of them or just one? If it affects all of them; they’re the same thing. If just one; then they’re different.

    Let me say that I find this argument super convincing to get to a single noncomposite omnipotent being or thing, BUT even as a theist, personally I’m not entirely there yet for being sure that that being is the God I believe in due to various issues with some of the attributes. Still though, I think if you’re intellectually honest, it’s hard to not believe there is just only one necessary being which is itself noncomposite. I am not catholic and I don’t just hang around with theists all day praying the rosary. There’s a lot of people who agree with me on this argument and then don’t proceed to believe or agree that it’s God as that being. I hope we can at least engage here. Thanks

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    1. señor,
      "simply saying a being is necessary and not contingent doesn’t make it so."
      Indeed. In fact, I can think of even more logically possible scenarios as opposed to the Thomistic view, and that is my point, Thomists have not reasoned their way to the only logically possible "bottom" in a regression analysis.

      No mechanism is provided for the absolutely simple god being the case, as opposed to absolutely nothing at all. Nobody knows the answer to that ultimate question, "why is there an existence at all as opposed to absolutely nothing?"

      " they must be composed of features or parts in some way to distinguish them from each other. That requires a cause."
      I don't see any argument from you that establishes that assertion. It seems to me to be simply that, just an assertion.

      Further, the notion that there could be something real that has no properties seems to me incoherent, as does the notion that properties, or essences, are somehow ontologically prior to existence.

      Where would these essences be if they somehow exist in what is otherwise absolutely nothing? Essences are of a thing. Things have essences. The only coherent view is that essences and existence are simultaneously co-dependant, there just cannot be in structural reality one without the other, and this is the only assertion regarding the ontology of essences and existence that is coherent.

      "If there are multiple necessary simple beings, they must be composed of features or parts in some way to distinguish them from each other. That requires a cause. Otherwise, they are distinct, and thus not simple. "
      You are correct that a minimally simple being is not logically absolutely simple, but it is incoherent to assert a structurally real absolute simple. What would an absolute simple be? Just blah, no properties, no extent, zero volume? That seems indistinguishable from absolutely nothing at all in structural reality.

      Did you happen to read Dr. Feser's post on Cundy about a month or two ago? In it he argues very clearly against reification, although I don't think he used that word, one of his core points was that merely because one has a logical possibility that in no way requires that nature can or does have such a thing in structural reality.

      What I have asserted is the simplest thing that makes sense to exist in structural reality. Abstract objects as structurally real does not make sense. An absolute simple as structurally real does not make sense.

      "Let’s say with your necessary simples and you posit them as the same makeup - what happens if you destroy one or remove it from existence somehow, or damage it or what, does it affect all of them or just one?"
      If one being is interacting with another being, and then one of them disappears then that interaction stops, but the other being does not also disappear.

      But let me be clear in my assertion here. I am not here to say I have definitively solved the greatest riddle of all, why there is something rather than nothing, the great riddle of the origin of all that exists.

      I am here to say that Thomists cannot have exclusively solved this riddle because I can posit other solutions that are logically valid, and further, the Thomistic solution contains a host of incoherent assertions and is arrived at using arguments that contain false premises and invalid logic, and is thus clearly a false solution.

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    2. This is comical. Haddad or whoever you are with the multiple personalities floating around here, maybe now you’ll see that we were right. Y’all (or just you?) wrote a reply to his points and he half addressed one of them and went on a tirade for the rest. Everyone see now what’s been said for months on this board?

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    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    4. I did write that I was morbidly intrigued as to what Stardusty refers to when he says'structural reality' but I scrolled up and read a couple of the posts he made above and came to the conclusion that I don't want to know because it is most likely pure garbage.

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    5. "The kind of structural realism I defend in Aristotle’s Revenge is, specifically, epistemic structural realism."
      Dr. Edward Feser
      https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2019/12/cundy-on-relativity-and-a-theory-of-time.html

      So, by your lights Breadroll, Dr. Feser is talking "pure garbage". I don't agree in this instance, which is why I used a term that would be familiar to readers who are familiar with the writing of the site owner.

      I could have put it in different terms, but I rather like the term used by Dr. Feser in this case so that is how I expressed it, in the interest of trying to find at least some common ground.

      A quick google search would have told you that the term "structural realism" is cataloged in the online philosophy encyclopedias.

      Do you have any specific arguments to make, or counter arguments to make with respect to the OP or my arguments specifically?

      So far you have only offered uninformed and baseless attack.

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    6. Stardusty,

      You borrow vocabulary (or coin what seem to be related neologisms of your own) but the relationship between what you might mean and understand by a particular term and the way others use it is not obvious. You rarely seem concerned about providing clarification.

      It is one reason why, on a philosophy blog, you seem like such a troll.

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    7. Breadroll,
      "You rarely seem concerned about providing clarification. "
      I have actually gone into some fair detail in my posts, any particular point you think is unclear?

      I think I have been pretty clear, but that is the difference between making a statement and reading a statement. Commonly the writer thinks he is being perfectly clear, but to the reader it seems incomplete or even unintelligible.

      The term "structural reality" is a very good one, I think. Far too many of my fellow atheists are guilty of the fallacy of reification, particularly when it comes to the B theory of time as implied by GR. It does not follow that merely because one has a logical description, a mathematical expression, an abstraction that therefore it must be the case the there is a real corresponding structure in the universe, even if those mathematical expressions are part of a larger theory that has otherwise proved to be highly successful, such as GR.

      It seems to me that there must be a real structure to the simplest things that actually do exist in the universe.

      Thomism is not concerned, for the most part, about temporal origins. The basic approach of Aquinas was to use a present moment hierarchical regress analysis to get to "the bottom" irrespective of how that simplest real structure came to be existing in the distant past.

      Nobody knows why there exist necessary beings as opposed to absolutely nothing at all, that question is an ancient and as yet unsolved riddle, and indeed, Dr. Feser has said the question itself is invalid and makes no sense to ask. In that respect I disagree with him. It is a perfectly good question to ask, but nobody has generally published a sound answer so it remains a riddle.

      Why is god necessary as opposed to absolutely nothing at all existing? Well, the answer seems to go, he just is because that is what the word "necessary" means, god, it is asserted, just couldn't not be.

      Fine, if that is how we approach the riddle absent a truly informative answer then the assertion of god has no special validity, there could just as easily be a multitude of necessary beings, or perhaps a more modest number, say, 24.

      One assertion of a necessary being is as good as any other in that case, unless it can be shown that there is some fundamental reason that the asserted necessary being could not be necessary.

      For the Thomist that reasoning is in that a necessary being cannot have parts. I think that is merely a poorly reasoned assertion.

      If a being can be necessary then it can have at least inseparable aspects, or traits, or properties, or essences. What would it even mean to have an essence without something in existence that manifests that essence? The notion of a pure essence somehow existing in isolation in what would otherwise be absolutely noting at all is incoherent. An essence is of a thing.

      Likewise, how could a thing exist without some properties, such as extent? If a thing has no extent then where or what is it and in what sense is it distinguishable from absolutely nothing? The notion that a thing can exist with no properties at all, no essences, is incoherent.

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    8. Breadroll
      Mutuality is one of the key facts of how the universe actually operates that is absent from Thomism and leads Thomism to assert so many incoherencies. Causality has been abandoned or ignored in physics because we now formulate mutual interactions wherein the designation of a cause and an effect is arbitrary and meaningless. In physics there is only the mutual interaction.

      Aquinas failed for many reasons, one of them being that he constructed a false dichotomy in his regression of movers, neglecting mutual causality as a finite terminator. Thus, one need not choose between an unmoved first mover and an infinite regress.

      Thomism suffers from the same linearity of thought leading to incoherent assertions in its structural regression analysis as well.

      If there can be a necessary being at all it can be a being with simultaneous mutual co-dependent aspects, such as essence and existence, and it can be that each such being has its own necessity and its own co-dependent aspects such that there could be a multitude of separate minimally simple necessary beings or say, 24, minimally simple superposed necessary beings.

      The Thomist might place essence as ontologically prior to existence, but that sort of linear thinking is not required, and the mutuality we observe everywhere else suggests a mutuality of co-dependent essence and existence. It makes sense that by necessity an existent thing must both exist and manifest essences, that those aspects of structural reality are inseparable in the real structure of minimally simples in the real universe.

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  22. That wasn't you that posted a while back posting under "no rosaries" was it? Multiple personality syndrome getting way out of control. Yuck.

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    1. Troll Patrol is obviously Cervantes. These anon accounts first appeared to defend engaging him, defend compulsive troll feeding, and attack those warning others not to feed the trolls, specifically him. He obviously has some sort of grudge against the likes of me, and whatever obsessive and unstable game he is playing involves an attempt to discredit those who warn others not to feed trolls. I think it also likely senor haddad is as well. Who else would have the gall to just ignore everyone's impassioned pleas to not feed the trolls? Also, Cervantes has clearly decided to engage in some bizarre and schizophrenic bad and forth between his own sock puppets, accusing them of being so.

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  23. Your nose gets longer and longer Georgiy Mancz!

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    1. Almost an admission, I see.

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  24. Take a look at Anon/Sigh/Don't Feed above. Poor old Georgy talking to himself again.

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  25. I don't know, but this back-and-forth of schizophrenic "Anonymous" users, each accusing the other of being Cervantes, or someone else, or a troll enabler, or whatever, is hilarious.

    I kinda feel sorry for Feser that this thread has been so thoroughly infested, but this is really hilarious and entertaining. "You're Cervantes" "no, you are" "you are crazy" "you should reply to him" "no you shouldn't" "you are Georgy Mancz" "no you're Cervantes" etc. Amazing.

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    1. That's clearly what Cervantes is after as revenge against Feser for banning him and against those posters who warned others he was a troll. I think you do him a service by lumping us all in together instead of condemning outright. He wishes to make the combox chaotic. He has even taken to impersonating long time posters like Mr. Green. Don't give him even implicit support by suggesting that this situation is anything but purely his making.

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    2. *Condemning him outright.

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  26. 'Against those posters'? 'lumping us all in together'? Considering that 90% of this thread is you, one would hope that you haven't actually got to the stage of believing this, Georgiy. Do your personae (about 15 counted so far) talk to each other off line as well? Not good, not good at all. I'll have to start calling you Gollum and clan.

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